Joe Topczewski and his Family
While interviewing for Ph.D. programs in chemistry, Joe Topczewski ('07 chemistry) was frequently asked whether he had worked on any research projects. "Which one do you want to hear about," was his favorite reply, which always got the interviewer's attention. His proud dad recalls that "Joe would talk about the multiple research projects he had done, the teaching assistant role he had taken on, and the honors classes he had taken." These accomplishments differentiated him from most other applicants, and ultimately earned him offers from three prestigious graduate schools.
John and Janice Topczewski, parents of Joe, Jeremy and Janell, point out that all three children have had outstanding educational opportunities at UW-Parkside. What makes their situations special are the close mentoring relationships they have all developed with professors in each of their majors.
When all the kids are home, dinnertime in the Topczewski household can be a raucous affair, with discussions ranging from organic chemistry to digital photography to microeconomics. There is a friendly competition among the kids about which one is pursuing the better degree. "The discussion can get pretty vicious at times with their different perspectives," John said. One passion the entire family shares is their enthusiasm for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Life was busy for John and Janice, parenting three children just four years apart. Finding one academic solution for their varying personalities and strengths made life easier for this active family. John, a vice president at Johnson Financial Group, is one of Parkside's biggest fans. He is well aware of the high acceptance rate that Parkside pre-health students enjoy getting into graduate or professional health schools, along with the success of Parkside alumni in the business community. "The number of Parkside graduates working on my floor at Johnson Financial Group is extensive," John said, "including two of our six Executive Leadership Team members."
He and Janice encourage friends to send their children to Parkside for the incredible access to professors and the personal attention they receive. "The professors at Parkside see something in the kids and challenge them," John said. "All three children have found someone who's taken a special notice of them. There is no way you would get something like that in a larger school. No way."
Oldest son Joe is currently a Ph.D. student in the chemistry program at the University of Iowa. He was named one of six UW-Parkside "Outstanding Graduates" in 2007. Currently he is 18 months ahead of schedule to receive his doctorate, thanks in part to the research experience and training he received at Parkside. His father attributes a great deal of his success to the opportunities he was exposed to, particularly the guidance he received from Dr. Lori Allen and Dr. Gary Wood.
"When I was in college I sat in huge lecture halls with hundreds of other students," John said. "At Parkside, not only did Joe participate directly with the professors, but he got that small classroom interaction, which was critical."
As in many families, the Topczewski children have different strengths. Jeremy is a senior majoring in art, who has found his niche in the University Graphics studio. He uses his skills in art and photography to chronicle many campus events and create posters, brochures and ads ? including the Topczewski family ad appearing in local newspapers. You can also find him hiding inside the oversized head of Ranger Bear, for he is one of an exclusive group of people who have earned the right to wear the mascot uniform. Like his brother, Jeremy has benefitted from the personal attention of professors, including professor Alan Goldsmith.
Daughter Janell came to Parkside as a stellar student who was recognized for leadership and academic excellence with a Sentry Insurance Foundation scholarship. Her interests lean toward business and economics. She tutors other students and is working to reenergize the university's economics club. She was first exposed to Parkside through the Youth Options program for high school students, which enables area youth to attend classes at Parkside. She was both impressed and surprised when a professor took a personal interest in her, and credits Dr. Peggy James with encouraging her to attend the university. Once she arrived, she was taken under the wing of economics department chair Dr. Dennis Kauffman.
Ultimately, John and Janice Topczewski know that personal relationships have made a huge difference for their children. "What you're getting at Parkside is a private-college atmosphere in a state-school environment," Janice said. The personal attention has provided them with a successful launching pad for the rest of their lives, whether they become chemists, artists, or economists.
And in case you're wondering, John and Janice both come from large families where all their sibling's names begin with the letter J. When these two got married, they felt compelled to carry on the J tradition within their own family.