Words by Amanda Avalos
Dr. Tatiana (Tati) Joseph moved from Costa Rica to Milwaukee at ten years old with her family who was seeking better educational opportunities for her and her sister. She is a woman, a mother, and holds a PhD with a passion for teaching and working for social equality. Tati is one of the Founders of the Omicron Gamma chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Incorporated at Marquette University. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
As a Spanish-speaking Milwaukee Southsider, Tati grew up appreciating the diversity that her neighborhood offered. She enjoys the ability to drive down the street with her son, Noah, and husband, Josh, to the Polish bakery, while being just minutes away from tapas restaurants in Walker’s Point. To her, Milwaukee offers a “cultural hub” that is unique to Wisconsin – and believes that “Milwaukee needs more credit for this.” Her love for the city and what it provided her has helped shape her work for social equality within education.
Growing up as an undocumented person living in poverty, she saw many gaps in the educational opportunities that were available and this spurred a lifelong passion for education and aspirations to become a teacher. Despite the many inequalities and pushback that Tati witnessed within the education system, she pursued her educational goals and earned a Master’s degree where she learned how to name the problem and find the solution. With a Ph.D. in Urban Education, she now describes her role as being an agent responsible for social change. Her passion for teaching and more broadly, her passion for education is rooted in her childhood memories of playing “school” with her sister and friends where she always chose to play the role of the teacher.
Tati currently serves as the District 6 School Board Member, where she serves schools located primarily on the Southside of Milwaukee. As a member of the MPS School Board, Tati uses her position to find missed opportunities and combine her personal and academic experiences to ask the question, “how does this impact community?” Part of what she loves most is working alongside her community to building opportunities for families.
Milwaukee’s Biggest Challenge
Tati finds that one of Milwaukee’s biggest challenges is a lack of partnership between organizations and individuals. The division creates finger-pointing and blaming among community change agents and leaves everyone feeling unsupported. Her concern lies directly with her passion. The biggest questions she hopes to answer are: what is the student’s life like and what conditions enable or disable opportunities? How can we prevent families from feeling alone? How can we best support families as a community?
What Makes Milwaukee Beautiful
In Tati’s experience, she describes Milwaukee as very personable. You can still find communities that come together to figure out how to change things for themselves. There are groups that come together to support one another, to collect donations for families and individuals in need. In her experience there are always people willing to help. The power of community and human touch, of sisterhood and brotherhood, of community leaders who are true about the people they serve, leaders who pull people of color to the top with them, the first generation college students and their mentors – are what makes Milwaukee, beautiful.
Tati strives to be a leader of social change and an ambassador and advocate for building spaces of educational opportunities for the city of Milwaukee. Tati makes Milwaukee beautiful by using her time to lead and represent the schools in District 6, through continuous support and mentorship for her undergrad sorority chapter, and by volunteering to help coordinate community events like Mexican Fiesta and by assisting neighborhood youth in pre-college advising. Tati makes Milwaukee beautiful.