Layne Wetherbee

Layne Wetherbee

For rising senior Layne Wetherbee x’20, taking time away from her studies at the University of Minnesota was the unexpected catalyst that brought her to the UW.

After receiving encouragement from a social worker at Head Start, Layne began her search for the right university. “I feel like this field chose me. Moving through the process, each step I took toward social work kept pushing me on to the next,” she says. “In choosing UW–Madison, I was able to attend a school that I felt would benefit my education and my decisions moving forward.”

Assistant Professor Pajarita Charles offered Layne an opportunity to work with her after Layne had completed an independent study. Their research, for Dr. Charles’s Pathways for Parents after Prison Lab, focused on fathers reentering society following incarceration. While working with Charles, Layne also helped refine a parenting curriculum. “Dr. Charles has been very influential in many of my academic decisions, specifically my decision to pursue a PhD. She has been an amazing mentor and inspired my newly discovered interest in research.”

In addition to her academic work, Layne also served as the volunteer committee chair for Building BASES, a student organization dedicated to families and children who are experiencing homelessness. She is also a volunteer childcare assistant for the Rainbow Project, working with children who have experienced trauma.

“Layne is a leader among her peers,” shares social work professor emeritus Jan Greenberg MS ’78. “She demonstrates the capacity to think creatively and broadly about research so she can apply that knowledge to tackling difficult social problems. She is an embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.”

During her work, Layne identified gaps in the services offered to Madison’s homeless population, and she developed an after-school art program called KindheARTed, which was implemented in September 2019 at Emerson Elementary School. “Projects are based on emotional outlets as well as communication and collaboration through visual arts,” she says. “After the program concludes in December, we will have an art show for the children.”

After graduation, Layne plans to move directly on to earning her master’s degree. And as she shifts into her final year, she appreciates the generous support provided by the Bascom Hill Society Scholarship. “I feel incredibly honored and so grateful for this award,” says Layne. “It’s encouraging to know that people notice your work, and they see that you’re really making a difference.”