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UW Madison’s UniverCity Alliance announces more partnerships across Wisconsin

UniverCity Alliance
UniverCity Alliance(UniverCity Alliance)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 9:10 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW-Madison students aren’t waiting to get off of campus to make their impact.

UW’s UniverCity Alliance was created six years ago to pair students and faculty with communities in need. Local governments working with the group can submit an application to get a project off the ground.

“We help them scope out those projects and then we get them to the right people on campus and then those students actually produce some sort of deliverable for the local government- a report, a site analysis, an evaluation,” Gavin Luter, managing director of UniverCity Alliance, said.

After receiving their deliverable, communities work with the program to sift through options and brainstorm how to implement solutions.

Applicants do have to submit an application fee to begin the process.

“Local governments actually do pay a fee to go through this program,” Luter explains. “We feel like that’s really important because it gives them skin in the game. If they have to go to their city council or county board to request money for it, then it’s highly likely that it will stay on their radar.”

Communications professor Douglas McLeod has worked on several projects with the program. His students mainly focused on drafting marketing and communications materials for local communities.

“We work on projects, in our case, to help do things like promote tourism in different counties within the state. We worked with Pepin county last spring to create a campaign to help tourism in Pepin county”, says McLeod.

McLeod stresses that the projects are a two-way street. While local communities get help for their community development initiative, students also get experience working in a professional environment.

“In the most basic sense, it gives them portfolio pieces when they go on the job market and graduate,” McLeod said.

Although, that’s not the only benefit he’s seen with his students.

“It’s taking the expertise that we have at the University of Wisconsin in the form of faculty members and students and takes them out into a real work learning environment where not only can they learn from working in that environment, but they can make positive contributions to the community around us,” McLeod said.

Luter also notes that the program helps students expand their skills.

“As far as I’m concerned, our students cannot have a complete education unless they’re actually working on real world issues with communities. It’s not just UW Madison who has all the expertise and wisdom here. Our students have a lot to learn from people outside,” Luter said.

The program recently announced they will be pairing up with Racine County, Marathon County, the Village of Waunakee, and Milwaukee going into 2021.

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