Welcome to the University of Wisconsin-Madison! And more directly, welcome to the pages of The Badger Herald, UW’s premier independent student daily newspaper, now in its 40th year of production.

As you arrive on campus, luggage in tow and parents in reluctant departure, you will almost immediately ask yourself a slew of important questions: “What am I doing here?” “What should I major in?” “What now?” It’s my sincere hope that this particular issue will provide a few answers and that our paper, as a whole, can prompt even more questions over the span of your four (or five or more) years at this world-class institution.

But before we start wrapping ourselves in a whirlwind of self-reflection and all the questions of the universe, let me explain a little bit about who we are.

The Badger Herald was formed back in 1969, amid the furor of the Vietnam War. At the time, this newspaper was a lonely, conservative voice among the anti-war protests of Dow Chemicals and the bombing of Sterling Hall in 1970. We had our share of stumbles along the road, but in the mid-80s, finally became a daily newspaper. Over the years, we’ve sparred with our other daily newspaper, The Daily Cardinal — making UW the only public university in the nation to have two independent daily student newspapers. In the last decade or so, we’ve become the larger of the two, but the spirited rivalry helps both papers ask better questions and find more appropriate answers to the questions of campus, Madison and the state of Wisconsin as a whole.

But of course, I’m sure you’re not lacking in questions. After all, you’re likely going to be busy with your own initial college quandaries and decisions once you come to campus.

I understand. My freshman year revolved around a First-year Interest Group, Calc 221 and a loose grip on sanity. My professor barely allowed his mumbling about derivatives to escape from his walrus-like mustache without also excitedly proclaiming, “But, of course, that should all be obvious to you!” Even the students in my honors FIG spoke about the works of Kierkegaard and Kant as if dense philosophical discourse were just the multiplication tables of college life. And all the while, the only thing running through my head was “I’m screwed.”

But that’s OK. You’ll come to UW, go through classes and, more often than not, feel inadequate or inferior in comparison to your peers. Confidence of even the most celebrated high school valedictorian will be crushed under the weight of professors’ vast knowledge and the occasional upperclassmen who’ve learned how to go toe-to-toe with them.

Then there’s the alcohol. The sex. The financials. The sea of unfamiliar faces. The stress, my god the stress!

Most of the freshmen are just going to try to get through their first semester. The transfer students will probably feel a pressure to accommodate themselves to campus quicker to catch up on lost time.

But things get better. The ones who don’t excel at bluffing their way through discussions will band together to strategize their studies. Dorm floormates migrate over to their neighbors and form bonds that last for years. Students find their own way to relax and begin to see their surroundings not as an unknown concrete and brick jungle, but as a cozy town they can call home. And when you do, the questions will turn from, “What am I doing here?” and “Where do I go from here?” to “What’s this extra charge on my tuition about?” and? “Who’s running this place?”

That’s where we come in. We’ve built up a reputation over the last 40 years of informing the UW student body of the day-to-day news of our campus, city and state with intensive reporting and commentary by a range of dedicated student journalists. And while we do our best to dig deep and tackle the issues facing UW-Madison and its surrounding areas, we can’t do it without you.

Whether that means you want to come down to the office and start writing (we have positions open in all four departments — news, opinion, sports and arts) or you just notice something you feel should be brought to the public’s attention, drop us a line at [email protected]

We know you have a lot of questions. We do too. Let’s see if we can help answer them together.