Join us during the Fall of 2016 for an experiment.  "FORWARD?  The Wisconsin Idea, Past and Present" is a new course offering in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  The course combines a small undergraduate seminar with a public lecture series that examines the University of Wisconsin's relationship with the people of the state.  We examine our origins, from the birth of the university in 1849, a year following the birth of Wisconsin as a state in 1848.  We explore our successes and failures along the way.  In fifteen weeks we merely scratch the surface of suitable topics.  

The public lecture series takes place 15 consecutive Tuesday evenings at 6pm at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street.  Please see the front desk attendant for room.  We'd love to see you there!  Please contact the Department of Sociology main office at the number below if you would like to formally enroll in the class as a student or an adult auditor.

If you are unable to attend, each of the 15 lectures will be videotaped and placed on the internet for viewing remotely within 24 hours of the original lecture.  Please come back to this website for more information.

Latest Discussion

Charles Van Hise Quote from 1904

When former University of Wisconsin President Charles Van Hise declared in 1904 that he would “never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state,” he gave early expression to the Wisconsin Idea. Van Hise brought the knowledge produced by the university to Wisconsin’s citizens and policy makers in the hopes that it would illuminate social problems and contribute to progressive and effective solutions. Bringing students and faculty in the UW System into a broader public conversation with the citizens of the state, we will examine how the knowledge produced in the university benefited the public in the past and can continue to do so today.

As a part of the course assignments, students have been encouraged to submit public blog posts as reflections on each of the public lectures.  Rather than write papers that would be read only by the instructor of the course, these blog posts would be made public and should be written in a way for public consumption and be written as starting points for further conversation, in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

To view this blog, click here.

PLEASE NOTE!  NEW SPEAKER for for September 27, 2016

Full Program

Week 1: John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: September 06, 2016
  • By: J. David Hoeveler

Week 2: Conservation and the Wisconsin Idea: An Evolving Legacy (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: September 13, 2016
  • By: Curt Meine

Week 3: The Corruption of the Wisconsin Idea: ALEC and Other Developments (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: September 20, 2016
  • By: Lisa Graves

Week 4: Broadcasting the Wisconsin Idea: 100 Years of Public Broadcasting in the State that Invented It (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: September 27, 2016
  • By: Jack Mitchell

Week 5: Academics Shaping the Wisconsin Dialogue on LGBT History (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: October 04, 2016
  • By: Dick Wagner

Week 6: Criminal Justice in Wisconsin: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: October 11, 2016
  • By: Michele Lavigne, John Chisholm, and Pam Oliver

Week 7: Laboratory of Oligarchy (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: October 18, 2016
  • By: Lewis Friedland

Week 8: The Politics of Resentment (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: October 25, 2016
  • By: Kathy Cramer

Week 9: EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City

  • Date: November 01, 2016
  • By: Matt Desmond

Week 10: The Future of Wisconsin Public Higher Education (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: November 08, 2016
  • By: Sara Goldrick-Rab

Week 11: Start with what people value: Environment, Land, and the Wisconsin Idea (VIDEO NOW AVAILABLE!)

  • Date: November 15, 2016
  • By: Paul Robbins

Week 12: To Be Announced

  • Date: November 22, 2016

Week 13: Notes from the Ethnic Cleansing Zone - The Wisconsin Idea, Imperialist Nostalgia & the Remaking of a Shared Future

  • Date: November 29, 2016
  • By: Aaron Bird Bear

Week 14: Lived Religion in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Idea

  • Date: December 06, 2016
  • By: Corrie Norman, Susan Ridgely, and Jordan Rosenblum

Week 15: The Future of the Wisconsin Idea (and Closing Remarks)

  • Date: December 13, 2016
  • By: Noel Radomski


Make A Gift - image 

We are offering this course on a shoestring out of our academic and Supplies and Expenses budget. If you would like to contribute to this project to allow us to offer real-time broadcasts or otherwise improve our offerings this semester or in the future, please consider making a contribution to the Department of Sociology Annual Fund. Please mention the Wisconsin Idea course in the memo line so we know how to allocate the funds.