Remembering WIPPS Founder Jim Veninga - Tribute May 15, 2014


It is with great sadness that we share news of the death of Jim Veninga, who passed away January 10, 2014.

Jim VeningaA graduate of Baylor University, Jim went on to earn a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S) degree from Harvard Divinity School and then a Ph.D. in History and Religious Studies from Rice University. Before coming to UWMC, Jim was the Executive Director of the Texas Council for the Humanities (now Humanities Texas), a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities -- a post he held with distinction for twenty three years, from 1974 to 1997. During his time at the Texas Council, he helped found and give shape to a public humanities movement that expanded the civic life of Texas and the nation. Upon leaving, an award was established in his name: the “James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award …. This award was established to honor James F. Veninga, Humanities Texas Executive Director Emeritus, for his twenty-three years of extraordinary contributions to the state council and to the public humanities in Texas and the U.S.” In 1999, while President of the Institute for the Humanities at Salado, Texas, the University of North Texas Press published a book containing his collected addresses and essays -- one of five books he wrote, edited or co-edited.

Jim founded WIPPS while Dean of UW-Marathon County and served on the board from 2007 – present. He brought to Wisconsin the same spirited leadership he exhibited in Texas, both academically and philosophically, strengthening the connection between the university and communities served..

As Dean of UW-Marathon County, Jim was a visionary leader with a deeply held belief in the transformative power of the liberal arts for individuals and in the contribution of the liberal arts to the well-being of society in different ways. He was true to his beliefs throughout his tenure as dean and in the years after, when he remained a great supporter of the campus. He promoted a vision of civic engagement and deliberative democracy for society -- conversations at the intersection of values and policy-making. He was ahead of his time in working to promote civil conversation in society and in our legislatures. He believed in the value of public service scholarship by the University and for this and other work, he was named a Wisconsin Idea Fellow, 2004-2005, by then-President of the UW System, Katherine Lyall: “A champion of civic engagement, Veninga has worked on dozens of projects connecting campuses to community needs and is a frequent speaker on the role of the liberal arts in an increasingly technological society.”

This kind of advocacy gave rise to his founding of the Wisconsin Institute to Public Policy and Service (WIPPS). His vision ultimately led to the building of the UW Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) with support from the County, the Federal Government, and the UW System and Colleges. The UW CCE houses WIPPS, Wisconsin Public Radio’s WHRM, and UWMC Continuing Education, as well as UWMC’s Theatre Program.

Many of us will remember the forums Jim lead, including one the eve of the Iraq War on “Just War” and one with author Reza Aslan, then relatively unknown, on “Islam and democracy:  For what can the world hope?” He also took the lead in the establishment of the UW Colleges Religious Studies program.  In 2012, a joint campus-WIPPS lecture series was established in his honor: “The James Veninga Lecture on Religion and Politics.” The third annual lecture in this series is planned for September 2014.

Jim's passing is greatly mourned at WIPPS and throughout Wisconsin.  A memorial service will be held in Wausau in early spring.


Ali Amr, “Qanun” Player and Vocalist to Perform on April 25 at the UWMC Auditorium

ali amrAli Amr, an award-winning qanun performer and vocalist, will be performing at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County Auditorium on April 25 at 7:00 pm.  The qanun is a traditional Middle Eastern instrument, similar to a hammered dulcimer, zither, or autoharp.  Ali has explored a variety of musical genres and has developed a unique style that combines traditional Middle Eastern music with elements of hip hop, jazz, and soul.   He has been recognized with numerous national and international awards.   A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston he now resides in New York City and tours with his own group, “The Experiment."

Ali, who was born in Morocco, grew up in Ramallah, Palestine.  He has appeared in shows throughout Europe, Asia, Scandinavia and the United States.   Ali has collaborated with Quincy Jones, Alejandro Sanz, Chick Corea, Concha Buika, Bobby Mcferrin, Javier Limon and Jack Dejohnette.  Performances include Spain's Festival de Peralada, North Sea Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Bean Town Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, BPC International Folk Festival, and the Middle East Festival.

The concert will be held in the UWMC Auditorium at 7 pm on April 25, 2014.  Tickets are $10 ($15 after April 15).  Tickets can be purchased by contacting Connie Nikolai ( or Darlene Kalfahs at 920-734-3797, or at

Co-sponsored by Companion Synod/Global Mission Task Force – ECSW and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy & Service (WIPPS).


WIPPS Federal Health Insurance Marketplace Conference held at UW-Fox Valley, November 7-8, 2013

Update on Health Conference at UW Fox Valley


Hundreds gather in the Fox Cities for the 2-day event on the new federal health insurance marketplace in Wisconsin. National and local leaders discuss and clarify key issues surrounding the new law. More »

Panel discussion of the future of the FFM in WIPanel discussion of the future of the FFM in WisconsinDonovan Slack gives Thursdays Keynote: Putting Politics AsideDonovan Slack gives Thursday's keynote, "Putting Politics Aside"Moderator Carol Koby and Thursday's panel.Moderator Carol Koby and Thursday's panelBoston University Professor, Josephy HarrisBoston University Professor, Joseph Harris



Welcome to the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service

WIPPS is a nonprofit institute that addresses local, state, and national issues by linking public scholarship, civic outreach, and student service to enhance community life throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

WIPPS’ work is responsive and collaborative. We bring non-partisan approaches, tools, and resources to help state and local governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, and citizens address and solve real problems.

WIPPS adheres closely to the Wisconsin Idea by connecting the resources of the public university to issues relevant to the citizens of Wisconsin.

  • WIPPS sponsors and organizes statewide conferences, including recent conferences on: overcoming poverty; understanding globalization for Wisconsin business; developing sustainable communities; assessing the ethics of stem cell research; addressing the origins of domestic violence; and rethinking the civic mission of the public university.
  • WIPPS fosters non-partisan civic dialogue, deliberation, and healthy debate on complex issues. We partner with libraries, universities, schools, government entities, and other organizations to host public dialogues on topics ranging from the future of health care in America, to the challenges of immigration, to the national debt.
  • WIPPS provides opportunities for college students to engage in collaborative research, participate in internships, enage in meaningful service to their commnities, and gain valuable leadership skills.
  • WIPPS encourages public scholarship and research to address needs in our state and communities. We sponsor faculty and student fellowships and assist with grant-writing to encourage interdisciplinary research that can be translated into real world action.

WIPPS holds the vision that all citizens of Wisconsin can become educated and engaged community members and active participants in civic life.

We invite you to explore our website and contact us with any questions, comments, or feedback at


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