UW-Madison’s “UniverCity Alliance” will partner with six Wisconsin communities in 2022

Six new Wisconsin communities were selected to work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address and resolve issues facing its local population, through the UniverCity Year (UCY) program.

Created in 2015, the UCY program has already worked with 14 different communities in Wisconsin. In their day, the initiative had hundreds of successful projects, like helping Green County develop a dashboard compiling countywide opioid usage and a mental health navigation program. UniverCity Year also helped the Adams-Friendship School District change its teacher recruitment and compensation structure.

The City of Stoughton, City of Germantown, Sun Prairie, Deerfield, and Cottage Grove, along with Outagamie, Columbia, and Polk Counties, are expected to be the next communities to join UW-Madison’s UniverCity Alliance initiative to help tackle local projects that community leaders see as pressing.

“[UCY] is a 3-year program that connects local governments and communities in Wisconsin with UW-Madison faculty, students, and research to work toward locally identified goals,” said UniverCity Alliance CEO, Gavin Luter, at the Daily Cardinal.

The UCY program works by enabling UniverCity Alliance staff to include the task of solving community issues in faculty, staff, and student research, coursework, internship opportunities, and independent projects.

Luter explained that UniverCity staff help community leaders develop and define projects before pairing them with a UW-Madison faculty member or class of instructors.

“Students in this class work on these projects for typically a semester and produce a final report to the community,” Luter said.

However, the progress does not stop once the last year of the program is over for the community. UW-Madison provides the building blocks to help Wisconsin communities continue to grow and improve long after their partnership with UCY ends, according to Luter.

UCY is unique in that it can provide something no other local Wisconsin program can: access to the resources, spirit, and time of UW-Madison.

“The resources of the university are immense and can sometimes be difficult to navigate,” Luter pointed out. “We help partner communities with the right people on campus to help them achieve their goals.

“Local governments and their hard-working staff are often strapped for time and resources,” Luter continued. “The UCY program can help local leaders advance projects that might otherwise be delayed due to daily routine.”

As for UCY’s six new community partnerships, plans are already underway.

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“The City of Germantown is reflecting on its staggering population growth and wants to plan for the future in terms of utility distribution,” Luter said.

Additionally, Polk County hopes to design a unique identity and brand, while the City of Stoughton is pursuing a project that expands Wisconsin’s first FabLab, an experiential learning program for elementary school students, into a community innovation hub.

Looking to the future, the UniverCity Alliance hopes to continue to partner with more Wisconsin communities through the UCY program, to provide the right resources to meet the needs of any community.

“Our goal is to strengthen communities and live the Wisconsin idea that education should benefit people’s lives beyond the confines of the classroom,” Luter concluded.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, February 24, 2022, to reflect the correct municipality and county designations from the UniverCity Alliance’s 2022 Community Partnerships.

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