Person(s) of REFERENCE
"For me, I'm always humbled when my work goes noticed for its fruits that positively impact our communities by inspiring young people!"
- Alea Cross
I am happy to provide this letter of recommendation for Ms. Alea Cross. I have been
acquainted with Ms. Cross since January of 2021 in her capacity of Manager of Advising at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). My role is that of Vice President of Retention and Completion at MATC and as such I serve as her second level supervisor. While I would defer to her immediate supervisor for daily hands on observations, I am pleased to provide my overall assessment of the quality of work conducted in the office of Academic Advising and the clear data showing the impact Ms. Cross’s team demonstrates toward student success. As with all references, I will provide strong areas and areas warranting development.
When Ms. Cross entered her position, it was newly created and much had to be established. We have come a long way in 17 months in terms of organizational structure and design and Ms. Cross has been an important participant of the team management in a culture of change. In terms of tangible evidence of success, I am pleased to point out that with only two management leaders in the office of Academic Advising, the following was demonstrated. While only 65% of all students persisted from fall to spring semesters at MATC this past year, 73% of those receiving advising services (n=878) persisted compared to 58% of those who did not
receive advising (n=1066). This demonstrated a 15% higher persistence rate for students receiving advising services.
Additionally, MATC is a majority minority institution. As such, reducing the equity gap is of significant importance. At MATC this past year, the equity gap (the difference in Fall to Spring persistence percentage of white students compared to that of students of color) for all students of color at MATC was 10% - 62% persisted compared to 72% of white students. Yet, 71% of students of color who used advising service (n=636) persisted compared to 79% of white students (n=234), reflecting an advising usage equity gap of only 3%. All this is to say that MATC students receiving advising services seem to be doing much better than their counterparts who do not, and I attribute this to the leadership in the office of Academic Advising.
As a final anecdotal note, I can say that the position of the Manager of Advising requires the ability to work with several campus partners in cross-functional settings. A great example of this is her role in coordinating college wide orientation programs. I have also observed first hand several instances in which Ms. Cross has overtly supported students with difficulties trying to connect with the bureaucracy of the institution.
VP of Retention and Completion
Milwaukee Area Technical College
As Chair of Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design’s Fine Art / New Studio Practice (FA/NSP) program, I’ve been fortunate to witness Alea’s tremendous integrity and vision for several years. As Director of Advising, Alea has always supported and upheld FA/NSP’s mission to empower students to be sustainably creative in the 21st century. She consistently works to serve students at the level they need, while holding them accountable to larger goals and a long-term vision.
Alea’s advising philosophy aligns with the individualized curricular pathway of FA/NSP. No two students within FA/NSP have the same curricular path, and Alea has worked alongside FA/NSP faculty and myself to understand and support each individual’s progress through the program. At the same time, she has worked to develop and strengthen policy across the college.
Alea goes above and beyond for MIAD’s students. She understands the complex factors that impact students’ success in college. Her work-in-service includes reaching out to the broader community to connect students with mentors, assisting students in need, finding solutions for housing, food and resource shortages, and working with students to find employment. While these factors have led directly MIAD’s improved retention rate, Alea is motivated by other forces. Student success is her primary focus.
Working with Alea has been a deep honor. From her, I’m reminded of the power in speaking truth. I’ve learned that student support extends beyond the classroom, and that listening is a vital component to advising. And I’ve learned that policy, when developed with student needs in mind, can be a powerful tool in student retention and success.
On a personal note, Alea has been a mentor to me in professional situations, always
reorienting me towards the greater purpose. She works to build an atmosphere in which our students can grow towards their potential, and a space in which our community can thrive.
Chair, Fine Art / New Studio Practice
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
I was supervised by Alea during the summer of 2019 as part of my graduate career experience in Higher Education. I was the first summer graduate intern in the Advising Office, and Alea helped build my experience from scratch so that it would be meaningful and developmental during my time at MIAD. Alea was welcoming, and challenged my expectations for the position by investing personal, professional, and emotional resources into my growth as a student affairs practitioner.
She was kind in her honesty and dedicated to her mission as an advisor and director. Alea treated me with the same level of attention that she would one of her students, which helped us foster a productive and engaging relationship between supervisor and supervisee. I was more than an intern. I was an investment and someone who Alea wanted to see thrive and learn.
Not only did I get to learn about academic advising as if it were a graduate level class, but I also got to design my own presentation about a specialized interest of mine, and then I presented at a state-wide conference, WACADA 2019. It was because of Alea’s support, challenge, and healing affirmations that I was able to win “Best of WACADA” at that conference, and I’ve been invited to present at the Regional National conference next year (NACADA).
I’m humbled to have been able to work with Alea. I had every reason to expect this relationship to be passive and formal. I was delightfully mistaken. Alea is a mentor, a guide, and a fierce advocate. I know she will continue to do amazing work as a supervisor; and, whoever she works with will learn more than they ever imagined about her advising and leading philosophy. I am a stronger person and professional because of the summer I spent with Alea, and I hope to have the chance to do the same for a supervisee of mine in the near future.
M. Ed. Educational Policy and Leadership
I have had the great pleasure and opportunity of working with Alea Cross as a colleague at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside ( UWP) in the Advising and Career Center (ACC). As a colleague and advisor, I witnessed her growth as a professional; and her willingness to get out of her comfort zone for the benefit of her students. When we collaborated, I noticed her ambition and passion for her work. I admire her work ethic and consistency with advising and daily administrative duties. Alea produced an excellent quality of work on an everyday basis and made meaningful connections to her students.
During our events, Alea brought creativity to the table, which her innovative ideas and a rich personality was contagious to the office. Alea brought a refreshing perspective and impactful ideas to the ACC office. I enjoyed watching Alea present workshops and meet with students. Her advising style was conversational and challenging. I saw students prosper from this method. She asked timely and probing questions for students to think critically and analytically about their academics and career. The students at UWP are diverse in perspective and nationality; so, her style was effective. Alea’s approach catered to the environment and culture that is established at UWP.
Alea’s leadership style is displayed through example and collaboration. During meetings, Alea would listen to everybody’s’ ideas and add in her perspective. She would be open for different perspectives based on what is best for the team and the student body.
Alea brought great value to the UWP community and I was saddened when she departed for a Director’s role at MIAD.
Academic and Career Advisor
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
I have known Alea for many years and have followed her successes at Marquette, both as a student and as an active participant with their Inroads program. Most recently, over the past two years, I have worked closely with Alea at Concordia’s Design Your Future program. In all related interactions, I have found Alea to be highly professional.
The qualities that stand out in my mind about Alea’s professionalism and which ensure her effectiveness as an advisor to students are as follows:
Lecturer and Adjunct Professor
Cardinal Stritch University
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Alea is a co-worker I find to be highly intellectual, committed, and unsullied about her goals as an educator. Alea is a valued co-worker and one that can only be described as “one of a kind.” She is an important contributor on discussions on ways to improve programming for the students we serve. Her suggestions are thoughtful and show great vision. In particular, she offers a deep understanding of activities and topics that encourage students to think critically and engage in dialogue on important issues that range from civil engagement to becoming conscious members of the Milwaukee community. Alea is able to accept people and her students without judgment while remaining true to her own belief system. She is ever prepared for work and has put together excellent programs and field trips for her students. In addition, Alea demonstrates leadership qualities and serves as a positive influence on the boys and girls she works with by teaching them to become responsible adults through the B-Boy and Be-U programs.
I have helped in a few of Alea’s sessions with her students, and I am very impressed with the manner in which she supports and interacts with her students, whether the situation is overcoming a difficult assignment or resolving a conflict among students. I am very impressed with Alea’s commitment and tenacity with respect to her career as an educator. I can pay her no higher accolade than to stress that she is the kind of person any organization will be fortunate to have.
Community Partner & Volunteer Coordinator/Events Planner
Our Next Generation
I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her during the 2013-14 school; over the two semesters, I observed not only Alea’s passion and concern for our students, but also her desire, in earnest, to grow as an education professional. Alea is well-organized and demonstrates amazing planning abilities, while remaining fexible to meet the needs of our diverse learning environment and, more importantly, to meet the needs of our students. During our co-teaching experience, she strived to learn new skills and implement new instructional strategies.
Alea created an inviting learning community in which everyone was respected and actively engaged. Specifically, during the spring semester, Alea was placed in charge of both the Integrated Science and Chemistry classes. Within her new responsibility was the need to ensure the academic growth of students with IEPs, in addition to the general education population. Alea continually reached out, not simply to check on my availability but to make sure she was reaching every student. We discussed how to better differentiate content, we ‘bounced’ ideas for lessons, and exchanged resources and feedback – all this, in order to truly support these students herself.
I personally, have not experienced a more rewarding collaborative experience in my K-12 experience to-date. Alea is very self-confidant as well as reflective – two necessary qualities to exceptional teaching, in my opinion. Beyond her desire to do the best for students, is her drive and excellent motivational skills. Alea always went beyond the expected to support students. She is a strong advocate for students’ rights and their responsibilities.
Academic Student Support Team Member
Milwaukee Collegiate Academy
I have had the pleasure of working with Ms. Cross this year while she was assigned to Mitchell School as a City Year Corps Member. She assisted in an eighth grade classroom, serving as a tutor, a near-peer mentor, and an enthusiastic assistant to the educational process.
Ms. Cross demonstrates a maturity beyond her chronological age. She is a highly motivated individual and is completely committed to each and every task she undertakes. Additionally, her levels of energy and enthusiasm are second to none. In fact, her disposition and positive outlook toward life and its challenges are inspirational!
Ms. Cross has demonstrated an ability to work successfully under the most challenging circumstances. She has developed effective, positive relationships with even our most challenging students. She has outstanding problem solving skills and displays a very thoughtful approach when working with others. She has the ability to relate with our student population and get them engaged in learning! Her warm, nurturing and empathetic approach working with our students has positively impacted their lives and speaks volumes of her character and values.
M. Hagen Principal
I would like to take this opportunity to focus on certain reflective questions that best expose her qualities. First of all, she has been a volunteer who I can count on at any time. She has consistently asked me how she can support my teaching efforts and always had the academic interests of all students at the forefront of her service. Second, I have always been able to count on her to be a leader with my students and take over classroom duties when necessary. Specifically, she has worked tirelessly, and successfully to improve attendance with an identified group of students. She has also been successful with her intervention groups in both reading and mathematics. Because of her mentoring, the classroom community and behavior has been very positive.
Throughout the year she has employed various strategies that have been successful and some that have not. She has been very reflective on this work and has worked to improve her classroom management. Her learning and reflection says a lot about her desire to master her professional abilities and become the best at what she does. I have no doubt that she will continue to be reflective and learn from her experiences as she continues in her professional endeavors.
Overall, Ms. Cross possesses characteristics that are extremely vital in the teaching and development of young minds. She is always positive and believes that all students can be successful. She understands what it takes for young people to be successful and happy in life, and she will not give up on her hope for all young people to find their best place in society.
I supervised Alea during her ten months as a City Year Corps Member, in which she served as a tutor and mentor at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Alea did daily tutoring for students in her 8111 grade class that were struggling in reading and math, led leadership coaching groups for students struggling with classroom behavior and attendance, and helped to plan and execute after school progran1ming for students. She worked from 7: 15 in the morning until at least 5:45 at night, and showed great resilience and commitment to her work.
Alea did an excellent job of achieving the goals of our organization this year. Eight out of nine of her students that received attendance coaching moved from having monthly attendance below 90% to having monthly attendance above 90% after attending coaching sessions with Alea. Of the students that she tutored in reading, three out of five of them made the growth that they were expected to that year, representing a total of just under one year of growth from fall to Spring. Three out of four of her math tutoring students met their projected growth, averaging ten points of growth.
Alea was able to accomplish these achievements due to her passion for her work, her desire to learn more and do more, and her confidence in herself. She is someone who takes action when it is needed and who loves building relationships and networks with others. Her ability to advocate for herself and her needs and her willingness to accept feedback also allowed her to improve her service over the course of the year. I am inspired by the way she is so emotionally invested in improving both her professional relationships and the lives of the students that she works with. She is very reflective and has a critical eye for what can be improved and how to go about improving it.
Over the course of the year, I was most impressed by her efforts at getting students into early admission high schools. While it was not explicitly part of her position, doing so not only helped them secure good opportunities for their future, but also taught them necessary life skills for meeting deadlines, organizing information, and practicing their writing skills. I think that these efforts set a tone of high expectations for them very early on, and it helped them stay more motivated throughout the year.
I was also very impressed with the way she helped her students organize their notes and assignments in order to help them become more independent and give them a holistic view of the work that they had to accomplish in class. They gained note-taking skills and the ability to deconstruct a question in order to answer it most fully.
She also showed great support for students' struggles with behavior by adopting a technique of having her students follow-up with teachers, staff members, and parents about their behavior and choices. This helped them to feel empowered as individuals and showed them the importance of taking responsibility for their own choices and the consequences that come along with those choices.
In her time with City Year, Alea demonstrated a great ability to make things happen, and to put her 100% effort into things that she was invested in. Over the year, I saw her really grow in her willingness to be invested in the objectives of the organization, and she also improved at setting herself up for success by planning ahead and taking on reasonable tasks. She is not deterred by small problems or concerns that come up, but is willing to push through and find a solution to a problem. She has also done a good job of reaching out to other people that might be able to support her in achieving these objectives. She is very resourceful and enthusiastic. I think that she will continue to be a great force for positive results in the field of education.
City Year Milwaukee