Pictured are Heather Yang, from left, Dakota Kaiser and Melissa Linden. Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Tucked on the edge of Marathon Park, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Wausau has been providing local students access to a high-quality education for nearly 90 years. It has served as an access point to the UW System for students to learn and develop into community leaders.

The three of us are the beneficiaries of that system, and have returned to serve the community, in part because of the start we got at what was then UW-Marathon County.

Our paths merged in the fall of 2006 as we took our first steps on our academic journey as first-year students at the Wausau campus. We met as we pursued a liberal arts education to further our goals of becoming health care professionals and serving our communities.

As first-generation college students, UW-Marathon County provided an affordable access point to the UW System and taught us how to effectively learn at the college level. We built a strong academic foundation through rigorous course work with support from compassionate and talented professors. Getting the best financial and academic start at the two-year UW paved the way for each of us to continue our academic pursuits.

Our paths diverged after graduating with our associate degrees, as we each completed our undergraduate and graduate degrees in our chosen fields at universities around the country. Yet each of us carried the strong academic foundation and values of community and service we developed at the Wausau campus.

More than a decade later, our paths crossed again as new providers at Bridge Community Health Clinic. Dr. Dakota Kaiser, licensed psychologist, now leads the clinic’s behavioral health program. Melissa Linden, certified family nurse practitioner, provides primary care with our medical team. Heather Yang, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, offers psychiatric medication management in both English and Hmong. All three of us are so incredibly grateful for the strong academic preparation we received at our local UW campus and the values we developed as students that led us all to return to Wausau and serve our community.

Our story is not unusual. Alumni from UWSP at Wausau (which has also held at least four other names since 1933) work, serve and lead in organizations across our community. In our clinic alone, we are joined by many fellow Huskies dedicated to improving the health of our community, including our executive director, Jennifer Smith; nurse, Arabella Schmitt; lab coordinator, Kaitlyn Wishart; outreach specialist, AyLee Her; and many others who have benefited from the university’s mission.

We truly believe that the presence of a strong UW campus in our community is a critical investment. We have each benefited greatly from the strong academic preparation within a supportive community that UWSP at Wausau offers, and we believe continued investment in the campus will continue to pay dividends in our community for years to come.

Dakota Kaiser, Ph.D.

Melissa Linden, FNP-C

Heather Yang, PMHNP