Advocating for Your University

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Alumni voices have played a role for more than 150 years.

When the university’s first graduates launched the Wisconsin Alumni Association in 1861, advocating for state support of the UW was their founding mission. That mission continues today as the association educates alumni about federal and state policies and how they affect the university’s funding.

During Wisconsin’s 2015–17 biennial state budget process, many alumni advocates are making their voices heard in support of UW-Madison as they engage in dialogue about the budget, which is expected to be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in July.

“The nearly 400,000 living alumni all over the world have a broad set of backgrounds, interests, and occupations, and they represent the full spectrum of political views,” says Paula Bonner MS’78, WAA president. “What they all share is passion for their UW education, and they value the role higher education plays in making our economy stronger, our world healthier, and our lives more fulfilling and enriched.”

As many classes of students have become alumni over the years, the budget picture has changed. In the last biennium, revenues from state government totaled $497 million of the $2.9 billion budget for the twenty-six campuses and statewide extension of the University of Wisconsin System. Over time, the amount of total dollars from the state has increased. But, as a percent of the total budget, state support has significantly declined — from 43 percent of total revenue in 1973 to just 17 percent today.

In this changing landscape, volunteer advocates know that it is essential to stay informed about the UW’s top priorities through connections with faculty and campus leaders, university websites, publications (including this magazine), and new sources, such as the chancellor’s blog, Blank’s Slate.

While alumni voices can make the difference at crucial times during the budget process, notes Mike Fahey ’89, WAA managing director of alumni advocacy, the Alumni for Wisconsin network of volunteers is active all year. Alumni for Wisconsin encourages Badgers to be ambassadors for the UW among friends and influencers. (See uwalumni.com/support/advocate.) “When alumni translate that passion to elected officials through grassroots advocacy, they help support a stronger UW-Madison for generations to come,” he says.

Published in the Spring 2015 issue

Tags: Alumni, politics, Public service, UW System

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