May 2014

Director's NotesEric

For the last six months our staff and Advisory Board have been working on a new strategic plan and using this opportunity to revisit the Tao of WIPPS—in other words, our philosophy, our essence, our way.   We keep returning to two core ideas:  energizing citizen-centered democracy and embracing the Wisconsin Idea.

First, we believe that the strength of American democracy in the 21st century is more dependent than ever on the engagement of citizens and communities in making decisions about issues that matter to them.  This “public work” as Harry Boyte, Co-Director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, calls it, “is sustained, largely self-directed, collaborative effort, paid or unpaid, carried out by a diverse mix of people who create things of common value by deliberation; work by publics, for public purposes, in public.” 

Second, as an institute of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension, we recognize the Wisconsin Idea as more than a platitude.  We act on the imperative that the resources of the university be directed towards helping citizens address and solve problems.  Thus, our primary task is to provide resources, knowledge, and ideas that empower the people of Wisconsin.

These two concepts constitute the basis of our philosophy, our essence, and our way.  What motivates us is the desire to serve the people of Wisconsin.

David R. Obey Resource Center to Open September 3


The David R. Obey Civic Resource Center will open to the public September 3, 2014 at the UW Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau.  The mission of the Obey Center is to educate and encourage young people to become knowledgeable and active participants in a healthy democratic society.  The Obey Center also provides research opportunities for students, scholars, and citizens using original congressional archive material in partnership with the Wisconsin State Historical Society through its Area Resource Network.  Stay tuned for our public invitation to the grand opening.  For more information, visit

Welcome New Board MembersSteveAnderson

Steve Anderson is a 1971 graduate of UW Madison with a BBA in finance and banking.  Upon graduation he began a 40-year banking career as a bank examiner with the FDIC.  Beginning in 1980, he served in numerous banking positions for Wells Fargo Bank in the Milwaukee Market, including Manager of Commercial Banking, Manager of the Retail Branch Network, and Market President.  In 2000, Anderson joined River Valley Bank, now a $1 billion banking organization in North Central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.  He retired from River Valley Bank at the end of 2011 as President and CEO.  Anderson is a proud graduate of UW-Marathon County (UWMC) and now serves on the UWMC Foundation Board, which he has chaired three times.




Dave Anderson was recently appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. Prior to that, he served as District Director for Congressman Sean Duffy of the 7th district.  A 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior with a B.A. in Social Studies and German, Dave began his professional career as a High School German Teacher and was elected to the Oneida County Board of Supervisors, later becoming Chairman for the Town of Hazelhurst.  Beginning in 1985 until 2013, Anderson served in a variety of political and administrative positions including with U.S. Senator Robert W. Kasten, Jr., Governor Tommy Thompson, Governor Scott McCallum, and Congressmen Tom Petri and Sean Duffy.  Anderson also currently serves as a Curator for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin as well as on the UW-Superior Foundation Board of Directors.

Another Year Closes For Tax Filing


The 2014 tax filing season has come to a close and so too has the fifth year of the WIPPS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

program.  Our 14 volunteers were able to assist 179 taxpayers from as far away as Tomahawk, Rhinelander, and Abbotsford.  These were individuals of low to moderate income ($52,000 or less), many of whom were able to take advantage of the Earned Income and Homestead Credits; two important anti-poverty programs.  Additional credits our tax preparers were able to assist with were the Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit and Education Credits.  The total refund (State and Federal) returned to taxpayers using our program came to $271,181. That represents eleven consecutive Saturdays of work, but well worth the effort in the end.

The WIPPS VITA program is small, but sturdy, and always in need of additional volunteers.  Our goal is to assist as many eligible taxpayers as possible with free tax return preparation.  With additional volunteers we can increase the number of hours and days our VITA Site is open. There were far more taxpayers looking for appointments this year than we were able to accommodate. 

If you enjoy working with the public and are interested in learning more about how to become a VITA volunteer, contact Liz Schlick at 715-261-6104.  It is not too early to start thinking about Tax Season 2015!

Ali Amr Concert RevisitedAliAmr

On Friday, April 25, WIPPS and the East Central Synod of Wisconsin (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – ELCA) co-sponsored a concert featuring Ali Amr, a young Qanun-player and vocalist from the occupied Palestinian territory.  The concert was held in the UWMC auditorium.

The Qanun is a string instrument played throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and southeastern Europe.  It looks like a large autoharp or hammered dulcimer, but is plucked like a harp.  Ali plays an eclectic blend of music, and wrote many of the compositions himself.   His unique style combines traditional Middle Eastern music with jazz, hip hop, and soul.

Ali was trained in the Edward Said Conservatory in Ramallah (a city north of Jerusalem in the occupied Palestinian territory) and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.   He had a difficult time getting to Berklee, given the travel restrictions on Palestinians and the lack of familiarity of the school with the place or his instrument.  However, he persevered and not only successfully finished the program, he managed to perform in venues such as Boston’s Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center.  Last summer he introduced the Qanun to the Newport Jazz Festival and is scheduled to perform at the White House next year.   Since coming to Berklee, Berklee College has set up annual auditions in Ramallah and has admitted twelve Palestinians to the program.

Although Ali generally plays in a group (you can find his videos on YouTube or on his website -, he played solo in Wausau.  The concert was enjoyed by about 80 people, many of whom were attending the ELCA conference “Blessed are the Peacemakers”, a seminar on peace in the Holyland held at Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Rib Mountain.   It was a wonderful evening.

Marathon County Leadership Coalition Update


The Marathon County Leadership Coalition Implementation Committee, which has representation from WIPPS, UW-Extension, United Way, and other community leaders, meets regularly to create programming that will attract and retain diverse young talent in Marathon County through community engagement and leadership opportunities.

Their current project is to construct a leadership mentoring program that will develop leadership skills in young adults by facilitating community connections. The program will be open to 18-34 year olds, and involves one-on-one mentoring with proven community leaders, community service, and an enrichment curriculum designed to develop and enhance leadership skills. The coalition plans to open the program by fall of 2014, and is currently working to build the framework of the program, and develop the funds required for day-to-day operations.

WIPPS Tapped To Lead UW-Extension Reimagined Framing Team


WIPPS has been asked by UW-Extension leadership to help frame a public conversation about the future vision for UW-Extension.  In collaboration with Imagining America and the Kettering Foundation, teams in Wisconsin and twelve other states are organizing an initiative called “Extension Reconsidered.”  The effort centers on a set of events in each state designed to engage diverse stakeholders and the general public in discussions about the future scope and direction of Extension.  In Wisconsin, efforts will focus on creating a space and a process where people with diverse perspectives can think together about what Extension should be prepared for when a new generation of users and partners seeks engagement with university resources.  In other words, how should we prepare now for the Extension of the future?

At their outset, university extension programs have served as a means of connecting university resources to the needs of the public. Farmers’ institutes, correspondence courses, and the fledgling technology of radio were all coming together as university vehicles for improving the lives and livelihoods of people throughout the state.   The University of Wisconsin recognized the importance of this growing extension mission, and between 1906 and 1916 it established University Extension, Cooperative Extension, and 9XM radio as operational units.  100 years later, UW-Extension leads an array of university programs that continue to serve the people of Wisconsin.  Today, Extension is asking how it can remain strong and relevant for the next 100 years.



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