Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dreyer appreciates alumni network

Steven Dreyer

Steven Dreyer is pleased to report he feels "a little better all the time, as they say."

The 1992 alum and urban education scholar has been recovering from a series of medical afflictions that forced him to step down as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee several years ago. "I am moving back in the right direction overall all these days," he says.

After graduating from the La Follette Institute, Dreyer went on to earn a doctorate in urban studies from UW–Milwaukee in 2006. "All along at La Follette I wanted to continue on to get a teaching degree, a Ph.D., in a social sciences environment where I could use my La Follette training and have a unique interdisciplinary training. I took that long route to then pursue both public policy and social science," Dreyer says. "The urban studies Ph.D. program in part drew me (along with faculty) back to Milwaukee because it was precisely what I envisioned: an interdisciplinary doctoral degree with an emphasis in urban public policy. For me this evolved into the study of education policy and education theory."

Man speaking from podium. Chalkboard behind him has words that include

Steven Dreyer as he began his teaching career.

Dreyer taught sociology at Marquette University, UW–Milwaukee, and through UW–Milwaukee on the campuses of two-year UW campuses in Sheboygan, Waukesha, Rock and Washington counties. While a lecturer at UW–Milwaukee, Dreyer was funded to adapt some of his in-person course assignments for online format, and he taught several early hybrid course sections that were partially online and partially in-person.

Some of Dreyer's courses were part of UW–Milwaukee's bachelor's program in organizational administration. They included offerings in introductory sociology, industrial sociology, social class, world society, political and education sociology, urbanization and urbanism. "I also was fortunate enough to teach some 'capstone' research courses and individual students during the summers, which was perhaps the most rewarding," he says.

He adds that he instructed students on how to construct basic research models for their independent studies, term papers and coursework. "My La Follette studies were central in teaching students about scientific, social research," he says.

For his dissertation research, Dreyer intertwined the policy analysis training he acquired at La Follette with sociological ethnography to study school choice programs in Norwich, Norfolk, England, and compared them to Milwaukee Public Schools. He was appointed to a visiting scholarship with the University of East Anglia, plus a concurrent four-year fellowship at UW–Milwaukee.

The dissertation provided global perspective on debates going on in Milwaukee about education market theory and school choice, Dreyer says. "Advocates of market-based education reform assumed in their arguments that most people had access to knowledge about choosing schools," he says. "However, I found in Norfolk that mechanisms of 'choice' required specific skills that are distributed unequally in British society. This was comparable to MPS in the fine details, and suggested 'market-based reform' research indeed required greater scrutiny in the public sphere."

At La Follette, Dreyer worked with professor John Witte, whom the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction had hired to evaluate Milwaukee's choice program. "I am very grateful and fortunate to have received advice and help in my research from John Witte and (UW–Madison education scholar) Michael Apple," Dreyer says. "They were very kind and most crucial in helping me network within British academic circles."

As Dreyer explores reconnecting with the public affairs fields, he appreciates the networking opportunities the La Follette School offers, as well as meeting fellow alumni around Wisconsin. "The ties formed at La Follette are indeed lifelong," Dreyer says. "The extensive and generous network created over time is passed on with each new class. This, along with the unique world-class faculty and affiliates offers a sort of 'membership' in a global community of researchers, academics and public employees that is virtually unrivaled."

In addition, Dreyer is co-raising his 6-year-old daughter. Fatherhood, as well as religious meditation, painting and songwriting remain crucial to him, he says.

Dreyer wishes to remain involved with urban education, public affairs and social problems. In 2012, he again started attending public policy and academic conferences. He presided at two sessions of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology annual meetings held that year in Milwaukee and re-introduced himself to old friends and new, he says. "I am pushing hard to get back into the mix, as very best as I can."