Heidi Zoerb, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UW-Madison

IB's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Heidi Zoerb, assistant dean, external relations and advancement, UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Business Address: 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608-262-4849
Email: hezoerb@wisc.edu
Website: www.cals.wisc.edu
Birthplace: Menomonee Falls
Education: Bachelor’s degree in government and literature, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, Calif.; master’s degree in journalism and mass communication, UW-Madison

Heidi, how long have you been employed in your current position of assistant dean?  
I have been in my current position for 14 months.

And what are your day-to-day responsibilities in that job?
I coordinate the communications, development, alumni relations, and government affairs activities for the college. CALS, as we call ourselves, has 4,000 students and 260 faculty teaching in 19 academic departments.

Who would you say has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
My parents, who taught me that education makes everything possible and that Wisconsin is the best place on earth.

What was a career high point?
A few years ago, I had the privilege of driving Sen. George McGovern to and from a campus speaking engagement. He wanted to get ice cream before I left him at his hotel for the evening, and we spent more than an hour at the Chocolate Shoppe on State Street eating ice cream and watching the crowds while I listened to his amazing stories about working with Jack Kennedy and traveling the globe to fight hunger.

What is a long-range goal that you’d like to achieve before leaving your post, or the university in general?
I would love to see the college encourage more dialogue between people who grow food, people who process food, and people who eat food. Too often, those groups are talking to themselves in very specific ways that make it difficult for everyone to appreciate the role we each play in the food system.

When you were in high school, what were your career aspirations?
I wanted to be a stage actress or Connie Chung.

Quite a departure from academic dean! Your very first paycheck: from where, how much, and did you blow it or save it?
My very first paycheck was from a women’s clothing boutique in West Bend, Wis. I made minimum wage, which was $3.35 at the time. I deposited the whole check into my college savings account.

What do you do when you aren’t at work that brings you happiness or relaxation?
I play tennis, and I often feel that the lessons of tennis are directly applicable to my life. Staying on balance and on my toes doesn’t only make for a better forehand! Following through is just as important off the court as it is on the court. And being able to shake off a mistake is critical to a successful match.

Also, I am a knitter, and Madison is such a great town for knitters. We have so many wonderful yarn shops and people who are really talented at the craft. Plus, it is the perfect coffee shop activity.

What is your favorite place to travel and why?
Door County, Wis. is my favorite place to travel. I have been going there my whole life, so I always have a sense of coming home when I am there. And I find the landscape, and the special pinkish color of the sunsets, to be inspiring any time of year.


Do you read for pleasure?
I love to read fiction.

Can you give us a title to give us the flavor of what you like to read?
A recent favorite of mine is Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

What character in a novel would you most like to be identified with, and why?
Anne of Green Gables, because I always loved the way she could get herself into trouble and still manage to accomplish things.

You’ve explained Anne’s character well, but what about your own? We always like to close with this question: Can you provide three words, and three words only, to describe Assistant Dean Heidi Zoerb?
Loyal. Curious. Wisconsinite.

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