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Beyond Bars Scholarship honors alum, supports UW–Madison students

April 2, 2021 By Lisa Bauer

Re-entering society from prison is a daunting feat. Upon release, formerly incarcerated people face limited job prospects, profound social stigma and lack of support, making it difficult to start again. Many people return to prison.

Roger Bruesewitz beat the odds, and a UW–Madison Beyond Bars Scholarship Fund now commemorates him and his journey. The scholarship will support UW–Madison students with past involvement in the criminal justice system.

Roger Bruesewitz

“Roger went through a tremendous transition from long-time criminal activity to graduating from UW–Madison to becoming a very successful copy editor at UW–Madison’s Law School,” says Mary Rouse, former UW–Madison dean of students, who created the scholarship in his name. “Roger maintained his lifelong connections with all the friends he made through life.”

Bruesewitz came to UW–Madison in 1973 as part of a group of four students in the new Study Release Program, a partnership between UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Division of Corrections. Then Assistant Dean Mary Rouse served as his mentor and advisor in this new program, which instilled in him and others a lifelong passion for education.

In 1975, Bruesewitz graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with honors, earning a journalism degree. He went on to become a copy editor at the UW–Madison Law School.

Prior to graduating from UW–Madison, Bruesewitz spent more than 12 years in prison and took courses at UW–Madison through the study-release program while incarcerated.

Mary Rouse

When Bruesewitz died in 2019, he trusted Rouse to distribute his estate. Inspired by his spirit of transformation, Rouse donated $25,000 to create the Mary K. Rouse & Roger P. Bruesewitz Beyond Bars Scholarship Fund.

This scholarship will support students taking credit courses toward a first undergraduate degree. Students could be admitted through UW–Madison’s Adult Career and Special Student Services (ACSSS) or be current undergraduate students at UW–Madison. Scholarship funds can be distributed twice a year with a possible award of up to $1,000 beginning in fall 2021. The application deadline is July 1 for fall term and November 1 for spring term.

Preference will be given to students who self-disclose in their application materials that they are currently incarcerated, have been incarcerated in the past and/or are UW–Madison Odyssey Beyond Bars students or graduates. Odyssey Beyond Bars teaches credit-bearing and noncredit UW–Madison courses to students incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons.

Studies show that people who complete college coursework while incarcerated are more likely to be self-sufficient upon re-entry and, therefore, less likely to return to prison. With this scholarship, Rouse and UW–Madison hope to carry on Bruesewitz’s memory and legacy, helping more Badgers achieve their dreams.

Learn more about the Mary K. Rouse & Roger P. Bruesewitz Beyond Bars scholarship: or give to the scholarship fund: