Wisconsin’s Village of Waunakee and its work on seven projects related to diversity, equity and inclusion is the focus of the latest episode of GovLove – a podcast about local government.
Through a partnership with UniverCity Alliance (UCA) and with deep involvement from the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Waunakee and UW-Madison students worked to develop educational programming, a land acknowledgement statement and a protocol to manage cultural resources, among other projects. In total, seven projects were completed that involved the local school district, library and village administrative staff.
The goal of these projects is to promote cultural awareness of the Ho-Chunk Nation – the first people to live in the area – across the village.
“It opened up the doors to reach into a different area of the larger Dejope area or the Four Lakes area,” Bill Quackenbush, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, said on the episode. “It was very important for us to sit down and assist in the matter that the university was drawing us into.”
Waunakee’s Village Administrator Todd Schmidt joined Quackenbush as a guest on the episode. As Waunakee celebrated 150 years, Schmidt said the village wanted to “recognize and acknowledge the land as that of the Ho-Chunk Nation and learn to appreciate that in a much, much better way than ever before.”
“I started to think about what are some areas of our organization and our community that could benefit from partnership with (UW-Madison) and UniverCity Year to help us make some headway in addressing issues of diversity, inclusion and equity here in our community, so we can be better and become better,” Schmidt said on the episode.
The Village of Waunakee partnered with UCA through its hallmark UniverCity Year program.
The partnership brought together tribal and municipal governments with university resources – the goal of UniverCity Alliance. UCA is a cross-campus initiative that connects Wisconsin communities with UW-Madison faculty, who incorporate projects into their curriculum.
“They were really able to plug the right resources of the university in with the unique project that we put in front of them,” Schmidt said.
These projects address challenges identified by the community and also provide students opportunities to learn by doing. In addition to working with the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, the village also did a diversity, equity, and inclusion audit of Human Resources procedures and its municipal code, worked to destigmatize mental health and conducted an equity audit of its communication systems. These projects engaged the Law School, Business School and College of Engineering. Learn more about their projects here.
GovLove is produced through a professional association of municipal workers called Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). Both UCA and ELGL are members of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N), which is a national network of university and local government programs that are similar to UCA.
—By Abigail Becker