University of Wisconsin–Madison

UniverCity Year Dane County

Since its formation as a territorial county in 1836, Dane County has seen constant population growth. With approximately 516,000 residents, it is the second largest county in Wisconsin, yet agriculture remains an important part of the county’s economy. The Dane County Board of Supervisors (made up of 37 elected representatives) is the county’s legislative and policy-making body. Sharon Corrigan of Middleton currently chairs the county board.

The Dane County Board of Supervisors is the UniverCity Year partner in the 2017-2018 academic year.

"This is a truly unique opportunity to put research into action, and I can’t wait to see the results."

Sharon Corrigan, Chair, Dane County Board of Supervisors

Four project areas

Students researched case studies of local and national organizations using cooperative business models to reduce food insecurity and increase access to affordable childcare. They also developed communication campaigns to increase participation in community supported agriculture farms among low-income families and to encourage use of the microenterprise business loan program. Finally, students investigated options for using the grounds of the Alliant Energy Center for pop-up shops.


Students analyzed 95 parcels throughout Dane County, assessing the feasibility of future workforce housing developments at these sites. Students considered risks, determined funding options, and designed structures to address the county’s most urgent housing needs. Students also recommended energy efficient and sustainable materials to use when constructing workforce housing developments. Finally, they investigated the merits of the cooperative housing model to encourage resident engagement, promote sustainable growth and increase the longevity of the property.


A number of people repeatedly cycle through jails, mental health facilities and social services. Students recommended processes to more effectively serve frequent users of county services, including integrating data and systems across multiple agencies. Students also analyzed usage data to tell stories about the work of county service providers.


Students identified agricultural practices that protect and improve the quality of the county’s waterways. They also investigated the anaerobic digestion process of converting manure into biogas and fertilizer. They designed watershed conservation plans for Door and Dorn Creek and studied how riparian buffers can minimize the impact of runoff. Finally, students conducted user experience design analyses of nutrient-management-planning software.