Making a meaningful impact

Mentor for minority students receives Regents Diversity Award


Photo by Submitted

Beale poses with the award he received earlier this month.


Being one of the few minority students when he initially came to UW-Eau Claire in 2009, Dennis Beale, the assistant director of Blugold Beginnings, can empathize with students’ “nerve-wracking” experiences.

In his work with Blugold Beginnings, Beale has provided a safe space to minority students.

In recognition of his work with minority students at UW-Eau Claire, Beale received the UW System Board of Regents 2019 Diversity Award on Feb. 8.

After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Eau Claire, Beale was hired on to work in the Blugold Beginnings office and in the Office of Multicultural Affairs as a student services coordinator. Since becoming the assistant director of Blugold Beginnings, Beale has worked closely with students in the program.

Beale also started the Black Male Empowerment club on campus, with which he recently traveled to the United Kingdom. The club aims to give a safe space and positive mentors to young black men on campus. Coming from a single-parent household in Chicago, Beale said his mission is to help young men who come from similar backgrounds as him.

Beale, along with his friend and former UW-Eau Claire director of football operations and player development Derrik Swanigan, recruited 27 young men from Madison, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis and other cities in the Midwest and brought them to UW-Eau Claire as a way to encourage them and help them get an education, he said.

Swanigan was fatally shot in December of 2017 at his home in Chicago — a situation that he and Beale worked to prevent for the young men they worked with. Following Swanigan’s death, Beale said he was devastated and was even more motivated to help the black men in the UW-Eau Claire community and give them the tools to succeed.

“I don’t want to get a call from their parents saying they’ve been shot or killed just because they went back home to visit,” Beale said. “If something was to happen to this individual, they’d have the resources that I’ve set forth for these different students that are coming in from all walks of life.”

Beale said the students he works with have his personal phone number and he encourages them to call him, day or night. He said it’s not uncommon for him to receive a phone call in the middle of the night from a student. Beale said that, despite being a 24/7 commitment, his job is what drives him to wake up every morning.

“I wake up and I’m ready to impact and change lives,” Beale said.

Melissa Bonstead-Bruns, UW-Eau Claire sociology professor and Beale’s undergraduate adviser, said Beale has impacted every student that he’s come in contact with.

“When they talk about why they are here, almost always it’s because of Dennis,” Bonstead-Bruns said. “He has made such a huge impact on everyone that he interacts with.”

Beale not only works to increase the number of minority students enrolled at the university, but he said he wants to focus on retention of students as well, which is why he provides them with the resources they need to be comfortable on campus.

Beale’s “laudable goals” and work with minority students at UW-Eau Claire is what earned him the UW System Board of Regents Diversity Award, Bonstead-Bruns said, though Beale attributes all his success to others who have helped him.

“All the people who worked closely with me… helped me in my success these past few years,” Beale said. “I’m just grateful. I’m blessed to be here. I never saw myself getting an award like this. I’m very humbled by this.”

Kelley can be reached at [email protected]