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UW Changes Lives: Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch gives freshmen a head start

March 12, 2019 By Dean Robbins
Students work during a summer Microbiology 102 lab session taught by Michelle Rondon, faculty associate in the Department of Bacteriology, in the Microbial Sciences Building. The lab session focused on identification of enteric bacteria and the investigation of microbial contamination in hamburger.

Students work during a summer Microbiology 102 lab session taught by Michelle Rondon, faculty associate in the Department of Bacteriology, in the Microbial Sciences Building. Photo: Bryce Richter

From February through June, we will be highlighting the ways that UW–Madison changes lives for the better throughout the state of Wisconsin. March’s theme is Affordability and Excellence. Watch for more at #UWChangesLives on social media. And here’s how you can help.

Summer session is traditionally geared toward students in the middle of their college careers, helping them make progress on their degrees. But at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Summer Term is increasingly valuable to students at the beginning of their academic journeys.

This year, the university unveils the Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch, which ensures that incoming freshman make a smooth transition to campus. They can earn credit toward their degrees, meet other students, and learn about UW–Madison resources before the start of fall semester.

The Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch allows freshmen to take an online course beginning in June. Students will work with an academic advisor to choose among five popular courses in art, communication arts, gender and women’s studies, journalism, and psychology. They will also enroll in a one-credit online course on academic learning techniques and the one-credit online Wisconsin Experience Seminar. In August, they can move into their residence halls a few days early and participate in programs with their fellow summer learners. Scholarships for the program will be available.

“The Summer Launch will give freshmen a head start on their UW–Madison experience,” says Provost Sarah C. Mangelsdorf. “The online format enables them to take the courses from wherever they’re spending their summer. By the time they come to campus in the fall, they’ll be well on the way.”

The Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch joins UW–Madison’s other early-start programs, including the International Student Summer Institute, the Mechanical Engineering Summer Launch, and the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences’ QuickStart Program. They’re part of UW–Madison’s recent effort to make Summer Term more valuable to a wide range of students.

In the past three years, the university has boosted scholarship funding, increased online and in-demand courses, and expanded undergraduate research opportunities, among other innovations. As a result, undergraduate headcount for Summer Term has risen 33 percent since 2015.

Last summer, more than 900 students received $500 to $1,500 scholarships through the Undergraduate Scholarship for Summer Study. In 2019, UW–Madison will increase funding to $1 million to make Summer Term financially accessible to as many students as possible, as well as expanding the Summer Housing Boost program that helps eligible students with the cost of campus housing.

The university encourages schools and colleges to experiment with creative offerings during Summer Term. Among next summer’s highlights is Audio Electronics for All, in which students work with mixing consoles that connect to their personal electronic devices. Given the popularity of online courses for summer, schools and colleges are also adding Introduction to Finance, Marketing in a Digital Age, The Comparative Study of Genocide, and other online options.

“Revenue from summer largely returns to the schools and colleges that offer the programs, so they reap the rewards of offering courses that appeal to students’ passions and satisfy their curricular goals,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “They’ve reinvested these funds in their students, staff, and infrastructure, meaning that everyone on campus benefits from our more robust Summer Term.”

Enrollment for Summer Term 2019 opens April 1, and the course guide is now available at