Editor's Letter

A Great Leap Forward

The Future Issue shows how UW–Madison will change the world while also transforming itself.

Surrealistic red, blue, and white illustration of the UW crest against a glowing horizon

Danielle Lamberson Philipp

On Wisconsin loves Badger history and traditions. At the drop of a hat, we will profile alumni from days gone by. We even have a section called Bygone, showcasing vintage subjects and archival images.

So you’d think the occasion of UW–Madison’s 175th anniversary would have us looking backward, toward 19th- and 20th-century glories. But … surprise! We’ve turned the telescope in the opposite direction. The anniversary got us wondering how the university will address the challenges of a rapidly changing world — one that would surely baffle the 17 male students who enrolled in the UW at its founding in 1848. Thus, we give you the Future Issue.

What we offer, in stories throughout the magazine, is cause for hope. “Fixing the Future” describes UW research that’s paving the way for a better tomorrow. “Into the Unknown” finds the university transforming its structures and strategies in a brave new era for higher education. “The Truth in Our Genes” delves into the emerging field of social genomics, which promises improvements in treatment and policy-making based on genetic research. And in “How to Have It All,” UW experts explain how we can all be happier in times to come.

What would a Future Issue be without a bit of baseless speculation? We look ahead another 175 years in an illustration titled “UW–Madison in the Year 2198.” Will there really be escalators on Bascom Hill and airborne food-delivery robots? If these things don’t come to pass, we hope later generations of Badgers won’t judge us too harshly.

And never fear: even in a forward-looking issue, we’ve retained our beloved Bygone, which shows how the university faced the future in its architectural plan of 1908. Then, as now, the UW dreamed of solving problems for Wisconsin and the world.

In 2023, those problems are vastly more complex than in 1908, but that doesn’t mean they’re unsolvable. As ever, UW–Madison has a way of making dreams come true.

Published in the Spring 2023 issue


  • Steve Hinterberger March 3, 2023

    It’s good to know Badger history, but it also helps to know world history. Great Leap Forward was the name of a radical program of rapid agricultural collectivization in Communist China in the 1950s.

    Estimates of the number who starved in Mao’s Great Leap Forward range from 15 million to 50 million. I hope the effects on Wisconsin of UW’s Great Leap Forward are less severe.

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