18th annual Wisconsin Idea Fellowships awarded to nine student projects

The 18th year of the Wisconsin Idea Fellowships will feature nine unique undergraduate projects at home and across the world: The closest within 500 feet of campus. The furthest over 7,700 miles away.

The projects, which are all rooted in the concept of addressing needs identified by community partners, range in topic from public health, to agriculture, college-preparedness mentoring, poverty and more. A total of 15 UW-Madison students are part of this year’s projects, sponsored by the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Wisconsin Idea Fellowships (WIF) are awarded annually to UW-Madison undergraduate projects working to solve issues identified by local or global communities. Fellowships are awarded to semester-long or year-long projects designed by an undergraduate student or group of students in collaboration with a community organization and a UW-Madison faculty or staff member.

The WIF selection process is highly competitive, with successful projects receiving both logistical and financial support—up to $7,000. Some projects will begin this summer, and some may last through next May.

The 2016-17 fellowships also feature the brand new Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award, a special honor made possible by a generous endowment fund for WIF projects targeting the opportunity gap in Madison. Michael Thornton, a professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies, is also a past director of the Morgridge Center.


2016-17 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships:

CAMP Bayview: College Advancement Mentorship Program at the Bayview Foundation (Madison, WI)

Students: Oona-Ifé Ireti Olaiya, Michelle Tong
Faculty advisor: Dr. Yang Sao Xiong and Dr. Linda Park
Community Partner: Bayview Foundation

This project has received the “Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award,” a special honor made possible by a generous endowment fund for WIF projects targeting the opportunity gap in Madison.

The goal of the College Advancement Mentorship Program (CAMP) at the Bayview Foundation is to provide high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with tools to achieve academic and personal success. The program will include weekly academic workshops and monthly motivational workshops with guest speakers, mental wellness sessions, and field trips. The WIF students will serve as coordinators for the project.


PRISE: Promoting Research, Innovation, Science and Engineering-an Outreach Program (Madison, WI)

Student: Stephen Early
Faculty advisor: Megan McClean
Community Partner: Goodman Community Center

The goal of Promoting Research, Innovation, Science, and Engineering (PRISE) is to foster an open and all-inclusive scientific community-partnership with underserved communities in the Madison area. The impetus of this outreach program is to increase accessibility and heighten interest in a scientific career through the exploration of basic-science phenomena and experimentation. The outreach program targets the Goodman Community Center, with hopes to promote the principles of scientific observation, questioning, experimentation, and analysis through hands-on activities that illuminate the wonder that lies at the core of scientific inquiry.


Harnessing Community Ownership and Engagement to Reduce Local Poverty (Dane, Jefferson, Waukesha counties)

Students: Jarjieh Fang & Swetha Saseedhar
Faculty advisor: Pamela Herd
Community Partner: Community Action Coalition of South Central, WI

This project seeks to strengthen the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin’s (CACSW) programs and services to reduce poverty in Dane, Waukesha, and Jefferson counties. Using the outcomes of a student-driven Community Needs Assessment (CNA), students will develop and implement an action plan that addresses the underlying pathways and mechanisms of poverty, and improves CACSW’s ability to address community needs, and increases community engagement with and ownership of programs and services.


Food Insecurity in Madison, WI: Using Community Outreach for a Healthier Food Pantry (Madison, WI)

Student: Mallory Swenson
Faculty advisor: Jennifer Gaddis
Community Partner: Lussier Community Education Center

Nationwide, food pantries are becoming a vital resource to those in need, yet
organizations struggle to provide a healthy variety of foods. This project will focus on improving the nutritional profile of the food offered and the level of community involvement through the development of new outreach materials and a protocols to increase the amount of high quality, nutrient dense donations. The project will also distribute recipe cards and provide cooking demonstrations centered around the pantry, that clients can use at home.


Textiles + TechStyles: Code, Entrepreneurship, and Design (Madison, WI)

Student: Rita Roloff
Faculty advisor: Shirin Makepour
Community Partner: Pretty Brainy, and Girls, Inc.

The goal of this project is to motivate young girls, identified as at risk in the Madison Metropolitan School District, to become interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. In collaboration with Pretty Brainy, the project will implement a Textiles + TechStyles curriculum, so these marginalized students have the opportunity to learn engineering, design, and entrepreneurial principles through hands-on learning activities, through this afterschool learning opportunity.


Educandonos: Breast Cancer Education for Latinos (Dane County, WI)

Students: Eva Shelton & Andrea Nino de Guzman
Faculty advisor: Patricia Tellez-Giron
Community Partner: Latino Health Council

The rapidly growing Hispanic/Latino community in Dane County is facing significant challenges involving prevention and detection of breast cancer, many stemming from the Latinos’ inability to comprehend information that is typically presented in English. The project will implement a sustainable and novel approach of communicating to this population by training hairdressers before targeted gala events in techniques on educating clients while cutting their hair to implement an effective, comprehensible, and sustainable method of raising the Latino community’s awareness of breast cancer prevention and detection.


Empowerment of Coastal Communities Through Permanent Water Quality Monitors (Manabí Province, Ecuador)

Students: Amelia Rossa, Joshua Kalman, Caden Lambie
Faculty advisor: Catherine Woodward
Community Partner:
Ceiba Foundation

In Manabí province, a coastal region of Ecuador, Giardia, Cholera, amoebic dysentery, and dengue are common where water quality is often poor. Working alongside the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, students will train others in water quality monitoring techniques, establish permanent water quality monitoring sites, collect water quality data and compose informational materials for community dissemination.


The Cow Project: Transforming Ugandan Agricultural Practices (Lweza, Uganda)

Students: Helena Record, Jacquelyn Laitsch
Faculty advisor: James Ntambi
Community Partner: Lweza Village, Uganda

This project aims to maximize the crop output and promote sustainability of the Rural Agricultural Resource Demonstration Center in Lweza through the addition of four cows and a cow crown. The cows will enhance the quality of fertilizer and the cow crown will improve the quality, quantity, and ease of collection. Students and faculty of UW-Madison will work with Village Health Project-Uganda on goals of eradicating unemployment, poverty and malnutrition, especially in women and youth.


Transforma- Empowering Women Through the Decentralization of Waste in San Luis, Costa Rica

Student: Maria Castillo
Faculty advisor: Robert Beattie
Community Partner: Transforma

Transforma is a social venture with the mission to create sustainable development and gender equality. This will be achieved by promoting women’s empowerment through the decentralization of waste and upcycling practices. Working with a local Women’s Association, the project will train local women on repurposing clothing and textiles to provide women with additional income and decrease the amount of waste going to landfills, an increasing problem in the area.