Finding practical solutions to community-based challenges is at the heart of a new three-year partnership between Green County and the UniverCity Year program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that will kick off Aug. 21 with a gala event at the Monroe High School Performing Arts Center.
Developed with the Wisconsin Idea in mind, UniverCity Year brings together faculty, students and members of Wisconsin communities to address local challenges through engagement, university research and state-of-the-art technology. In Green County, participants will work together to reexamine long-standing practices, ask tough questions, engage residents and ignite sustainable growth through 23 community-based projects, from assessing quality food and transportation to developing farm cooperatives and ATV trails.
“Green County makes a great partner because we’re getting to take the model on the road. They are a mix between an urban and a rural county, which allows our faculty and staff an opportunity to work on unique issues,” said Gavin Luter, director of the UniverCity Alliance and the UniverCity Year program.
During the upcoming academic year, UW–Madison faculty will be matched with a community project that fits their expertise and teaching focus. Throughout the year, professors will incorporate the selected project goals into their courses, working with students and community members to develop a plan of action, which will be implemented beginning in late 2019. The partnership will continue through 2020.
“Throughout the partnership, UniverCity Year staff will provide administrative support to help keep the collaboration running efficiently and effectively,” says Luter. “The result is on-the-ground impact and momentum for a community working toward a more sustainable and livable future. Green County has welcomed us with open arms and I’m very excited about all the possibilities for joint work.”
Green County is the third Wisconsin community to participate in UniverCity Year, joining the city of Monona and Dane County. Successful projects completed or underway addressed housing, solar energy and community health, among other topics. Green County leaders hope to share in that success as they build on their rich agricultural history, strong community-based businesses and small-town atmosphere.
“We know our communities will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to assist UW–Madison students with their Green County projects,” says Cara Carper, executive director of the Green County Development Corporation. “We look forward to providing them with background information, helping them find their way in our communities, telling them the best places to eat or even buying them a piece of pie! We are also excited about the opportunity to work with professors in many different areas, including Family Medicine, Journalism and Mass Communication, Planning and Landscape Architecture, Population Health Sciences, and Real Estate and Urban Land Economics.”
Carper will serve as the community lead on several of the projects, matched with faculty and students who will work with her to develop a plan for a quality of life analysis, housing projects and more. Nearly 20 other Green County community members have also joined the program as project leads, working with a number of faculty and classrooms throughout the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters.
“We see this as an opportunity to bring resources to issues that have been identified by our communities in their comprehensive plans and other planning processes, but without funding or staff, have been delayed,” says Carper. “We look forward to ongoing relationships between faculty and Green County communities. Green County is proud to participate in the UniverCity Year and support UW–Madison’s commitment to the Wisconsin Idea by bringing the resources of the university to the farther reaches of the state.”
American Family Insurance is a key partner in the UniverCity program, Luter says. “This program would not be possible without support from American Family. We are grateful to have corporate sponsors who understand the value of the Wisconsin Idea in practice.”
More information about the projects UniverCity Year and Green County will be working on can be found here.
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21
Where: Monroe High School Performing Arts Center, 1600 26th St., Monroe
Activities: The evening will begin with a work session for community leaders directly involved in UniverCity Year projects. At 4:30 p.m., UniverCity will host a festive networking session for all with light hors d’oeuvres and a special appearance from Bucky Badger and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s vintage truck packed with famous Babcock Hall ice cream. At 5:30 p.m., futurist Rebecca Ryan will get participants thinking about innovative solutions to local issues, with an engaging and energizing speech.
RSVPs appreciated but not required.
This story first appeared at news.wisc.edu.
By Rebekah McBride / August 21, 2018