It's difficult for adults who live at or below the poverty level to attend college. That's something Emily Auerbach wants to change. Auerbach, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, serves as the director of the Odyssey Project, which provides a free college course for adults who are overcoming adversity. That one course, she says, followed up with practical help toward completing a college education, has transformed many lives. "We have students who have gone from being homeless to having UW master's degrees, who were incarcerated and are now working in the community," she says.
A new component of the program is Odyssey Junior, which allows the children of Odyssey participants to express themselves through writing and art. "The goal is to break the cycle of poverty right here in Dane County," says Auerbach. Her part in that effort is to teach and encourage students.
Auerbach says she believes deeply in the power of education to lift people into better lives. For her, it is an issue of racial and economic justice. She says she would "love to see all of Madison come together to tackle some of the injustice."
The M List
Madison Magazine's M List is a who's who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its fourth year, the M List recognizes those making strides as mentors and teachers. Last year's list of honorees were making impacts in the area of social innovation. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored "Foodtastic" entrepreneurs and innovators.