Wisconsin's constitution, drafted in 1848, provided for “the establishment of a state university at or near the seat of state government.” Wisconsin’s first governor, Nelson Dewey, signed an act that formally created the university. The school opened its doors on February 5, 1849, in Madison. The “Wisconsin Idea” was formulated by President Charles Van Hise in 1904, when he stated that he would "never be content until the beneficent influence of the university [is] available to every home in the state." Going hand-in-hand with Wisconsin’s strong populist history, the "Wisconsin Idea" was intended to improve the quality of lives for all the state’s citizens.
Like many other colleges, Wisconsin saw its share of student activism during the 1960s. The first major demonstration protested the presence of recruiters from the Dow Chemical Company, which supplied napalm during the Vietnam War. This demonstration was the subject of the PBS documentary “Two Days in October,” as well as the book “They Marched into Sunlight.” In 1969, independent student daily ”The Badger Herald” was founded to represent the conservative voice on campus.
The main campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison takes up 933 acres on an isthmus between two lakes. With its Gothic architecture, sprawling libraries, and vibrant student unions (they have two!), it looks, feels, and smells like your quintessential college campus. No wonder the films “Back to School” and “The Last Kiss” were filmed at the University of Wisconsin.
Memorial Union is a great hangout where many students come to enjoy live music, eat, and just hang out. Located in the heart of campus, Memorial Union’s terrace has a beautiful scenic view of Lake Mendota. Students love to hang out on a summer or spring day outside on the terrace. Girls often sunbathe all along the boardwalk, while men swim in the lake and enjoy a nice drink. On weekend nights, the terrace gets crazy as live music lights up the surroundings. The union also has great restaurants, billiards, bowling, and a video game arcade.
Another great campus hangout is the public-dorm dining halls. Students sit and hang out in the dining halls even after they finish eating. The public dining halls are kind of a social scene where everyone gets to see each other.
Students love to hangout on Bascom Hill during the Spring and Summer. Located in the middle of campus and surrounded by buildings, Bascom Hill is a large, grassy field overlooking campus. From the top of the hill, one can see all the way down State Street to the Wisconsin State Capitol. Alongside Bascom Hill, students rush up and down the sides, making their way to and from class. During the warmer days, the hill is filled with people studying, sunbathing, and napping. Although it is pretty steep, students also play Frisbee and football on the hill. Bascom Hill is a nice place to just relax and enjoy the sun. Students also enjoy hanging out around the dorms. There are big fields, basketball courts, and picnic areas where students can hang out. Once the weather gets nice, these areas are crowded with students craving some sun. Students love to play Frisbee and football in the large field right in front of the Kohl Center.
Downtown Madison is a fast-paced, busy town, with a series of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. The state’s historic capitol building is only about a mile from campus.
The biggest off-campus hangout is State Street. Since the campus is located in downtown Madison, State Street is a close walk from most of campus. State Street attracts thousands of students with its great social scene. Students hustle up and down State Street all day long, especially during spring and summer months. State Street is especially well-known for State Street Brats, a restaurant that serves bratwursts and beer. State Street has all types of dining, from Taco Bell to the fancy Tuto’s Pasta. State Street also has offers great shopping. The Gap and Urban Outfitters are popular, but State Street also has many unique small boutiques with different fashions and styles.
The bar scene in Madison is huge. State Street has tons of bars for either chilling or partying hard. A few bars such as Angelics and Ram’s Head are known as undergrad bars because of their often lenient I.D. policy.
Outside of Madison, things slow down a little. There are not as many big buildings, stores, and restaurants situated close together like they are in Madison. Outside the city, there are many large farms and big factories. These towns include Stoughton, Verona, Middleton, Mount Vernon, Deerfield, and Springfield.
University of Wisconsin is a tradition-rich school, with a number of official and unofficial student customs. Some you can find at most large state schools with football teams; others seem a bit eccentric. Regardless of the custom, one thing is for sure: These traditions are essential to the University of Wisconsin experience.
Wisconsin’s “party school” mentality manifests itself in the annual Mifflin Street Block Party. It started as a Vietnam protest demonstration in 1969. It was ranked the largest block party in the world by the Associated Press in 2007.
People must wake up excruciatingly early before an 11:00AM football game and be prepared to drink heavily. Beer and tailgating before a Badger football game is vital to the Wisconsin experience.
There are two main lakes on campus, Lake Mendota and Lake Menona, and every winter they freeze solid. Most people have walked out onto the frozen lake and admired the wintry wonderland of Wisconsin. If you are lucky, you can talk to the ice fisherman who sits outside for hours waiting for that unlucky fish.
The Helen C. White Library (better known as College Library) is one of the main places on campus to “study”. However, this library is also home to great socializing. Many people go to the library for a total of three hours, and only do ten minutes' worth of homework. It is believed that the library is one of the best places to meet your future wife.
The biggest competitors for Wisconsin-Madison are Minnesota and Michigan, although they have minor rivalries with all Big Ten teams. UW has its “rivalry game” with Minnesota in football, but many people absolutely abhor University of Michigan and their students. The two schools are often compared to one another, but as Aaron Lipset ’09 puts it, “They don’t know how to party. Ann Arbor is like a minor league version of Madison.”
John Muir (1863) created the national park system.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1890) was a famous architect.
Frederick Jackson Turner (1884) was historian who studied Manifest Destiny.
Charles Lindbergh (1924) was a groundbreaking, famous aviator.
Bud Selig (’56) is the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
The Wisconsin Badgers are an NCAA-Division I athletic team that competes in the Big Ten conference. Spend just one Saturday in fall on the school’s campus and it will become evident that football is a religion at the University of Wisconsin. As Phillip Ashkenaz ’10 observes, “Every game day, the stands are packed with Badgers fans dressed in their Badger Red gear. Game days are a huge event on campus. It seems like everyone stops what they are doing for the entire day to devote themselves to the team.” While they haven’t captured any BCS national championships, the Badgers consistently make their way to a bowl game.
The University of Wisconsin also fields an impressive men’s basketball team, who usually qualify to the NCAA national tournament on a regular basis. They even advanced all the way to the Final Four in 2000. The school has taken home 26 NCAA national championships in a wide range of sports: men’s soccer, men’s indoor track & field, women’s ice hockey, women’s cross-country, men’s cross-country, men’s basketball, and boxing.
Sports at UW-Madison
Top Ten Facts Freshmen MUST Know About The Badgers!
The 1986 Rodney Dangerfield film “Back to School” was filmed at University of Wisconsin, but the school was called “Grand Lakes University” in the movie.
The Onion was founded by two UW juniors, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, in 1988.
One of the first acts of domestic terrorism in the US occurred at the University of Wisconsin, when a bomb exploded outside the Sterling Hall physics building.
University of Wisconsin is the only American university with two daily student newspapers.
UW Madison has three different dorm areas. The two public dorm neighborhoods are the Southeast dorms, which are a more social area, and the Lakeshore dorms, which offer an incredible view of the lake. The public dorms are popular among freshmen and sophomores. The private dorms, with the nicest facilities, are owned by the university and centrally located on State Street and Langdon. It is a popular living choice among out-of-state students.
The southeast dorms are the most popular and populated dorms on campus. The four main dorms in the area are Sellery, Witte, Smith, and Ogg. They each house around 1,000 students. The dorms are in a great location very close to class, the (SERF) South East Recreational Facility, and the Kohl Center. Smith, a brand-new, highly-furnished dorm, opened up in fall 2006. The old Ogg is in the process of being torn down, and the brand-new Ogg opened in fall 2007. There are plans to knock down and rebuild Sellery and Witte in the next ten years. Around 4,000 students live in the dorms, creating a close-knit community. Floors are run by a House Fellow who takes care of, organizes, and patrols the floors. Each dorm has a few student-run dorm associations. Additional study rooms are available on the first floors of the dorms.
Most dorm rooms in Sellery and Witte house two students apiece. The New Ogg and Smith have singles and doubles. Most students from around Wisconsin and Minnesota live in this area. Most students keep their doors open and are always ready to have fun. Gordon Commons is in the middle of the Southeast dorms and features wo restaurants, Ed’s and Pop’s Club.
The Lakeshore dorms are a little farther west from most campus buildings. Located on Observatory drive next to beautiful Lake Mendota are the Lakeshore dorms, including Liz Waters, Tripp, Adams, Bradley, and Kronshage. These dorms are located between campus and the UW hospital. It is about a 15-minute walk from these dorms to State Street. The student vibes and openness are the same as they are in the Southeast Area. The nearby Natatorium is the large recreational facility. Students from the Midwest usually live in these dorms. Students dine at Frank’s Place and Carson’s, which are similar to Ed’s and Pop’s.
The last set of dorms are the privately-owned University House dorms. These dorms are not owned by the university and are more expensive than the public dorms. The number of students living in the dorms ranges from 200 to 300. Some say they are more like apartments than dorms, with less-strict rules and supervision. They are also more isolated from the other dorms. Statesider and Towers are the most popular private dorms, located directly on State Street. Wealthy out-of-state students usually choose to live in the dorms. Very few, if any, students from Wisconsin live in these dorms.
Recently, there have been rumors circulating around UW that freshmen will be required to live in the public dorms with all the other freshmen. However, this is just a rumor, for now.