The Wisconsin Idea Seminar’s FOREST + RIVER experience started under the canopy of centuries-old bur oaks and alongside mounds, in Willow Creek Woods, near the shore of Lake Mendota. Forests like this one, an oak savanna managed by people and fire for milenia, was a fitting way to begin a 500-mile journey where 39 faculty and staff contemplated cooperation, belonging, water, and place. Trees—and their forest communities—are some of the ultimate examples of cooperation rooted in place. And we learned a lot from trees and their stewards.
For five days faculty and staff were dedicated students of Wisconsin life and learned from folks who are deeply committed to the place where they live and who are fundamentally motivated by relationship-building, reciprocity, and responsibility to people, land, and water.
We traced the contours of the land to Portage, a cultural and commercial hub for thousands of years, where the Wisconsin River angles toward the Mississippi and the Fox pivots northward to Lake Michigan. We learned how Ho-Chunk people care for the land and how they preserve stories of place through food and language.
We saw innovation first-hand at Green Bay Packaging, a papermill that has set new standards for net-zero water.
We heard UW-Green Bay leadership describe how their institution serves the third-largest economic region of Wisconsin and how they respond to local needs.
In Appleton we learned how community historians of color are lifting up local histories, bringing to the surface the experiences of the first Black residents in the Fox River Valley who built hope for themselves and others.
We paused among the pines of the Menominee to consider the power of plants to heal and to bring comfort. Stacks of white pine in the log yard of the Menominee Tribal Enterprise reminded us that the products of their mill are at once hyper local and destined to regional and international markets.
We were lulled into quiet contemplation by the sound of the Wolf River, swollen with snow-melt, cascading down 20 feet at Big Smokey Falls.
We met high school students at Escuela Verde in Milwaukee who are sketching out their futures, inspired by collective care and interdependent learning.
We learned Menominee language action verbs from students and teachers of Menomini yoU, a program that is dedicated to the revitalization and renormalization of the Menominee language and lifeways. And we learned one of the most important words of all: wāēwāēnen (thank you).
We are so grateful to the tireless and generous hosts and collaborators across the state who spent months planning, consulting, and offering expert guidance and ideas that strengthened and enriched our collective learning.
And at nearly every stop, we met with UW-Madison alumni who are proud of their alma mater and who bring a Badger spirit to the work they do in their home communities.
The Wisconsin Idea Seminar is a program of the Provost’s Office and is made possible with the support of many UW–Madison schools and colleges and the Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of the Capital Times and long-time underwriter of the Seminar since 1985.
A special thanks to Phoua Holt, executive assistant in the Office of the Provost, whose excellent assistance contributed to the success of the 2023 Wisconsin Idea Seminar.
We are super excited for the Wisconsin Idea Seminar’s FOREST + RIVER experience (May 15-19, 2023)!
Since its inception in 1985 the Wisconsin Idea Seminar bus departs from Madison to meet diverse folks from Wisconsin, to see the Wisconsin Idea expressed in different contexts, and to see the places that many of our UW-Madison students call home.
Seminar participants meet people across the state who are deeply committed to the place where they live and work, who are fundamentally motivated by ideas of relationship, reciprocity, and responsibility to people, land, and water.
Some of the highlights of the Forest + River experience:
- A narrated walk across Ho-Chunk cultural landscapes
- Tracing Black experiences in the Fox River Valley
- Rushing spring waters of the Wolf River
- Visiting the mill of the Menominee Tribal Enterprises
- Lunch with UW-Green Bay faculty
- In Milwaukee’s south side, a panel conversation about health and healing and the generational impacts of system involvement.
- Meeting with dairy farm operators who elevate education and environmental stewardship.
Good learning stirs you up.Kathy Kramer, Professor of Political Science, UW-Madison (Wisconsin Idea Seminar alumna)
As we plan for the 2023 Wisconsin Idea Seminar we meet with dozens of folks whose talents, expertise, and knowledge help shape our journey. Here is sneak peak at what is on our drawing board.