UniverCity Alliance Scholars (Undergraduate & Graduate) Program

Communities (cities, counties, villages, and towns) across Wisconsin need assistance in getting started on projects that require research, concept formation, data analysis, and other specialized skills. Students at UW-Madison looking for real-world experiences where they can apply classroom learning to a community-identified project should consider being a part of the UniverCity Alliance Scholars program.

Since 2015, the UniverCity Alliance (UCA) has been working with local governments across Wisconsin to match their project needs with faculty, staff, and students who can help them. Up until now, those projects have been relegated to classroom projects. Students have not been able to directly apply to work on these projects if they have a skill that could help. The UCA Scholars program seeks students who have an interest in applying their skills learned through classes to a community project. This is a cohort-based program that seeks students from a variety of disciplines to work on a variety of projects. Students should apply, talk about their skillsets, and then they will be matched to a project after they are selected into the scholarship program. These projects vary by year, but they have included projects such as:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (e.g. equity audits, communications strategies, training programs, etc.)
  • Sustainability (e.g. energy audits, climate action plans, watershed protection strategies, scenario planning for how development impacts the environment, addressing groundwater quality, etc.)
  • Improving government efficiency (program evaluation, consolidation studies, process improvement, public communications plans, etc.)
  • Child care (e.g. innovative solutions for addressing accessibility and affordability of child care services, innovative solutions for improving child care worker wages, etc.)
  • Transportation (e.g. road maintenance plans, improving biking and walking infrastructure, reimagining roadways, etc.)
  • Economic development (e.g. innovative solutions for workforce development, trade market analyses, rebranding efforts, creating websites, etc.)
  • Housing (e.g. planning and analysis of affordable housing sites, housing plan updates, etc.)
  • Health (e.g. plans to improve mental health, drug/alcohol abuse prevention, improving health equity, etc.)
  • Urban design (e.g. creative placemaking, pedestrian safety planning, wayfinding plans, downtown development projects, etc.)

The UCA Scholars program is a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, COWS, the School of Human Ecology, and over 20 other campus partners on the UCA Advisory Board.

Donor Information
This scholarship award is provided through the philanthropy of UW alumni John Holton, Pat Thiele, Colleen Goggins, John Nelson, Bill and Karen Monfre, John Bauman, Curt Fuszard, and others.

Eligibility Criteria
All currently enrolled, degree-seeking graduate students (M.S./M.A./MPH & Ph.D.) and undergraduates with Junior and Senior status at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are eligible to apply.

Students must:

  1. Be enrolled full-time and making progress toward an M.S./M.A./MPH or Ph.D. degree or be an enrolled full-time undergraduate student of junior or senior status (54 credits or more)
  2. Be in good academic standing (minimum 3.0 GPA)
  3. Have a strong interest on a topic relevant to local governments.
  4. Be in-residence/in-person on the UW-Madison campus during at least the Fall 2024 semester. Participation in scholarship program events is required.

Students who are already working with a faculty or staff advisor/mentor as a subject matter expert will be given special consideration for this program.

Award Information
Applications will be reviewed by a committee comprised of Gavin Luter and at least one other member of the UniverCity Year Program team. Awards will be announced in early May 2024.

Award Requirements

  • Remain actively enrolled in an M.S./M.A./MPH/Ph.D. or Bachelor’s program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the Fall 2024 semester.
  • As part of the cohort experience, students are required to attend the UniverCity Alliance Celebration Event on Friday, September 13, 2024. This event will introduce program participants to members of the UniverCity Alliance community. Students should also attend monthly cohort meetings (scheduled based on availability).
  • Due December 21, 2024 – a final report on your project delivered to the local government.

Strongly Encouraged, not required

  • There is no curricular requirement for students participating in this program. However, if desired, students could enroll in PS 698 Directed Research (graded or ungraded).
  • Students are encouraged to identify additional engagement opportunities with other scholars and advisors to share ideas and form new collaborations.

Applications should include the following:
Please describe how your interests, skills, and experiences can be applied to an issue related to local government (see HERE and HERE for examples). Be sure to include the following:

  • Introduction and summary of your interests, skills, and abilities
  • Explanation of how your participation in the UCA Scholars program would benefit you/your research or career development; If you are currently working with a faculty or staff subject matter expert, please describe your work in detail and provide his/her name
  • Examples of previous projects and/or coursework that you have done that prepare you to complete a report / deliverable for a local government. If you have direct experience with local government (as an intern, elected official, or employee), please note that.
  • Explain the ideal kind of project subject (example: transportation, housing, diversity/equity/inclusion/belonging, economic development, parks/recreation, child care, historical research, etc) and 3 associated skills from the SKILLS INVENTORY and write example of how you have used them in practice (examples: program evaluation, cost/benefit analysis, GIS mapping, public history project, quantitative or qualitative data collection and/or analysis, policy analysis financial analysis, communications/public relations strategies, creating a staff training, etc)
  • Complete the skills/abilities inventory (see HERE)
  • Current CV / Resume
  • Name, phone, and e-mail of one professional reference who can speak to your skills and interests
  • UW transcript (unofficial is OK)

Applications should not exceed three pages, double spaced in 12-point font. References should be cited in a consistent style where appropriate, but bibliography will not count toward the page limit.

Award Amount
Student awards are $1,500 each for the 2024/2025 academic year. These will be paid as scholarships directly to student tuition accounts.

For students working with faculty or staff advisors/subject matter experts: An additional $500 of support is available for the UW-Madison faculty or staff advisor/subject matter expert. These awards will be distributed directly to the home department of the faculty/staff member as flexible, discretionary funds.

April 1, 2024

Questions regarding the scholarship can be sent to Gavin Luter (luter@wisc.edu).

Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Supplemental Questions
  1. Please upload your application [See the scholarship posting for the information to include in your application. Applications should not exceed three pages, double spaced in 12-point font. References should be cited in a consistent style where appropriate, but bibliography will not count toward the page limit.]
  2. Please upload your completed Skills Inventory (https://uwmadison.box.com/s/kb0alxupv7cze6gjf665k3wbrvmk6mmj) here.
  3. Please upload a current resume or CV.
  4. Please provide the name, phone, and e-mail of one professional reference who can speak to your skills and interests.
  5. Please upload your UW transcript (unofficial is OK)