top of page


WAGET started as a network of innovators and public-spirted persons in 2002, often gathering on the UW Union Terrace in Madison.  It spread to the Fox Valley and Milwaukee, organizing around tasks and projects. It often used environmental protection and cultural respect as themes.  It worked under different names and with different partners.  In 2015 it officially became WAGET and in 2020 moved its focus to Milwaukee. WAGET is a 501 c 3 organization and registered with the state Dept. of Financial Institutions


To connect, support and encourage new generations in Wisconsin, the Midwest, and the World.

We believe in the power of individuals to create better societies for persons of all ages, especially youths.  We achieve together things we cannot do alone. 

We believe in a collective impact approach where everyone works together for shared goals while maintaining their identities and mindful of their interests.  All ages, races, genders, cultures are called to lift each other up. 

Lamont Weaver. Famous player-Bridge and Build.jpg



We would like to extend a special thank you to our partners. Their  support plays an essential role in the success of WAGET. 

Group 2_ Boldt-PHS-Children Hospital.JPG

Partner Highlight

Boldt Logo Tagline Web - White.png

The Boldt Company is a fourth-generation family and employee-owned construction services firm. At Boldt, our focus goes beyond building great things. It’s bringing together extraordinary people, places, and ideas to blaze new trails and improve tomorrow’s landscape. Boldt is committed to the greater Milwaukee community by providing opportunities for area youth to explore career options in the field of construction. Boldt is proud to support WAGET as we develop the next generation of Boldt builders.


Partner Highlight


Near West Side Partners, Inc. (NWSP) is a non-profit organization founded through the support of five anchor institutions: Advocate Aurora Health, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, Molson Coors, and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation. NWSP’s Board of Directors and Working Teams comprise institutional stakeholders, civic leaders, and residents.

Together, these groups work toward a collective goal to make the Near West Side a great place to live, work, play and stay by revitalizing and sustaining thriving business and residential corridors.


WAGET and NWSP since 2016


Meet Our Board

Jeff Smoller

President of WAGET

Jeff Smoller is a retired Wisconsin state government senior career executive.  He took on traditional and non-traditional tasks in governors’ offices, agencies and the University of Wisconsin.  His base was the Department of Natural Resources where he was a trends analyst, policy innovator, communicator and risk manager.  Public service entrepreneurship focused on economic growth, higher education, governance, citizenship, policy innovation, structural reform and international relationships.  His state service supported the Departments of Administration; Health and Social Services; Commerce; Workforce Development; Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Revenue and UW.  He worked with businesses, other states, other nations, think tanks, universities and the federal government’s executive and legislative branches.  He directed two state study commissions for two governors.  He was a leader in a multi-sector, multi-state and multi-national network of environmental policy innovators.

Christine Kao

Vice President of WAGET Global Education

Christine has over three decades of experience at higher education institutions in the fields of international education.  She has rich experience in Sino-US exchange and study abroad programs, as well as overseas campus operations in the Asia Pacific region. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.  Christine has hosted and assisted many global educational and cultural events in Wisconsin.  Christine has  lived in Wisconsin since 1986, originally from Taiwan.

Gary Vaughn

President of Guidant Business Solutions, LLC. Director of WAGET

Gary is founder of Guident Business Solution LLC. His business management consulting is in the areas of Company Culture, Operations/Management, Human Resources, Marketing Strategies, Financial Management, and Strategic Planning. Gary is excellent in business strategies, analyzing financials, and QuickBooks processing. Currently he teaches Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Lawrence University, also various business courses at Concordia University Wisconsin. Gary is active as Board of Advisor member in many organizations: College of Business and Legal Studies, Concordia University of Wisconsin; Self Employment in the Arts (SEA) Organization; Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway (FWHP) Organization.

Dr. Mike Dietz

Director of Outreach Education of WAGET

Michael Dietz served as a school administrator for 27 years, and he began his career as a high school teacher in Chicago, Illinois. He served as an administrator of a grades 7-12 school in rural Wisconsin, and later as principal of a middle school in a suburban district near Milwaukee. Recognition includes the following: Wisconsin State Principal of the Year in 1991-91; Publications Award, Wisconsin Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993; Board of Directors and Executive Council - National Middle School Association, 1999-2007; National Association of Secondary School Principals, Distinguished Dissertation of the Year, 1994. Dietz has a strong interest in international programs. He established an exchange program with a community in Japan, and has worked with colleagues to establish partnerships with universities in China, Taiwan and Japan. He conducted original research in the area of Japanese- American diplomacy, and has a strong interest in U.S.-Asia relations and partnerships.

Linda Wolk

Director of WAGET Education Development and Business Operation

Since 2016 Linda has been working with WAGET in several capacities and on many of their projects.  Linda is an ESL instructor for WAGET Japanese and Chinese programs.  She has been teaching English language skills for five years.  In College, Ms. Wolk majored in International Business and studied intercultural communication.  Her goal was to study cultures and prevent cultural misunderstandings and miscommunications.  Together with her International Business focus, she strived to develop and understand cross-cultural strategies in today’s global world.  Linda understands the difficulty of language immersion.  In 2009, she attended Peking University for Chinese Language Immersion for a semester.  She also studied abroad in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil as well as interned a summer at a law firm in Asuncion, Paraguay.  As a master’s degree student, Linda assisted planning several Paraguayan Economic Forum’s and was a teaching assistant for international business. 

Chie Kakigi

Director of WAGET Japanese Education Development

Chie Kakigi is an Interpreter and planning coordinator for this visit. Originally from Japan, she has been in Wisconsin since 1996. Chie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese Language and Literature with Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language minor from Chikushi Jogakuen University, Japan, in 1996, and her Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2001. In addition, Chie has English as a Second Language License from the state of Wisconsin. She has 13 years of teaching experience at both the college and high school levels (UW Oshkosh and Menasha High School). During her teaching career, she has organized multiple international exchange programs and cultural events as well as advising and giving support to students.

Michael Kelly

Advisor to WAGET

Michael Kelly is Executive Vice President of Blue Ribbon Management, LLC. In this role he directs Blue Ribbon’s US operation, including all real estate development and capital financing. To date, Michael has led development and financing projects totaling more than $275 million. Prior to joining Blue Ribbon, Michael worked as a Senior Advancement Officer at Marquette University for more than six years. Although he is not in the education industry anymore, Michael still has his passion for bringing better learning experience to the students from all over the world. Michael holds a Juris Doctorate from Marquette University, and Bachelor of Science in real estate and finance from Marquette University. Michael is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin.

Since 2002 Leadership has been:

Motivating American & International students through campfire diplomacy

Connecting teachers, coaches & students for Olympic preperations

Organizing cultural and environmental exchanges in Iowa, Illinois & Wisconsin

Introducing new ideas to  education, government,  agriculture & industry

Hosting sister-state and sister-community experiences and performances

Challenging governments, organizations and citizens to "think outside the box"

04_06_2022- photo to use-Dr Williams .jpg
bottom of page