Demeter is a service organization established in 1917 and named for the Greek goddess Demeter – the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. It serves the University of Wisconsin-Madison, primarily the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), and the Madison area community. The original organization was called the Daughters of Demeter, and membership was comprised of wives of faculty members in the then-named University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture. Today, while this group is still prominent in the organization, membership is open to both women and men who are faculty, staff, and friends of CALS, along with their spouses, with an interest in agriculture. Demeter currently has about 120 members.
One of Demeter’s signature activities is providing financial support to CALS students through scholarships to individuals, grants to student organizations, and student internships at CALS research stations and gardens. From very humble beginnings, Demeter has provided over $400,000 of financial support to College of Agriculture and CALS students in its 103-year history. These funds come from a mix of annual donations from members and income from endowments established and supported by members in the UW Foundation.
In the current 2020-2021 academic year, Demeter awarded $42,500 in support of CALS students. Scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, were awarded to 20 deserving students in CALS bachelor’s degree programs, two $500 scholarships were awarded to CALS Farm and Industry Short Course students, and one $1,500 scholarship was awarded to a CALS student studying abroad. Two $2,000 summer internships were awarded to CALS students; one at the Allen Centennial Gardens on campus and the second at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, activities of CALS student organizations have been severely curtailed or non-existent this academic year. Therefore, the total of $4000 to $5000 normally allocated for 7 to 10 student organizations was not awarded in 2020-2021. These funds are often used to send club members to national meetings or competitions, which are important extra-curricular activities for CALS students. It is planned that Demeter support of student organizations will resume in 2021-2022.
Demeter’s support of CALS students is coordinated by the Demeter Education Fund Committee, chaired by Liv Sandberg in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, with valuable assistance from Karen Martin in the CALS Academic Affairs Office, and Jodi Wickham with the UW Foundation. Additional information about Demeter can be found at www.facebook.com/CALSDemeter/ or by requesting information at firstname.lastname@example.org.