UW-Madison to celebrate 2011-12 as Year of the Wisconsin Idea

Aug. 8, 2011

by Bill Graf

The Wisconsin IdeaUW–Madison’s longstanding commitment to providing service to the families, businesses and communities of Wisconsin and beyond — will be celebrated for the next 12 months as the university observes the Year of the Wisconsin Idea.

photo: new banner outside Bascom Hall

From left, Ben Olson, Tim Gehrmann, Stan Gudgel and Rick Neustadter, all members of the Facilities, Planning and Management staff at UW, hang a set of banners on the exterior of Bascom Hall that celebrate 100 years of the Wisconsin Idea.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Although the concept reaches back well into the 19th century, the Wisconsin Idea took its name from a 1912 book hailing the progressive era reforms enacted by the 1911 session of the state legislature, many of which were developed by or in consultation with UW professors.

“While many colleges can boast of their public service, UW–Madison stands out because of its long history of making service to the people an essential reason for its existence. The Wisconsin Idea motivates faculty and staff and inspires students and alumni to carry the benefits of their teaching, learning and research past the boundaries of campus to serve their state, nation and world,” says Interim Chancellor David Ward.

Rather than centering on a single event, the Year of the Wisconsin Idea will provide a thematic link for a continuous stream of events and activities informing about and reflecting upon the Wisconsin Idea:

  • Leading off the year will be UW–Madison Day at the Wisconsin State Fair on Wednesday, Aug. 10. The Wisconsin Story Project’s Storybooth, a portable audio and video recording station, will be set up on the fairgrounds' Central Park to allow visitors from around the state to share how the university has positively affected their life.
  • A few examples of scheduled campus events that tie into the Wisconsin Idea are: the Morgridge Center for Public Service’s 15th anniversary; the inaugural Wisconsin Science Festival at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery; Re-examination of the Wisconsin Idea in the 21st Century by the School of Education's Office of Education and Outreach Partnerships; and a Wisconsin Idea Symposium on Principled Partnerships for the Public Good by the Community Partnerships and Outreach Staff Network.
  • An interactive Year of the Wisconsin Idea website debuted Monday, Aug. 8. It features a searchable database of more than 1,000 examples of the Wisconsin Idea in action, a history and timeline of the development of the Wisconsin Idea, a calendar of Year of the Wisconsin Idea events, a Twitter feed, and a page on which UW staff, students and the public will be able to upload a personal statement about what the Wisconsin Idea means to them.
  • Badger football game radio broadcasts this fall will feature spots in which faculty and staff reflect on their experiences advancing the Wisconsin Idea.
  • The Wisconsin Idea message will be carried via social media. University Communications has opened a Wisconsin Idea Twitter account, @WisIdea, and will be tweeting daily highlights of the Wisconsin Idea in action from the university's database of projects and programs benefiting the state. We encourage others to join the conversation using the hashtag #wisidea.
  • On campus throughout the year, students, staff and visitors will find Bascom Hall’s familiar white columns decorated with a colorful, three-section Wisconsin Idea commemorative banner depicting the historic center of campus, Bascom Hill, as it appeared in an 1890s engraving. The banner was installed Thursday, Aug. 4.

Newspaper front page from Hoover’s visit

Photo: Bryce Richter

“The Wisconsin Idea is represented by a broad spectrum of public and private partnerships making the university's resources and expertise available to address issues ranging from economic development and environmental protection to human services and K–12 education — both in Wisconsin and, increasingly, around the world,” Ward says. “In the global arena in which UW-Madison now operates, the reach of the Wisconsin Idea will only continue to grow.”