From the Director’s Desk-October 2017

October 2, 2017

Greetings, Campus Compact friends and supporters! Hopefully everyone’s academic year has been off to a great start.  Special thank-you to Lawrence University for hosting me at their annual “Into the streets” freshman program where they get to know Appleton and engage in meaningful service projects!  Also, thanks to UW-Superior for hosting me for their first Center for Community-Engaged Learning Advisory Board meeting (as well as their alumni recognition event)!  WiCC is about to head into the season of regional meetings (please REGISTER for one if you haven’t already done so), which are always invigorating for the network!  They’re a time for us to build skills, learn about developments in the field, and connect with colleagues from our regions.

Earlier this month, I attended a talk about the Wisconsin Idea.  When I moved to Wisconsin, I was wondering if the very mention of the “Wisconsin Idea” would be solely associated with the University of Wisconsin system (even more specifically, UW-Madison).  As I’ve done more reading and listening, I realize that the Wisconsin Idea is much more than one system or one institution.  It’s really about how universities and colleges are positioned to improve governance and the quality of life for an entire state.  Without going into too much detail, the state of Wisconsin was perceived to be one of the most corrupt states, with very tight connections between corporations and lawmakers.  Reforms by University of Wisconsin faculty and administration brought together university resources with the needs of the state lawmakers.  According to EJ Ward, “the function of the university is to serve…as a central power house whose great dynamos produce driving force and light not only for self-illumination but for service of light and power to all the state.”

The first legislative research bureau in a state came from Wisconsin (where students were compiling research briefs for legislators—the original service-learning project), and eventually the US Congress modeled the Congressional Research Service after our reforms.  While the Wisconsin Idea may have been rooted in the UW system, it is broadly relevant to all 3 systems of higher education in Wisconsin! If you want to see the lecture, you can find it by clicking THIS LINK and looking for Wisconsin Idea Seminar on September 12, 2017 (lecturer: Gwen Drury).  Back in 1890, then-president of UW Thomas Chamberlin said something that resonated with the Campus Compact ethos: “Scholarship for the sake of scholars is refined selfishness.  Scholarship for the sake of state and the people is refined patriotism.”  These words are ones that I keep at the forefront of my mind when I do this work.

Recently, I attended the Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference.  One thing that struck me was the amount of discussions on campuses that have been activated by the Civic Action Planning process.  From California to Oklahoma to Kentucky to Wisconsin to Virginia, campuses have been gathering groups of people to discuss how to advance bold civic visions together.  I’m thankful to have such dedicated colleagues across the country who are engaging this work at the local level.

Two more announcements:

  1. SAVE THE DATE for our annual Civic Engagement Institute, tentatively scheduled for March 9, 2018 at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
  2. We have new phone numbers! To reach Lynne, call 608-839-7330. To reach me, call 608-839-7331.

Looking forward to a great October!