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University of Wisconsin-Madison College Portrait

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The Wisconsin Experience

UW‐Madison undergraduates learn to live the Wisconsin Idea and to have a positive impact on the world through collaborative, inquiry‐based application of knowledge. 

The Wisconsin Experience is grounded in the 100-year old Wisconsin Idea and the university’s progressive history, directed at producing UW‐Madison graduates who are creative problem solvers; passionate, engaged and adaptable world citizens; critical thinkers able to create and evaluate new knowledge; and future leaders of their global communities. The Wisconsin Experience captures four inquiry‐based high‐impact practices and includes:

  • Substantial research experiences that generate knowledge and analytical skills
  • Global and cultural competencies and engagement
  • Leadership and activism opportunities
  • Application of knowledge in the “real world”

The nature of these opportunities and how we offer them makes UW–Madison unique in higher education. The resulting Wisconsin Experience is characterized by intentional integration of in- and out-of-class learning, by creative and entrepreneurial engagement in real world problems, and through active student leadership.

Here are a few examples of these opportunities:

  • Service-learning and community-based research
  • Research apprenticeships on competitively funded projects
  • National and international internships in for-profit and non-profit organizations
  • Peer mentoring in the classroom
  • First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs)
  • Entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Activism and leadership through student organizations and campus-community partnerships
  • Comprehensive honors and honors theses in the major
  • Year-long and semester-long study and research abroad
  • Residential Learning Communities

Participation by Undergraduates in the Wisconsin Experience

Among 2010-11 bachelor’s degree recipients, 89% participated in at least one high impact activity and 70% participated in two or more. For underrepresented minority students, 92% participated in at least one high impact activity. For first-generation college students, 86% participated in at least one high-impact activity.

A range of indicators also signal that the Wisconsin Experience lays a foundation for subsequent success and leadership in civic and professional life:

  • UW-Madison ranked 4th for number of Fortune 500 CEOs (2011 U.S. News and World Report); More than 1,000 alumni serve as CEOs and nearly 16,000 hold an executive management position.
  • UW-Madison ranked 8th in 2011 Peace Corps participants (104 alumni) and 2nd over the past 50 years with a total of 2,942 UW-Madison alumni participants.
  • UW-Madison ranked 7th among universities of similar size in Teach for America participants (70 alumni in 2011 and 550 total over the 20-year history).
  • Alumni include 26 Pulitzer Prize recipients.
  • 1,317 UW-Madison bachelor’s alumni earned a PhD from a U.S. university from 2005 to 2009.  UW-Madison ranked 6th among more than 1,800 universities for number of alumni earning a doctorate in 2009 (most recent year data are available). (Source: National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates/)

For More Information:

To learn more about the Wisconsin Experience please visit http://www.learning.wisc.edu/.

To see our full Wisconsin Experience report please click here.