April 23, 2020

Makda Fessahaye: Divisions of Adult Institutions Administrator for Wisconsin Department of Corrections

What is your title at your job?

Divisions of  Adult Institutions Administrator for Wisconsin Department of Corrections. I oversee 36 core facilities and manage day to day operations. I help with policy making and correctional reform. With the 36 core facilities there are 24,000 people in our care. under my division, I oversee 7200 employees. I also work out of Madison.

How is COVID-19 affecting your job?

I oversee and manager ops at all the prisons. We're trying to make sure that any kind of exposure is minimal and any kind of spread is mitigated.

What's the most recent policy decision you've had to make?

A policy decision I made recently was to provide face masks to all our of adults in custody and our staff.

Where did you go to school?

I went to law school NorthWestern for my undergrad, and Marquette for law school. I joined Department of Corrections shortly after graduation. I started off working as an employment relations specialist, then I joined office of legal counsel. Then last year I was appointed by the Evers' administration. This job is a political appointment;  my term ends when the governor's term is up.

Sid you always want to be lawyer?

Since the 7th grade. My parents are East African immigrants from Eritrea. My mom was having immigration issues where it  required a lawyer. At 11 years old, I felt had she had a really good lawyer we would not have had her in the situation that she was in. My grandfather was sick, and at the time she was not a citizen yet so her green card was denied. My 7th grade brain decided that she would have been able to see her father when he passed if she had a good lawyer.

Where are you from originally?

Milwaukee. I moved to Madison a year and a half ago now. I used to commute back and forth.

Who introduced you to Hoan/Nolen?

Denise thomas. She introduced me to Ian and Jason Ilstrup and Craig Bartlett. It was literally a week after i moved to Madison. I had seen her the weekend of my move, and then a week after I moved to Madison she said, "I want you to meet these people. They'll help you meet the Madison community." Honestly one of the best decision I ever made.

Who are some of the connections you would not have made without the group or would not be as close to without it?

I've gotten to be really close to Jeff Mack, Megan Jerabek and DJ Hines. They are awesome and we Facetime and do happy hours together. We even have a group chat going. They have been really awesome to hangout with. I'm the youngin of the group so I get to make old jokes in front of Jeff and that's great. I also have met a lot of great people through the great people I've met within Hoan and taken the extra step. Jeff has actually introduced me to some of the closest people to me now.

What's your favorite or most memorable event?

I loved the Hoan women's retreat. Shoutout to Lori and everyone else that planned it. That came at the perfect time for me. Another one i really had a great time at the Milwaukee holiday party.

What challenging things are you working though right now?

Managing COVID-19 in the prison system.

What do you wish your brain was better at doing?

Remembering song lyrics.

What song would you sing at Karaoke?

"I Will Survive."

Among your friends and family what are known for?

Being a social butterfly and being a social connector. Because of this, my friends and I created Brunches with Professionals. We host brunches for women professionals in Milwaukee. We've been doing that for five years.

Hardest lesson you've ever had to learn?

You are never going to make everyone happy.

Favorite book?

Isabel Wilkerson, "The Warmth of Other Suns."

Four people you'd like to share a meal with?

I would want it to be really fun. michelle obama , isa rae, tracey ellis ross, jennifer lewis.

What are movies you could watch over and over again?

The Lion King and The Sound of Music.

What do you think Hoan is missing?

Ethnic food.

What's a rule you would make that everyone has to follow?

Be kind to others.

What's a rule you would make that everyone has to follow in Hoan?

Get on Facebook or LinkedIn

Did you ever have a favorite teacher?

Absolutely. My social studies teacher at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, David Gnadt. He's awesome, and we still stay in touch. Ee was the first teacher that appreciated my heritage and my ethnic background. He was my world culture teacher. He made it a point to acknowledge Eritrea. It's still a part of the yearly curriculum. He definitely made a big impact on me.

What's your favorite part about your job?

Ability to effectuate change on a mass basis.

Least favorite part?

All of the nasty grams i get on a daily basis.

Where would you like to see hoan next 5 years?

I'd like to see it become even more diverse in not only racial makeup, but even just the diversity in class and professional backgrounds.

If you'd like to learn more about Makda, say hello here!


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