UW-Madison UniverCity Year program seeks faculty to partner with counties

Finding practical solutions to community-based challenges is at the heart of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s UniverCity Year.

Launched in 2016 with the Wisconsin Idea in mind, the program has traditionally partnered with a single community on projects to accelerate innovation and improve the lives of people in Wisconsin. This year, UniverCity Year expects to make a greater impact across the state by partnering with seven communities at the same time: the villages of Egg Harbor and Marshall, the city of Wisconsin Rapids, and Adams, Brown, La Crosse and Milwaukee counties.

To make this possible, UniverCity Year is currently seeking faculty to teach courses and guide student research in partnership with local government leaders in those communities during the 2020–21 academic year. UniverCity Year offers an exciting opportunity for faculty and students to engage on a wide range of projects related to sustainability, economic development, arts and humanities, transportation, health, education and more.

“The UniverCity Year team has been a true partner to the UW–Madison civil engineering capstone class,” says faculty leader and adjunct professor Jan Kucher. “The capstone class develops feasible solutions to real community problems with teams of students who follow the engineering design process (with professional mentor assistance).

“UCY has maintained strong communication links to help our capstone teams gather key information. With UCY assistance, we have completed/accomplished viable municipal infrastructure projects each semester — a true application of the Wisconsin Idea. I would highly encourage faculty to look at ways to reach out to communities with the UCY team as well.”

To date, the program has worked with more than 1,000 students on more than 100 projects within the city of Monona, Dane County, Green County and Pepin County. Together, faculty, students and community partners have helped spark momentum toward a more sustainable, livable and resilient future.

The process for a UniverCity Year partnership begins in the community as members and leaders work together to select high-impact projects. Each of the seven municipalities has identified challenges or projects to address during this partnership. Specific topics include flood mitigation, child care affordability, access and quality, government function improvements, jail inmate re-entry strategies, highway expansion that would include bike and pedestrian focused designs, and more.

UniverCity Year staff will match each project to a UW–Madison faculty member who will then incorporate the selected project into their coursework or research. UniverCity Year provides support to the faculty by facilitating interactions with the community and providing funding opportunities to supplement or enhance course work as it relates to the project.

“This is the first time we are working with multiple communities at once, which is evidence of the improved reputation of UniverCity Year,” says Gavin Luter, managing director of the UniverCity Alliance. “UW–Madison has a mission of serving the entire state, and we believe we have the capacity to work with these communities at the same time.

“Of course, this means that we will seek new partnerships with other higher education institutions like UW–Green Bay, UW–River Falls, UW–Milwaukee and Marquette University to meet the demands of our local government partners. This is a great collaborative opportunity to show what this program can do if we continue to scale up.”

Faculty interested in partnering with this program may contact Luter at gavin@cows.org or 608-261-1141.

This story first appeared at news.wisc.edu

December 17, 2019