The Wisconsin Idea is the principle that UW-Madison should improve lives beyond the borders of campus. Over the years, the university has expanded the scope of the Wisconsin Idea to include serving communities across the country and around the globe. Yet the core of the Wisconsin Idea is — and has always been — about the impact of the UW on the residents of Wisconsin.
Former UW President Charles Van Hise is credited with first articulating the university’s mission of service in 1904. “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state,” Van Hise said. In his day, that vision meant establishing the university’s extension division and encouraging collaborations between university faculty and state legislators to draft policies for Wisconsin residents.
Today, the Wisconsin Idea is an umbrella that encompasses a wide range of initiatives. Every day, UW-Madison experts advise and assist farmers, manufacturers, health care workers, educators, business owners, entrepreneurs and many others.
The Wisconsin Idea in Action Database provides a snapshot of UW-Madison’s service to the state. There are so many university projects that have directly benefited the people of Wisconsin that no single list can be comprehensive. But you can explore nearly 1,000 such projects at wisconsinidea.wisc.edu, and follow the Wisconsin Idea on Twitter at @wisidea.