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UWL’s Jazzma Holland wins Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award



FILE - Jazzma Holland (PHOTO: UW-La Crosse)

Jazzma Holland has grown personally and professionally during her time at UW-La Crosse.


Now, in her role as interim assistant director for student leadership in the Office of Multicultural Student Services (OMSS), she is helping students blossom, as well.

For her efforts, Holland was recently selected as UWL’s recipient of the UW System Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award. The award is given annually to faculty, staff, students or community members who have helped advance equity and inclusion for people of color in UW System, as well as in communities across the state.

“This is a true honor, and to be honest, a little shocking,” Holland said. “I do this work because I love our students and the work that we do. I don’t do this work for recognition. The students and their success are what motivate me on a daily basis. They have so much to give and to show, and I love being their cheerleader, motivating them to keep going, because they deserve to meet their goals.”

Holland, originally from Milwaukee, holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, with an emphasis in organizational and professional communication. She recently went back to earn her master’s degree in student affairs administration.

Her experiences at UWL — as both a student and an employee — have been deeply impactful.

“UWL has taught me how to share my voice with my community, whether that is on campus or in the community,” she said. “This isn’t just my journey — this is our journey. And we should be there to lift one another up and help where we can, however we can.”

After her undergraduate studies, Holland held a number of positions at UWL, including administrator of the COVE (Center of Organizations, Vision & Engagement) and assistant director and later director of Upward Bound.

In September, she began her current role with OMSS, where she helps oversee and support UWL’s eight multicultural student organizations. Holland leads workshops on campus resources, organizes the annual multicultural leadership retreat and assists student leaders in event planning.

“I enjoy seeing the students learn, grow and find their voice,” she said. “It is always exciting to see our students working hard to go after their goals. I love being an ear for them as well as advocate and an advisor.”

Holland’s proudest achievements during her time at UWL have nothing to do with individual accolades and everything to do with supporting others’ success.

They include:

Helping all Upward Bound seniors get accepted into their college of choice this spring

Organizing the Multicultural Development Leadership Weekend this fall — a chance for UWL students to connect through team-building exercises and outdoor activities

Ensuring Upward Bound students were supported during COVID-19, in the form of weekly care packages filled with materials for their online classes, as well as games, books and recipes.

The work is rarely, if ever, easy. But Holland, who benefited from programs like Upward Bound when she was a student, says it’s critical for young people of color to have strong role models and support systems.

“Representation matters. When you see someone like you in a space where you are the minority, it matters. It shows you that you are not the only one and that you are not alone,” she says. “That is why I enjoy having the opportunity to be on the ground, being able to speak directly to our students. I get the chance to know them, and they get the chance to know me. Through that, we all realize that we are not much different, and we can offer each other the support that we need.”

By Kyle Farris, UW-La Crosse

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