Innovation Center Stoughton partners with UW–Madison students in ‘design sprint’

What do you get when you unleash 30 University of Wisconsin–Madison Design Studies students on a challenge to benefit a local community? The answer involves creativity, design thinking, interesting community members, probing possibilities, and offering new, innovative ideas.


“These dedicated students explored dozens of opportunities using Design Thinking,” Innovation Center Stoughton (ICS) Executive Director Katrina Becker said. “Their exploration guided their discovery of unique prospects for our young and growing organization.”

Students were tasked with exploring community wants and needs regarding growing the nascent Innovation Center Stoughton. Using a Design Thinking methodology, students focused on understanding needs, creating opportunities, and delivering actionable programs and approaches to support the ICS goals in being a relevant resource that engages the entire community.

This class was the last in a series of UW-Madison classes that focused on Innovation Center Stoughton and other innovative ideas for Stoughton for their “real-world” class projects, as part of ICS’ partnership with UniverCity Alliance (UCA) through the UniverCity Year (UCY) program from 2021-2023.

Student participation in local communities is the embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.

Thirty UW–Madison Design Studies students partnered with Innovation Center Stoughton during the Fall 2023 semester. In this photo, the group poses for a photo.
Thirty UW–Madison Design Studies students partnered with Innovation Center Stoughton during the Fall 2023 semester. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Erickson.

“The Wisconsin Idea states that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” UCA Managing Director Gavin Luter said. “Over the years, we have partnered with hundreds of community initiatives throughout Wisconsin. Each instance brings students learning opportunities and brings communities access to students’ energy and expertise in a host of projects benefiting our Wisconsin communities.”

Eden Meidl, a UW–Madison senior from nearby Oregon said the class provided a “meaningful” opportunity to “directly contribute to the community.”

“I grew up with friends from Stoughton. After being at college for four years, it was a special opportunity to put into practice all the things we have learned,” Meidl said. “It grounded my learning and at the same time, made me committed to continuing to contribute to local communities. If we don’t do it, who will?”

Kathleen Erickson, professor for the class, described the project as an “intensive eight-week design sprint.”

After an eight-week “design sprint,” students offered recommendations to Innovation Center Stoughton. Photo courtesty of Kathleen Erickson.

“The students immersed themselves in practices to understand the community members’ wants and needs, business owners perspectives, and multi-generational learners’ wishes. So very many Stoughton public officials, teachers, business owners, and families all participated in conversing with students,” Erickson said. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome community members provided. ICS has nothing but promising prospects with their leadership team and this amazing community.”

Becker concluded, “We are delighted to have participated in this synergistic, mutually beneficial learning experience. We look forward to putting the community’s needs and wants first as we collaborate and innovate.”

To view all of the UniverCity Year – Stoughton projects, visit

To learn more about the UniverCity Year program, visit 

UW–Madison Design Studies class, UniverCity Year, and Innovation Center Stoughton say “thank you” to the Stoughton community! This article was written by Kathleen Erickson in partnership with Katrina Becker.