LSC’s work in community engagement advances the Wisconsin Idea

Since its founding in 1908, UW-Madison’s Department of Life Sciences Communication has a strong commitment to community engagement. By working with communities in Wisconsin, the department is furthering the Wisconsin Idea by advancing our knowledge of communication theory and using it to understand public perception and advance public policy.

The Wisconsin Idea signifies that education should influence people’s lives outside the boundaries of the classroom. Community engagement is a large part of how LSC advances the Wisconsin Idea, being both a leader in communication theory and contributing to on-the-ground work with communities in Wisconsin. Understanding how to communicate science to diverse communities is of great importance to the department, and we highlight some of these current projects below.

Civic science fellow Nicole Krause is focused on bettering our understanding of communicating science to conservative and religious audiences. In her fellowship, Krause has focused on identifying gaps in our understanding and worked with partner organizations John Templeton Foundation and BioLogos to understand how effective current science messaging is to her communities of interest.

“I’m interested in understanding that if you survey the entire US population, for example, who is agreeing with [partner organization’s science] messaging? And which subsets of religious audiences does that resonate with versus some whom it might not? And where do some of those discrepancies exist?” Krause says about her work. In the second half of her fellowship, Krause aims to gauge the effectiveness of her partner’s current science communication campaigns and identify how they can be improved.

LSC Chair Dominique Brossard and post-doctoral researcher Mikhalia Calice began working on a multi-million dollar Department of Energy grant in early October, which seeks to connect communities and experts to discuss the nuclear energy solutions of the future. In particular, Brossard and Calice will work with communities to determine how the nuclear industry can use consent based siting methods for nuclear waste storage. By engaging with communities, this work aims to forge a new future of community conscious nuclear energy.

LSC assistant professor Kaiping Chen, alongside doctoral student Amanda Molder and a team of undergraduate students, organized two workshops this past October to engage people of color in discussions about climate change. Working with local organizations Urban Triage and Wisconsin EcoLatinos, Chen and her team organized workshops to empower Black and Latinx communities and amplify their voices to change public opinion. In early January, Chen and her team will present their findings to policymakers in Madison and Dane county, including the mayor’s office of sustainability.

Students at Tribal Youth Media camp interview a  tribal elder.

LSC’s work in community engagement also extends to the native nations of Wisconsin. For the past 17 years, LSC has partnered with Native American communities of Wisconsin to help middle and high school students engage with science and storytelling through the annual Tribal Youth Media camp every summer. The camp, organized by LSC teaching faculty Don Stanley and retired LSC Professor and Bad River Tribe Member Patty Loew, aims to connect tradition and science through outreach and education. They use their expertise in media and communication to help students explore traditional and western knowledge, culminating in video projects that will be featured in documentaries and movies. This camp shows young leaders that they can succeed in higher education and use their knowledge to serve their communities.

“One of the many strengths of LSC faculty and students is to produce research, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, that is impactful at the local, state, and international levels. This is what the Wisconsin idea is all about,” says Dominique Brossard, LSC professor and chair.


Written by: Julia Wiessing, LSC B.S. ’23 and LSC’s 2022-2023 Lenore Landry Scholar
Published: December 2022