DeAnna Leitzke ’98, ’08
Professor DeAnna Leitzke, P.E. remembers sitting in her organizational psychology class her junior year at MSOE and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m almost done with my architectural engineering program, and I’m supposed to be teaching kindergarten.” At least that was her takeaway, she said, after taking the Myers-Briggs test and other career path analysis.
But Leitzke stuck to her chosen path and got her first job doing HVAC design in Madison. Later, she found a better professional fit at Reserve Advisors in Milwaukee as an engineering consultant. While inspecting properties and infrastructures for defects, and then providing recommendations for remediation, she found a passion for construction management.
“I loved that job,” she said, but when a teaching opportunity arose at MSOE, one of her former professors encouraged her to apply. Leitzke accepted the position of adjunct professor in 2006, and at the same time, pursued her master’s degree in engineering management at MSOE. Sixteen-months later, she became an assistant professor in the Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department (CAECM).
“I love the students here at MSOE,” said Letizke. “Just being surrounded by their enthusiasm and excitement and their desire to do extraordinary things is contagious.”
Leitzke strives to bring real-world projects into the classroom and help students see the relevancy of the things that they’re learning. “Project-based learning is where my heart is,” she said.
For five years, as the Pieper Family Endowed Chair for Servant Leadership, Leitzke used project-based learning as a tool to help students develop as servant leaders. “If a nonprofit in Milwaukee had a need, I would find out if our students had the skill sets to meet that need and then find a way to make that project match in a classroom,” said Leitzke.
Leitzke said she fell in love with the idea of institutionalizing that approach, and as the Director of MSOE’s CREATE Institute, Leitzke is excited to lead the initiative to foster the growth of the MSOE mindset—teaching servant leadership and the entrepreneurial mindset through experiential learning. “It’s really a fun way to teach, it’s a fun way to learn, and it connects MSOE to the community I have lived in my whole life and I believe in,” she said.
Leitzke is earning her doctorate in leadership for advancement of service and learning in higher education at Cardinal Stritch. “As challenging as it is to be a student again, I’m enjoying the experience. It certainly has made me a better teacher. Being a student while you’re teaching helps you look at things differently.”
She has enjoyed getting to know students through her advisory roles for CAECM Czech Tech University exchange program, Sigma Lambda Chi, Associated General Contractors of America and Construction Management Association of America.
Leitzke is also on the board of SHARP Literacy and looks forward to providing opportunities for more connections between MSOE and the greater Milwaukee area. “Some of my most rewarding experiences at MSOE have been when I’m able to share the amazing things MSOE is doing and the extraordinary things our students are capable of.”
When Leitzke finds some down time, she likes to spend it with her husband and three sons. Her husband is also in the construction industry, and they share a passion for renovation. “We gutted our first home completely.”
During the summer, they take weekend trips up north in their pop-up camper. Leitzke said she likes to travel and hopes to show her boys the world.