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Charleston receives Forward under 40 Award from Wisconsin Alumni Association

February 14, 2019
by Wisconsin Alumni Association communications

The Wisconsin Alumni Association presented LaVar Charleston, assistant vice chancellor of student diversity, engagement, and success at UW–Whitewater, with a 2019 Forward under 40 Award during its annual Founders’ Day event in Madison on Feb. 5.

The 39-year-old is one of eight UW–Madison alumni under the age of 40 who are living the Wisconsin Idea, leveraging the benefits of their education to better their cities, states, nation, and even the world. Charleston received both his master’s degree (2007) and Ph.D. (2010) from the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

In the international movement to create college opportunity for all, Charleston is making waves of change. Colleges and universities at home and abroad look to him for his voice and award-winning scholarship exploring how more students can access higher education.

LaVar Charleston
Charleston is an expert in the kinds of support students need to stay enrolled and succeed in college and in how to help them prepare for graduate school. He has also studied how to motivate more students from underrepresented groups toward career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

While at UW–Madison, Charleston was part of the team that helped launch Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB), which promotes equitable environments for learning and working in higher education.

Charleston, who lettered in football as an undergraduate, also helped to develop Beyond the Game, a curriculum that helps student-athletes plan for careers outside professional sports. The program, which has been used at UW–Madison, was designed to help African American, male college athletes more strongly identify with the academic side of their student experience.

He also taught courses on leadership and intersecting identities for the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

“UW–Madison and ELPA literally changed my life,” Charleston says. “ELPA has effectively given me the tools to influence policy, practice, and innovative change at the local, national, and even an international level. UW–Madison seems to take the spark that students have and expand it until it lights up every corner of the globe.”

This summer, Charleston is set to mark his two-year anniversary at UW–Whitewater, where he works to improve the student experience for every Warhawk. As assistant vice chancellor, he guides a portfolio of about 15 programs — precollege, undergraduate research, honors, community-based learning, study abroad, support for underrepresented students, and more — all designed to engage students in learning and campus life. “I truly believe UW–Whitewater is one of Wisconsin’s hidden treasures,” he says.

Learn more about Charleston and the other Forward under 40 Award recipients at: