Wisconsin Idea

The Wisconsin Idea is the policy developed in the U.S. state of Wisconsin that fosters public universities' contributions to the state: "to the government in the forms of serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities".[1] A second facet of the philosophy is the effort "to ensure well-constructed legislation aimed at benefiting the greatest number of people".[2] During the Progressive Era, proponents of the Wisconsin Idea saw the state as "the laboratory for democracy", resulting in legislation that served as a model for other states and the federal government.[2]

In education

The Wisconsin Idea is a philosophy embraced by the University of Wisconsin System (UW System) that holds that university research should be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment, and agriculture for all citizens of the state. As explained by Adlai Stevenson, "the Wisconsin tradition meant more than a simple belief in the people. It also meant a faith in the application of intelligence and reason to the problems of society. It meant a deep conviction that the role of government was not to stumble along like a drunkard in the dark, but to light its way by the best torches of knowledge and understanding it could find."[1]

This Progressive-era policy applied the expertise of the state's university to social legislation that benefited all the state's citizens; it led to classic programs such as regulation of utilities, workers' compensation, tax reform, and university extension services; sometimes expressed in the maxim that "the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state".[3]

For more than a century, the university system has been guided by the Wisconsin Idea, a tradition first enunciated by University of Wisconsin President Charles Van Hise in 1904. Van Hise declared that he would "never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state". Today that belief permeates the UW System's work, fostering close working relationships within the state, throughout the country, and around the world.

In 2015, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal included the removal of the Wisconsin Idea from the University of Wisconsin's mission statement. Walker proposed replacing the mission's goal to "extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus" and to "serve and stimulate society" with a goal "to meet the state's workforce needs". After negative reaction from politicians and the public, the Wisconsin Idea was restored to the budget proposal.[4]

In politics

The Wisconsin Idea, in United States History, also refers to a series of political reforms of the late 19th century and early 20th century whose strongest advocate was Robert M. La Follette, Sr., Wisconsin's governor (1901–1906) and senator (1906–1925). The Wisconsin Idea was created by the state's progressives to do away with monopolies, trusts, high cost of living, and predatory wealth, which they saw as the problem that must be solved or else "no advancement of human welfare or progress can take place".[5] Reforms in labor rights were one of the major aspects of the Wisconsin Idea. The progressive worker's compensation program was first introduced by German immigrants, who were abundant in Wisconsin. The system was adopted from the existing system in Germany, which was based on the idea that the employer was obligated to take care of his employees and keep paying them as they grew old.[6] Many of the reforms were based on traditions and customs brought to the state by German immigrants. The emphasis on higher learning and well-funded universities stressed by the Wisconsin Idea was derived from the education system of Germany. Progressives also proposed the first state income taxes, as well as submitting the idea of a progressive tax. They also passed legislation prohibiting pollution and police brutality.[7]

The Wisconsin Idea would go on to set an example for other states in the United States. The progressive politicians of the time sought to emulate and ultimately transcend the states of the east coast in regards to labor laws. Wisconsin progressives wished to make Wisconsin into a benchmark for other Midwestern states to strive towards. Although many of the reforms went through in 1911, conservative opponents of the progressive party took control of Wisconsin in 1914, thus minimizing the magnitude and effects of the reforms.[8] The Wisconsin Idea would continue to be a revolutionary precedent for other universities, and its educational aspects are still relevant today. Robert La Follette, Sr. was the man who implemented much of this legislation, and he was among the earliest supporters of direct election of senators, which is now a national practice. These progressive politicians also helped pass the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments to the American Constitution.

These proposed reforms, all of which were eventually adopted, included:

Adoption of these reforms marked the high point of the Progressive Era.

In media

Wisconsin Public Radio, a division of the University of Wisconsin-Extension (UW-Extension), was established to bring the Wisconsin Idea to the broadcast airwaves. From the WPR Mission Statement: "WPR's Mission is to realize the Wisconsin Idea by producing, acquiring and delivering high quality audio programming that serves the public's need to discuss ideas and opinions, and that provides cultural enrichment, intellectual stimulation, and intelligent, enlightening entertainment." [9]


  1. ^ a b Stark, Jack (1995). "The Wisconsin Idea: The University's Service to the State". In Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (ed.). State of Wisconsin 1995-1996 Blue Book. Madison: Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Legislative Organization. pp. 100–179.
  2. ^ a b Myers, R. David (Fall 1991). "The Wisconsin Idea: Its National and International Significance". Wisconsin Academy Review. 37 (4): 4–7. Archived from the original on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  3. ^ "the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the state." Wisconsin Historical Society. History of the Wisconsin Idea.
  4. ^ Press, SCOTT BAUER Associated. "Walker backs off removing 'Wisconsin Idea' from UW mission".
  5. ^ Charles McCarthy. The Wisconsin Idea. New York: Macmillan, 1912, Chapter 1.
  6. ^ McCarthy, Chapter 6.
  7. ^ McCarthy, Conclusion.
  8. ^ Knox, Alan B.; Corry, Joe (1995). "The Wisconsin Idea for the 21st Century". In Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (ed.). State of Wisconsin 1995-1996 Blue Book. Madison: Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Legislative Organization. pp. 181–192.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin Public Radio Programming Mission and Strategy". wpr.org. Archived from the original on 2012-07-12.

Further reading

External links

Center for Limnology

The Center for Limnology (CFL) is a research center within the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Established by the UW-Madison Board of Regents in July 1982, the mission of the center is to plan, conduct, and facilitate inland water research.

Charles McCarthy (progressive)

Charles McCarthy (June 29, 1873 – March 26, 1921) was a political scientist, public administrator, Progressive reformer, and briefly, an American football coach. He is credited with founding the first legislative reference library in the United States. McCarthy was active in policy formation, with special interests in agricultural cooperatives and adult and vocational education. He authored The Wisconsin Idea, a summary of Progressive philosophy and thinking.

History of Cartography Project

The History of Cartography Project is a publishing project in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It was founded by David Woodward in 1981. Woodward directed the project until his death in August 2004; Matthew H. Edney became director in July 2005.

Iron Cross (Secret Society)

The Iron Cross Society is University of Wisconsin–Madison's oldest and most prestigious secret society.

Law in action

Law in action is a legal theory, associated with legal realism, that examines the role of law, not just as it exists in the statutes and cases, but as it is actually applied in society. Law in action scholars often start with observations about the behavior of institutions and work "backwards" toward the legal philosophies guiding courts and traditional jurisprudence. As Kenneth B. Davis, Jr., Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School has stated, "'Law in Action' . . . means that in teaching and research, no matter how interesting we find a legal theory, we always need to ask, 'How does this affect people's lives in the real world?'"

On, Wisconsin!

"On, Wisconsin!" is the fight song of the Wisconsin Badgers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With modified lyrics, it is the official state song of Wisconsin.

"On, Wisconsin!" was also the cry that Arthur MacArthur, Jr. used in the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge, in the Civil War.

Pegasus Toroidal Experiment

The Pegasus Toroidal Experiment is a plasma confinement experiment relevant to fusion power production, run by the Department of Engineering Physics of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It is a spherical tokamak, a very low-aspect-ratio version of the tokamak configuration, i.e. the minor radius of the torus is comparable to the major radius.

Pine Bluff Observatory

The Pine Bluff Observatory (PBO) is an astronomical observatory located in the town of Cross Plains, Wisconsin (USA) about 24 kilometers (15 mi) west of Madison. PBO is owned and operated by the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-Madison). It opened in 1958, and is mainly used by students and faculty of UW-Madison for instruction and research. PBO also provides a facility for testing new instruments. Recent research conducted at PBO includes measuring the lunar sodium tail, monitoring circumstellar disks around Be stars, and studying the warm ionized medium.

Space Science and Engineering Center

The Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) is a research and development center with primary focus on Earth science research and technology to enhance understanding of the atmosphere of Earth, the other planets in the Solar System, and the cosmos. SSEC is part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Graduate School.

Stock Pavilion

The Stock Pavilion is part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

University of Wisconsin–Extension

The University of Wisconsin–Extension (UW–Extension) is the outreach arm of the University of Wisconsin System. It provides statewide access to university system's resources and research to Wisconsin residents of all ages. Fulfilling the promise of the Wisconsin Idea, UW–Extension extends the boundaries of the university to the boundaries of the state through its four divisions of Cooperative Extension, Continuing and Online Education, Business and Entrepreneurship, and Public Broadcasting. It was created as a division of UW–Madison in 1907, and took its new form in 1965 as an autonomous unit. The abolition of UW-Extension as a separate entity was begun July 1, 2018; phase 1 will last through June 30, 2019.

University of Wisconsin–Madison

The University of Wisconsin–Madison (also known as University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin, UW, regionally as UW–Madison, Wisco, or simply Madison) is a public research university in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848, UW–Madison is the official state university of Wisconsin, and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It was the first public university established in Wisconsin and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. It became a land-grant institution in 1866. The 933-acre (378 ha) main campus, located on the shores of Lake Mendota, includes four National Historic Landmarks. The University also owns and operates a historic 1,200-acre (486 ha) arboretum established in 1932, located 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the main campus.UW–Madison is organized into 20 schools and colleges, which enrolled 30,361 undergraduate and 14,052 graduate students in 2018. Its comprehensive academic program offers 136 undergraduate majors, along with 148 master's degree programs and 120 doctoral programs. A major contributor to Wisconsin's economy, the University is the largest employer in the state, with over 21,600 faculty and staff.The UW is one of America's Public Ivy universities, which refers to top public universities in the United States capable of providing a collegiate experience comparable with the Ivy League. UW–Madison is also categorized as a Doctoral University with the Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In 2012, it had research expenditures of more than $1.1 billion, the third highest among universities in the country. Wisconsin is a founding member of the Association of American Universities. As of October 2018, 25 Nobel laureates and 2 Fields medalists have been associated with UW–Madison as alumni, faculty, or researchers. Additionally, as of November 2018, the current CEOs of 14 Fortune 500 companies have attended UW–Madison, the most of any university in the United States.Among the scientific advances made at UW–Madison are the single-grain experiment (which marked the birth of modern nutrition science), the discovery of vitamins A and B by Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis, the development of the anticoagulant medication warfarin by Karl Paul Link, the first chemical synthesis of a gene by Har Gobind Khorana, the discovery of the retroviral enzyme reverse transcriptase by Howard Temin, and the first synthesis of human embryonic stem cells by James Thomson. UW–Madison was also the home of both the prominent "Wisconsin School" of economics and of diplomatic history, while UW–Madison professor Aldo Leopold played an important role in the development of modern environmental science and conservationism, articulating his philosophy of a "land ethic" in his influential book A Sand County Almanac.The Wisconsin Badgers compete in 25 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference and have won 28 national championships. Wisconsin students and alumni have won 50 Olympic medals (13 gold, 24 silver, and 13 bronze).

University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Engineering

The University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Engineering, often referred to as COE, is the engineering school of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The college comprises 13 academic departments.

The school dates back to 1857 when the first department of engineering was created by the university Board of Regents. It was not until 1868 when the first professor of engineering, Colonel W. R. Pease, was hired.U.S. News & World Report ranks UW–Madison ranked 13th among engineering programs nationwide, fourth in chemical engineering, and third in nuclear engineering.

Varsity (song)

"Varsity" is the alma mater of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The ending lyrics of the song are accompanied by the singers waving their caps held in their right hands.

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation is the independent nonprofit technology transfer organization serving the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Morgridge Institute for Research. It provides significant research support, granting tens of millions of dollars to the university each year and contributing to the university's "margin of excellence".

Wisconsin Idea Theatre

The Wisconsin Idea Theatre was essentially a cultural program, developed at the University of Wisconsin c. 1943. It was headed by Robert E. Gard within the College of Agriculture, with a mission for developing theatre arts throughout the state. Gard worked with anyone that had an idea, to develop radio dramas, or stage performances. He worked with 4-H, seeking to develop children's theatre within the state, as well as encouraging and assisting faith groups to develop dramas based on their faith.In 1945, Gard founded the Wisconsin Idea Theatre Conference, which attempted to represent all theatre interests across the state.

Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is a public-private research and outreach partnership that is located in the Discovery Building on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. It consists of two institutions: the privately funded Morgridge Institute for Research, and the publicly funded Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Both institutes opened in 2010. The publicly funded institute is headed by Jo Handelsman, and the privately funded institute is led by chief executive officer Brad Schwartz.Both institutes are housed in the same facility, the ground floor of which serves as a "town center", providing several small and large meeting and collaboration areas and variety of dining options. This town center design is based on the philosophies presented in the Wisconsin Idea. Above the town center on the ground floor, the building has three floors of modular, non-traditional research and lab space, designed to promote collaboration amongst researchers. The building is also designed using green techniques, and is expected to use 50% less energy and water than the next most recent research building on the UW–Madison campus.

Wisconsin Law Review

The Wisconsin Law Review is a bimonthly law review published by students at the University of Wisconsin Law School. One issue each year is generally dedicated to a symposium or special topic.

Wisconsin Union

The Wisconsin Union is a membership organization at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It operates the Memorial Union, Union South, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the Hoofer Equestrian Center, Bernie's Place Child Care Center, and a number of food outlets on campus in order to "provide a common life and cultivated social program for its members." Anyone who is approved can join the Wisconsin Union by paying a membership fee. All UW students are members and recent graduates are offered a substantial discount on a life membership. Members receive certain benefits and privileges not accorded the general public. The services and activities provided fall roughly into the three categories of social education, facilities, and retail services.

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