2012 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
WAA was very sorry to learn of the passing of Tamara Grigsby in March 2016. Her service to UW-Madison is much appreciated, and she will be greatly missed.
UW Major: Social Work
Age: 37 | Milwaukee
Former Wisconsin Representative
(Assembly District 18)
Editor's Note: In April 2012, Grigsby announced she would retire from the Assembly to focus on her health. We wish her the best.
A graduate of Howard University, a historically Black college, Tamara Grigsby credits her graduate school years at the UW with lighting the fire for her to become an agent for social change. Through student protests and an open spirit of challenging the traditional knowledge in the classroom, Grigsby went on to a successful career as a social worker and then an elected state representative. She has served the Wisconsin Assembly's 18th District since 2004.
The debates in graduate school exposed Grigsby to the plight of vulnerable populations. "I became angry as I learned the full extent of injustice in our world," she says. "Thanks to the university, that anger and passion was turned into action (that) led me to my calling as a social worker and a member of the Wisconsin Legislature."
After earning her master's in social work, Grigsby worked as a family social worker in Milwaukee and as a program manager for the 130-year-old nonprofit Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. She advocated to reduce racial disparities in child well-being and to improve systems that serve children and families.
After being elected, she amplified the voice of Wisconsin's minority populations, especially their concerns about the need to improve education, the criminal justice system, and many other issues — including health care — that affect children.
Grigsby formerly chaired the Wisconsin Assembly's Committee on Children and Families, and in 2006 won the award for Community Service Dedication from Voices Behind Bars, a Madison-based organization, for her efforts and advocacy on restorative justice and ex-offender reintegration issues.
Grigsby has been recognized as 2010 Legislator of the Year by the Black Child Development Association, and separately by the Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin. She is a member of the legislature's powerful Joint Committee on Finance and serves on numerous boards, including the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council.
She supports her alma mater by supervising graduate-student interns from the School of Social Work's social-policy field unit and by speaking to various classes on campus.
Although Grigsby was hospitalized with a serious illness in late 2011, she continues to make a good recovery and intends to return to the legislature as soon as possible.
In her own words
What is the one thing every UW student must do?
Attend Badger games and the State Street Halloween event.
What is your proudest UW achievement?
I helped to save the Advanced Opportunity Scholarship.
Who is your hero? Who or what inspires you?
Shirley Chisholm; My inspiration is prevailing and achieving beyond adversity.
What five items would you take to a desert island?
A good book, my dog, a laptop (if possible), a raft, and pizza.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Playing video games.
If you could trade places with any person for a week, with whom would it be?