November 2014

Director's notes

The 2014 midterm elections showed that Wisconsinites actively exercised their right to vote - with nearly 57 percent voting statewide (compared to just 36.3 percent nationally). WIPPS partnered with media organizations to help prepare voters through a series of pre-election debates.

Our nonpartisan approach creates a level of public trust that allows us to help organize and sponsor candidate debates. It is the reason we proudly opened the David R. Obey Civic Resource Center in September with speakers from both sides of the aisle, including Sean Duffy, Tom Petri, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tammy Baldwin, and with special messages from Mel Laird and Nancy Pelosi.

It is why we are excited to have on our Advisory Board the first ever recipient of the Wisconsin Republican Party's lifetime achievement award as well as a former Democratic Lieutenant Governor, among many other politically passionate people.

One thing we all believe in-in fact, the motivating force that drives WIPPS work-is the importance of informing people about critical issues and encouraging their participation in civic life. We worry especially that younger generations, while clearly concerned about the world they live in, feel disconnected from public work.

The health of our democracy depends on engaged citizens. This begins with exercising our right to vote. We don't care who you vote for, but please do vote.

WIPPS Fellow heads 'People of Rural Wisconsin' project

Raised on a small family dairy farm in Rudolph, Wisconsin, WIPPS Fellow Matt Groshek saw an ingrained sense of civic involvement that was "staggering in its complexity and power." After he moved away to urban areas, he found he was missing some of those pieces only found in rural environments.

The WIPPS Fellow has returned to his roots in Rudolph, and has spearheaded the People of Rural Wisconsin Project - an oral history program focused on people living and working in rural Wisconsin communities.

Oral history interviews have been ongoing for several years. Project team members are now creating several new media pieces to bring a "storyteller summary" to the work.

On the horizon for the Rural Wisconsin project:

  • A new website nearing completion that will be the online portal for all the stories and related content
  • Short audio pieces, called "Just a Rural Minute," that will pull an audio selection from existing and new interviews
  • A national issue guide on the future of rural communities in partnership with the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forum

Watch for the website launch in mid-November.

"I hope that this project serves as a hub for all the very fine work that is emerging in Wisconsin that seeks to question and frame the value of the rural experience," said Groshek, a senior lecturer of art and design at UW-Stevens Point.

Welcome David Ullrich to WIPPS Board

New WIPPS Board member David Ullrich is the executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

His responsibilities include working with U.S. and Canadian mayors from across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin to advance the protection and restoration of this resource.

Prior to assuming his current position, Ullrich served for 30 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes regional office in Chicago, working on environmental issues in the six states of the Upper Midwest.

Ullrich is excited about joining WIPPS "because it is an opportunity to work with effective, committed people to improve public policy and service and the quality of life in Wisconsin."

Growing up in Wausau, and knowing the traditions of Wisconsin, he noted "there is a very strong sense of community and civic engagement here. WIPPS can build on that, and show that one can make a difference by getting involved."

A graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in English, he received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1973, with an emphasis in environmental law.

He is a runner and outdoors enthusiast. He was married for 39 years to the late Polly Ullrich, an art critic, curator, teacher and ceramic artist. Their son, Eric, graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a major in environmental science.

Reimagining Extension: Seeking citizen input

What do you find valuable about UW-Extension? We'd like to hear from you.

Celebrating more than 100 years of university service to the people and communities of Wisconsin, UW-Extension leaders are asking what the institution should look like and what it can do to effectively serve our state in the future.

In partnership with the Kettering Foundation, Imagining America and 12 other state extension systems, WIPPS is working with a team from UW-Extension to get citizen input and to organize public conversations around the state beginning February 2015.

Wisconsin residents - share your feedback about UW-Extension and how it can best serve the needs of communities in the future.

Click here to take share your feedback about UW-Extension

Established between 1906 and 1916 by the University of Wisconsin, the University Extension, Cooperative Extension and 9XM radio has ways to connect the university resources to the needs of the public.

"We're in communities throughout the state, so we're regularly talking with Wisconsin residents, businesses and local leaders about their needs," said Aaron Brower, interim chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension. "We also try to anticipate future needs so that we'll be prepared to respond. The best way to do that is by listening to our constituents around the state, including through this survey and the subsequent forums."

'High Five' scores big with students

A program to help at-risk students learn about future careers and become more aware about college is getting positive feedback among students.

"High Five 4 College" satisfies a need in the Wausau and D.C. Everest School Districts for in-school tutoring and after-school mentoring in the middle and junior high schools.

Student mentors from UW-Marathon County meet with the youths twice a week after school. Using interactive games and activities, they help prepare students for the academic challenges ahead and introduce career options throughout the school year.

"It's all about supporting student success in school," said Leo Moua, High Five coordinator. "We help develop students' leadership skills, and help with lessons that encourage college awareness."

Now in its fourth year, student reaction to the program has been good. "Students are willing to put themselves out there and participate in the interactive activities," Moua said. "Their willingness to be involved is commendable."

A total of 180 students are participating in this year's High Five 4 College program.

KIDS VOTING USA gears up for November elections

The November midterm elections provide youth in Marathon County the chance to get involved in a simulated voting process thanks to the Wisconsin chapter of Kids Voting USA (KVUSA).

Diane Klinger, the new KVUSA director, is working hard to ensure that students become active, engaged students.

In a Wausau Daily Herald article, she explains why teaching youngsters about the importance of voting can help inspire their parents to vote.

The Wausau School District's KVUSA chapter has been running mock elections in Marathon County schools social studies classes since the 1990s.

WIPPS has partnered with KVUSA on projects including a youth civic participation survey as well as this year's simulated gubernatorial convention and voting process.