UW-Madison’s UniverCity Year Program partners with Village of Waunakee to eliminate biases in community

WAUNAKEE, Wis.– The University of Wisconsin-Madison is continuing a program that aims to bring practical solutions to community-based challenges. This time in four different locations, including the Village of Waunakee.

UniverCity Year Program was launched to bring university resources to communities around Wisconsin, addressing issues like sustainability, resilience and livability.

“This is truly about making UW a practically beneficial institution to places all across the state,” program director Gavin Luter said.

Communities can target any issue they’d like. For Waunakee, Administrator Todd Schmidt said there was an obvious objective.

“It’s been a humbling journey for our community since the George Floyd murder,” Schmidt said. “Our eyes as a community, as a local government organization, have been opened and have looked at matters of diversity, equity and inclusion differently than we ever have before.”

Solutions aren’t always as obvious as problems and it could take an outsider to find the fix. That’s where UniverCity steps in with research and fresh approaches.

“What they’re trying to do is figure out what are some of the invisible, inherent systemic biases that might exist within the DNA of the ordinances they have, what kind of communication things are they bling to that make Waunakee not welcoming,” Luter said.

Luter said it’s a mutually beneficial process.

“It’s kind of a nice way to bring real world issues onto campus and make sure that our students are engaging in meaningful work,” Luter said.

The UniverCity Year Program is also partnering with Marathon County, Racine County and Milwaukee in 2021.