UniverCity Alliance pairs student interns with Madison projects

With funding from the Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, UniverCity Alliance (UCA) is beginning to match University of Wisconsin–Madison interns with projects that address Madison priorities. 

UCA applied for funding in 2023-24 through the Kemper K. Knapp Bequest to build on the current UniverCity Year model, which relies on embedding projects developed in partnership with Wisconsin local governments within a student’s coursework. With the funding, UCA is supporting individual student interns with $1,000 stipends to conduct projects that address city needs. 

“We’ve been working to build a stronger relationship with the city of Madison for the last five years. These funds help us to get projects off the ground that may need more specialized attention from a student with a specialized skillset,” UniverCity Alliance Managing Director Gavin Luter said. “It also gives us the flexibility to start projects at any point in the year – not just during the semesters – which helps our partners in the city.” 

As a program at UW–Madison – an anchor institution in the city – UCA also wants to be responsive to Madison’s strategic priorities and emerging needs. 

“Having the flexibility to pitch projects to the university on a rolling basis, without the hard deadlines that come with semester based projects, is an exciting step in building out the UCA partnership with the city of Madison,” Performance Excellence Specialist Kara Kratowicz said. “Staff who didn’t previously know about our efforts are now coming to me with ideas and enthusiasm to make public problem solving a priority through this partnership.”

The first project to get underway relates to studying sick leave and gender equity as Madison’s Human Resources Department begins to rewrite the city’s wage and life insurance plans. This data analysis project will analyze whether there are statistically significant differences in the leave balances remaining at retirement for individuals across race and gender.

Leave balances are an important factor in supporting individuals to pay for health insurance after retirement. If, for example, women have fewer remaining sick leave hours on average at retirement due to caregiving responsibilities, the city would like to adjust plans to address this inequity. 

UCA hopes that the student work made possible with Kemper K. Knapp Bequest funds will add to a growing number of projects that the city can use. Past examples of projects between UCA and the city include: 

  • Two students working with the Madison Arts Commission to improve storytelling through its website and reports
  • Connecting leaders in the Division of Civil Rights (DCR) with a Human Resources student who researched workforce inclusion practices
  • Brokering a proposal to connect Industrial Systems Engineering students with the Streets & Urban Forestry Superintendent to study effective processes for tree removal and replanting
  • Overseeing a student intern who interviewed city staff, committee members, and elected officials in order to propose goals and strategies for the “Health and Safety” section of the Imagine Madison Comprehensive Plan