Summer is in full, fabulous bloom on the UW campus. The beauty of this place could tempt us to keep our focus here and only here, but that simply isn’t in the nature of CALS. In every season, our faculty, staff, and students are engaged in impactful activities that look beyond our 936 acres, and their efforts drive one of the college’s core missions: outreach.
Outreach takes on many shapes. Sometimes it’s a formal extension activity, such as assisting farmers and processors or interacting with the public during field days at our agricultural research stations. Other times, our staff, faculty, and students bring their passions to K-12 schools. One excellent long-term project in this vein is the Wisconsin Fast Plants program, initiated 35 years ago by Paul H. Williams PhD’62, now a professor emeritus of plant pathology. Fast Plants have been used in thousands of classrooms worldwide to help students learn about plants and their genetics.
In this same spirit, some of our students design their own outreach programs, which provide meaningful professional development and a service to the community. Recently, a group of plant pathology graduate students who lead an educational program called What’s Eating My Plants? (WEMP) won a college-wide diversity award for their work. The group’s efforts have been wide ranging, including supporting Milwaukee’s agriculturally focused Vincent High School, which I had the chance to visit in May. These activities are important to advancing our mission to serve the state, nation, and world.
This is the purpose of a land-grant institution such as UW, which stands out for its unique, campus-wide focus on the Wisconsin Idea. All UW–Madison students, faculty, and staff, at CALS and beyond, are exposed to this critical concept.
I recently had the good fortune to participate in the Wisconsin Idea seminar, a weeklong trip around the state with about 40 other folks from across campus. At each stop, we learned about geology, history, and the area’s past and current residents (while taking in some gorgeous scenery). We also were exposed to the challenges and problems faced in each locale. The idea is to forge connections between UW’s academic pursuits and practical solutions for problems throughout the state. I had quality time to reflect on my new state and the impact of CALS within its borders — what it is now, and what it could be. I am already taking advantage of my new knowledge (including my newfound ability to pronounce “Manitowoc” correctly)!
So where is CALS going next with outreach programs? I am happy to announce that we are launching a new initiative with a statewide network of Wisconsin high schools, scheduled to begin in late 2023. The plan is for our faculty, staff, and students to visit schools and offer educational activities that will help high school students learn about plant genetics. In doing so, we continue the proud tradition started by Professor Williams, now furthered by WEMP.
I am interested in hearing what you think of CALS, and how we are positioned to make a difference, moving forward. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.This article was posted in Economic and Community Development, In Vivo, Summer 2023 and tagged outreach, Paul H. Williams, plant pathology, What's Eating My Plants?, Wisconsin Fast Plants Program, Wisconsin Idea.