CALS projects awarded 2019-2020 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships

The 2019-20 Wisconsin Idea Fellowships have been awarded to nine outstanding undergraduate projects at home and across the globe. Seven CALS students are among the awardees.

The projects, which are all rooted in the concept of addressing needs identified by community partners, range in topic from food insecurity, the disparity in education, addressing ecosystem issues and more. A total of 15 UW-Madison undergraduate students are part of this year’s projects, sponsored by the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Now in its 21st year, Wisconsin Idea Fellowships (WIF) are awarded annually to UW-Madison undergraduate projects working to solve issues identified by local or global communities. Fellowships are awarded to semester-long or year-long projects designed by an undergraduate student or group of students in collaboration with a community organization and a UW faculty or staff member.

Projects receive both logistical support as well as financial support—up to $7,000 in total depending on project scope and duration. A portion of each project’s funding is awarded to students as a personal stipend, allowing them to pursue a WIF project using time they might have otherwise worked a job. Some projects will begin this summer, and some will last through next May.

Included in this year’s program are also three annual special awards sponsored by: The Michael Thornton and Nora Medina Social Innovation Award, and two American Family Social Entrepreneurship Award.

Projects involving CALS students are:

Employing a One Health Approach to Address the Implications of Mycotoxin Exposure in Rural Guatemala
Student: Haley Sisel (Biology, CALS)
Advisor: Claudia Irene Calderon
Community Partner: Red Kuchub’al

This project aims to identify the ramifications of excessive mycotoxin exposure on plant, animal and human well-being, and connect experts in each field through its signature One Health approach. Research indicates mycotoxins are linked to a myriad of health concerns in both humans and animals. With guidance and partnership from Red Kuchub’al’s 13 associations of producers in Guatemala, the project will work towards developing a variety of education materials will be created to share with locals.

Campus Food Shed
Students: Grace Puc (Environmental Science, CALS), Kavya Ayalasomayajula, and Elaine Zheng
Advisor: Irwin Goldman
Community Partner: Community Action Coalition

This project has been awarded an American Family Insurance Social Entrepreneurship Award made possible by a generous donation from American Family Insurance.

The main objective of this project is to provide food-insecure students and staff on campus access to fresh, healthy and free food. Given the increasing costs of living and the subsequent food insecure students and staff on campus, this team aims to expand the scale of food recoveries from local grocery retailers, as well as spread awareness and education about food insecurity, food waste, healthy diets and cooking through workshops, events and conferences. Ultimately, the team hopes to create a more efficient food recovery model to be shared with other universities.

College Readiness for Students of Color Through Diverse Engagement and Programming
Students: Sarah Neufcourt (Biological Systems Engineering, CALS) and Jocelyn Lewis (Life Sciences Communication, CALS)
Advisor: Thomas Browne
Community Partner: Milwaukee Vincent High School

This project promotes equity, diversity and success in agriculture and natural resources related studies as well as college readiness for underrepresented students in Milwaukee, WI. In partnership with Vincent High School in Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Minorities of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (UW MANRRS), high-school students will participate in a four-day Agricultural Immersion and College Readiness program on the UW-Madison campus. During both the fall and spring semesters, high school students are invited to visit campus where they will attend workshops, networking sessions and presentations focusing on resources and opportunities available to students of color at UW-Madison.

Integrating Healthy and Sustainable Practices into the Lives of Madison Youth
Students: Katherine Stenehjem (Microbiology, CALS) and Brianna DeNamur (Nutritional Sciences-Dietetics, CALS)
Advisor: Cathy Middlecamp
Community Partner: Goodman Community Center

The goal of this project is to teach healthy and sustainable life practices to youth in Madison in an effort to increase awareness of climate disruption. Research indicates that strong impressions made on children during development endure in their minds as they age and can generate personal values. In partnership with the Goodman Community Center’s after school program, of which participants are largely low-income students, this team has designed lessons and opportunities they may not receive elsewhere. These lessons and opportunities include things such as sustainable agriculture and eating habits, waste reduction through reuse, and many more.

Modular Aquaponics System Prototype: Community Development, Career Exploration and STEAM Literacy Enhanced for Underserved Youth
Students: Lillian Zander (Environmental Science, CALS) and Akshat Khanna
Advisor: Lesley Sager
Community Partner: Blackhawk Middle School

This project has been awarded an American Family Insurance Social Entrepreneurship Award made possible by a generous donation from American Family Insurance.

This project aims to provide interactive materials and tools to guide students through the construction and maintenance of an indoor, self-sustaining vertical aquaponics system. The student team will examine how learning by doing promotes curiosity and improves STEM literacy in middle school students. Ultimately, this team hopes to spark new opportunities for multi-sectoral career exploration among young students.