James Zimmerman, a graduate from UW-Whitewater with a degree focused in counseling psychology, has always been passionate about student-facing roles but is taking a leap into public service and the unique culture of Madison. He joins the Morgridge Center for Public Service as the Badger Volunteers Assistant Program Manager.
Growing up in Mukwonago, WI, Zimmerman is familiar with America’s Dairyland, but the quirks of Madison and the character of UW-Madison’s campus is new to him. After graduating from Whitewater, Zimmerman took a job with residence life at Louisiana State University (LSU) as he worked to earn his master’s degree in higher education administration.
After two years at LSU, Zimmerman moved to the University of Nevada, Reno to take a job as resident life director. It was in this position that he saw the need for a shift in his career focus.
“I knew that I had done my time,” Zimmerman said. “Residential work was bringing out the cynical side in me, so this opportunity to be close to home and in a community-facing position helped break me out of that mindset I was stuck in.”
When he saw this position open, he saw it as a great opportunity to rejuvenate his passion for working with students, while returning closer to home and seeing his family who he had not seen in five years. Zimmerman shared how this position tied in with his work in Reno where he was able to connect students to the outside community. He noted how he is excited to have the opportunity to do this work bridging campus and outside communities on a larger scale.
“Community engagement is so important because walking to class, hanging out with your peers, that is just one fragment of this whole community. Madison is way more diverse than just the university, and engaging in this community during a student’s few years here facilitates more learning and a sense of purpose beyond their studies,” Zimmerman said.
This role allows him to not only help students explore their interest on and off campus, but also gives himself the opportunity to explore and further his own higher education. He shared how he always had an interest in higher education, but never knew that it was a field he could build an entire career out of.
Badger Volunteers helps connect students to volunteer opportunities on and off campus. In addition, they help the volunteers reflect on their experiences and gain meaningful insight to their community contributions.
“This role is a huge step forward for me. I am happy to be able to give back to the community, but also to be able to help students get new opportunities and experiences. While I help students gain new knowledge, I am also expanding my own within higher education,” Zimmerman said.