After graduating from UW–Madison in 2018, Mehak Qureshi went on to attend the UW Law School where she now serves as the co-president of the Middle Eastern Law Students Association and interns with the Immigration Justice Clinic.
Across the country at Emory University in Georgia, class of 2018 UW alumna Chariesse Ellis is set to graduate in May with a Masters of Public Health and plans to take the MCAT in pursuit of a career in reproductive and sexual health.
Despite the different paths they took after leaving UW, Qureshi and Ellis remain connected to community and each other thanks to the time they spent working as Community-based Learning (CBL) interns at the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
In their work as CBL interns, Qureshi and Ellis helped CBL course instructors lead reflection exercises on identity, power and oppression in community-engaged work in addition to maintaining communication between community organizations and students or instructors.
“We were given such an amazing opportunity to present to academics on things that we thought were important,” Qureshi says. “We were students, so the opportunity to do that was so exciting, and it just reinforced in us that these conversations are super important, and there are people who are ready to listen.”
Qureshi says she had the opportunity to utilize her skills in diversity training as a CBL intern, facilitating conversations on how identity impacts community engagement in the context of entering and working with marginalized communities.
Qureshi and Ellis found CBL work highly impactful, as it allowed them to teach instructors and fellow students what it meant to respectfully and responsibly work with a community they were not a part of.
“I realized UW does not offer that many opportunities for that kind of discussion, so I was really blessed to be able to do that,” Qureshi says. “I am still interested in diversity and inclusion, and I think the Morgridge Center really solidified that interest for me.”
Ellis says her enduring interest in community-based programming stems from her time at the Morgridge Center. To this day, Ellis says her experience as a CBL intern motivates and drives her current work within higher education settings.
Through teaching campus members about the challenges of implicit biases and cultural competence in community-engaged work, Ellis says she learned how to communicate with different audiences to make tangible change in communities.
“The Morgridge Center helped me want to get my Masters in Public Health and focus mainly on working in the nonprofit sector within the community,” Ellis says. “I recognized how important that type of work is for real change to happen.”
For Qureshi, the Morgridge Center provided a unique outlet into community-engaged work. She says her former supervisor Haley Madden — who now serves as the assistant director of community-engaged scholarship — made the position autonomous and engaging so interns had the opportunity to pursue projects they were passionate about.
From visiting the Menominee tribe to working with previously-incarcerated individuals at a sustainable farmer’s market, Qureshi says her experience was extremely formative in the work she does today — especially as the Diversity Committee Chair for the Wisconsin Law Review.
“[CBL] has honestly helped me a lot in terms of how I pursue things now,” Qureshi says. “The purpose of the [Diversity Committee] is still being figured out, but I am doubtlessly that the Morgridge Center is helping me fulfill that role.”
In reflecting on their experiences at the Morgridge Center, Qureshi and Ellis advise current students to take what the Morgridge Center does and incorporate it into their outside views to stay engaged in community-engaged work no matter where they go in their post-grad journeys.
Moreover, Qureshi and Ellis encourage students to stay connected with their fellow interns and the professional staff for the unconditional support they have received long after they left the Red Gym.
“[The Morgridge Center] provided me with the value of a network of people who care for you and want to support you in whatever endeavors that you’re looking for,” Ellis said. “Throughout my professional and academic career, that’s probably been the most important thing that I’ve tried to seek out, because the family that we had at the Morgridge Center was extremely supportive of me so many times in my life.”