For the past 15 years, Educational Studies professor Bob Krajewski has taught and advised the multiple award- winning Social Action Theatre, which changed its name to Leadership in Action in Spring 2012.  The name change better reflects the student organization’s activities and value, as it is intended to provide its student members social justice leadership opportunities.

    Leadership in Action students address social justice, diversity, civil rights, varied isms, social problems, school issues by performing audience interactive short, student designed skits.  LIA is continually invited to perform in university classes and residence halls, K-12 schools (diversity days and others), community colleges, Rotary clubs, New Horizons, Nursing and Assisted Living homes, women’s resource shelters, YMCA after school programs, social and business agencies, youth groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, Fort McCoy’s Challenge Academy, and churches in the area, regionally, and nationally, as well as Civil Rights Movement affiliated churches in the South. To date LIA has performed for more than 54,000 people.

    LIA provided diversity training for groups as Accenture, Washington D.C. Transit Authority, and other states’ schools and groups, and at the Hmong International Conferences, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development international conference, and NCORE international conference.  Krajewski's networking allowed LIA to have performed in majority and minority schools in the D.C. area, Milwaukee, Memphis, Chicago, Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta, Santa Fe, Seattle, Minneapolis, Tuscaloosa, Louisville, Wales, and even China.

    LIA sponsors Freedom Rides to Nashville TN, Huntsville AL, Birmingham AL, Memphis TN, Atlanta and Carrollton GA, and Chattanooga, TN.  In each area, students work with Civil Rights Movement leaders. In Nashville, LIA performed in Bernard Lafayette’s church.  Rev. Lafayette was then president of the American Baptist College and pastor of the housing area church.  In the Civil Rights Movement, he helped lead marches and sit-ins, and served as Martin Luther King’s representative for registering blacks to vote in Selma AL, a job that almost cost him his life.  LIA performed in a Nashville PDS Middle school and several other Nashville minority schools too.

    In Nashville Kwame Lillard (1960-62 student leader of Nashville CRM marches and sit-ins, former Nashville government representative, and active president of the African American Cultural Alliance) and Bob led LIA marches several times to the Tennessee legislative building, and on the 2008 trip all 45 UWL participants were invited to the Tennessee Senate floor where Kwame and Bob made speeches supporting honorary doctorate degrees to former CRM sit-in  students who were dismissed from Tennessee State University during CRM.  Two months afterward those former students received doctorates from the Tennessee Board of Regents, chaired by Governor Bredeson, former Nashville mayor.  Bredeson and Kwame spearheaded the large plague which is attached to the front of Nashville city hall, declaring that never again will events happen to blacks as they did before.

    Kwame arranged for three of the Nashville sit-in/march participants to return to talk with LIA in the Nashville library, and lead us on a tour of the original Nashville sit-in stores. In addition, we spent time with Kwame and his colleagues at HBCUs Fisk, Meharry, and Tennessee State.

    Krajewski made a video of Lafayette describing his treatment and almost loss of life in Selma, and shares that with his classes.

    In Huntsville AL LIA met with Sonny Hereford, an MD whose son was the first minority enrolled in a white AL elementary school.  For that privilege, AL revoked his medical license.

    In Birmingham, LIA worked with Operation New Birmingham, and upcoming CRM leader, Rev Anthony Johnson, and together they made history. In 2008 LIA, CRM pastors, legislators, and sit-in/marchers made the first CRM march in Birmingham(police escorted) since MLK wrote his famous ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ in 1963.  LIA also sponsored a tribute to Rev Fred Shuttlesworth [‘the fire that couldn’t be put out,’ co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and founder of the Alabama Movement for Human Rights] at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where Fred’s commemorative statue resides in front of that building. On their Freedom Rides they performed at Phillips (former high school where when Shuttlesworth tried to enroll his children he was severely beaten and his wife stabbed- and that picture gained worldwide attention), and various Birmingham CRM affiliated churches, including New Pilgrim Baptist Church and 6th Ave Baptist Church, and also had an opportunity to meet with Chris McNair, father of one of the four girls killed in the famous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.  In 2010 LIA co-sponsored Rev. Johnson’s visit to UW La Crosse and the La Crosse community.

    In Carrollton GA, LIA performed for the NAACP, and Bob and the area NAACP leader held a televised debate.

    In Atlanta, LIA students performed in schools, visited Martin Luther King’s crypt, church, and museum, and were the guests of honor at a two hour presentation by CRM revered Rev. C.T. Vivian at HBCU Clark Atlanta University.

    In Chattanooga, LIA performed in the CRM affiliated New Monumental Baptist Church.

    In Spring semester, 2012, LIA received the award for Multicultural Event of the Year.  Previous awards  included Outstanding Involvement by a Student Organization, Senior Excellence Award, and a special award from UW-L’s Black Student Unity.

    In the past 15 years 50-80 students participated in LIA each semester.  Bob divides students into groups of five or six. Skit topics are student selected or suggested/requested by audiences for whom we perform.  With input and feedback from other groups and the advisor, each group brainstorms, develops, and refines skits during the semester.  Students are encouraged to share their own experiences while developing the scripts and brainstorming new topics.

        Much time is spent practicing, critiquing and revising skits as students prepare for performances.  They often play roles that are not necessarily congruent to their personalities, which allows them opportunity to experience life from a different perspective--sort of 'walking in someone else's shoes.'

        The spontaneous nature of the skits brings a fresh feeling to the performances.  Skits are short, usually 1-3 minutes in length, and are followed by an interactive discussion session, in which  audience members ask questions of the actors who answer while staying in their respective roles.  Thus there is immediate feedback and audience involvement.  Presentations and interaction/feedback sessions often are therapeutic, helping both students and audiences to process their feelings after the performance.

        Initially, the organization originated to educate UW La Crosse students and staff about diversity issues.  Under Bob’s guidance, the current emphasis is on leadership training, thus developing students to be more effective in advocating change and acceptance.  Further emphasis includes expanding the sphere of influence by reaching wider audiences.  
        As mentioned, LIA students spend a lot of time and energy working on developing and performing their skits.  Each semester new students enroll, complemented by a small core of continuing students who act as guides/mentors.  Thus, the group is continually evolving, ensuring both continuity and freshness of ideas for skits to present and audiences to whom they present. 

        The beauty and worth of Leadership in Action is its own diversity in terms of student background, vocational aspirations, gender, etc.  The advisor uses that diversity as strength to help students learn and grow.