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Cramer named director of Morgridge Center for Public Service

April 17, 2015

Photo: Badger volunteer and student

A member of Badger Volunteers reviews a math exercise with a sixth grader at Velma Hamilton Middle School in Madison in 2010. Badger Volunteers is one of the programs coordinated by the Morgridge Center for Public Service.


Kathy Cramer, a professor in the Department of Political Science and longtime active proponent of civic engagement and outreach at UW–Madison, has been named permanent director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Cramer had held the position of interim director since June 2014, after former director Nancy Mathews accepted a deanship at the University of Vermont. Cramer will now serve as director for a five-year term.

Photo: Kathy Cramer

Kathy Cramer

“The Morgridge Center for Public Service has been an inspiring and supportive part of my time on campus here since 2000,” Cramer says. “It is my honor to be named director.”

The Morgridge Center advances the Wisconsin Idea by developing and promoting civic engagement and learning through service within local, national and global communities. The center is administratively housed within the School of Education, but has a campuswide mission and serves as a central hub for public service, academic service learning, community-based research and engaged scholarship.

A native of Grafton, Wisconsin, Cramer has made a career of vigorously pursuing the Wisconsin Idea through her academic and personal work.

“I am so proud to be a part of this center that is a thriving demonstration of the UW’s commitment to helping our students prepare for lifelong citizenship in a complex world, and to putting university resources into practice to achieve the common good,” Cramer says.

In her 10 months as interim director, Cramer has made it a priority to connect with and listen to community leaders across Madison and Wisconsin, while building a strong UW–Madison community of faculty, staff and students engaged in work off campus.

The Morgridge Center advances the Wisconsin Idea by developing and promoting civic engagement and learning through service within local, national and global communities.

“Kathy has already moved the Morgridge Center forward during her time as interim director,” says School of Education Dean Julie Underwood. “She has sharpened the focus on sustainability, education and health within our public service work. And she has made strong connections for engaged scholars across the entire campus.”

Cramer’s research and teaching focus on how people in the United States make sense of politics and their place in it. She is known for her innovative approach to the study of public opinion. Between 2007 and 2012, she spent time crisscrossing the state to meet with people in informal social settings to talk with them about UW–Madison.

Since 2001, Cramer has taught a popular service learning course titled Citizenship, Democracy and Difference. The course is designed to encourage her students to reflect on what it means to be better citizens. In an effort to go beyond textbooks and gain a more contextualized understanding of these topics, students in the course conduct service work in the Madison community each week with a nonprofit organization or government agency.

Starting in 2008, Cramer also spent three years working as a faculty research scholar with the Morgridge Center, which allowed her to spend time studying the effects of service learning on campus, among other topics.

In 2006, Cramer was the recipient of a UW–Madison Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and in January 2015, she was named one of 30 Madison-area “Women to Watch” by Brava Magazine. She currently serves on the board of the YWCA Madison and on the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Commission.

Cramer earned a B.A. from UW–Madison in 1994 and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2000. She is an affiliate member of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education.

—Mark Bennett