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College of Letters & Science | University of Wisconsin-Madison Annual Review, 2015-16

Mendota A deep dive into our favorite lake


It will take more than one talented professor to move us . It’s going to take everyone and everything — an ongoing, endless string of nexts, and firsts, and accomplishments, and incredible discoveries that serve people everywhere. Find out how our faculty moves UW-Madison and its mission forward.


See our faculty in action at allwaysforward.org/ls

EDITORIAL STAFF Director of Communications: Mary Ellen Gabriel Writer: Katie Vaughn Design & Photography: Sarah Morton


LETTERS & SCIENCE ADMINISTRATION John Karl Scholz, Dean Greg Downey, Associate Dean for Social Sciences Susan Ellis-Weismer, Associate Dean for Research Services Anne Gunther, Associate Dean for Budget – Finance, Planning and Analysis Jennifer Karlson, Assistant Dean for Advancement Elaine Klein, Assistant Dean for Academic Planning James Montgomery, Associate Dean for Fiscal Initiatives Cal Bergman, Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs  ancy Westphal-Johnson, Senior Associate Dean for N Administration and Undergraduate Education Eric Wilcots, Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences

4 From the Dean: The value of L&S 6 Report on the L&S Career Initiative 8 Lake Mendota: A deep dive into our favorite lake 14 Melanie Matchett Wood on mathematical discoveries 15 Craig Werner and the music of the Vietnam War 16 FIGs: Small groups with big impact on students 20 A makerspace for student experiments 22 History sheds light on racial injustice

Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities

24 Collaboration at the core of the new jazz studies program


27 Maria Cancian on serving the nation

We welcome your comments and story ideas for future issues. Email: info@ls.wisc.edu

28 Our great students: Scholarships and essays

U.S. Mail: Room 403 South Hall 1055 Bascom Mall Madison, WI 53706

TO MAKE A GIFT Jon Sorenson, Associate Vice President and Managing Director UW Foundation 1848 University Avenue Madison, WI 53726 (608) 308-5393 jon.sorenson@supportuw.org

ON THE COVER Photo by Jeff Miller, UW-Madison Publication of the L&S Annual Review is made possible by financial gifts from alumni and friends.

32 Fossil trove adds new limb to human family tree 34 The Elections Research Center analyzes our political process 36 New approaches to studying the mind 38 Chronicling shifts in Wisconsin's prairies 40 Research highlights 42 Inspired teaching 44 Investing in the Geology Museum 46 Alumni spotlight 48 All Ways Forward 50 L&S Board of Visitors

©2016 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System ls.wisc.edu

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The value of L&S As Dean of the largest college at UW-Madison, I have been talking all year about the values, intentions and unique strengths of L&S. Here are a few ways that L&S stands out from smaller liberal arts colleges, and from other schools and colleges on campus: •

We are big and proud of it. More than 135 departments, centers, institutes and programs, from African Cultural Studies to Zoology, means we are a wellspring of ideas, collaboration and knowledge creation.

Our faculty seek to better understand the physical world, the way society is organized and what it means to be human. L&S faculty invite undergraduates to join them in the lab, the archives or the field, offering endless opportunities to make exciting discoveries.

We offer an unparalleled “Wisconsin Experience.” There are many opportunities to learn and grow outside the classroom. Students can graduate from L&S with experience in global travel, service learning, writing for publication, leadership and government, social justice and – perhaps most important – networking and career preparation.

And that brings me to one of the most critical strengths of L&S: the Letters & Science Career Initiative (LSCI). The LSCI helps our students effectively, purposefully use their time at UWMadison, articulate their academic skills to potential employers, develop networks that lead to internships and job opportunities and build connections with passionate, supportive Badger alumni.


This means that in addition to graduating students who possess the breadth and depth of a diverse education; an understanding of our world and its history; varied perspectives and critical thinking skills; and the ability to share their ideas in clear, coherent language, we are also graduating students who are ready for the job market. With the LSCI, we are leading the way among large public universities in preparing our liberal arts students for life after graduation. I am enormously proud of this effort and the people who make it happen. Your support is critical to our endeavors on behalf of our great students. Visit allwaysforward.org/ls to learn more about opportunities to give, mentor and volunteer. On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz Dean and Nellie June Gray Professor of Economics

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

ALL WAYS FORWARD Last fall, the University of WisconsinMadison launched the public phase of the largest comprehensive campaign in the history of the university, in order to build a bright future for years to come. As the heart of this great university, L&S has ambitious goals for maintaining faculty excellence, supporting our great students, encouraging research and innovation and improving the educational experience for all. A world-class L&S is critical to UW-Madison's global standing as a research and teaching powerhouse. Our alumni make all the difference when it comes to keeping L&S strong. See page 48 for more information about how you can get involved in the All Ways Forward campaign. Your gift of any amount is critical to our pursuit of excellence and the future of our students. Thank you for all that you do! PHOTO BY JEFF MILLER

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Report on the

L&S CAREER INITIATIVE With the College of Letters & Science Career Initiative, we aspire to change lives. We are committed to helping our students effectively, purposefully use their time at UW-Madison, articulate their academic skills to potential employers, develop networks that lead to internships and job opportunities and build connections with supportive Badger alumni. We aspire to help every one of our L&S undergraduate students – not just the extra-motivated or well-connected few – chart his or her path to success. Here’s a look at what we have achieved in three years:

TAKING INITIATIVE: INTER-LS 210: Career path course for L&S students  Launched fall 2015  631 students enrolled since course launch  4 0 individual alumni participated in the course since launch

Taking Initiative guides students through:  Skills assessment  Identifying goals and aspirations

Students say: “This class was FANTASTIC. It helped me set my educational and career goals. I am very thankful.” “This course offered me a great perspective on my future and directly related to me. Loved this course and would highly recommend to everyone.”

 B  asics of interviewing and networking

CAREER KICKSTART: Immersive career preparation community located in Ogg Hall  Opened fall 2015  600 students participated  6  00 enrolled for 2016

Career Kickstart offers:

­— 2015 Kickstart resident

 Internship prep  N  etworking with employers and alumni


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 Skill-building workshops

“I have already secured an internship for the summer. I truly believe that Career Kickstart was essential.”


Mentoring, networking and opening doors


L&S alumni engaged directly in career development


Joined BadgerBridge, our new online networking program, as of August 2016

L&S alumni step up for:  N  etworking events, informational interviews, and job shadows


Badger Bridge is an online networking program just for UWMadison students and alumni. Students can search for alumni with the professional, academic and/or geographic background that is most relevant to them. Alumni can mentor and offer “real time” career advice without leaving their desks.

 Internship opportunities  M  entoring students through the Taking Initiative course

Sign up here: badgerbridge.com

 Career Kickstart workshops


Becoming the go-to source for top talent acquisition


Increase in employer attendance at career fairs this year over last


Increase in L&S students participating in on-campus interviews this year over last


Increase in internship and job postings for L&S students this year over last

“Individuals can be taught the technical skills. But it’s not always easy to find the blend of technical expertise and the soft skills that we look for in employees. Liberal arts is where we tend to find that blend.” — Kari Lauritsen, talent management director, American Family Insurance

Thank you to our partners



 3 ,000 new jobs and internships posted by L&S in fall 2015.  Y  ou can help, too! Support students by posting an internship at your organization. Visit careers.ls.wisc.edu for more information.


Lake Mendota a scientific biography


rom the window of his second-story office overlooking Lake Mendota, Steve Carpenter can see the UW rowing team running drills. On a warmer day, he might glimpse yellow-hulled “tech” boats, piloted by amateur sailors, lurching around the buoys. And on an early autumn morning, a lone paddler might suggest the image of a traveller from long ago, navigating the waters in a birchbark canoe.

Often called “the most studied lake in the world,” Mendota is the birthplace of the field of limnology, the scientific study of inland waters. Thanks to a trove of long-term data gathered over more than 100 years by UW scientists like Steve Carpenter, the connection between Mendota and the humans who have interacted with it over time is unusually well understood.

Like all lakes, this one holds the past, present and even the future in its depths.

This data offers a glimpse of the lake’s future — one that Carpenter and his colleagues are eager for us to realize that we are responsible for writing.

“Lakes reflect the land around them,” Carpenter says. “They also reflect the ways that humans use that land, and the ways we use the water.”


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

When I was a student at Madison, I used to go on long swimming journeys, called exploring expeditions, along the south shore of Lake Mendota, sometimes alone, sometimes with another amphibious explorer ... — John Muir, botanist, naturalist and explorer who is often called the Father of the National Parks, in The Story of My Boyhood and Youth


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The early years In the dog days of summer, it may be hard for Memorial Union Terrace loungers to imagine a lake without the murky water and smelly algae blooms that are as much a part of the experience as stunning sunsets. But from the first written accounts, penned by European settlers in the early 1800s, we know that Mendota – formed by the retreat of glaciers some 10,000 years before – once boasted white sand beaches and, through clear water, an equally sandy bottom. That “sand” was actually calcite/calcium carbonate, a byproduct of the watershed’s gypsum stores. It looked, Carpenter says, “as if the bottom of the lake were covered in crushed-up Tums.”

population grew to the tens of thousands by the turn of the century, the lake was made even more fecund by sewage and human waste.

But just a few decades after Madison was settled, those white sands had disappeared. The Tenney Locks, constructed in 1849 to help boats navigate the isthmus, drowned the beaches under four feet of water. And by 1870, according to sediment samples, the lake’s bottom was covered with rich, black prairie soil – runoff from surrounding shoreline and farmlands that had been broken by oxen and plow.

For more than five decades, Birge would record meticulous descriptions of the lake’s changes and of the samplings he observed through his microscopes. His colleague Chancey Juday was often by his side in this “living lab.” The two were committed to letting patterns emerge from the data itself.

This new base, replete with phosphorus from soil and manure, became the welcoming habitat for new plant and animal life. As Madison’s


So disruptive was the phosphorus input, in fact, that the young scientist E. A. Birge documented the lake’s consequent first toxic blooms of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, back in 1882. Birge would go on to serve as the inaugural dean of the College of Letters & Science and, later, a UW president. But long after he had assumed these leadership positions, he continued the data collection in Lake Mendota that he had championed as chair of the zoology department.

Birge and Juday laid the foundation for the longterm research studies that offer such a nuanced understanding of the lake today. Arthur D. Hasler, a former student of Juday, returned to work alongside them in 1937. Hasler

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

would later secure funds from the National Science Foundation, or NSF, for the lakeshore building that carries his name and houses the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, UW's hub for freshwater research. In the 1980s, John Magnuson, the Center’s first director, drew NSF support for the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project, designed specifically to study how the world’s lakes operate and change over time.

carp to the lake with an eye to selling them via New York’s short-lived gefilte fish market. (Carp’s destructive habit of rooting through the lake’s bottom disturbs the weed beds to this day.)

“Long-term funding for long-term research is so important because it’s the only way we can know when some change is unusual,” says Emily Stanley, professor of zoology, who heads the LTER project today. Ice records recorded at Mendota since 1855, for example, give us insight into climate trends that individual occurrences cannot reveal. And Stanley says that the decades of record-keeping following Birge’s first documentation of cyanobacteria help establish a link between phosphorus inputs and algae growth.

Meanwhile, sewage and farm runoff increased, as Madison’s population grew from 35,000 in 1920 to more than 170,000 by the 1980s. The city stopped dumping sewage directly into the lakes in the early 20th century, but waste was still dumped into its tributaries as late as 1971.

“We are now trying to understand where the phosphorous is coming from and how land use practices around the watershed end up affecting the lake,” says Stanley.

20th-century growing pains By the 1930s, native fish were dying off as compromised water quality diminished the “weed beds” (full of native water flora), their essential habitat. Meanwhile, new fish were moving in. As early as 1890, immigrants had introduced

Then, during the Dust Bowl’s “fish rescue operations,” residents introduced more new fish in an effort to save them from nearby waters succumbing to drought.

Below: Steve Carpenter holds native pondweed, an important fish habitat common in the early 1900s and almost lost by 1980 that is now making a comeback. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

By the time the Eurasian watermilfoil – a cousin to the native milfoil plant, but more aggressive – found its way to Mendota on boats that had shared waters with cargo ships in the Great Lakes, conditions were ideal for its takeover. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the interloper thrived. “The public hated it,” says Carpenter, “but the fish made the real sacrifice.” Because of the plant’s ability to reach the top of murky water and then grow laterally along the lake’s surface, Eurasian watermilfoil shaded the lake beds below, and Mendota’s native plants, which had provided a much better habitat for the fish, all but disappeared. During this time, the field of limnology was undergoing its own evolution. UW’s limnologists

Water Warrior: Steve Carpenter Considered one of the world’s most-cited ecologists and known in the scientific community for his creativity and enthusiasm, Steve Carpenter also holds one of the greatest honors for water-related work. In 2011, he received the Stockholm Water Prize, which identifies individuals and organizations that contribute to the conservation and protection of water resources. Carpenter, director of the Center for Limnology and the Stephen Alfred Forbes Professor of Zoology at UW-Madison, is an international authority on lakes and freshwater ecosystems. His groundbreaking research has illuminated how lake ecosystems are impacted by humans and the surrounding landscape, and his collaborations both within and outside of academia have led to policies and practices on managing lakes.



began to embrace models that rejected the idea of the lake as a microcosm (one unit of the environment), and instead saw it as part of a larger ecosystem. Hasler took this approach to Trout Lake Station, a UW research outpost in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, where scientists began to carry out “whole lake manipulations,” rather than just sampling and data-gathering, in order to better understand cause and effect at the ecosystem level.

The fish experiment of the century It was during the height of Mendota’s Eurasian watermilfoil invasion that Professor James Kitchell and then-visiting professor Steve Carpenter posited that a disruption in the lake’s natural food chain could be responsible for an explosion of algae. They suggested that the loss of large predator fish had allowed smaller fish to thrive. The growing population of smaller fish, in turn, consumed a greater number of the lake’s zooplankton. Which meant fewer zooplankton to consume their food source—algae—which meant a lake choked with the stinky stuff that swimmers and boaters love to hate.

Below: Jake Walsh (right), graduate researcher for the Center for Limnology, and undergraduate Carly Broshat use plankton nets to collect water samples from Lake Mendota. (Photo by Bryce Richter)


In an experiment that would influence fishery managers around the world, the Center for Limnology, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, launched the Biomanipulation Project in 1987. Mendota was stocked with walleye and northern perch and new fishing regulations were enforced to ensure their protection.

The program was wildly successful. The large fish thrived. The algae blooms and invasive plants diminished. Even many of the native plants made a comeback. For two decades, Carpenter says, “it produced the single greatest improvement in Lake Mendota’s water clarity.” That is, until 2009, when undergraduate students, collecting samples along with professor of zoology Jake Vander Zanden, made a startling discovery. Spiny water fleas, an invasive zooplankton previously believed to be suited only to cooler lakes, had turned up in their nets.

New invaders signal a murky future These crustaceous zooplankton, inedible to small fish because of the spine hanging off their tail, had begun to devour the lake’s Daphnia pulicaria, a native species of zooplankton that feasted on algae. By 2014, just five years after the discovery, the Daphnia pulicaria had been so diminished by the spiny water flea that their numbers failed to keep the algae in check. “Daphnia were these unsung heroes of water quality,” says doctoral student Jake Walsh, whose thesis examines the spiny water flea invasion. “They gave us three feet of extra water visibility when they were abundant.” A recent study published by Walsh estimates the damages caused by the invader at between $87 and $163 million – with no end in sight.

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

#MendotaMemories on Instagram and Twitter







“The spinys are still in control,” says Carpenter. “It’s going to take some catastrophe for them to disappear.” Adding to Mendota’s woes, in 2015 students in Vander Zanden’s course discovered Zebra mussels, another Eurasian traveler hailing from the Great Lakes. These new challenges demand new solutions, some behavioral (such as cleaning boats from lake to lake) and some research-driven (for example, identifying a natural predator for the invasive species). Other challenges, such as the general warming of Mendota’s waters, present even more inscrutable outcomes. This is where the LTER project lends a hand, Stanley says. “No one can predict the future, but long-term data allow us to make predictive models that help the community make informed decisions.”








And one of those decisions, everyone agrees, will have to be about land use management. “Agriculture is the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Carpenter says. “As a society, we have to do something about phosphorus runoff and manure.” To that end, he points to a handful of innovative programs, including manure processing sites and the Yahara Pride Program, in which farmers work together to keep runoff out of the watershed. One thing is for certain: solutions arrive from the same tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration, community partnerships, and public engagement that mark limnology’s first 100 years. After all, as Carpenter says, “solving the problem begins with caring about the lake.” — Story by Masarah Van Eyck

For more about how the Center for Limnology is partnering with farmers in the watershed through The Yahara Pride Project, watch “Yahara Watershed: A Place of Change,” airing early this fall on wpt.org.


PRIME TIME Melanie Matchett Wood, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics who specializes in number theory and algebraic geometry, has made exciting discoveries, fostered collaboration and garnered prestigious awards, such as the Packard Fellowship in 2015. Please explain the work you do. My job at UW-Madison involves research, teaching and outreach. In my research, I find solutions to math problems that no one else knows the answers to. These problems involve things like prime numbers (numbers like 2,3,5,7 whose only factors are 1 and themselves) and also different kinds of shapes and spaces. My work is basic science in that it helps us understand fundamental mathematical structures. These structures underlie many different things in our world, from how particles move in physics to the encryption that keeps all our digital data safe. I teach undergraduates and graduate students in courses, as well as mentor them in doing their own mathematics research. I am the assistant director of the Wisconsin Mathematics, Engineering and Science Talent Search, which is a program for high school students across the state of Wisconsin. Tell us about your recent breakthroughs. The bell curve is ubiquitous in all kinds of science. It turns out that this is not due to laws of nature as much as it a law of mathematics called the Central

Limit Theorem — a mathematical result that says for any different kind of inputs, certain averages always come out shaped like a bell curve. This phenomenon is called universality, and it basically means no matter the input, the output will be the same. That is quite a powerful thing to know when you want to be able to predict outputs! One of my recent breakthroughs was to discover and prove a universality theorem for certain kind of symmetries. This says that no matter how certain objects are made, they will always have symmetries distributed in a kind of “symmetry bell curve.” Studying symmetries is one of the most central themes of mathematics, and so this has far and unexpected connections to everything from factoring integers to the statistical physics of avalanches. What keeps you going in your work? Of course, it is always exciting to have a big breakthrough, but those often take years of work. Along the way, I enjoy working with other mathematicians and students on research. — Story by Katie Vaughn



L&S Annual Review 2015-2016


The “Best Music Book of 2015” reveals the powerful role music plays among veterans of the Vietnam War We’ve all seen the movie scenes – soldiers running through the jungle or helicopters descending while a blasting rock song defines the time and place distinctly as the Vietnam War. And while Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix and other icons of the 1960s certainly were significant, their songs aren’t the only ones that have left deep impressions on the men and women who fought in the war. Craig Werner and Doug Bradley, authors of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, maintain that the songs that most evoke the war are less political and more personal, such as “My Girl, or “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” “Anything about going home,” Werner says. Werner, a professor and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies, and Bradley, a Vietnam veteran and communications professional, have co-taught a course at UW-Madison called The Vietnam Era: Music, Media and Mayhem for several years. The two joined forces for the book, interviewing roughly 300 veterans about their experiences in Vietnam, specifically the music that accompanied them. They quickly dismissed the idea of compiling a “top 20” list of songs, and instead created a multifaceted exploration of how soldiers used music during the war, with about 30 veterans also contributing first-person reflections.

the country and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, among other venues, they’ve played music, shared thoughts and started conversations. “Music unlocked memories for a lot of vets who hadn’t talked about it,” Werner says. It helps, of course, that the music of the Vietnam era is just so good. “I think that was the best music that ever existed,” Werner says. “The lines between music forms were much more permeable.” Rock, soul, country – the genres influenced one another. And audiences listened collectively. “Music was a bigger deal back then,” Werner says. “Music was public then.” Today, soldiers often wear headphones and listen to songs they’ve chosen for their iTunes account. “In Vietnam, it was a much more shared experience,” he says.

Read an excerpt from We Gotta Get Out of this Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War at go.wisc.edu/werner.

What hasn’t changed, Werner says, is the power music holds to evoke memories, and also to heal. “Music isn’t entertainment,” he says. “It’s a way of tapping into the deepest parts of our humanity.” — Story by Katie Vaughn

“Our goal was to get ourselves out of the way and let the vets carry it,” says Werner. Rolling Stone called We Gotta Get Out of This Place the best music book of 2015, but what’s even more meaningful to the authors is the impact the topic has had with veterans. In presentations at UW-Madison, colleges around



FIGs program deepens learning for first-year students

Freshman Nicki Truby will never forget the 10-day winterbreak trip she took to Ecuador this year, along with leader Catherine Woodward (a botany faculty associate) and other freshman members of a First-Year Interest Group called Tropical Ecology and Conservation.



e were studying the eating habits of woolly monkeys,” Truby recalls. “That was complicated. Monkeys are on the move and you have to move with them. We relied on compasses and marking tape to keep from getting lost in the jungle. There was no cell coverage. The research station was very isolated.”

A FIG is a group of about 20 freshman students who register for the same three classes linked by a common theme. They are led by instructors in seminar courses that help students discover interdisciplinary linkages during the course of a semester. The idea is to deepen the learning experience. It also turns out to be a lot of fun, says Truby. “We studied together, we got dinner after tests, we talked about how the things we were learning intermingled with one another,” she says. “The cohort is just awesome for making friends and launching your UW experience.”

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

Woodward’s FIG includes the ecology seminar – Rainforests and Coral Reefs – plus General Chemistry and one of four Spanish classes. During winter break, the group takes an optional trip to Ecuador where students put their knowledge to work on focused research projects in the Amazon rain forest. Truby said the experience taught her a lot about how tropical ecology research works — including things outside the realm of science. “I used my Spanish a lot because our guide spoke only Spanish,” she says. “It’s amazing to take what

we learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world.” Students and faculty say the FIG concept, which began in 2001 and is administered by the College of Letters & Science, connects freshmen socially and academically and helps bring the university’s large scale down to a more personal level.

Logan March, Carly Wilson and Liam Olson in Ecuador’s Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve. (Courtesy of Logan March)

“Many freshmen end up in classes with hundreds of students,” Woodward says. “It’s hard for professors to have meaningful relationships at that stage, when there are so many students. Here, the freshmen get individual attention.”

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Clockwise from top left: Catherine Woodward and Liam Olson hike through Ecuador’s Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve. (Photo by Logan March) Students and instructors enjoy a meal made with ingredients they grew themselves for the Food Cultures of Italy FIG. (Courtesy of Nathan Phelps) FIGs director Nathan Phelps in the program’s office. (Photo by Sarah Morton) Adeena Guyton (left) and Alexandria Lazenby participate in a small discussion group for the spring 2016 Ecology of Human Happiness FIG. (Photo by Sarah Morton)

This spring, US News & World Report cited UW-

Madison’s FIGs program as one of 20 “stellar examples” of learning communities at colleges and universities across the country. The relationships built in FIGs are often lasting. A few years ago, freshmen in Harry Brighouse’s Children, Marriage and Families FIG asked the philosophy professor to create a follow-up class they could take as a group of juniors. Brighouse developed the class, called Love, Sex and Friendship. “It’s great seeing how their writing and thinking is improved as juniors. Some came into the FIG minimally connected, and now are fully excited,” Brighouse says. FIGs, Brighouse says, shape better students and stronger teachers. “They get to know a small group of fellow students, not through the dorms or parties or student orgs, but because they are reading and discussing the same academic material,” he says.


When Brighouse began teaching a FIG in 2007, he found that it also challenged him as a teacher. “I’m a better teacher at all levels. It’s driven by seeing how inadequate I was with that first group of FIG students,” he says. “Because of that, I think in terms of how much the students learn and not how much I teach.” Students have seen FIGs influence their academic careers at UW-Madison and beyond. Colin Higgins enrolled in English Professor Lynn Keller’s FIG seminar Nature and Culture: How Humans Interact with the Natural Environment in 2011, thinking he wanted to be an ecologist. But reading an essay by William Cronon, a professor of history, geography and environmental studies, titled “The Trouble with Wilderness,” changed that. “It fundamentally redefined my path and began my interest in geography,” says Higgins. “The depth of experience, covering deep discussions

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

We form a community of learners and friends where the relationship doesn’t end when you walk out of the lecture hall.

— Catherine Woodward

of problems in introductory ecology as well as an introduction to 20th-century environmental thought allowed me to see the nuance and complexity … of many socio-economic issues.” In fact, Higgins – who graduated last May with a triple major with comprehensive honors in history, geography and environmental science – referenced two essays he read in that FIG during his 2015 interview as a candidate for a coveted Rhodes Scholarship, which he won. Woodward often forwards job opportunities, writes letters of recommendation, and goes to movies and lectures with former students. “We form a community of learners and friends where the relationship doesn’t end when you walk out of the lecture hall,” she says. — Story by Dennis Chaptman Page background: Dane McKittrick and Joe Lehrmann on the FIGs Ecuador trip. (Photo by Logan March)



GARAGE PHYSICS: A makerspace for undergraduate brainstorms

To physics professor Duncan Carlsmith, a student’s proposal to make a four-rotor helicopter drone was fine fodder for what he calls “garage physics.” But why stop at a quadcopter, he asked the UW-Madison undergraduate. Make one that is mindcontrolled, so a person with severe movement impairment could think: “Go open the fridge and show me what’s inside,” and that would actually happen. And, oh yes – round up some more undergrads, have them build it in one semester and with the help of undergrad business students, draft a business plan: Would anybody want to buy such a brilliant drone? Of course there were a few challenges, but that’s really the point, says Carlsmith, who runs Garage Physics, a makerspace in the bowels of Sterling Hall. “Just try something. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Make it fun, and low cost.” Although the mind-controlled quadcopter project did not result in a spinoff company, two physics student collaborators in Copenhagen began developing the copter for use finding some of the 40 million land mines strewn around old battlefields.

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Garage Physics is located in the room where, in the 1940s, Professor Ray Herb invented a high voltage ion beam accelerator used by the Manhattan Project to invent the atomic bomb. That accelerator supported a successful spinoff: 90 employees at National Electrostatics Corporation in Middleton, Wisconsin, make the latest versions of Herb’s device.

The Garage Physics program was inspired by one who got away, says Carlsmith, who teaches modern physics, including topics like relativity and quantum theory. “I had an engineering student who was interested in all kinds of things. We chatted about modeling the human body and a year later, he was at Sector67 (another Madison makerspace) using a 3-D printer to prototype low-cost prosthetic hands for people in Third World countries.” Eric Ronning, the undergrad in question, is now running his third venture, with support from UW– Madison’s Discovery to Product program. “Eric was my inspiration,” Carlsmith says. “I wanted a place for project-oriented learning, for off-thewall ideas that are not part of the usual professor’s interests. I vowed there would be a home for the next creative, motivated kid.” Garage Physics supports independent research and entrepreneurial student research and development, with about a dozen undergraduates active at any one time. One of them, Josh Cherek of Spencer, Wisconsin, is taking advantage of the space’s computers to develop a unique type of search engine. “I’ve been making

They begin to realize, ‘I am actually a real person with my own unique talents.’ Many past students from the Garage are flying. They will graduate and do great things. — Duncan Carlsmith, Professor of Physics

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

things as far back as I can remember,” he says. “In high school, I got a used server and was setting up websites. But coming to college, you don’t have a workspace, and the Garage is a really cool opportunity to have one.” The Garage has also housed a sustainability class, taught with collaborators Giri Venkataramanan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Erica Halverson, associate professor of education. Projects included a computercontrolled countertop hydroponic greenhouse that could grow lettuce in a couple of weeks, and a gray-water recycling system to purify shower water and send it to the toilet (after it was sterile enough for a dog to drink). As a ringmaster of this undergraduate creativity, Carlsmith relishes his role as brainstormer. Could the swarm of X-rays released when Scotch tape is pulled off a surface in a vacuum allow a soldier to X-ray a wound in the field? Whether the idea would work is secondary, Carlsmith explains. “Working on these ideas, a physics student could learn about X-rays and vacuum


pumps, and simultaneously about the market and entrepreneurship. Maybe he or she could run with it, or maybe it’s just something to try out as an undergrad.” Visualizing and creating a radical high-tech product can change a student’s life, Carlsmith says. “They begin to realize, ‘I am actually a real person with my own unique talents.’ Many past students from the Garage are flying. They will graduate and do great things.” And then Carlsmith returns to what he does best: spinning a recent advance in technology into fun, achievable projects for motivated undergrads. “Google wants to give Wi-Fi access to everybody, based on balloons. We’ve already launched two high-altitude balloons, looking for cosmic rays using smartphones … There are a lot of applications. Two years ago, scientists found bacteria living in the upper atmosphere. Where are they coming from? You could get into all kinds of cool science.”

Sophomore Brett Paris and junior Jonah Pelfrey work on a prototype sensor for the Badger Hyperloop project. In spring 2016, the UWMadison team won third place overall in a worldwide competition to design a pod for the futuristic mass transit concept proposed by SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk. (Photo by Sarah Morton)

To follow the adventures of the Badgerloop students, check out facebook.com/ BadgerLoopTeam or @badger_loop on Twitter.


— Story by David Tenenbaum


THE LONG VIEW History sheds light on racial injustice How can you solve a problem if you don’t understand its roots? Can you be part of a solution when you don’t know the whole story? When the concern is as complex and urgent as the racial justice issues making headlines locally and nationwide, say Steve Kantrowitz and the Rev. Alex Gee, Jr., you need an approach that provides context and deepens awareness.

Professor Steve Kantrowitz (left) and the Rev. Alex Gee, Jr. discuss the future of their Black History for a New Day course at Fountain of Life Church in Madison. (Photo by Sarah Morton)


Kantrowitz is a professor of history and faculty affiliate in American Indian Studies and AfroAmerican Studies. Gee is a UW-Madison graduate (BA'85, Afro-American Studies) and the senior pastor at Fountain of Life Covenant Church in Madison. The two met a few years back as speakers on a panel and stayed in touch. As events unfolded across the country and in Madison, they decided to collaborate on a community course designed to unpack the

roots of racism, “Black History for a New Day: Allies for a Stronger Madison.” The students were primarily white Madison-area residents who had expressed interest in working toward racial justice. Gee and Kantrowitz believed the participants could best serve as “allies” to the cause if they had knowledge about the African American experience. Armed with more context and understanding, they could educate and advocate in their own circles. “We wanted to help people deepen their understanding of the African American past, the way it has shaped American history and life more generally, and the ways it shapes how we live with each other today,” Kantrowitz says. “If people knew the gamut of history, they’d have ‘aha’ moments,” says Gee.

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

Our purpose is to understand how the African-American experience has shaped the world we all live in, and how allies can find roles supporting racial justice today. Rooting ourselves in our history, and understanding how we got here, will help us move forward together to make a better world.

— Course desciption for Black History for a New Day

“We’re empowering people to be part of the solution.” Each Tuesday evening over eight weeks in February and March, 150 participants congregated at Fountain of Life a few miles south of campus. Kantrowitz taught four weeks of history, and the other four sessions focused on anti-racist theory and practice and were led by Gee and community activists. “Both the history piece that I did and the antiracism piece were about structures rather than intent,” Kantrowitz says. “It’s about how the world worked and works.” A truth that arose quickly – and is reflected in the course evaluations – was despite how eager the participants were to dismantle racist systems, they lacked knowledge about what had happened in the past. An older man told Gee, “I know I didn’t learn about your history [in school], but I also didn’t learn my history.” And a woman had an epiphany after comparing today’s racial disparities with slavery, Jim Crow laws and other historic injustices. “She said, ‘It seems like we keep doing the same thing but calling it something different,’” Gee recalls. The dichotomy reinforced for both Kantrowitz and Gee the importance of sharing this history.


And it illustrated an important disconnect that can contribute to racial tensions today. “Many African Americans assume whites know – and don’t care,” Gee says. Instructors warned students to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Creating an environment of openness was crucial, say both Kantrowitz and Gee. “It was never finger-pointing,” Gee says of the tone of the course. “But what was finger-pointed was the system and obliviousness to it.” “This crowd was so receptive and engaged and working at it,” Kantrowitz adds. Kantrowitz and Gee plan to offer the course again, perhaps broadening it to other audiences. And both say they appreciated the importance of forming beyond-campus partnerships to create broad impacts. Gee says it’s interesting that history has proven to be an essential element in shedding light on some of today’s most pervasive issues – and encourages taking a long view when working toward change. “We look for such quick fixes,” he says. “The system we’re trying to deconstruct wasn’t built overnight.” — Story by Katie Vaughn


Johannes Wallmann is building a jazz studies program that connects musicians and advances the genre



hile waiting for his piano lesson at a community college on Canada’s Vancouver Island, a 13-year-old Johannes Wallmann watched as an older student turned on a boom box to share a song with a friend. “The music sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard,” he recalls. Wallmann worked up the nerve to ask who the artist was, and the answer – Miles Davis – changed the course of his life. The next day, he asked his mother to drive him to a music store. He picked out a few CDs and soon returned for more. He began studying jazz, which has since led to him performing, recording, studying, teaching and, most recently, crafting


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

and directing a jazz studies program at UWMadison's Mead Witter School of Music. When Wallmann arrived on campus in fall 2012, the School of Music had incredible talent in professors Richard Davis, who retired this past spring, and Les Thimmig, as well as several classes and ensembles devoted to the genre. But it lacked an official, comprehensive jazz program, something the school – and philanthropist John Peterson, who provided an endowment gift to name the John and Carolyn Peterson Fund in Jazz Performance – felt was essential. Armed with experience building a jazz studies degree at California State University East Bay, and prior to that teaching at New York University

and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Wallmann began by building upon what already existed here. He formed several new jazz ensembles, added courses and hired several new instructors. The program now offers two undergraduate degrees in jazz studies, as well as graduate coursework in jazz improvisation, history and composition and arranging. “Our approach was to start small, build some things and do them well,” he says, “to build a jazz studies degree that incorporates best practices.” School of Music Director Susan Cook says Wallmann has taken important steps that advance the school.

Johannes Wallmann conducts the UW-Madison Jazz Orchestra during a concert at Union South. (Photo by Sarah Morton)

ls.wisc.edu 25

“Expanding our presence in the broad field of jazz performance is central to the mission of the School of Music,” she says. “Johannes has provided critical new energy to our jazz performance and jazz studies curricula. He’s an innovative pedagogue and an internationally acclaimed jazz pianist, ensemble leader and composer.” An ability to forge connections has been an important component of Wallmann’s work. He says it’s an extension of the collaborative nature of playing jazz. Since moving to Madison, he’s performed at venues across the city and strengthened ties between the university and the broader jazz community.

Tune into the sounds coming out of The Mead Witter School of Music! Check out @UW-MadisonSOM on SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/uwmadisonsom

A project with special significance for Wallmann is the UW High School Honors Jazz Band, made up of top jazz students from Madison-area high schools who come together each year for master classes, rehearsals with the UW Jazz Orchestra and a grant-funded guest musician, and a concert. The group is exactly what Wallmann loved as a student. While he performed with his middle and high school jazz bands in rural Canada, he also sought out summer band camps similar to

UW's Summer Music Clinic to gain additional experience and meet young musicians as passionate about jazz as he was. “The biggest thing I’m trying to do with it is create community,” he says of the band. Wallmann has found his own jazz community in Madison, performing with small groups, a brassfocused ensemble and a 16-piece big band, and always honing his sound. “I call it modern acoustic jazz,” he says, explaining that his style is “very much grounded in the jazz of the 1960s,” of Davis in particular, but moves it into a more modern era. This fall brings the release of Wallmann’s “Love Wins Project.” Featuring electronic and spokenword elements woven into jazz, it’s a “musical exploration of marriage equality." Like the jazz studies program he’s building, the album is one more way Wallmann is using the power of music to unite and push forward. “Jazz is almost always very collaborative,” he says. “We’re always having a musical conversation.” — Story by Katie Vaughn

GIVING IN CONCERT A $25 million transformational gift from the Mead Witter Foundation, announced last fall, provides major funding for the School of Music’s new performance building, slated to begin construction at University Avenue and Lake Street late this year. The gift allows the facility to be built in a single phase. It also complements Pamela and George Hamel’s lead gift for the building, which will be named the Hamel Music Center and house a concert hall to be called the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. The Collins Recital Hall will be named after longtime music supporters Paul and Carol Collins. The School of Music will be renamed The Mead Witter School of Music in honor of the foundation, a private philanthropic organization headquartered in Wisconsin Rapids.


“The ability to construct the entire music center at once is an incredible gift to our students,” says Susan Cook, director of The Mead Witter School of Music. “These are spaces where our undergraduates will perform their capstone projects; where our graduate students will do their final doctorate recitals; where our largest student ensembles will perform; and where we will hold chamber recitals, lecture recitals and public events. It will be a magnet for faculty, students and the public for generations.” Promininent naming opportunities are still available. Contact Jon Sorenson at jon.sorenson@supportuw.org for details.

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

SERVING THE NATION Maria Cancian, a professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs and School of Social Work and former director of the Institute for Research on Poverty, was tapped by President Obama in 2014 to join the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She reflects on her time as deputy assistant secretary for policy before returning to UW-Madison this fall. Describe your role in Washington, D.C. The Administration for Children and Families is responsible for a vast array of programs – everything from child welfare services to child care and HeadStart to refugee resettlement and much more. My primary responsibilities related to leading cross-program coordination efforts, and what we call “interoperability” – aligning policies to make it easier for families to get what they need. I also focused on coordinating ACF’s care for unaccompanied children – thousands of children arriving each month from Central America, without their parents. What were some of the biggest challenges? What do you consider the highlights?

What was it like working for the Obama Administration?

How did your work at UW-Madison prepare you for this role? The Wisconsin Idea is not just an empty slogan. For me, UW-Madison, the Institute for Research on Poverty, the La Follette School and the School of Social Work provided the resources and encouragement to apply rigorous academic analysis to critical social policy issues, with a focus on developing and evaluating real-world solutions. What’s next for you? I am looking forward to returning to my teaching and research. I thought my time in D.C. might make me cynical. To the contrary, I now understand more clearly the potential impact of the research and training we provide, and the importance of bringing the best efforts of a world-class research university to bear on the key challenges we face as a nation.


Public policymaking is a complex process in the best of circumstances. Most choices involve difficult trades-offs – providing too little support today can lead to bigger costs for families and society tomorrow, but current resources are limited. Making those difficult choices is even more challenging in a highly partisan environment. On the other hand, when you find a productive path forward, when a program or policy that affects hundreds of thousands, or millions, of children and families is improved, it is very satisfying.

data, made this a particularly exciting time to be in Washington.

— Story by Katie Vaughn

It was an honor to serve in the federal government, and especially to be part of the Obama administration. The focus on equity and improving opportunities for success, and on evidence-based policy-making and the use of



SUSTAINED FOCUS: Rhodes Scholar Colin Higgins Colin Higgins came to UW-Madison looking for conservation and left a geographer. The triple major—who graduated in May with comprehensive honors in environmental studies, geography and history—also ended his undergraduate career as the recipient of a distinguished honor: a Rhodes scholarship for two to three years of study at Oxford University in England. During his time at UW, Higgins has encouraged engagement in environmental and sustainability issues both on and off campus. He founded and chaired the Associated Students of Madison Sustainability Committee; as student leader of the Office of Sustainability, he ran the

student Sustainability Council and advised on campus sustainability research, education and operations. He has also conducted independent research on the valuation of ecosystem services such as biodiversity. The Rhodes Scholarship isn’t the first recognition of Higgins’ achievements. In 2014, he received a Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholarship for outstanding potential and a commitment to pursuing environmental careers. Higgins is currently a graduate student in the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs and will complete an accelerated Master of Public Affairs degree in the spring. Through the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to seek philosophical and practical solutions to environmental governance issues by pursuing an MPhil in Geography and the Environment, supervised by Oxford professor Jamie Lorimer. Higgins laid the foundation for this work last summer, conducting fieldwork in Oxford on biodiversity offsetting, the practice of using a market-based system to ensure no net loss of nature due to development. He plans to get a doctorate in geography and pursue a career bridging research and policy. Julie Stubbs, director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Awards, says he made the most of his undergraduate experience at UW, specifically with regard to his leadership and depth of independent research. And Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf is encouraged to see the scholarship go to a Wisconsinite like Higgins, who hails from Middleton. “As the state’s flagship university, nurturing homegrown talent is one of our greatest privileges,” she says. — Adapted from a story by Susannah Brooks


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016


The year the Rhodes Scholaship was founded


Up to this many Rhodes scholarships awarded each year nationwide


Total previous Rhodes Scholars from UW-Madison

CHANGE AGENT: Truman Scholar Deshawn McKinney Whether working toward social justice and racial equity on the ground at UW-Madison or viewing on-campus activism from a global perspective, English and creative writing major (and activist and artist) Deshawn McKinney has been committed to making positive change happen. “All of the work I put in this year has revolved around asking myself one question: ‘What is the capacity for this to make real, sustainable change?’” he says. This past spring, McKinney, then a junior studying abroad in Tokyo, was selected to receive the prestigious national Truman Scholarship providing $30,000 toward graduate school. A Milwaukee native, McKinney has been a vocal leader for the Black Lives Matter movement on campus. He is also a scholar in the PEOPLE program, which seeks to increase college enrollment and graduation rates among Wisconsin students of color, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and first-generation college attendees. Furthermore, he is a member of the groundbreaking First Wave learning community, the first university


program in the country centered on urban arts, spoken word and hip-hop culture. Even during his time in Asia, McKinney stayed engaged in the Black Lives Matter movement. This involvement, coupled by the Truman Scholarship, which recognizes and supports the next generation of public service leaders, has sparked new ideas about his future. “The movement itself has completely shifted my life, or activated me, as it has done for countless others,” he says. “I never pictured myself doing this kind of work, I never considered a career in public service or venturing into politics, but all of those are viable options now.” For English professor and poet Amy Quan Barry, McKinney receiving the Truman Scholarship is well-deserved and perhaps not unexpected. “[McKinney] is easily, hands down, the best undergraduate thinker I’ve ever encountered,” she says. — Adapted from a story by Will Hoverman


The year the Truman Scholarship began


The approximate number of Truman Scholarships awarded annually nationwide


Total past Truman Scholarships awarded to UW-Madison students

 @EnglishUW: Proud of @UWMadison creative writing student @_NWArsenal, who won a prestigious @TrumanApp! @UWMadisonAwards: Congratulations to Colin Higgins @UWLaFollette for being named a Rhodes Scholar!


Students answer:

"WHY THE LIBERAL ARTS?" Excerpts from three outstanding L&S student submissions to the UW-System's 11th annual Liberal Arts Essay Contest reveal unique insights about the value and importance of a diverse and varied education.

The storytelling scientist

Bill Mulligan, senior, Biochemistry (L&S), First Place “Humans are social beings and our ability to relate to and connect with one another is our most valuable skill. Drawing upon past interactions and experiences, we can make sense of the world and find creative ways to act within it. The strength of a liberal arts education is not that it is training for the jobs currently in demand today, but instead teaches students to interact with and continually learn from the people and world surrounding us, preparing us to tackle jobs today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our careers. Beginning college, I knew where I could apply my calculus and biology classes as a scientist, but wondered what the application of my Scandinavian Tales and Ballads course would be. On the first day of class, we went around the room and stated our majors.


Afterward, our professor said how excited he was to have such a variety of majors in the class because each background would bring a different and unique perspective to the table. As the extension of that, he said his goal for the class was not to make everyone a Scandinavian Studies Ph.D., as that would flood the academic market. Instead studying these tales and ballads would help us become better computer scientists, marketers or whatever passion we were pursuing. Instead of seeing a diversity of backgrounds as a hindrance, he saw it as an advantage because each class member could contribute a separate source of value to the whole.�

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

L&S student snapshot


15,015 Undergraduates 4,160 Graduate students Total: 19,175

UW's top 5 majors are in L&S Value of a liberal arts education

Dad says, "get a job!"

“I found that setting aside time to practice an instrument required discipline and selfmotivation. Making sure I knew my part in choir and listening to those around me to achieve the best sound required effective teamwork skills.

“The importance of a multi-faceted personal development, with elements of liberal education, life experience and specific training, was made clear during my recent Macroeconomics 102 class. I learned about structural unemployment (unemployment due to industrial reorganization) and how the lack of liberal education negatively impacts individuals, families and the economy.

Yasha Hoffman, sophomore, Russian and Music Composition, Honorable Mention

Befriending and convincing performers to play my pieces required top-notch communication. Building creative models of solo flute pieces in my composition course taught me how to extrapolate data from sets and think outside the box. Picking a piano piece to arrange for orchestra and meticulously proofreading each part showed me that the more time and effort I put into a project, the more pride I’d take in the final result. Even if I don’t ultimately become a composer, I know I’ll approach my work creatively from an interdisciplinary standpoint, communicate effectively with those around me and be able to find and succeed at a job I truly enjoy, even if it doesn’t exist yet. My life’s path will ascend, descend and meander back and forth. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I can’t wait for the ride ahead.”

Jennifer Morris, freshman, Psychology and Neurobiology

In addition to this eye-opening Economics class in my first semester, I studied Environmental Change Literature, Japanese, Psychology and Integrated Learning Seminar. These courses, although unrelated, helped me zero in on my interests, passions and career path.

Economics Biology Political Science Psychology Communication Arts

Did you know? The Biology major is shared by L&S and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). A biochemistry major can be completed in either L&S or CALS. Information sourced from the 2015-16 UW-Madison Data Digest.

I am grateful for such liberal arts educational opportunities, but this education alone is not enough. In today’s world, specific training is now and will always be needed, as well as a broad range of life experience. I do not agree with the argument that liberal arts education is more or less necessary than specific training – based on my experience and that of my mentors, it is clear that successful people strive for and achieve a successful balance between liberal education, training and experience in life.”

For more information on the contest or to read the essays in full, visit wisconsin.edu/liberal-education/essay-scholarship/. ls.wisc.edu



Fossil trove adds a new limb to human family tree Working in a cave complex deep beneath South

Africa’s Malmani dolomites, an international team of scientists has brought to light an unprecedented trove of hominin fossils – more than 1,500 wellpreserved bones and teeth – representing the largest, most complete set of such remains found to date in Africa. The discovery of the fossils, cached in a barely accessible chamber in a subterranean labyrinth not far from Johannesburg, adds a new branch to the human family tree, a creature dubbed Homo naledi.

UW-Madison paleoanthropologist John Hawks holds a resin model of the skull of Homo naledi. Homo naledi had a face, including a smile, that was likely more human than apelike. (Photo by Jeff Miller, UW-Madison)


The remains, scientists believe, could only have been deliberately interred. So far, parts of at least fifteen skeletons representing individuals of all ages have been found and the researchers believe many more fossils remain in the chamber. It is part of a complex of limestone caves near what is called “The Cradle of Humankind,” a World Heritage Site in Gauteng province well known for critical

paleoanthropological discoveries of early humans, including the 1947 discovery of 2.3 million-year-old Australopithecus africanus. “We have a new species of Homo, with all of its interesting characteristics,” says John Hawks, a UW-Madison paleoanthropologist and one of the leaders of a team that painstakingly retrieved the fossils under excruciatingly cramped and difficult conditions. “We now have the biggest discovery in Africa for hominins.” The find was reported on Sept. 10, 2015 with the publication of two papers in the open access journal eLife by a group led by paleoanthropologist Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand. With a small head and brain, hunched shoulders, powerful hands and thin limbs, Homo naledi was built for long-distance walking, says Hawks, an expert on early humans. Fully grown, it stood

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

about five feet tall, was broad chested, walked upright and had a face, including a smile that was probably more human than apelike. Powerful hands imply it was also a climber. “We know about every part of the anatomy, and they are not at all like humans,” notes Hawks, who co-directed the analysis of the fossils. “We couldn’t match them to anything that exists. It is clearly a new species.” The fossils have yet to be dated. The unmineralized condition of the bones and the geology of the cave have prevented an accurate dating, says Hawks. “They could have been there 2 million years ago or 100,000 years ago, possibly coexisting with modern humans. We don’t yet have a date, but we’re attempting it in every way we can.” “Naledi” means star in the Sesotho language and is a reference to the Rising Star cave system that includes the chamber, known as the Dinaledi Chamber, where the fossils were found. The cave, according to Hawks, was likely more accessible to Homo naledi than it is today for modern humans. Geochemical tests, however, show that the cave was never open to the surface, raising intriguing questions about the behavior and technologies available to the creatures. Hawks, Berger and their colleagues believe the chamber was something like a repository. “It seems probable that a group of hominins was returning to this place over a period of time and depositing bodies,” Hawks explains, adding that the supposition that Homo naledi was interring its dead is akin to discovering similar behavior in chimpanzees. “It would be that surprising.” The way the bodies are arranged and their completeness suggests they were carried to the cave intact. “The bodies were not intentionally covered and we’re not talking about a religious ceremony, but something that was repeated and repeated in the same place. They clearly learned to do this and did it as a group over time. That’s cultural. Only humans and close relatives like Neandertals do anything like this.” So far, no other organic


materials or evidence of fire have been found in the cave complex. Dating the fossils remains a key problem to solve, says Hawks. “We depend on the geology to help us date things, and here the geology isn’t much like other caves in South Africa. And the fossils don’t have anything within them that we can date. It’s a problem for us.” One hope, he says, is finding the remains of an animal that may have been a contemporary of Homo naledi. The fossils are embedded in a matrix of soft sediment and there are layers that remain unexcavated. According to Hawks, years of work remain at the site, to document and analyze all of the materials excavated from the Dinaledi Chamber. Plans, he says, include bringing many new technologies to bear on analyzing the fossils to help determine diet, rate of aging and where on the landscape the creatures may have been from. The project to excavate the fossils was supported by the National Geographic Society, the South African National Research Foundation, the Gauteng Provincial Government. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation also provided support, as did the Texas A&M College of Liberal Arts Seed Grant Program. — Adapted from a story by Terry Devitt

Rewarding Excellence Every year, universities around the world extend lucrative offers to L&S faculty, hoping to lure them away from UW-Madison. To help keep the best and brightest right here, the Office of the Provost created the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships, which have been generously supported by the L&S Board of Visitors. The five-year professorship provides a fixed allocation of flexible funds, and professors carry the title for the duration of their careers at UW-Madison. John Hawks holds a VDAP supported by L&S board members Nancy Borghesi (B.A.’69, Economics) and her husband David Borghesi (BBA’70, Accounting).


SPOTLIGHT ON ELECTIONS The Elections Research Center analyzes our political process

As a teenager, Barry Burden often found himself watching the nightly news, especially at election time. He went on as a college student to work on political campaigns, but found he liked studying elections more than taking a side in the debate. Now, as a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he is helping to create a worldclass center for those who, like him, are fascinated by the electoral process and what it reveals about our society and culture. “Elections are the hallmark of our democratic system,” Burden says. The Elections Research Center, founded by Burden and his colleagues in 2015, fosters cutting-edge academic analysis of national and state elections. Burden hopes it will draw faculty and students from across campus to partner on research projects and discuss new ideas. Financial support to recruit and train graduate students is one of the center’s top priorities. In this first presidential election cycle since the founding of the center, the race has been fun to watch and study, Burden says. At the Iowa primaries, he was able to see the candidates up close and observe how events unfolded. While

Burden says the most surprising parts of this election so far have been how few Democratic candidates came forward and the success of nonpolitician Donald Trump, every election is different and unexpected in its own way. It’s also rewarding to work with students on an academic subject that is constantly changing and affects their own daily lives.“It’s racing with current events,” Burden says. “We are part of the thing we are studying.” In December, following the elections, the ERC will host a full-day symposium, bringing together the best minds on campus and beyond to hash out the results. The tradition will continue after each midterm and presidential election. “Hopefully this event will provide an opportunity for faculty to share the explanatory power of their research with the public, as well as identify factors likely to be pivotal in subsequent elections,” Burden says. The Elections Research Center builds on a long tradition of election-related study within the political science department at UW-Madison, which is among the top five most popular undergraduate majors in the College of Letters & Science and has a strong graduate program.


It’s popular for a reason: Courses relate to how our country functions, which can be good training for almost any career in business, law or government. Burden’s favorite course to teach is Elections and Voting Behavior. The students grapple with why people vote certain ways, what can affect voter turnout and how factors like candidate characteristics and the current state


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of the economy affect voters’ choices. The result of elections reflects not just the attributes of the winner or his or her political party, but the United States society at that moment in time. “It’s a big, complicated country,” says Burden, “And that can be revealed on election day.” Students like Garrett Kurzweil, now a senior, seek Burden out for his expertise and style of teaching. “This is a chance to learn from someone who has devoted his life to this subject,” says Kurzweil, who has taken three of Burden’s courses and is doublemajoring in political science and real estate. Kurzweil plans to go to law school. Burden holds the Lyons Family Chair in Electoral Politics at UW-Madison. The professorship is named for Jeffrey and Susanne Lyons, who are financial and intellectual supporters of the

Elections Research Center. Lyons, who is a member of the board of visitors in the political science department and former president of Charles Schwab’s asset management business, graduated in 1978 from UW-Madison, intending to work on political polling. Life took his career in other directions, but he still describes himself as an “election junkie.”


“The Elections Research Center enables us to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty and graduate students, and to build a brand within the university,” Lyons says. “We want to shine a light on the great research being done.” By establishing a permanent center focused on U.S. elections, the department will maintain its reputation over the long term.

Start by following these UW-Madison political science experts and resources on Twitter::

— Story by Shannon Henry Kleiber

How do you cut through the campaign noise and find voices worth listening to?

Prof. Barry Burden: @BCBurden Prof. Rikhil Bhavnani: @RikhilB Prof. Katherine Cramer: @KathyJCramer Prof. Eleanor Neff Powell: @EllieNeffPowell

THE PASSIONS OF POLITICS The Elections Research Center isn’t the only new contribution to political thought on campus. This fall, Michelle Schwarze becomes the Jack Miller Center Assistant Professor of Political Science, thanks to a gift from the Jack Miller Center, a nonprofit based near Philadelphia that supports student access to American political thought and history. The center has supported other UW-Madison political science programs, including the American Democracy Forum and the Benjamin Franklin Initiative, where Schwarze has been a postdoctoral fellow since 2013. As a political theorist, Schwarze is interested in the history of political thought and focuses on the Scottish Enlightenment and other 18th century


texts, particularly the work of Adam Smith. She is also interested in the motivation for justice and the role of passions in political life.

Prof. Nils Ringe: @NilsRinge UW Political Science: @UWPoliSci Elections Research Center: @ElectionsCenter

Schwarze says the gift will be invaluable to the next steps in her career. “It provides me the time and support to develop my first book manuscript; to integrate my research into my courses and develop dynamic and engaging ways to reach both undergraduate and graduate students; and the opportunity to benefit from continuing conversations with visiting speakers to the American Democracy Forum on issues central to the principles and practice of American Democracy.”


MEETING OF THE MINDS John Dunne fosters cross-disciplinary connections that lead to revolutionary research

A few years back, John Dunne was part of a team studying the effect of compassion on the mind. The researchers asked a group of advanced Tibetan meditators to practice while having their brains scanned and then rank the quality of their meditation on a scale of one to 10. To the researchers’ surprise, the meditators — some of whom had logged more than 30,000 hours of practice — all gave their own efforts low marks. John Dunne (left) speaks with Mingyur Rinpoche, a visiting Tibetan monk. Dunne is the new Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, housed in the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures and the Religious Studies Program. This recently endowed position is supported by the Center for Healthy Minds. (Photo by Sarah Morton)


Dunne immediately recognized the problem: This group abided by a cultural norm of humility. Only an inexperienced meditator would describe himself as great. The researchers, Dunne explained, simply needed to reword their instructions. This wasn’t the first time Dunne, who has built his career working in the places where disciplines intersect, had served as a “cultural interpreter.” Over the years, he has become adept at helping

scientists look more deeply into the effect of spiritual practices on the body. As the new Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, Dunne focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, specifically where they coincide with cognitive science and psychology. In 2000, he began working with psychologist Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, a UW-Madison institution that

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

conducts scientific research to investigate what makes a healthy mind and ways to increase well-being. Cross-disciplinary collaborations between experts in the arts and humanities, physical and natural sciences and social sciences lead to groundbreaking explorations of the science of emotions, as well as kindness, resilience, compassion and more.

resources – say, a Buddhist tradition or a historical document – to add context to discussions.

While Dunne is interested in some major questions – What is the nature of consciousness? What is the nature of the mind? – he also appreciates being part of a team that conducts research to ultimately benefit people throughout the world.

“Often those kinds of questions are handled by a single discipline,” he says, adding that the involvement of several disciplines offers multiple perspectives, which enriches understanding of scientific results.

“Part of what drives me is an interest in practical benefits,” he says. And collaboration is key in both pursuits. “It’s the future of the humanities,” Dunne says. “It’s already very much a part of the sciences.” So how, exactly, does a humanist like Dunne collaborate with scientists? While he doesn’t physically run scans on research subjects, he can help scientists interpret data in different ways. Or he can bring additional

For instance, when predicting what happens when a person achieves mindfulness, it may be helpful to turn to Tibetan texts that describe the experience. Or look into the philosophical mechanisms involved in being aware of one’s emotions.

Dunne says he isn’t the only humanist who will be contributing expertise and experience to cognitive research at the Center for Healthy Minds. And he couldn’t be more enthusiastic about where that could lead. “The Center is a wonderful place to work,” he says. “The generosity of our supporters has been phenomenal. The future is very bright.” – Story by Katie Vaughn

Center for Healthy Minds staff members Marianne Spoon and Ty Christian take a break from the day to participate in led meditation practices. (Photo by Finn Ryan)

WELCOMING THE CENTER FOR HEALTHY MINDS Well-being can be an elusive thing. It comes naturally to some, and completely evades others. Trying to determine how people build and process well-being on a neurological level can be difficult, but drawing on expertise from many disciplines can provide critical insights. L&S welcomes the Center for Healthy Minds, led by psychology professor Richard Davidson, into the family of L&S centers and institutes this year.

Find out more at centerhealthyminds.org.



Surveying a

CHANGING LANDSCAPE Chronicling shifts in Wisconsin’s prairies

It was shortly after the end of World War II when John Curtis, inspired by his service as a civilian researcher aiding war efforts in Haiti, dedicated his energies to studying the ecology of Wisconsin’s plants. The late botany professor at the UW-Madison was particularly enamored of prairies. Between 1947 and 1956, Curtis and his colleagues and students conducted their prairie relic study, surveying more than 200 undisturbed prairie remnants in Wisconsin — walking each in its entirety while keeping lists of every plant species they found. In 1987, then-L&S graduate student Mark Leach used Curtis’ original notes and maps to resurvey 50 remaining prairies.

A goldfinch perches amid a sea of flowering prairie dock, purple gayfeather and rattlesnake master plants at the Curtis Prairie at the UW-Madison Arboretum. (Photo by Jeff Miller)


In February in the journal Science Advances, another botany graduate student, Amy Alstad, and a team of researchers published a third survey based on Curtis’ legacy work. They found that human influence has accelerated the rate of species change in these prairies, and that fire and prairie size affect the overall plant species diversity found within them. “We know Curtis selected those sites in the 1940s and ’50s because they represented the best remaining prairies in Wisconsin at the time,” says Alstad, the study’s lead author. “What became

apparent was that things are very, very different now than they were.” Not only do the findings provide critical information to land managers and state and private agencies committed to preserving Wisconsin’s landscape, but the results are also likely to describe what is happening in other natural places, say Alstad and her advisor, co-author Ellen Damschen, associate professor of zoology. “It is very likely this trend is common to a lot of ecosystems because we live in an era of novel human impacts,” says Alstad. “While ecologists used to think about soils or rainfall, all of a sudden there is a whole new suite of drivers – most of them related to human activities – that are simultaneously acting on natural systems.” For the study, Alstad drove throughout southwestern Wisconsin three times in the summer of 2012, revisiting the original Curtis prairies. She used Curtis’ original field notes in combination

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

with modern satellite technology to find those that still existed and could be resurveyed. “I really was going back to the dusty old, faded yellow sheets from John Curtis, trying to decipher his cursive handwriting and hand-drawn maps,” Alstad says. And just like Curtis, she walked through the prairies, checking off all the plant species she encountered. She compared her findings to those from the previous surveys to uncover what had changed over time. “I learned there’s been a big uptick in the pace of change,” Alstad says. The team examined the relationship between the characteristics of each prairie remnant – soil moisture, total prairie area and the number of fires the prairie remnant experienced – and what species had disappeared (extinction) or appeared for the first time (colonization).

“For the most part, it’s fast-growing weedy trees,” she says. “It’s box elder, it’s buckthorn, it’s honeysuckle, and probably a big part of their success is the absence of fire.” In the prairies she studied, Alstad found those that have been burned with controlled, prescribed fires were most similar to the prairies Curtis described six decades ago. Twelve of the remnants she studied had burned anywhere from one to 30 times in the years since. “There’s a ton of interest in restoring native habitat in this part of the world,” says Damschen. “Thinking about fire as helpful rather than harmful, which has been a cultural perception, is a shift we have begun to see, and hopefully it becomes more commonplace.”

They learned that between the second and third surveys, the disappearance of species tripled while the appearance of new species not indigenous to prairies had doubled when compared to the years between the first and second survey. Some sites, the research team found, had fewer than 18 percent of the species documented in the 1950s survey, and some were now made up of more than 60 percent non-native species.

Amy Alstad says sawtooth sunflowers (pictured here, at Avoca Prairie in Iowa County) are still common in the prairie landscape, unlike others that are quietly disappearing. (Photo by Jesse Miller)

“More than one species is being lost in the average year,” says Alstad. “The species that we’re losing most frequently are specialist prairie plants, like rattlesnake master.” The species that are showing up instead, Alstad and Damschen say, are more generalist plants, like those you might find in a roadside ditch or in a thick, brambled woods.


Predicting future ecosystems is also inherently challenging, but Damschen says, “In general, we know that the more species you have in an ecosystem, the more resilient the ecosystem is to other changes in the future. If you lose species, the function of those species is lost and that has implications for human well-being and the future of southern Wisconsin’s natural communities.”

Their research shows that work by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and others to protect and restore remnant prairies helps retain species diversity. Citizen efforts to plant prairie species on their properties or volunteer with local initiatives to restore prairies will undoubtedly help. “Even if it’s not in a professional capacity, we can be land stewards for prairies,” Alstad says. Because if we do nothing, in another 60 years, “there will be no prairie in southern Wisconsin.” — Story by Kelly April Tyrrell

For more information on how to get involved and support prairies, the researchers recommend the following resources: Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium: tposfirescience.org The UW Arboretum (home to the world’s oldest restored prairie, named for John Curtis): arboretum.wisc.edu The Prairie Enthusiasts: theprairieenthusiasts.org


NEWS Clues to early life Conventional wisdom among geologists had held that oxygen in the ancient oceans was rare until the “great oxygenation event,” 2.4 to 2.2 billion years ago. But last year, UW-Madison geoscientists – using a high-resolution mass spectrometer – analyzed iron-bearing rocks from 3.2 billion years ago and found unmistakeable evidence of oxygen. They concluded its source must be the earliest known example of photosynthesis. “Once life gets oxygenic photosynthesis, the sky is the limit,” says Clark Johnson, professor of geoscience and a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The study was funded by NASA. — Adapted from a story by David Tenenbaum

Uniting computer sciences and psychology What if a fusion of computer science and psychology could help us understand more about how people learn, making it possible to design ideal lessons? Computer sciences professor Jerry Zhu’s paper on “machine teaching” – a twist on the more familiar “machine learning” – won the Blue Sky Ideas Prize at the Computing Community Consortium. “The machine-teaching approach needs a good model of how the learner behaves – that is, how the learner’s behavior changes with different kinds of . . . experiences,” says Timothy T. Rogers, a professor of cognitive psychology and one of Zhu’s collaborators. The team includes computer science professors Michael Ferris, Bilge Mutlu and Stephen Wright, as well as psychology professor Martha Alibali and faculty from engineering and educational psychology. — Adapted from a story by Jennifer Smith

“Red flag” for lithium battery The material at the heart of the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptop computers and smartphones may have untold environmental consequences. A new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota explored the effects of the compound nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) on the common soil and sediment bacterium Shewanella oneidensis. Exposed to the compound, the bacterium (which is found worldwide and is a good toxicity indicator species), exhibited inhibited growth and respiration. “Nickel is dirt cheap. It’s pretty good at energy storage,” says UW-Madison chemistry professor Robert J. Hamers, who led the researchers. “It is also toxic. So is cobalt. As far as we know, this is the first study that’s looked at the environmental impact of these materials.” — Adapted from a story by Terry Devitt


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

Humanities spotlight: UW-Madison chosen as new home for global consortium The Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) is a leading international network for humanities research, education and public scholarship. Founded in 1988, the Consortium includes 220 members from 25 countries from across North America, Western Europe, the Mediterranean, East Asia, Australia and Africa; UW-Madison’s Center for the Humanities is a member organization. In January 2017, administration of CHCI will be transferred from Duke University (where it has been for the past five years) to UW-Madison, amplifying the spotlight on humanities outreach and scholarship here. “We are thrilled to organize and administer the CHCI from Madison,” says UW’s Center for the Humanities director Sara Guyer, who will assume a five-year presidency of CHCI in 2017. “It means our university will be closely tied to some of the most exciting work happening globally in the humanities.”


I know firsthand the experience of being ‘in between’ countries, languages and cultures. My scholarship, my teaching and my identity are shaped by concepts like otherness, race, gender and understanding other people and cultures. For 10 years, I’ve been bringing students into the worlds of Francophone (Frenchspeaking) and Arabic cultures and literatures. It takes students to unfamiliar places and shows them different ways of living. These experiences enhance their ability to bridge cultures and transcend differences.

DISCOVER MORE For the second year in a row, L&S partnered with the Wisconsin State Journal to create a special section highlighting the research of key faculty like Associate Professor of French Nevine El-Nossery (above), told in their own words.

Read more stories of discovery: go.madison.com/discovery



BEST IN CLASS We are enormously proud that nine of the 12 Distinguished Teaching Awards awarded by the UW-Madison in 2016 went to L&S faculty. The awards have been granted by the university since 1953. The 2016 L&S recipients are:

• Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau, Computer Sciences • Russ Castronovo, English • Ivan Ermakoff, Sociology • Daniel Erman, Mathematics • Holly Gibbs, Geography

• Keisha Lindsay, Gender & Women's Studies; Political Science • John Moore, Chemistry • Lauren Riters, Zoology • Basil Tikoff, Geoscience


I ask students a set of questions: ‘What is your goal? What have you done, and what do you need to do, to achieve it? What are your options?’ In science, large achievements are gained via multiple smaller milestones and early training. My goal is to encourage students to become independent lifelong learners. — Lauren Riters, Professor of Zoology


Chemical reactions change colors, make strange smells, cause things to burn — or even explode! So I intersperse chemical demonstrations throughout my lectures to keep students on their toes. — John Moore, Professor of Chemistry


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

My challenge is to elicit intellectual curiosity and desire for knowledge from students of very different backgrounds, with different expectations and training. PHOTO BY JEFF MILLER

— Ivan Ermakoff, Professor of Sociology


How can literature lead us to new and unexpected ways of thinking? When our class reads Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Minister's Black Veil, I come to class dressed as the minister, head to toe in somber black church vestments and veil, and deliver a 17th-century Puritan sermon. My hope is that words that once seemed inert will jump off the page. — Russ Castronovo, Professor of English


Honestly, it is the students here at UWMadison who make my job a terrific one. Their interesting questions, thoughts and ideas have greatly shaped every aspect of my teaching over my 16 years here. —R  emzi Arpaci-Dusseau, Professor of Computer Sciences



Investing in


From its earliest days, the UW-Madison Geology Museum was a communal undertaking. The first UW Board of Regents meeting, in 1848, included a call to create “a geological and mineralogical cabinet of the various ores, rocks, fossils, &c., found within the state.” Madison resident H.A. Tenney took up the task and solicited donations in a letter to “friends of science and general education” in “every assembly district” across Wisconsin. Specimens soon started to pour in. And that legacy of generosity, of community contributions for the greater good of science and shared knowledge, continues today. The UW-Madison Geology Museum staff, from left: Assistant director Brooke Norsted, scientist David Lovelace, curator Carrie Eaton, and director Rich Slaughter. (Photo by Sarah Morton)


“That is how the museum started, and that is how it has grown,” says Rich Slaughter, the museum’s gregarious director. But the museum’s most significant contribution of all time isn't a geological specimen. David (B.S.’75, MBA’78) and Sheryl Lesar have comm-

itted $2 million to support the museum’s mission and secure its future, as part of the All Ways Forward fundraising campaign. The gift establishes the Sherry Lesar Distinguished Chair of Geological Wonder, which Slaughter holds as museum director. But the Lesars’ intent is to support the entire museum staff – not just Slaughter, but assistant director Brooke Norsted (M.S.’03, Geology), curator Carrie Eaton (M.S.’04, Geology) and scientist David Lovelace (Ph.D.’12, Geoscience) – and allow even more community members to enjoy the museum. “Rich, Brooke, Carrie and Dave work tirelessly to excite future generations with the ‘wonder’ of geology,” says Sherry Lesar. “Rich’s enthusiasm for the museum is contagious — that’s obvious in any conversation you have with him. For Rich, geology is about a hands-on passion to share with others the amazing diversity of the planet on which we live. My motivation for giving this gift is to keep that passion alive.”

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

Museum visitors – and there are more than 50,000 annually – can gaze at rocks and minerals of all colors and fossils from across the United States and beyond. They can breathe in the odors of what early earth may have smelled like in the museum’s “Aromas of Astrobiology” exhibit. And they can marvel at the enormous reconstructed skeletons of a duck-billed dinosaur (Edmontosaurus) and a mastodon, which Slaughter calls the museum’s unofficial mascot. Slaughter says the gift will allow the museum to acquire “unique, world-class, signature pieces,” both through the private market and by funding expeditions for staff members and students. And it will give the museum the financial means to showcase those pieces through exhibits and programs for the wider public. It will also open up more possibilities for student involvement – fitting, since the Lesars’ connection to the museum is their daughter, Lisa, who as an undergraduate geoscience major worked as a tour guide, collected dinosaur bones on expeditions and organized a collection of the museum’s historical geological equipment. Norsted runs the tour program and often collaborates with geoscience faculty members on outreach components of their research projects. Eaton manages the collection – not just the 1,000 or so objects on display, but the more than 100,000

in the museum’s repository. She also works on exhibits, like one featuring large mammal fossils from Ice Age Wisconsin. Lovelace spearheads the museum’s research program, which focuses on life during the dawn of the dinosaurs. Each summer he takes students to Wyoming to hunt for fossils and then trains them in the museum’s fossil preparation lab. And Slaughter oversees the whole operation, touching all parts of the museum’s mission (including identifying objects that are brought in by curious members of the general public). “I think of the museum as this little refuge where we get to nurture undergraduate students,” Norsted says. “We’re a small museum and we don’t have silos. All of us are very collaborative and we have overlapping talents.”

Geology rocks on the Geology Museum's Twitter account! Follow @UWGeologyMuseum for inside peeks into the museum, the funny sides of science and #MineralMonday and #FossilFriday finds.

Slaughter says he tells the museum’s corps of a dozen or so student tour guides not to get too bogged down by facts and figures. Aim to cultivate a sense of wonder, he advises. “One of the best parts of this job is getting to inspire curiosity, to spark that, whether that’s in adults or children,” he says. “Anytime you can make someone more curious, it’s kind of a special thing. You’re making their world more exciting.” — Story by Tom Ziemer

SKELETAL SURPRISE If you’ve ever stared up at the iconic Boaz Mastodon, the famed fossil likely turned your thoughts to the end of the last Ice Age, when the giant mammals roamed North America. But did you know this skeleton, on display at the museum since 1915, is actually the remains of two mastodons? PHOTO BY JEFF MILLER

Geology Museum staff, led by curator Carrie Eaton, used historic documents, plus CT scans, genetic testing and radiocarbon dating to determine only two bones hail from an 1897 uncovering in Boaz, Wisconsin, while the majority come from a discovery in Anderson Mills the following year! ls.wisc.edu


Hollywood Badger:

NICOLE ROCKLIN Even big things start small. That’s certainly been the case for Nicole Rocklin, a producer of Spotlight, the film that won Best Picture at the 88th annual Academy Awards in February.

“My college experience was one of the highlights of my life. It’s the only time in life you have that much freedom to explore so many things,” Rocklin says. “I miss it.”

Spotlight stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber and tells the story of the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The movie received six Oscar nominations and won for Best Original Screenplay.

After graduation, Rocklin moved back to California. She knew she wanted to work in entertainment but wasn’t quite sure in what way. After working for an entertainment law firm, she took a job with Jerry Bruckheimer Films and then started her own production studio. Rocklin/Faust also produced “The Perfect Guy,” a thriller released in September.

It’s the scale of project Rocklin and her partner Blye Faust tend toward with their Los Angelesbased production company Rocklin/Faust. “We’ve been focused on smaller sorts of projects,” Rocklin says. “Some people put 20 things out there. We don’t do that. It’s not who we are. We want to tell stories about real people.” It took seven years to bring Spotlight to the screen. “It was never a question of whether we were going to tell the story,” Rocklin says. “We had to tell the story.” Rocklin grew up in California and graduated with honors from UW-Madison in 2001 after doublemajoring in History and Afro-American studies.



The producer is part of the team behind the Oscar Award-winning Spotlight

In an era of shrinking newsrooms, Rocklin hopes that Spotlight reminds people of the importance of journalism. “If the Boston Globe didn’t have an investigation team, we might not know the story. As we all know, knowledge is power. This story spread throughout the world,” Rocklin says. “There are still so many stories to tell. If we don’t have reporters investigating, who is going to tell them?” — Story by Käri Knutson

L&S Annual Review 2015-2016

TV titan: Steve Levitan Steve Levitan (B.A.’84, Communication Arts), Emmy Award-winning television director, producer and writer, received the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s highest honor in late 2015: a Distinguished Alumni Award.


Levitan has written and produced Frasier, The Larry Sanders Show and Back to You. But Modern Family, the ABC sitcom he co-created and produces, has been his favorite project. Ironically, Levitan told On Wisconsin magazine, the hardest class he took at UW-Madison was screenwriting. “It nearly killed me,” he said, and he never suspected at the time that it would end up being his career.

On the ball: Andy Katz


Turn on ESPN during college basketball season and you’re bound to see Andy Katz (B.A.’90, History and Political Science). Katz breaks stories, reports on games and even interviews President Obama as he fills out his March Madness bracket. He is a senior writer for ESPN.com and serves as the backup host for the network’s critically-acclaimed Outside the Lines. Katz was UW-Madison’s Public Affairs Writer-in-Residence last fall. He credited his experience at the Daily Cardinal, where he started working as a freshman in 1986, for helping him launch a rewarding career. “I learned more about life, about journalism, downstairs in Vilas Hall, than anywhere else. It just got my juices flowing and opened my eyes, not just to sports journalism, but also how to attack news and to think critically and to challenge and to be aggressive.”

Tech star: Borui Wang Borui Wang (B.S. ’12, Computer Science) put his degree and the certificate in entrepreneurship from UW-Madison to good use when he founded Polarr, a web- and mobile-based photo-editing software company. In December 2015, Forbes magazine recognized Wang as one of its 30 Under 30 in Consumer Tech. SUBMITTED PHOTO

In addition to offering an array of editing options, Polarr takes notice of the aesthetic preferences of users (called Polarrians) and performs customizations and recommendations based on them. Wang, known as the “Everything Officer” at Polarr, believes his startup represents the future of photography. As a UW-Madison student, Wang was already combining his interests in photography and technology as a photographer at the Badger Herald and a founder of The Hub, a computer sciences student organization.


L&S alums, we want to hear from you! Email info@ls.wisc.edu to tell us about the interesting things you’ve been up to, and you may find your story shared on the beautiful new College of Letters & Science website. And be sure to visit ls.wisc.edu for updates on your fellow Badgers!


BUILDING TOMORROW THIS IS A NEW ERA FOR UW–MADISON. Since our founding in 1848, we’ve established a reputation as a community of exceptional – and unconventional – builders, doers and makers. The university has changed the world through an unflagging dedication to teaching, research and outreach. And now we stand at the crossroads of our past and our potential. The All Ways Forward Campaign, which began in 2013 and runs through 2020, is the most comprehensive fundraising campaign in the history of UW. And it will touch every aspect of the College of Letters & Science experience. All gifts – of any size – directly support efforts to fund initiatives and programs that will move the university forward.

L&S Campaign progress (as of July 2016)

$275,417,144 from

23,023 donors with


of donors to L&S in the All Ways Forward Campaign making gifts of $1,000 or less


L&S Annual Review 2015-2016






Lead the world in career preparation for liberal arts students, while enhancing opportunites for discovery, travel and learning outside of the classroom.

Open doors for liberal arts students, who are uniquely poised to examine, challenge, create, adapt and change the status quo.

Attract and retain outstanding teachers and researchers. Faculty play a vital role in providing a student experience propelled by the pursuit of knowledge.

Invest in extraordinary discovery. We peer into the future and see the unknown as an opportunity to advance our understanding of the world.

2015 PHILANTHROPY SNAPSHOT NEW GIFTS & PLEDGES: $113,599,669 TOTAL DONORS: 13,745 FIRST TIME DONORS: 2,360 Philanthropy information is provided by the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

EVERY GIFT MATTERS Gifts of any amount help move us Forward. Visit allwaysforward.org/ls to support L&S.

THANK YOU! ls.wisc.edu


BOARD OF VI SI TO RS 201 5 -201 6


Board Chair Patricia Donovan Wright President, Donovan Wright Advisors LLC Communication Arts B.S.E.’74

Stephen Bablitch Senior Vice President. Aurora Health Care English and History B.A.’76; Law J.D.’79

Joy Amundson Consultant, Amundson Partners Journalism B.A.’76 Barbara Arnold Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (Retired) Social Work and Sociology B.A.’73; Law J.D.’76 Herman Baumann III Founder, Green Line Strategies LLC Journalism B.A.’75 Rick Beal Managing Director, Rewards, Talent & Communication, Towers Watson Psychology B.A.’74 Michele Boal Co-Founder/Chief Philanthropy Officer, Coupons.com Journalism B.A.’91 Nancy Borghesi Senior Vice President, CCC Information Services Inc. (Retired) Economics B.A.’69 James Burgess Investor/Community Advisor Journalism B.S.’58 Kenneth Ciriacks Vice President, Technology, AMOCO Corporation (Retired) Geology B.S.’58 Shoshana Dichter Senior Vice President, Communications, Wheels Up Journalism B.A.’92 George Hamel, Jr. Vintner, Hamel Family Wines Communication Arts B.A.’80 Robert Harty President, Cavelle Consulting Group Inc. Political Science B.A.’82; Journalism & Mass Communication M.A.’92 50

Louis Holland President and Chief Financial Officer, Cumota LLC Economics B.A.’86 William Jordan Vice Chairman, Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. Journalism B.A.’73 Kay Koplovitz Founder, Koplovitz & Company Communication Arts/Radio, Television & Film B.S.’67

John “Jack” Bolz Investor, Oscar Mayer Co. (Retired) Economics B.S.’50 W. Jerome “Jerry” Frautschi Chairman of the Board, W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation Economics B.S.’56

Dave Kurrasch President, Global Payment Advisors History and Communication Arts /Radio, Television & Film B.A.’73

Mary Clare Freeman Teacher/Speech Language Clinician, Wausau District Public Schools (Retired) Speech B.A.’48

Jeffrey Lyons Executive Vice President, Charles Schwab & Company, Inc. (Retired) Political Science B.S.’78

Terry Haller Senior Vice President/ Director/Co-Founder, Exel Inns of America (Retired) Mathematics M.A.’71

David Meissner Chairman, Public Policy Forum (Retired) History B.S.’60

Mike Jones Of Counsel, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP History and Philosophy B.A.’81

Alice Mortenson Director of Community Relations, M.A. Mortenson Company History B.S.’62

Judith Carlson Kelley Director of Development, Oregon State University (Retired) Journalism B.S.’59

Charles Phipps General Partner, Sevin Rosen Funds (Retired) Steve Pogorzelski Chief Executive Officer, Avention, Inc. Journalism B.A.’83 Phillip Schemel Managing Partner, Schemco LLC Economics and Political Science B.A.’82 Stanley Sher Of Counsel, Cozen O’Connor LLP History B.S.’56 George Shinners President/Owner, Antigo Construction Inc. Psychology B.S.’61; Industrial Relations M.S.’64

Cora Marrett Deputy Director, National Science Foundation (Retired) Sociology M.A.’65; Ph.D.’68 Walter Mirisch President/Producer, Mirisch Corp. History B.A.’42 Joy Picus Council Member – Third District City of Los Angeles (Retired) Political Science B.A.’51 William Rayne Senior Vice President, Dain Bosworth Economics B.S.’54 Lynda Schubert President, Schubert Associates, Inc. English B.A.’69 Irving Shain Chancellor Emeritus, UW-Madison L&S Annual Review 2015-2016


BRIDGE EMPOWERING ALUMNI CONNECTIONS This is THE place for UW-Madison alumni to support each other’s pursuit of career goals and professional development. Create a profile to start connecting with other Badgers today.



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L&S Annual Review, 2015-16  

The Annual Review for the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

L&S Annual Review, 2015-16  

The Annual Review for the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.