Committee Connect: Connecting State Legislators and University of Wisconsin-Madison Researchers to Build Better Public Policy
Project Leaders: Hilary Shager, Associate Director, La Follette School of Public Affairs and Karen Bogenschneider, Professor, School of Human Ecology
Duration: Three years
Committee Connect builds on the successful methodology of the award-winning Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar to connect state legislators and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers at an earlier stage in the policy making process, as ideas are being debated and bills are being developed. Project staff will meet with state legislative leadership (i.e., Committee Chairs, Ranking Minority Leaders, and Task Force Chairs) to identify research needs; identify relevant UW experts; provide training to researchers on how to respond to requests using the program’s confidential, nonpartisan approach; and facilitate interactions between legislators and trained researchers. The program is the epitome of “the Wisconsin Idea”—ensuring that knowledge and solutions generated at UW are shared and benefit the people of Wisconsin. Committee Connect was successfully piloted in 2015 with 10 committees in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate. The following proposal suggests two ways of extending and enriching the pilot program, involving master’s level public affairs students in the process and developing a faculty research fund to support ad hoc research projects resulting from legislators’ requests. Expected outcomes include the building of positive connections between UW researchers and state legislators, and the use of information to construct effective state policy.
Project Leader: Emily Auerbach, Professor of English, Division of Continuing Studies
Duration: Two years
Madison stands at a pivotal moment. Now more than ever our community must invest in programs that can meaningfully reduce the widely recognized and profound racial disparities in Dane County and Wisconsin as a whole. The UW-Madison Odyssey Project has a proven 12-year track record of empowering low-income adults—primarily students of color—to overcome adversity and achieve dreams through higher education. Since 2003, the Odyssey Project has offered two sequential three-credit interdisciplinary humanities courses, helping students rediscover the joy of learning. Odyssey has empowered over 300 low-income adults from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to find their voices and get a jumpstart on earning college degrees. Recognizing that breaking the cycle of generational poverty involves whole families, we piloted Odyssey Junior this year to engage the children of Odyssey students and alumni on the same night as the adult course. This two-generation model encourages students’ self-discovery and expression through literature, creative writing, art, music, theatre and other forms. With support from a Baldwin grant, we propose expanding Odyssey Junior to magnify our impact on Odyssey families. Project goals / anticipated outcomes and proposed activities funded through Baldwin include: 1. Participating children improve in measures of literacy: Odyssey will expand monthly training Odyssey Junior instructors and staff. We will expand the literacy program for the 2-5 year-olds. We will expand students’ home libraries. Lastly, we will offer new tutoring sessions for middle- and high-school age participants. 2. Participating families strengthen their focus on education at home: We will expand workshops for Odyssey parents on topics including supporting children’s academic success and supporting social/ emotional needs. We will also offer a new yearbook for each family to celebrate their children’s accomplishments. 3. Participating children begin to “unwrap their gifts” through Odyssey and continue with enrichment activities after the one-year program: We will expand enrichment offerings including two field trips and ten guest artists. We will also pilot an Open House for families to connect with local enrichment programs that can offer scholarships.
WisCARES Social Service Provision and Field Experience Expansion
Project Leaders: William Gilles, Director, WisCARES Program, Medical Sciences/School of Veterinary Medicine and Ruthanne Chun, Associate Dean, Clinical Affairs, School of Veterinary Medicine
Duration: Two years
Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education, and Social Services (WisCARES) is a unique collaboration in many ways. It is inter-professional (current collaborators include Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Social Work). As an active member of the Dane County Homeless Services Consortium (HSC), it is the only social service organization providing direct assistance to homeless individuals with pets in Dane County. Many programs within WisCARES are unduplicated in Dane County and provide a variety of services in support of the human-animal bond, including veterinary medical clinics, boarding for animals and client/patient advocacy. WisCARES strives to provide students with quality inter-professional field and educational experiences, and has developed a co-curriculum for social work and veterinary medical students volunteering with the organization. Feedback from students from both of these programs has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly with the quality of exposure to clinical or practice-based tasks. The program is currently staffed by one full-time employee (DVM trained), 2 part time student employees, 30 student volunteers from the schools of social work and veterinary medicine, and 3 volunteer area veterinarians. At this level of personnel support, we provide veterinary medical clinics twice weekly and housing advocacy hours 3 times a week – and we are at capacity. As a service learning program that provides an unduplicated community service in the Dane County community, WisCARES is committed to thoughtful program expansion based on internal needs assessments of students and clients. The potential for expansion is greatest at this time within the field of social work, but realization of this goal requires more direct supervision by a licensed social worker. WisCARES is seeking two years of funding for a full-time social worker to provide direct educational support to social welfare, BSW, and MSW students while expanding services offered to WisCARES clientele. This individual will work closely with WisCARES leadership to perform on-going benchmarking and needs assessments for the program, and will help facilitate stronger inter-professional educational experiences for existing and future collaborators.
Developing a Mobile Tool to Foster Citizen Engagement with Wisconsin’s Flora
Project Leaders: Catherine Woodward, Faculty Associate, Botany and David Gagnon, Program Manager, Wisconsin Institute of Discovery
Duration: Three years
Plants are indispensable to life on Earth, yet humans’ connection to them is waning as society moves further out of contact with nature. As climate changes and natural areas shrink, the pressing needs for data collection and public education can both be achieved through citizen-science. Mobile technology offers a great opportunity to provide place-based educational engagement for people around the state, harnessing resources that traditionally required travel to physically access, such as museums and herbaria. The Wisconsin State Herbarium, curated by the UW-Madison Department of Botany, is a world-class resource, but could increase its impact in WI with mobile outreach. We propose to develop a new mobile tool for the identification of Wisconsin’s native plant species that engages citizens in monitoring the flora in their own backyards and natural areas. The project will build upon the “Key to Wisconsin Woody Plants” app, the Nomen Project, and the Wisconsin State Herbarium’s WISFLORA database to create a mobile application that allows users to identify any plant in Wisconsin and submit data, including images, location, date, and phenology (e.g., flowering, fruiting) to an online database. The app will help users identify WI plants, and the data collected will fill important knowledge gaps on the distribution, population status, and impacts of climate change on WI plant species. The app will be built on an open platform that can be freely repurposed by others worldwide to produce similar tools. The Department of Botany and the WID’s Field Day Lab will collaborate on the project, and engage K-12 teachers in pilot-testing and developing complementary curriculum on Wisconsin plant communities. The audience also includes natural resource managers, naturalists, and students. By leveraging existing resources and expertise, we will create the opportunity for anyone in the state to learn about Wisconsin plants both outdoors and online, and participate in a learning community that includes UW botanists. Our goal is to link those that seek information about Wisconsin’s plant communities, whether for educational, professional, or recreational purposes, with the valuable repository for that information that exists in the Wisconsin State Herbarium.
From Coverage to Care: Health Insurance Literacy Skills for Wisconsin’s Most Vulnerable Residents
Project Leaders: Donna Friedsam, Director and Principal Investigator, SoHE/Covering Wisconsin and Allison Espeseth, Development and Operations Manager, SoHE/Covering Wisconsin
Duration: Two years
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its Health Insurance Marketplace, along with new Medicaid coverage for Childless Adults, have brought tens of thousands of new Wisconsin residents to health insurance coverage. Yet, access to coverage does not assure access to appropriate care and physical and financial wellbeing. Many of us – both new and not new to having coverage – lack understanding about how to use our coverage and navigate the health care system, especially within the limits of our budget, though such knowledge is essential to achieve the benefits of health insurance. This is particularly a challenge for those with low health and financial literacy skills such as older, rural, and immigrant populations as well as those coping with chronic diseases. The phrase “health insurance literacy” captures a variety of issues related to choosing and enrolling in health coverage and using that coverage to engage with health care, such as finding a doctor, making an appointment, filling a prescription, getting a specialist referral, appropriately utilizing care, and managing premiums, co-payments, and deductibles. Yet, there is a dearth of resources to support these skills for persons with overall low literacy. Covering Wisconsin (formerly Covering Kids & Families-Wisconsin), desires to leverage the momentum and state and national acclaim brought by our recent health insurance and financial literacy initiatives (in part funded by Baldwin) to improve the ability of Wisconsin residents with the lowest health and financial literacy skills to use health insurance, access care, and appropriately engage with the health care system. In collaboration with the Center for Patient Partnerships, Wisconsin Rural Health Initiative, and Wisconsin Health Literacy, we will engage with consumers and the community organizations that serve them to identify, develop, assess, and field educational methods and modes that will be most effective to reach high-need residents with resources that are consumer-tested and literacy-accessible.
Facilitating Entrepreneurship for Wisconsin’s Native American Communities
Project Leaders: Richard Monette, Professor of Law, Director Great Lakes Indigenous, Law School and Anne Smith, Clinical Professor, Director Law and Entrepreneurship, Law
Duration: Three years
Wisconsin’s 11 native tribes recognize the need to develop new businesses that are culturally appropriate and economically viable. Such enterprises are essential to overcoming the poverty and lack of economic opportunity endemic to tribal territories. But creating new enterprise on tribal lands confronts great challenges. Each tribe has its own government and legal system, and many tribal governments have not yet developed the legislation needed to facilitate business. Moreover, fitting relevant business laws into the combination of federal law and tribal traditions is a complex task. At the same time, actual business development is being attempted on tribal land. Such enterprises need legal assistance to navigate the existing legal rules, but often lack the resources to engage knowledgeable counsel. The Law School’s Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center in collaboration with the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic would use Baldwin Fund support for their program to address these government and business needs. First, the project offers assistance to tribal governments in developing tribal legislation that would facilitate the creation of businesses. This work involves collaboration between faculty and law students to provide the necessary assistance. Second, GLILC in collaboration with LEC and, for some projects, with the Nelson Institute provides support and assistance to tribal entrepreneurs in starting culturally relevant and appropriate businesses. Additional assistance on business plans can come from UW Extension’s Small Business Development Centers. The entrepreneurial clinical model employs law students under supervision of existing clinical faculty to assist entrepreneurs in developing their business plan and providing necessary legal consultation as those businesses develop.
The Observatory: Fact-Checking and Explanatory Reporting in Wisconsin
Project Leaders: Michael W. Wagner, Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Lucas Graves, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Duration: Two years
We propose to launch a new fact-checking and explanatory journalism website to cover the 2016 elections (presidential, congressional, and Wisconsin races), housed in an innovative new undergraduate course in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and tied into the wider scholarly community at UW. The goal of the project is to harness the efforts of UW journalism students, the expertise of UW scholars, and the local, regional and national media platforms of our professional partners to connect voters in Wisconsin and across the country to information vital to the public practice of our democracy. We will integrate three strategies to achieve this goal. First, we will train advanced journalism students in a co-taught election reporting course in two vital, emerging genres of political reporting (fact-checking and explanatory journalism). Students will produce fact-checks and news stories about Wisconsin and national election campaigns on the new news website we create. Our primary media partner is the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in SJMC. The WCIJ will be crucial in training students, in publishing their work, and in promoting that work to its network of media partners across Wisconsin. Second, we will disseminate UW scholars’ expertise on issues of public policy, public opinion, and journalism on the news site. Following the model of explanatory journalism ventures such as The Upshot at The New York Times, we will have leading social scientists draw upon their areas of expertise to write about electoral dynamics, public opinion, and media coverage of the election. Finally, we will conduct much-needed research about the effectiveness of fact-checking and explanatory journalism in countering misinformation and misperceptions, and promoting greater civic engagement and understanding of public affairs. We will conduct the research via a combination of survey experiments drawing on a panel of the U.S. population, and real-time experiments on users of our news website. We will promote the results of these studies during the campaign season via our ancillary partnerships with the Washington Post, PBS, and the Columbia Journalism Review.
Uncovering Ancient Life at Aztalan: New Explorations at One of Wisconsin’s Most Important Prehistoric Native American Communities
Project Leaders: Sissel Schroeder, Professor, Anthropology/Letters & Science and Kelly Tyrrell, Science Writer, University Communications/VC for University Relations
Duration: Three years
Visitors to Aztalan State Park in Lake Mills, WI, often notice the prominent stockade first. Only once they have wandered beyond the parking lot of this National Historic Landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places, do they notice the tall, grass-covered mounds that mark this prehistoric site, which was settled by Late Woodland and Mississippian peoples between about AD 1100 and 1250. Yet, given its importance in Wisconsin and in the Midwest as an outpost of Cahokian civilization, archaeologists know surprisingly little about the site and its inhabitants, in part because they have investigated less than 10% of the site. The public knows even less, because much of what they have learned is outdated or mythological. With this project, we will spend two years conducting surveys and excavations within the residential area of Aztalan, invite the public to join in, and provide educational opportunities for Wisconsin students. The park is heavily visited, especially in the summer, and visitors are always curious about archaeological studies there. In years past, research at the site has provided ample opportunity for informal outreach to the public. Aztalan is also a focus of study for students in Jefferson County, yet the information accessible to them has so far been limited. The efforts of this project will (1) enhance educational opportunities for local schoolchildren, members of the public, and undergraduate and graduate students by engaging them in collaborative learning and study of the people who preceded them; (2) help promote scientific literacy by exhibiting the ongoing and evolving nature of archaeology, especially through the creation of a public-facing, interactive website people can visit often to see how knowledge of the site is progressing; (3) create educational materials for K-12 children in Jefferson County, including the Lake Mills and Fort Atkinson school districts; (4) yield new information that will enhance public interpretation and help correct long-standing myths about the site; and (5) improve our understanding of a case of Native American migration and multi-ethnic community formation around 900 years ago through expanded investigation of the site using modern field methods.
Building a comprehensive network of fruit growers to improve sustainable production of fruit crops in Wisconsin
Project Leaders: Christelle Guedot, Assistant Professor, Entomology and Amaya Atucha, Assistant Professor, Horticulture
Duration: Two years
Fruit production in Wisconsin contributes over $400 million to the state economy and encompasses large-scale commercial growers, small-scale (including Community Supported Agriculture) growers, as well as homeowners. Underserved communities, such as Hmong, Amish, and Latino, are important contributors to fruit production in the state; however, they are seldom served by the UW-Extension Fruit Team. The goal of the proposed project is to develop new avenues for effectively delivering time sensitive information on environmentally-sound pest management practices and sustainable fruit crop production to all fruit growers, with special attention to underserved communities in the state of Wisconsin. Over three years we will work with our partners at DATCP, fruit grower associations, UW-Extension Master Gardener program, and FairShare CSA coalition to: 1) produce a biweekly newsletter targeting time sensitive information on fruit production practices and pest and disease management; 2) develop a user-friendly website to provide comprehensive resources on fruit production and management, and 3) develop a series of workshops across the state on management practices relevant to small scale producers, targeting underserved grower communities. As a result of this project, we expect to increase knowledge and empower fruit growers to improve sustainable fruit production in Wisconsin, provide and facilitate access to information and resources on fruit production practices; and to strengthen and build long-term relationships with fruit growers of Wisconsin.