Thanks to those who made this the biggest year ever for CALS PEOPLE internships

The UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program passed a milestone this summer: The largest-ever group completed the pre-college enrichment program — 180 students — and graduated into their senior year on July 30. Those students wrapped up a six-week residential program designed to train them for living in a university setting while juggling classes and internships.

A number of people associated with CALS deserve some of the credit for the programs success. Four years ago the college began offering its own CALS-based internship program for PEOPLE participants.

“There had been growing dismay that students interested in science were being dissuaded due to lack of opportunities for exploration,” recalls CALS assistant dean Tom Browne, who coordinate the effort. “We offered to take students interested in science who were not admitted to the other pre-college science programs on campus so that they would not be funneled out of science altogether. Our first summer we had two students, then we grew to ten. Last summer there were seven.  This summer it jumped to 20!”

The surge in interest meant that Browne found himself scrambling at the end of the spring to find spots. He’s extremely grateful to the faculty, academic staffers and grad students — some of them outside of the college — who answered his appeals and stepped up to serve as internship coordinators or mentors and furnish lab space.

The CALS program is broken down into two parts: a morning program, in which students are given an overview of CALS and an introduction into research methods and inquiry. That part was taught by Margertha McLean, a recent Graduate off the M.S. program in Nutritional Science department, who met with the interns every day from 9-11:30 a.m. The students spent their afternoon working with a research mentor in their lab or field setting.

In Madison, middle-school students are selected to enter PEOPLE following their sixth-grade year through a highly competitive process that works with the community and the Madison Metropolitan School District. The program adds Milwaukee students at the high-school level, continuing to provide academic support through tutoring and exposure to the opportunities of attending college. Students who successfully complete PEOPLE can earn a tuition scholarship to UW-Madison, but each student must earn admission on their own qualifying merits.

PEOPLE is an academic enhancement and recruitment program serving low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students from Wisconsin and its Tribal Nations throughout the pre-college and college levels. For more information, visit