Wisconsin Idea Fellowship

The Wisconsin Idea is the driving mission to ensure that the education and research at UW–Madison is used to benefit communities beyond our campus borders.

Wisconsin Idea Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduate student projects working towards addressing a challenge identified along with a local or global community partner. 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 academic staff member.

Projects can receive up to $7,000 in total funding and students receive 3 academic credits. Student recipients are also invited to present their work at the Undergraduate Symposium in the spring semester.

On average, 5 – 10 fellowships are awarded every year. Two special fellowships each year are specifically dedicated to social entrepreneurship as well as the opportunity gap in Madison.

The following in-person information sessions will be located at the Morgridge Center in the Round Room:

  • Wednesday, November 3 from 1-2pm

Attend the virtual information session. Use this Zoom link:

  • Monday, October 25 from 5-6pm

Make a gift to The Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award.

Supported by the generosity of Professor Michael Thornton and Nora Medina, the funds will be awarded to a project that demonstrates support for ethnically diverse communities regarding affordable housing and or issues to help close the academic resource gap.

Faculty and instructional staff mentors are a key component to the Wisconsin Idea Fellowship program.

Click here to learn more about what potential mentors should know and expectations.

Who is eligible? How to apply? What does financial support look like?

Read more on the Wisconsin Idea Fellowship: Q&A

Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate Laura Livingston: jessee@wisc.edu

The Application Process

Priority Deadline

Applications submitted by this date are guaranteed to be reviewed by the WIF Advisor and returned with comments within one week. Applicants then have one week to edit and resubmit their proposal before the selection committee reviews them. The priority deadline for applications is Friday, Jan. 28, 2022 at 5pm CST.

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Submitting Applications and Application Materials

You can find all the below materials and qualtrics application on our Canvas Modules.

The application process for a Wisconsin Idea Fellowship includes 6 separate items. Please read the WIF Application Instruction Sheet carefully for information on all 6 items.

  1. WIF Application Form
  2. Abstract of the Proposed Project
  3. Project Description
  4. Budget Spreadsheet
  5. Current, Official UW-Madison Transcript for Each Student
  6. Two Signed Letters of Support

NOTE –  If you are proposing an international project, the UW-Madison International Resources, Guidelines and Policies 12.17  prohibit university-affiliated student travel to locations under a current U.S. Department of State (DoS) Level 3 (reconsider travel) or Level 4  (do not travel) advisory designation, those specifically designated as a “travel warning” location by the Provost, or that is under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning Level 3 notice.   If any of the specific locations you are entering fall into the categories above, you will need to request a waiver two months before embarking on your travel.

If you have any questions about this requirement, please contact Ron Machoian, International Safety and Security Director.


Applicants will be notified by March 2022.

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Student Eligibility Criteria

  • You must be a UW-Madison undergraduate student with at least a sophomore standing at the time of the application
  • You must be enrolled at UW-Madison for the entire time of project implementation
  • Proposals can include up to 5 students
  • Have an overall GPA of at least 2.0 and be in good academic standing
  • Maintain your undergraduate status during project implementation
  • Have not previously been awarded a Wisconsin Idea Fellowship
  • If your project is accepted, you must register for three credits of supervised research, senior thesis or independent/ directed student during the 2021-2022 academic year or during the summer session
  • If your project is accepted and if the project will be implemented in a country that currently has a U.S. State Department Travel Warning, you will need to have approval from the University International Travel Committee (UITC). The travel warning waiver request form can be found here. If you have any questions about this requirement, please contact Ron Machoian, International Safety and Security Director.

Community Organization Criteria

  • A public agency, including governmental agencies and K-12 schools
  • A private, nonprofit organization
  • A private business or trade organization working on issues such as hunger a poverty, health care, the arts, criminal justice, the environment, community development and economic development

Project Criteria

Your project must demonstrate the following:

  • Intellectual growth for the student
  • Benefits to the community organization
  • Collaboration among the student, faculty/ staff mentor and the community organization in planning, implementing and evaluating

Projects must be implemented during one of the following timeframes:

  • Summer 2021
  • Summer and Fall 2021
  • Fall 2021
  • Spring 2022
  • Full Academic Year 2021-2022

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Final Deadline

Priority Deadline applicants must RESUBMIT their proposals. Late proposals will not be accepted. Applicants who choose to submit after the priority deadline will not be penalized, but they will not receive feedback on proposals prior to final evaluation. The final deadline is Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at 5pm CST.

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The Fellowship provides up to $7000 for group projects and up to $5000 for individual projects. Students can use all the funding for supplies and expenses to implement the project, or designate some of their award as a tuition scholarship.  The amount students are able to receive and designate as scholarship varies based on the length of their project.

Funding for project development and implementation will be sent to the faculty mentor’s department to be disbursed through their purchasing process and/or reimbursed based on the submission of receipts for the expenses. Receipts need to be submitted to the students’ faculty mentor and/or their department’s financial contact. If all funds are not needed for project supplies and expenses, Wisconsin Idea Fellowship students can qualify for a scholarship award of between $1,000 – 5,000. See chart below:

Student Academic Award Breakdown

Individual Projects

Summer – $2,000
– Up to $1,000 can be designated as scholarship
Fall Semester – $3,500
– Up to $1,500 can be designated as scholarship
Spring Semester – $3,500
– Up to $1,500 can be designated as scholarship
Summer & Fall – 4,500
– Up to $2,500 can be designated as scholarship
Academic Year – $5,000
– Up to $3,000 can be designated as scholarship

Group Projects

Summer – $3,500
– Up to $2,500 can be designated as scholarship
Fall semester – $5,000
– Up to $3,000 can be designated as scholarship
Spring Semester – $5,000
– Up to $3,000 can be designated as scholarship
Summer & Fall – $6,000
– Up to $4,000 can be designated as scholarship
Academic Year – $7,000
– Up to $5,000 can be designated as scholarship

How and when do I get the funding?

If student award recipients choose to designate a portion of their award as scholarship, the first half of that amount will be transferred to the Bursar in mid to late July of the award year (unless your WIF project begins in the summer), and the second half the following May after completion of the project, unless the student is graduating in December. This final funding is released only also after completing a 5-page reflection paper as stated in the project requirements awardees receive.

The “project supplies and expenses” are separate from the scholarship that student Fellows can choose to receive. Those funds will be sent directly to the department you are working with.  Students will be reimbursed based on the submission of receipts, or in some cases your department can make purchases for you. Check with them because they can often purchase supplies at a UW discount, and tax-exempt. Receipts need to be submitted to the students’ faculty mentor and their department’s financial contact.

You will need to prepare a final budget report that lists how the project budget was spent. If you do not need all of the funding that was placed in that account, your department must transfer the leftover funds back to the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Please make sure you submit as accurate a budget as possible. Scholarship funding will be distributed into your tuition account and cannot be used as reimbursement for project expenses.

Do I pay tuition if my project occurs over the summer?

Yes. You must enroll in three credits of independent study if all of your project occurs during the summer, or at least one credit if a portion begins then. The academic award can be used to defray this cost.

Will a WIF award affect my financial aid?

Yes, the academic award or scholarship portion of the award will become part of your financial aid award. For further information, please contact the UW-Office of Financial Aid at 608-262-3060.

What other awards prohibit me from receiving WIF funding?

You may not simultaneously receive a Wisconsin Idea Fellowship and any of the 3 following awards:
Hilldale Research Fellowship
Holstrom Scholarship
Kaufmann Entrepreneurship Community Internship

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About Faculty Mentors

Each Wisconsin Idea Fellowship project must include a UW-Madison faculty/ instructional staff mentor. Mentors must agree to work with students before a proposal is submitted.

A WIF project can be based on current mentor research/ work or it can be a completely new endeavor. Some WIF projects have been used to allow students to help mentors further current work. Other projects are new ideas from students that mentors provide their support for.

How do I approach a prospective mentor?

  • Remember faculty/ instructional staff members are busy people, so contact them as early as possible.
  • If you don’t personally know your prospective mentor, research their areas of interest. If you can explain how your WIF project idea connects with their field of research, you are much more likely to find a mentor.
  • Talk to faculty/ instructional staff you do personally know and ask them if they can connect you with a possible mentor.

Can I have more than one mentor?

  • You can only have one official mentor. Though you certainly can consult as many faculty/ instructional staff members as you want.

What if I haven’t heard back from my prospective mentor?

  • Wait two weeks for a response.
  • If you still have not heard back, follow up with an email or phone call concisely restating your original message.
  • Make it clear that you are willing to meet them when and where it works best for them.

Can a TA be my mentor?

  • No. Mentors must be faculty or instructional staff members.

Can I work with a mentor who is on leave?

  • Yes. Make sure they’ve assured you they have enough time and sufficient contact still that they can play an active role in your project.
  • Make sure they will be able to give you a grade for your project.

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Building a Proposal

Your proposal needs to stress how your project will innovatively meet the needs of the community partners and how it will meet your own needs as a student. Your project and budget must be realistic. Above all, your project must be feasible and possible to complete within the specified project duration.

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Do I need to use citations in my project description?

Yes. Use citations and references if you are using specific sources to put your application together.

Do I need to use an official transcript?

No. Unofficial transcripts are fine and can be found through your MyUW webpage. Photocopies of official transcripts are also acceptable.

The UW Writing Center has familiarity with the Wisconsin Idea Fellowship proposal process and can provide general writing support and valuable feedback. You can also contact Laura Livingston, Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate, with any logistical questions.

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Can I attach an addendum that doesn't fit in the proposal?

No. If the selection committee needs more information, they will reach out to you. Community partners may include additional information about themselves though in the letter of support.

Who decides which WIF proposals are selected?

A selection committee comprised of 5 members:

  1. One UW Student
  2. One UW Faculty
  3. One Community Organization Representative
  4. One Academic Staff Member
  5. One Morgridge Center for Public Service Staff Member
American Family Insurance

The Wisconsin Idea Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship is generously supported by American Family Insurance.

The Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award proudly supports projects targeting the opportunity gap in Madison. Make a gift to the Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Fund.