The Center for Educational Opportunity (CeO) began in 1993 with the award of the federally-funded TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) grant. The SSS grant was first written by the School of Education Assistant Dean Walter Lane and awarded to the University of Wisconsin Madison by the Department of Education. Walter Lane’s dedication to providing educational opportunities to students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds was driven by his service in the Vietnam War. Walter noticed many who were recruited to fight in the front lines had little opportunities for other career paths. Walter came back to the United States with a determination to complete the education and experience he needed in order to help other people like himself. Upon retiring in 2008, Walter left a legacy of programs serving thousands of students each year at UW-Madison. In addition to the SSS grant, Walter brought the Ronald E. McNair, POSSE, and PEOPLE programs to campus.
Dr. Brenda Pfaehler became the first director of the TRIO Student Support Services program at UW-Madison. Dr. Pfaehler was committed to providing equal opportunity and equity in education. She strongly believed that everyone can excel and created the initial SSS community that still serves as an example for the program today. Although Dr. Pfaehler passed away in 1996, her passion for student achievement continually fuels the staff’s desire to strive for excellence in serving students.
In 2009, the TRIO Student Support Services program was renamed the Center for Educational Opportunity. In 2015, CeO expanded the center again with the award of an additional federally-funded TRIO grant from the Department of Education, Student Support Services-STEM (SSS-STEM).