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Community Partnerships and Outreach Staff Network

The Wisconsin Idea Symposium: Principled Partnerships for the Public Good


The 2011 Wisconsin Idea Symposium, held on November 11, 2011, engaged staff, faculty and students in new understandings of the Wisconsin Idea that can advance our individual and institutional approaches to outreach and community engagement.



  • Remarks by Chancellor David Ward, University of Minnesota associate professor David Weerts, and UW-Madison associate professor Katherine Cramer Walsh (view slides from Weerts' talk)

  • Research and current insights on the emergence and contemporary practice of the Wisconsin Idea, current challenges and future possibilities

  • Facilitated discussions for participants to consider implications for their outreach and engagement practice and begin to craft a vision for the future of the Wisconsin Idea

  • Juried poster session showcasing exemplary community-university partnerships

  • Wisconsin Idea story booth available on-site for attendees wishing to record their stories of community engagement

  • Pre-event study groups on October 14 and November 4

The symposium was organized by the Community Partnerships and Outreach (CPO) Staff Network, with support from the Division of Continuing Studies, the Office of Human Resource Development, the School of Library and Information Studies, the School of Medicine and Public Health, University Health Services and the Office of University Relations.


About the Community Partnerships and Outreach Staff Network


The Community Partnerships and Outreach (CPO) Staff Network is a new, self-organizing network of University of Wisconsin-Madison staff members who span the boundaries between campus and community. Staff members are the "brand representatives" of the Wisconsin Idea.


Community Partnerships and Outreach professionals facilitate projects, programs, services and relationships with community partners that are sustained, mutually beneficial, equitable and respectful of the knowledge, values, priorities, resources and needs of all partners.


Community Partnerships and Outreach Staff Network members share a vision of the Wisconsin Idea that recognizes community members as full partners, essential to the engaged, collaborative work that transforms our communities and institutions for the public good.


CPO staff have a unique professional identity as boundary spanners - specifically, "community-based problem solvers" (Weerts, in press) - with a shared set of knowledge, skills and values.


Community Partnerships and Outreach Purpose and Goals


To create a horizontal structure across campus units for engagement professionals to:

  • Share information and resources
  • Disseminate best practices
  • Collaborate
  • Participate in targeted professional development opportunities
  • Implement quality initiatives
  • Improve outcomes for community partners
  • Increase access and reduce entry-point confusion for community partners.

To ensure vertical alignment in the implementation of the Wisconsin Idea to:

  • Increase UW-Madison's capacity to respond to community priorities
  • Support structures and policies that sustain quality community engagement
  • Engage boundary spanners at all levels in leadership, planning and decision making

What the Research Shows

  • Multiple boundary spanning roles must be aligned and work in harmony for engagement to work effectively (Weerts & Sandmann, in press)
  • The work of engagement is typically led by boundary spanners in academic staff positions rather than tenure-track faculty (Weerts & Sandmann, 2008)
  • Community partners evaluate the effectiveness of institutional engagement through their relationship with boundary spanners (Weerts & Sandmann, 2008)
  • Institutional commitment to outreach and engagement was associated with increased levels of state appropriations for public research universities during the 1990s (Weerts & Ronca, 2006).

Perspectives from the Public: How Wisconsinites View UW-Madison

Katherine Cramer-Walsh, PhD, shares the results of her recent study, which examined people's perceptions from around the state about the UW-Madison. She discusses outreach and important considerations in establishing research partnerships in communities around the state.


View a Video Summary of Her Results


Recent Presentation: Are We Making a Difference? Evaluating Community-Based Programs


Presented by Christine Maidl Pribbenow, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Wisconsin Idea Forum for Engagement Practitioners and Advocates


Raw data from the Wisconsin Idea Forum:

If you weren't able to attend but want to tackle the questions that were posed to event participants, you can take the Wisconsin Idea Forum for Engagement Practitioners and Advocates Survey.



  • Weerts, D.J., & Ronca, J.M. (2006). Examining differences in state support for higher education: A comparative study of state appropriations for research universities. Journal of Higher Education, 77(6), 935-965.
  • Weerts, D. J. & Sandmann, L. R. (in press). Community engagement and boundary spanning roles at public research universities. Journal of Higher Education.
  • Weerts, D. J., & Sandmann, L. R. (2008). Building a two-way street: Challenges and opportunities for community engagement at research universities. Review of Higher Education, (32), 1, 73-106.

Last updated: 07/17/2012
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