Learn More about our Panelists

Michael Gosman, Executive Director - ACTS Housing

A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Michael Gosman had a promising career as an attorney. Then, about six years ago he left his law career for a role he felt would have a larger impact on Milwaukee. Many feel he made the right decision.

Today, he serves as executive director of ACTS Housing, a group that’s helped under his leadership 642 low-income families become homeowners. These families, 153 of which received loans directly from ACTS, helped the city of Milwaukee reclaim some 319 foreclosed properties.

In addition, revenue from ACTS Housing has increased from $800,000 to $2.4 million during Gosman’s leadership, and the number of professional volunteers supporting the organization between 2013 and 2018 jumped from 65 to more than 130. He also tripled the ACTS team size from six employees to 18.

Erik Kennedy, Senior Community Relations Coordinator - Advocate Aurora Health

Erik Kennedy is one of Milwaukee’s young professionals who wants to make a difference.

As a member of the advisory board for NEWaukee, he’s been a champion of diversity and inclusion for the organization’s programs, as well as for other groups he serves in the community.

He also spends his time volunteering for the Cross Roads Kitchen Meal Program at St. Vincent de Paul in the Walker’s Point neighborhood.

Serving the community has taken the lead for his roles in his professional career as well. He served as a volunteer coordinator for the YMCA and in 2009 co-founded the YMCA Camp Minikani Adoptive Family Weekend. He was as an AmeriCorps member with the Y and then the AmeriCorps program specialist prior to transitioning to volunteer coordinator.

After seven years with the YMCA, he joined Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee and today is senior community relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health.

Kelsey Otero, Associate Director of Social Innovation - Marquette University

Kelsey Otero has had a significant impact in revitalizing commercial corridors on the near west side of Milwaukee, helping budding entrepreneurs with the tools needed to be successful and bringing 26 new businesses to the community.

After serving as an account executive for USA Olympics, she was hired at Marquette University as social innovation coordinator, where she developed and launched a “Shark Tank-style” business competition, Rev-Up MKE. As a result of Rev-Up’s success, Otero was promoted to associate director of social innovation. In this role, she is responsible for business recruitment for the Near West Side Partners, leading Marquette’s Social Innovation Initiative and leading the Global Social Benefit Institute’s Boost program.

She is well-known on Marquette’s campus and in the near west side area for mentoring student-led and community-led businesses inside the 707 Hub innovation space. Her role as co-chair of the Near West Side Partners’ Commercial Corridor Working Team has allowed Otero to bring commercial development initiatives to the near west side, such as Mobile Design Box on 27th Street.

Maurice Thomas, Founder and Executive Director - Milwaukee Excellence Charter School

After graduating from UW-Madison in 2008, Maurice Thomas moved to Atlanta to become a Teach for America corps member as an 11th grade history teacher. He worked hard to work with faculty members, families and students to advance his high school juniors and seniors to attend college, garnering him a national honor from Teach for America in 2010.

He returned to Wisconsin in 2011 to serve as executive director of Teach for America-Milwaukee, building a founding board of directors, raising millions in funding and nearly doubling the size of the incoming corps of teachers.

But by 2014 he left Teach for America to follow his vision to create the founding charter for Milwaukee Excellence Charter School, where today he is executive director. The 6th through 12th grade school has more than 330 students in 6th through 8th grades, offering a tuition-free, public charter approved by Milwaukee Public Schools. The school plans to grow one grade per year until it reaches all 12 grades by 2022.

Vanessa Vasquez (moderator), College and Career Readiness Coordinator - Carmen Schools of Science and Technology

Vanessa Vasquez grew up in poverty on Milwaukee’s south side in a family of six and raised by a single mother. Overcoming many obstacles on her way to earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Alverno College, it’s no wonder she dedicates her career and volunteer time to serving the community’s Hispanic students.

Last year, she was rewarded for her efforts by nonprofit advocacy group UMOS by being named the Hispanic Woman of the Year. She was honored for her contributions to education and her work in helping close the achievement gap in Milwaukee.

Currently serving as college and career readiness coordinator at Carmen Schools of Science & Technology in Milwaukee, Vasquez is a servant-leader serving on boards for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and the League of United Latin American Citizens. She also serves on the Latina Taskforce Advisory Board at Mount Mary University and is on the alumnae associations for St. Anthony School and Alverno College.