Global Day 2024: Speakers

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguezexpand_more

Wisconsin and the World

Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, MSN, MPH, RN, was sworn in as Wisconsin’s 46th Lieutenant Governor on January 3, 2023. A working mom, wife, and proud Wisconsinite, Lt. Gov. Rodriguez was elected on November 8, 2022. Before her election, she served in the Wisconsin State Assembly, representing Assembly District 13, comprised of a portion of Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties. While serving as a state representative, she worked on the Committees on Health, Insurance, Energy and Utilities, and Science, Technology and Broadband.

Lt. Gov. Rodriguez is an experienced healthcare executive who has worked in various leadership roles for over 20 years, including founding her own small business. Prior to serving in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Lt. Gov. Rodriguez was the vice president of Population Health and Integrated Care Management at one of the largest healthcare systems in the Midwest. In this role, she provided strategic direction to the teams that managed population health interventions for risk-based contracts and direct-to-employer products.

Before running for office, Lt. Gov. Rodriguez built a career in public health and population health management. She held positions with public health departments at the local, state, and federal levels, including serving as an epidemic intelligence service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the chronic disease director for the state of Colorado, a healthcare systems consultant, and a vice president at a Fortune 100 Company.

Lt. Gov. Rodriguez graduated from Brookfield East High School and earned master’s degrees in public health and nursing from Johns Hopkins University. After graduating, the Lt. Governor worked as a volunteer nurse in the Peace Corps, serving as a health-care educator in Samoa with HIV-AIDS patients. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer and Girl Scout Troop leader, she has a passion for community service.

Welcome Remarks: Dean Glenda Gillaspyexpand_more

Welcome Remarks

Glenda Gillaspy became the 14th dean of UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in August 2022. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Auburn University, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University. She spent time at the University of California-Berkeley as a postdoctoral associate, and at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia in Portugal as a visiting researcher. Prior to assuming the dean position at UW, Gillaspy was a professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech where she served as department head since 2015. 

Gillaspy’s research focuses on signaling molecules that control phosphate-sensing in plants, with the goal of developing plants that can reclaim phosphate from the environment. She has been active in developing several outreach projects for high school students, and she has led a National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded Research Experiences and Extension summer research program for undergraduates, which is a collaboration between applied and basic scientists.

Opening Speaker: Dr. Jonathan Øverbyexpand_more

The Womanist Foundation of Roots Music and The Global Understanding of Diverse Groups

Dr. Jonathan Øverby began in radio as a student sports play-by-play announcer at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School. After attending San Francisco State, he traveled as a concert artist. In 1984 he created new program called “The Best of Gospel” on W.O.R.T. Radio in Madison, WI which he produced and hosted until 2007. In1994 he joined WPR as host of “The Road to Higher Ground with Jonathan Øverby” talk show. In 2007 he reinvented it as a world music broadcast.

In 2013, UW-Extension conferred on Øverby the “Distinguished” WPR Broadcaster title for his radio and statewide community service. In addition, Øverby served for two terms as Vice-Chair on the Wisconsin Arts Board. He has produced Wisconsin’s Annual “Tribute” honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for more than four decades. In 2014 he became the first Post-Doctoral Fellow in the history of Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.

Øverby, continues his remarkable career in broadcasting, as an artist, and as an internationally recognized scholar and ethnomusicologist, honored in 2016 by U.W. Colleges and UW-Extension with the “Wisconsin Idea” Award for “outstanding contributions of service, education to society, and the quality of life in Wisconsin, the nation and the world.”

Elevated to a Chief in the Warmeru Tribe, Mount Meru, Tanzania in 2018, Dr. Øverby, a Smithsonian Education lecturer, was in 2022 inducted into the Folk Alliance International Hall of Fame. He said he believes “music has the power to bridge cultural divides and increase the understanding of diverse groups worldwide.” In May of 2023, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame

Afternoon Speaker: Mr. William Hsuexpand_more

Hsu’s Ginseng: The Wisconsin Idea in Action Globally

Will Hsu grew up in Wausau and attended the University of Wisconsin Madison for his undergraduate studies. He graduated in 2000 with honors and distinction as a triple-major in Business Administration, Chinese Language & Literature, and East Asian Studies. After graduation, he worked for General Mills in their Finance Leadership Development Program and was sponsored by the company in 2004 to earn his MBA full-time at Harvard Business School. Upon graduation from Harvard Business School in 2006, Will returned to work for General Mills in financial roles of increasing responsibility that took him around the country. His last role at General Mills before departing the company was as Senior Finance Manager for Global Financial Systems in the Corporate Controllers Department.

Following his heart, Will moved back to Wausau in 2011 to help with the family businesses his parents, Paul and Sharon Hsu, started in 1974. Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises, Inc. is the largest ginseng company in the United States with an e-mail, catalog and direct-to-consumer shipping model that reaches over 1 million Asian-American households a year. The company offers multi-lingual customer service, an e-commerce ordering platform and direct-to-your-door delivery based out of the company’s headquarters in Wausau. The company also fulfills wholesale accounts and bricks-and-mortar retailers located in the six largest Chinese communities in North America: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Vancouver and Toronto. The company sources nearly all of its ginseng from Hsu Ginseng Farms, LLP, the second largest ginseng farming operation in the country, with hundreds of acres under cultivation. Hsu Global Distribution is the family’s newest company and distributes ginseng and other Wisconsin products on online platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba.

Hsu’s has family-owned operations and joint ventures in China and Taiwan and manages its Asia sourcing, supply chain and sales efforts from its Asia headquarters in Nanjing, China. Asia plays an important role in the industry as over 90% of American ginseng is exported to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises has also been a lead sponsor for the International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival held locally to promote ginseng and agricultural tourism. The company remains steadfast in its mission to deliver the highest quality Wisconsin-grown ginseng products to customers around the world.

Will currently serves on the Board of Directors for the UW Foundation and Alumni Association as Chair of the Budgeting & People Committee and Wisconsin Public Radio. He was a recipient of UW-Madison’s Forward Under 40 Award in 2016 and previously served on the Executive Committee of the Wisconsin Alumni Association Board of Directors, the UW Advisory Board for the Wisconsin-China Initiative and the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.

Closing Remarks: Vice Provost & Dean Frances Vavrusexpand_more

Closing Remarks

Frances Vavrus is the vice provost and dean of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which leads campus efforts to promote international scholarship and engagement, cultivate global awareness, and prepare students for a diverse and interconnected world. The division is the home to UW–Madison’s distinguished regional studies centers, study abroad and international internship programs, and less commonly taught language programs. It also provides critical services to the university, city, and state on international projects, international safety and security, and holistic support for international students, faculty, and staff on immigration and intercultural affairs.

As a UW–Madison alum, Dean Vavrus has benefited from many of the programs supported by the International Division. She studied Swahili as a graduate student with the support of a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship; she is the recipient of both a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship; she taught in the International Studies Major; and she studied abroad as an undergraduate and led a study abroad program as a professor. In addition, Dean Vavrus has helped to establish institutional partnerships with universities abroad and served as the co-principal investigator for a U.S. Agency for International Development project partnering with higher education institutions in Zambia.

Dean Vavrus served for two decades as a professor of comparative and international education at Columbia University’s Teachers College and at the University of Minnesota, where she received numerous awards for her teaching and mentoring. She has also held leadership positions at both universities and, since 2015, she has served as the North American representative on the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel, a multinational committee of 12 experts that monitors international trends in education and allegations of violations of the rights of K–12 teachers and higher education faculty. Dean Vavrus’ professional expertise and personal engagement in international education enable her to bring a unique perspective to her role as the senior international officer for the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Host: Dr. Jennifer Kushner expand_more

Host of Global Day 2024

Dr. Jennifer Kushner is the Director of CALS Global in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. CALS Global builds partnerships to address global challenges using 5i* approaches to achieve collective impact. The office focuses on research and outreach with a focus on issues such as food/water/energy security, sustainable agro-ecological systems, community and climate resilience, and health. 

Dr. Kushner is a recognized scholar, speaker, and coach in systems strategy and change and leading expert in systems evaluation. She has led and evaluated domestic and global initiatives related to agriculture, the environment and health funded by the USDA, U.S. Department of State, USAID, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and others. She has worked in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and the Caribbean. From 2007-2018 she was a specialist with UW-Extension where she led several multimillion-dollar initiatives focused on water. Kushner holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in adult education focused on agriculture, natural resources, and international development.

*International, interdisciplinary, inclusive, innovative, and integrated.