University Life

"The Wisconsin Idea": An Introduction to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The Wisconsin Idea : "An Introduction to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

A recent Documentary, Free the Mind, takes as its topic the Groundbreaking research of UW-Madison Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry Richard Davidson. As the Founder and Chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Dr. Davidson's work Blends Cutting-Edge neuroscience with millennia-old traditions of Meditation and human Spirituality. Utilizing the latest in brain-imaging technology Davidson explores ways in which meditative practices are able to actually affect physical changes in the brain. Free the Mind focuses on Davidson's attempt to use the knowledge gained in his laboratory in order to help soldiers suffering from PTSD.

"Free the Mind: Can you Rewire the Brain Just by Taking a Breath?"

Dr. Davidson's desire to translate the latest scientific advances into concrete ways of helping the community serves as a good introduction to the actual campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The layout of campus instantiates an idea in brick and mortar. "The Wisconsin Idea" refers to a desire for symbiosis between the university and the community: the founders intended that the university would pursue wisdom and excellence with the ultimate aim of giving back to the community that supports it. So how does this idea shape campus?

Let's start with Library Mall, in many ways the heart of the UW campus (and the spot where President Obama spoke during a recent visit to campus). Library Mall is flanked by Memorial Library, the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Memorial Student Union. Also, (as you can see below) Library Mall offers what I consider to be the clearest physical reminder of the intimate connection envisioned between the university and the state of Wisconsin.

State Street, a car-free street lined with coffee shops, restaurants, shopping and bars, connects LibraryMall with the Wisconsin State Capital.

Although Library Mall offers food carts and a nice view of the capital, one of the true gems of Madison sits about a block away, on the backside of the Memorial Student Union. The Terrace, with its iconic colorful chairs and breathtaking views of Lake Mendota , is most certainly the social center of the University. The Terrace also features the Hoofers Sailing Club, which with over 1200 members and a fleet of over 100 boats is the second largest club of its kind in the country (behind the Naval Academy). Whether by learning to sail or enjoying the near-nightly live music, you should plan on becoming well-acquainted with the Terrace during your time in Madison.

As one of the top research universities in the world, UW-Madison obviously offers more than nice views and outdoor activities. Consider the newly opened Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), a state-of-the-art public, transdisciplinary research institute. With two world-class biomedical research institutes as well as public spaces for the community, the WID seeks to fulfill its motto, "from cells to societies," by fostering collaboration between top tier scholars in the sciences, the business world, the humanities and the arts. With its multi-story windows, waterfalls and foliage it's also a great place to work when the library feels a bit too dusty.

Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

From arterial avenues connecting the capital and the university to innovative institutes working to solve complex scientific and societal problems the University of Wisconsin consistently aspires to the Wisconsin Idea. As you prepare to become a part of the UW-Madison community you should think about the ways in which you hope to take what you can learn from this world-class university and use it to impact your own community.