The 2020-21 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships have been awarded to nine 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 food insecurity, the disparity in education, civic responsibility and more. A total of 16 UW–Madison undergraduate students are part of this year’s projects, sponsored by the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
Now in its 22nd year, Wisconsin Idea Fellowships (WIF) are awarded annually to UW–Madison undergraduate projects working to address 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 also three annual special awards sponsored by: The Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award.
WISCONSIN IDEA FELLOWSHIPS RECIPIENTS
1. Madison La Follette High School Pantry Project
Students: Danielle Wendricks and Josie Brandmeier
Faculty Adviser: Michael Maguire
Community Partner: La Follette High School
The Madison La Follette High School Pantry Project aims to provide resources to address food security along with equitable and responsible volunteering trainings for students at Madison La Follette High School. Josie and Danielle will work with the Key Harvest Food Pantry to provide infrastructural and programmatic changes. Additionally, the pair will support high school students as they grow as passionate leaders and help to create a succession plan to increase sustainability and coherency across years.
2. Engineers Without Borders: Providing Water to a Rural Community in Ecuador
Students: Alex Yost and Ana Diges
Faculty Adviser: Daniel B. Wright
Community Partner: Engineers Without Borders USA
This Engineers Without Borders project aims to install a water treatment and distribution system in Camarones, Ecuador to provide a safe and reliable water supply year-round to 500 people in a rural community. By working with the Camarones Water Committee, Ana and Alex aim to implement a water supply design that meets community priorities, ensuring community ownership.
3. Student Civic Immersion Program
Students: Albiona Sabani and Tamia Fowlkes
Faculty Adviser: Prenicia Clifton
Community Partner: gener8tor
The Student Civic Immersion program aims to establish a strong understanding of civic responsibility and public service to high school students. The program will provide professional and leadership development skills for students by requiring them to develop and plan a project that aims to better their community in relation to civic engagement, public policy, and issues such as environmental and social justice.
4. Operation Greenhouse: Planting the Seed of Health Education in Namibia
Students: Barbara Hanna and Melanie Sona
Faculty Adviser: Kate McCulloh
Community Partner: Coptic Medical Association of North America
Operation Greenhouse aims to address harsh growing conditions and food insecurity in rural Namibia by creating a controlled greenhouse environment where produce that Namibians have limited access to can be easily acquired. Once in Namibia, Melanie and Barbara will assemble the greenhouse and work with community children to grow the crops and teach classes on nutrition.
5. Beloit Early Readers: Pop-Up Library
Student: Gloria Heiss
Faculty Adviser: Christopher Dakes
Community Partner: Beloit Literacy for Life Initiative
The Beloit Early Readers: Pop-Up Library project aims to increase the ability of under-resourced youth to access books while implementing engaging programming to encourage reading for youth ages six to twelve years in Beloit. Gloria plans to give away at least 1,500 books at various partnering events sponsored by local community organizations in order to address the school districts wide achievement gap.
6. Biomass Briquette Stool
Students: Abigail Lawrence, Michael Yee, Nina Sugaya and Taylor Rosenthal
Faculty Adviser: Leslie Sager
Community Partner: Delve
The Biomass Briquette Stool project serves to mitigate deforestation in Kenya by developing a biomass briquette machine which would create a more sustainable fuel alternative to replace wood. This team of students designed a stool which was trailed over the winter of 2020. Abigail, Nina, Taylor, and Michael will install the Biomass Briquette Stool in local primary schools and train students and staff in how to use the machine.
7. Engaging Young Students Through Garden-Based Education
Student: Jaqueline Olson
Faculty Adviser: Claudia Irene Calderon
Community Partner: Nuestro Mundo Community School
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 that support ethnically diverse communities with affordable housing or issues to help close the academic resource gap.
The project will assist Nuestro Mundo (NM)’s Green Team to establish a vegetable garden and initiate a garden-based educational program to engage a diverse group of students, staff and parents through planting, growing, and harvesting fresh produce. The garden will provide a unique opportunity for students and staff to engage in the outdoors, grow fresh fruits and vegetables, gain lifelong skills and introduce students to the importance of nutrition.
8. Testing Ghost Crabs as Bioindicators to Assess Tourism Impacts on Beaches in Manabí, Ecuador
Student: Conner Simon
Faculty Adviser: Catherine Woodward
Community Partner: Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation
This project collaborates with Fundación Ceiba to investigate human impacts on beaches of the Ecuadorian coast in Manabí Province by assessing the density of Ghost crabs, a bioindicator of pollution and human disturbance on sandy beaches, and by recording direct evidence of humans including plastic waste and vehicle tracks. Conner will also present on the values of biodiversity and coastal ecosystem health at several schools with whom Ceiba has already worked and involve Ecuadorian students in data collection.
9. Preventing Diabetic Foot Amputation in Low-Income Settings
Students: Jan Wodnicki
Faculty Adviser: Justin Boutilier
Community Partner: CMC Vellore Hospital
This project aims to develop a machine learning algorithm that can be used to predict the risk of ulcer formation in diabetic individuals and improve the time to initiate treatment. Jan Wodnicki, along with a team of undergraduate engineers are designing a portable thermal imaging booth to collect further thermal imaging data. Jan will travel to India to collect data to inform the first risk-assessment technique for detecting diabetic foot ulcers and preventing diabetic foot amputations.