To honor the Wisconsin Idea, the University of Wisconsin awarded seven collaborations with the recently revived Community-University Partnership Awards.
The Community-University Partnership Awards were started by former UW Director of Community Relations LaMarr Billups. The awards recognize UW students, staff and faculty who have made partnerships within the community to address public issues in Madison and beyond.
UW Director of Community Relations Leslie Orrantia helped revive the Awards after a hiatus between 2014 and 2017.
“It’s a privilege to bring back something that I think is very critical,” Orrantia said. “Our chancellor and our administration have a great deal of interest in supporting the type of work that really makes us foundationally who we are as an institution.”
Honorees include the Oneida Nation, The Compost Project, CAMP Bayview, Indigenous Sustainabilities, Creators, Collectors & Communities, Wisconsin Women in Government and the Native American Center for Health Professions. The awards were given out June 27 at the Olin House.
The NACHP and the Oneida Nation are also partners. The NACHP assists the Oneida Nation and other tribes in improving the health and wellness of Native Americans by increasing their presence in the health professional world.
Located within the UW medical school, the NACHP works with native students in various health professional programs to improve the health of tribal communities across Wisconsin.
The NACHP’s partnership with Oneida provides them with more visibility, Community and Academic Support Coordinator Melissa Metoxen said. Additionally, they’ve been able to increase rotations at their health center with Oneida’s support.
“We have these strong elements within Oneida that we’ve partnered with over the past few years,” Metoxen said. “It’s not just one specific area in the tribe, but many different areas. So that’s what makes us kind of unique.”
Additionally, “Creators, Collectors, & Communities: Making Ethnic Identity Through Objects” is another award winner and student-based research collaboration between UW and the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society.
Curated into a 60-object exhibit and eBook, the project is a curation of household objects which immigrants brought to southwestern Wisconsin from the Old World, which is meant to examine the relationship between people and objects, UW professor and director of the Campus Material Culture Program, Ann Smart Martin said.
“We brought together students, faculty, staff, volunteers and professionals between UW and Mount Horeb Historical Society, and that was a great synergy,” said Martin.
Instead of simply bringing knowledge from the university to the community, Martin said this partnership represents the Wisconsin Idea through the joint research of both UW art history students and MHAHS researchers.
The Compost Project also received an award for combating food waste issues in Milwaukee by making composting more accessible to households and businesses. This partnership includes researchers from four universities including UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, compost workers, public agencies, farmers and gardeners.
The Compost Project is attempting to address multiple issues at once, UW Extension food system program manager Greg Lawless said.
First, food waste produces methane gas — a greenhouse gas stronger than carbon dioxide — when put into landfills instead of being composted. Second, landfill space is decreasing, so composting food waste instead of sending them to landfills would save valuable space, Lawless said.
Lawless also added that composting addresses food insecurity by building up healthy soil over time in cities like Milwaukee where the soil is unhealthy. Doing so will encourage people to grow their own food despite living in the city, Lawless said.
Lastly, older cities like Milwaukee and Madison are built on old sewage systems that allow sewer runoff into Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee’s case. According to Lawless, composting can improve the ability of grass and other vegetations to soak up stormwater and decrease risks of overflow.
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District made a $40 million commitment to creating green infrastructure in Milwaukee. To Lawless, this represents a tremendous potential demand for composting not just in Milwaukee, but in Madison.
“You’ve got public agencies who want to make it happen and some public agencies who make it difficult in terms of regulations,” Lawless said. “Part of it sometimes involves changing and modifying those regulations to accommodate a new system.”
Lawless said the purpose of The Compost Project is the Wisconsin Idea — to create a strong infrastructure between the community and researchers like those at UW in which a strategic composting system can thrive.
Despite the various projects, Orrantia said the Wisconsin Idea serves as a resonating quality across the awarded collaborations.
“I think in a lot of ways it really is the foundational pillar of our institution,” Orrantia said. “Which affords us the capacity to really recruit global talent, retain top people and then serve as an institution that’s sustained over time.”