Last week I attended the Wisconsin Idea Seminar, a weeklong trip through Wisconsin with other newish University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty and staff. The Wisconsin Idea is an amazing philosophy adopted by the university that focuses on using our university and world-class faculty to give back to our nation and our state. It’s officially been around since 1912.
The Wisconsin Idea is the principle that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. It spans UW–Madison’s teaching, research, outreach and public service. One of the longest and deepest traditions surrounding the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Idea signifies a general principle: that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Synonymous with Wisconsin for more than a century, this “Idea” has become the guiding philosophy of university outreach efforts in Wisconsin and throughout the world.
I do not have pictures from all of the activities and destinations, but here are a few that I took along the way.
Other destinations and activities included:
- Nicolet College (a two-year technical public college)
- Red Granite Correctional Institution, a medium security prison. Interesting fact: education is mandatory for the inmates (but they can opt out). Another interesting fact: the prison has a special Netflix subscription so the inmates can watch recent movies. I asked one of the employees to name one thing he didn’t like about his job. His answer: “Working with some of the other employees.”
- Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, a charter school in a tough neighborhood in Milwaukee to understand K-12 educational challenges in Wisconsin. This all black high school boasts a 100% college acceptance rate. This is impressive given some the environment that most of the students come from.
- Discussion with the Wassau Area Hmong Mutual Association to understand the challenges in the Hmong refugee community.
- Holiday Acres Resort in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
- Medical outreach and Ministry St. Clare’s Hospital in Weston, Wisconsin.
All in all, this was a fantastic trip. It was not a vacation. The purpose of this trip was to get new faculty and staff to understand what the Wisconsin Idea is all about as well as to discover a way to give back those in need in our state. It is worth noting that none of our activities focused on Northern European groups (the German, Polish, and Norwegian) who we traditionally think of as settlers of Wisconsin. Instead, many of the activities introduced us to those most in need. Not that Germans in Wisconsin aren’t in need (you know what I mean!)
It wasn’t generally obvious how to help. And to be honest, operations research isn’t going to be part of the solution for most of the problems we saw during the trip. But that wasn’t the point. If at least one of my colleagues from another discipline could assist in some way, that would be a great start.
Giving back wasn’t the sole purpose of the trip. My favorite part of the trip was connecting with new colleagues during the bus trips and social activities. In the least, I have new friends and connections on campus. I sincerely hope that I will have a new collaborator or two after the trip.
Thank you to those who made this trip possible!