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Digital time capsule #UWRightNow back on display

April 18, 2022 By John Lucas

Were you on campus 10 years ago? Or are you curious what life was like here exactly a decade ago?

Although the look of campus has changed significantly, Badger pride remains the same.

This week, University Communications and University Marketing are celebrating the 10th anniversary of a digital time capsule called #uwrightnow.

Over 24 hours on April 18, 2012, Badgers from campus, the city and across the world submitted thousands of their personal stories, tweets, photos and videos to a website curated by the university.

People weren’t given any prompt other than to show the world a slice of their Badger lives.

The response was overwhelming and even caught the staff working on it off guard, as they frantically curated nearly 1,000 submissions. They ranged from videos of overnight shifts of campus workers to tweets of study abroad students at the Taj Mahal to photos of the Terrace and numerous expressions of Badger pride.

“I worked the midnight shift, and as dawn was breaking in Europe and other areas to our east, messages started coming in from Badgers abroad,” says Cindy Foss, a retired assistant director of University Communications, who helped curate content. “They displayed genuine enthusiasm for participating from thousands of miles away. Once a Badger, always a Badger.”

Teams of staff led by Amy Toburen, then-director of University Communications, ate Greenbush donuts and drank coffee and Mountain Dew around the clock to keep up.

“I had always been drawn to day-in the-life type projects, but was looking to create something interactive,” she says. “What better way to tell the university’s story than by those who are or have been a part of it, or who have been touched by it in some way? We were so pleased with the response. I think it’s exactly what was needed at that particular time.”

The project was especially significant for multiple reasons.

It was the first effort to blend UW-created text, photos and video with content crowd-sourced from its community via social media. It validated the power and reach of social media tools and the strength of the #UWSocial community.

More importantly, campus had struggled with difficult and divisive political issues following Act 10, the New Badger Partnership and the departure of Chancellor Biddy Martin for Amherst College. Despite all of that, the theme of unity and pride around being a Badger was overpowering.

“My daughter was 6 months old at the time and had a habit of waking up every day at around 4 a.m.” recalls Stacy Forster, who worked in University Communications at the time before moving to a teaching role in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “When she got me up that day, I checked the hashtag and was immediately blown away by what I saw on #UWRightNow.

“We had this fun idea for documenting a day at UW, and we had laid the groundwork ahead of time, but until the clock actually hit midnight, we didn’t know if we could pull it off. But as I rocked away early that morning, I thought, “We did it! It’s actually working.” And then the next 20 hours of content just flowed from there.

“As morning broke and participation just kept growing, it was a real buzz seeing it really take off throughout the day,” agrees Nick Weaver, the university’s then-web director, who managed the technical side of the project.

Did you participate in #UWRightNow in 2012? Find your post, take a screen cap and reshare it on social media under the hashtag #UWRightNow. The site will be visible for several weeks.