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Listening sessions, other outreach planned for Wisconsin Idea Project

February 14, 2007 By Brian Mattmiller

A series of 10 listening sessions around the state are being organized this spring in support of the Wisconsin Idea Project (WIP), a campaign to strengthen UW–Madison’s relationship with the citizens of Wisconsin.

The listening sessions are among several new developments in the campaign, which began in the fall as a joint partnership of the offices of the UW–Madison chancellor and provost. The sessions will be incorporated into statewide outreach visits already planned through alumni Founders Days, UW For You (formerly On the Road) and Badger Day programs.

“These standing spring events offer a great opportunity for faculty and staff to get into communities and connect with our constituents across the state,” says Provost Patrick Farrell. “This year, we intend to pay attention to gathering citizen input on the current direction of the university and also invite people to help set our future agenda.”

Editorial board visits at newspapers across the state are also being planned and will involve campus deans, faculty and other campus leaders. In addition to the listening sessions, political science professor Kathy Cramer Walsh will conduct research in 23 state communities and via the Badger Poll to investigate residents’ policy concerns and opinions about UW–Madison.

The information-gathering efforts are designed to help inform a longer-term plan to strengthen Wisconsin Idea-related efforts where they will have the greatest potential impact on state needs. The major points of emphasis are enhancing Wisconsin’s economy, strengthening K–12 education and expanding access to health care.

The project is also gaining additional internal support. At the Feb. 5 Faculty Senate meeting, astronomy professor and Faculty Senate chair Bob Mathieu announced the formation of an ad hoc faculty committee that will convene this spring to make recommendations on how to strengthen mechanisms to support and advance the Wisconsin Idea.

The WIP online public service inventory, which began in November, now has more than 250 projects registered. The WIP steering committee is working with campus units to encourage voluntary submissions as well as determining how much existing campus data can be incorporated into the inventory. The goal will be to create a comprehensive and searchable inventory that describes where we are across the state, what projects we are conducting and who the beneficiaries are. The WIP steering committee hopes to have 1,000 submissions collected by September.

To submit a project to the inventory, visit

Communications efforts that support the project revolve around a new Wisconsin Idea Web site that features a major feature story every two weeks about UW–Madison’s best ambassadors of the Wisconsin Idea. The site is now a special feature of the UW–Madison home page and will also be used as a clearinghouse for news and updates about the project.

Other developments include:

  • A collaboration between WIP and the Professional Development in Medicine and Public Health office led to a proposal for the “Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future,” a free conference for several hundred emergency responders in the state.
  • Continued work with the Madison-Milwaukee Collaborative effort to identify how UW–Madison can play a specific role in advancing regional economic, education and social programs that support both cities.

For more information on the project, contact coordinators Peyton Smith, 262-8214, or Kristi Thorson, 262-4809.