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Making a difference in the world

November 23, 2011 | By Gregg Mitman

We're pleased to join the entire UW-Madison community in celebrating the "Year of the Wisconsin Idea," an observance of one of the university's longest held traditions: that UW teaching, research, outreach and public service should improve the lives of people everywhere. We in the Nelson Institute pride ourselves on taking the Wisconsin Idea to heart and putting it into action. Public service is at the core of our mission.

Year of the Wisconsin Idea

An ethic of two-way engagement infuses our undergraduate Community Environmental Scholars Program and internships, our graduate programs, our research centers, and our special projects and events. A growing number of our educational and research efforts are based in partnerships with people and organizations tackling real-world problems. These respectful and mutually rewarding collaborations enrich us all.

Across the institute and beyond, our students, faculty, staff and alumni are working with partners in Wisconsin, throughout the United States and around the world to solve environmental problems and improve people's lives.

We share a few of their stories in this special issue of In Common. For example:


We're proud of these members of the Nelson community and excited to tell you about them.

We're also proud of recent progress here in the Nelson Institute. We've begun enrolling students in our new undergraduate major in environmental studies, which was recently included in a U.S. News and World Report list of nine hot college majors; the student response has been extraordinary. Our research centers continue to produce world-class, news-making findings, and an exceptional number of our faculty, students and staff have been recognized for excellence.

Unfortunately, a few of our valued colleagues will be moving on. Professors Cal Dewitt and Pete Nowak announced their retirements last summer, as did longtime staff members Tom Sinclair and Carol Enseki. In addition, associate director Lewis Gilbert accepted a position at the University of Minnesota. We thank them all for their service to the institute and their dedication to the Wisconsin Idea.

And we thank you for staying in touch, through In Common, through our website and through Facebook and Twitter. We appreciate your friendship and support, and we're gratified that so many of you are making a difference in the world.

Gregg Mitman signature
Gregg Mitman
Interim Director



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