Meet 2019 Forward under 40 Award Recipient Lavar Charleston MS’07, PHD’10

UW Major: Educational Leadership and POlicy Analysis
Age: 39 | McFarland, Wisconsin
Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Diversity, Engagement, and Success; University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

In the international movement to create college opportunity for all, LaVar 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.

Charleston is an expert about the kinds of support that students need to stay enrolled and succeed in college and about how to help them prepare for grad school. He’s 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 his home department, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA).

“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.

Photo by Andy Manis

Special Thanks to Our Sponsor