2017-18 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships awarded to seven projects

The 2017-18 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships have been awarded to seven outstanding undergraduate projects at home and across the globe.

The projects, which are all rooted in the concept of addressing needs identified by community partners, range in topic from mass incarceration, to household energy solutions, to fresh produce access to sexual assault and more. A total of 15 UW-Madison undergraduate students are part of this year’s projects, sponsored by the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Now in its 19th year, 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 faculty or staff member.

Projects receive both logistical support as well as financial support—up to $7,000 in total depending on project scope and duration. A portion of each project’s funding is awarded to students as a personal stipend, allowing them to pursue a WIF project using time they might have otherwise worked a job. Some projects will begin this summer, and some will last through next May.

Included in this year’s program are three special awards: The Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award and two American Family Insurance Social Entrepreneurship Awards.


2017-18 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships:


Collaborating with Communities in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica, to Create a Wasteless System & Socioeconomic Development

Students: Kyle Powers, Anna Ostermeier, Brooke Nelson
Faculty Advisor: Cathy Middlecamp
Community Partner: UpTica

This project addresses the intersection of gender inequality and environmental sustainability in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica. The community partner, UpTica, introduces upcycling to rural communities as an approach to sustainable waste management, female empowerment, and economic opportunity. The team will catalyze the collaborative development of a waste framework to procure upcycling resources, engage local young people around sustainability leadership opportunities, and create local wealth using discarded materials.


Addressing Incarceration and Its Effects on Community Health Through the Arts (Madison, WI)

Student: Mackenzie Berry
Faculty Advisor: Rain Wilson
Community Partner: Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity (MOSES)

This project has been awarded an American Family Insurance Social Entrepreneurship Award made possible by a generous donation from American Family Insurance.

This project uses artists as creative agents of change to promote health equity in marginalized communities disproportionately affected by mass incarcerated. In effort to address the relationship between poverty, incarceration, and health disparities, this project connects artists with community members to diminish inequities perpetuated by racialized incarceration. Partnering with Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity (MOSES), project participants will work with community members around the topic of decreasing and recovering from incarceration to produce lasting performance and visual art that engages all stakeholders.


Implementing Solar Technology for Lighting and Power Applications in Rural Kenya

Students: David Seamon, James Ewald, Mary Mancl, Maxwell Roth, Megan Sweet
Faculty Advisor: Lesley Sager
Community Partner:

In this project, students and faculty partner with a non-profit organization, Merry-Go-Strong, to address household energy access in Gatunga, Kenya. Two primary problems that the residents have previously emphasized were a) the lack of access to in-home lighting and, and b) small electronic charging capabilities. To ameliorate these issues, the team has designed an inexpensive source of solar powered light and USB power that can be easily created/used by members of the community. The current project is designed to disseminate this knowledge/technology to community members.


ARMS High School Tutoring Program: Outreach to Promote Education for Multicultural Students through Scientific Role Models (Dane County, WI)

Student: Lindsi London
Faculty Advisor: Dolly Ledin
Community Partner: Boys and Girls Club of Dane County

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 project promotes equity, diversity, and success in science learning among underrepresented teens in the City of Madison. In collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Partner School Network, and WIScience, ARMS volunteers will bridge the gap between high school and university students to promote scientific competence. Through one-on-one assistance from UW-Madison tutors, students will be provided personal attention to solidify improved outcomes in advanced science courses and post-secondary education.


Eva the Engineer: Young Girls at the Intersection of Engineering and Sustainability (Madison, WI)

Students: Renee Olley, Morgan Sanger
Faculty Advisor: Angela P. Ahlman
Community Partner: Madison Metropolitan School District

This project has been awarded an American Family Insurance Social Entrepreneurship Award made possible by a generous donation from American Family Insurance. 

The purpose of this project is to encourage middle school girls in the City of Madison to consider STEM-related careers. In collaboration with the Wisconsin Concrete Pavement Association and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), team members will utilize their academic backgrounds in civil engineering and environmental sustainability to address the nationwide gender gap in STEM fields with an interactive classroom exercise that teaches female students to fosters teamwork skills, logical reasoning capacity, and environmental sustainability awareness.


The Patio Tomato Project: Decreasing the Gap Between Families and Produce Through Urban Agriculture (Madison, WI)

Student: Caroline Hanson
Faculty Advisor: Jeri Barak-Cunningham
Community Partner: The River Food Pantry

This project will combat the challenges of obtaining fresh product for low-income families by growing and distributing free high yielding cherry tomato plants. In collaboration with the River Food Pantry, the team will distribute the plants during workshops that teach maintenance/utility of low-input gardening, disseminate cooking recipes, and foster long-term healthy practices by engaging children in gardening. Based on results of this pilot, the team will create a student organization that advocates for improved nutrition across food pantries in Madison.


Relationships FLAGs (Madison, WI)

Students: Maddie Zimmerman, Lauren Silber
Faculty Advisor: Tracy Schroepfer
Community Partner: Domestic Abuse Intervention Services

The goal of this project is to partner with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), Promoting Awareness Victim Education (PAVE), and sororities and fraternities in UW’s Greek Community to equip students with the confidence and capacity to understand the nature of dating violence and healthy relationships. Currently, DAIS does not offer educational resources to the campus. This project addresses this service gap with a series of interactive activities to teach Greek students about healthy relationships and foster effective intervention strategies that decrease instances of sexual assault throughout the student body.