Blugold helps make the Pablo possible

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By Emily Shepardson

Jacob Wrasse socializing in the new Pablo lobby following “True North” on November 17. ©2018 Emily Shepardson

As the Saturday sun ducks behind the evergreen thick horizon of Eau Claire and Phoenix Park’s lights reflect upon the cool Chippewa River below, the evening begins for nearly 400 community members, including University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumni, Jacob Wrasse.

Produced by Volume One, the sold-out show “True North: Real Wisconsin stories unfolding live onstage” filled the Jamf Theatre at the new Pablo Center at the Confluence.

The Nov. 16 and 17 show featured a variety of true stories paired with artistic multimedia, as well as live accompaniment from Eau Claire musicians S. Carey and the Bookhouse Boys.

As the audience laughed along to the closing performance, one laugh from the back of the theater boomed above the rest. For 2016 graduate, Jacob Wrasse, the Pablo Center at the Confluence has been a project several years in the making and one near his heart.

Wrasse’s journey in Eau Claire began in 2012. Growing up in Durand, Wisconsin, Wrasse said UW- Eau Claire was the close to home option that provided everything he was looking for in a school.

Author Mike Paulus and Volume One publisher Nick Meyer open “True North” in the Jamf theatre. ©2018 Emily Shepardson

“In high school, I got to know Eau Claire and that it had one of the best forensics teams in the country,” Wrasse said.

He competed in forensics, competitive public speaking, throughout high school and at the end of his senior year, sent in a recorded performance to the UW-Eau Claire Director of Forensics, Karen Morris.

“I watched his audition tape and I was very impressed with him,” said Morris. As the forensics team waited to see which students chose Eau Claire, Wrasse said his mind was made up the moment he sent in his audition video.

“This great university was right down the road from where I grew up,” Wrasse said. “I can honestly say that I never regretted that decision. I am very lucky.”

After a successful showing at forensic nationals his freshman year, Morris said that Wrasse began to explore other ways to get involved on Eau Claire’s campus. “His sophomore year he started thinking about other activities, so he was doing a whole lot after that,” Morris said.

Wrasse was introduced to student government as a sophomore. He said the support and encouragement of the forensics team led him to run for student senate.

“I was appointed as a senator in December 2012, and then I was an elected student senate representative through graduation,” said Wrasse.

Wrasse served on student senate in a variety of ways, from intergovernmental affairs director in 2013 and 2014 to student body president in 2015 and 2016. Through his many roles, Wrasse was introduced to one of senates most expensive and difficult projects, then known as the Confluence.

As a founding partner in the Pablo Center at the Confluence, UW-Eau Claire’s student leaders played a major role in its beginning stages and completion. Wrasse said he spent much of his undergraduate college career advocating for the multimillion-dollar project.

Hosting pro-Confluence rallies in 2014 and even one on his 20th birthday, Wrasse worked closely with professionals in the community to encourage broader involvement. Kimera Way, president of the UW-

Jacob Wrasse speaks with a Kimera Way about the show. Both Saturday and Sunday shows of “True North” were sold out. ©2018 Emily Shepardson

Eau Claire Foundation and Executive Director of Blugold Real Estate Foundation said, “In his role as a student leader, Jake was one of the most visible and articulate spokesmen for the project representing the students.”

From attending public meetings to spreading the word on referendums, Wrasse played a key role in garnering public support and funding, Way said. Catherine Emmanuelle, an Eau Claire city council member, who also worked closely with Wrasse on the project, noted that his attitude toward improving the Eau Claire community made working with him a great experience.

“Jake Wrasse is a breath of fresh air,” said Emmanuelle.

Wrasse graduated from Eau Claire in the spring of 2016 with a degree in communication studies. At this time, the Pablo Center at the Confluence construction was about to begin. After graduation, Wrasse continued his work in forensics as a graduate assistant at James Madison University in Virginia.

“I owe everything I have to UW-Eau Claire forensics team,” Wrasse said. “I got into graduate school as a result of connections I made through forensics, and that gave me the opportunity to do the work I am doing today.”

Jacob Wrasse scrolls through old Confluence rally posters in his office in Schofeild hall.©2018 Emily Shepardson

In May 2018, after graduating from James Madison with a master’s degree in communication and advocacy with an emphasis in strategic communication, Wrasse was offered a full-time position at UW-Eau Claire as a government and community relations specialist in the chancellor’s office.

“We told him we wanted to get him back here as soon as he could and now, he’s working for the university,” Way said. “That speaks volumes to our impression of Jake, his work ethic, his attitude and his complete understanding of the role of the university as a partner with the community to make things happen.”

Wrasse, who now lives in Altoona, Wisconsin, said collective effort improvement projects that incorporate the city and the university, are crucial for the betterment of Eau Claire as a whole. “We can go so much farther together than we can apart.”