Journalism – On Wisconsin For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Mon, 25 Mar 2019 17:14:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Room for Debate Tue, 26 Feb 2019 16:45:58 +0000

In a polarized world, UW–Madison fosters tough conversations.

On a warm autumn afternoon when I needed it badly, I got a shot of hope for the future of conversation. Pulling up a chair at the Memorial Union Terrace and eavesdropping there under the old oak trees, I heard brilliant debate by research scientists about the best way to get a stubborn gene to express. At another table, there was virtuosic smack talk accompanying a game of cribbage. These lovely (loud!) sounds are ear candy after the deafening silence of being among too many people staring at their phones. They confirmed for me that the great collegiate tradition of chewing the fat with friends lives on.

But I still worried about our collective capacity to have deep conversations about tough topics with people who aren’t already our friends or colleagues and who we suspect see the world from a different perspective. Research shows that, for the first time in more than two decades, members of both political parties have strongly unfavorable opinions of their opponents. And our society is highly subdivided in other ways, so that people often end up congregating almost exclusively — in real life and through online communities — with others who share the same racial, religious, and demographic profiles.

Luckily, though, many at UW–Madison are actively seeking, encouraging, and developing the ability to discuss difficult topics fruitfully. Students are seeking out opportunities to talk through some of the biggest matters on their minds, and they (like many faculty members) are eager to argue respectfully and learn more about what they don’t understand. And those of us eager to reclaim conversation — the face-to-face kind — as a means for sifting through the complexity of contemporary life and building bridges can learn a lot from listening to what people on campus are doing.

Fireside chats

Later last fall, I joined the student-run Afternoon Conversation Series, a regular all-comers-welcome meetup held beside the flickering hearth of the Prairie Fire coffee shop inside Union South. I found about a dozen undergrads and graduate students listening intently as the day’s invited guest, Sumudu Atapattu, director of the UW Law School’s Research Centers and a specialist in international environmental law, spoke in soft, serious tones about the impacts climate change is already having on daily life in places vulnerable to rising sea levels, including parts of Alaska.

Though the legal and human rights implications of climate change Atapattu detailed were sobering, the students present seemed undaunted, going on to pepper her with thoughtful questions about how they might help push for change. One young woman wondered if she could combine her interests in law, science, and economics in a career. Absolutely, Atapattu says. If we’re going to meet the challenges of climate change, “all of those disciplines need to learn how to communicate with each other.”

Last year the group also discussed the status of the young immigrants known as DREAMers and international women’s health. After the conversation, one of the group’s organizers told me that the aim of these intimate talks on serious topics is to give students a chance to interact with professors without “the usual intimidating student–teacher power dynamics.”

The art of argument

UW mathematics professor Jordan Ellenberg is a fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and professional-grade curator of talk — one of those classic social network figures who’s as comfortable discussing baseball and James Baldwin as he is breaking down the intricacies of multivariable equations. Over tea at a café near campus last spring, Ellenberg says that, for him, a key benefit of working at “this gigantic, multifarious institution” is having many opportunities to chat and mind-meld with researchers working in far-flung disciplines, who often shed surprising new light on his work, and he on theirs. But he also enjoys the “intellectual exfoliation” he receives as a result of speaking with other faculty members who aren’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and “push you to expand and enlarge” how you view an issue.

One such stimulating loofah figure Ellenberg always likes being “a little conversationally scraped by” is Harry Brighouse. The UW philosophy professor has argued on his popular blog and at various campus gatherings on teaching methodologies that the standard, top-down instructional model many American college classrooms follow does students a disservice. Research shows that college students (and adults generally) can pay attention to a single speaker for only about 20 minutes. So Brighouse makes a deliberate point of beginning classes with a short lecture, but then largely ceding the floor to his students.

To keep the conversation on track — or to redirect when one or more students begin to dominate a group discussion — Brighouse continues to dole out questions carefully. And he has his students — most of whom are accustomed to socializing mainly with their dorm and apartment mates — introduce themselves to each other over and over. It’s a strategy inspired by his own experience as an undergraduate at King’s College London, where he not only took all of his classes with the same group of people, but lived and ate meals with them, too, sparring over philosophy and history all the while.

And his chief aim, he explains, is to help students burn through shyness to become friends and strong intellectual debate partners for each other.

“Some of my students come to college reeeeally reluctant to argue. But even they will eventually say, ‘What are we going to argue about next?’ They’re really hungry for this,” Brighouse says.

Describe your path

In his cozy office decorated with vintage school maps and a stellar collection of LEGO Star Wars ships, Greg Downey, associate dean for the social sciences in the College of Letters & Science, keeps a small conference table. Students know they can sit down and discuss their aspirations and future plans, bouncing ideas around until they land on ones that feel, if not perfect, then good enough for now. And it’s here — as well as in the college’s popular Taking Initiative professional planning course, which Downey leads, and its new SuccessWorks career center — where Downey and his colleagues are invested in helping students get hands-on experience and find the right words to describe their evolving skills and interests to prospective employers.

Companies consistently report that they consider strong verbal and written communication skills essential for hiring, and there’s evidence from social psychology showing that creating an overarching narrative (aka storyline) for your life helps people gain healthy perspective and move ahead fruitfully. Downey has each of his students develop a “two-minute career story” and practice delivering it with classmates. Some struggle with the assignment. Maybe they’ve heard that speaking about your accomplishments amounts to bragging, or they’re still not entirely sure what they want to do with their lives, Downey explains. But once they hear other students sharing similar stories and realize that it’s okay to be still exploring options and just say this plainly, they usually get more comfortable.

But there are other reasons why he thinks it’s important for him, and faculty and staff at colleges everywhere, to be available to speak with students about whatever’s weighing on their minds. “UW students are accomplished and goal-oriented,” Downey says. “If you set them a task, they will work through it.” But he and other campus advisers have also realized — partly in light of the fact that the number of college students seeking treatment for anxiety and depression has shot up in recent years — “that we need to be continually active in encouraging our students to talk with us, and talk with each other,” he says.

Beyond managing coursework, many students today face “family pressures, peer pressures, [and] pressures from jobs. Technology pervades their lives, and while sometimes it helps them cope, sometimes it ratchets those pressures up.”

Group dynamics

More and more, students and faculty are seeking out and welcoming conversations where they can feel not only free, but encouraged to unfurl — working through difficult thoughts together with others in an unhurried way, saying things they’ve never said (or thought) before, opening up new doors of understanding to combat distrust.

Last fall, the UW released its Campus Climate Survey, which found that, while most students find the campus to be a safe, welcoming, and respectful place, students of color and from other historically disadvantaged groups consistently rated the climate less favorably overall than students from majority groups did. And since then, the work of various UW discussion programs created to foster greater equality, inclusion, and understanding across differences has taken on new urgency.

One such program, run by the UW School of Education’s Department of Counseling Psychology, is Diversity Dialogues. When it started almost 15 years ago, the big, burning divide that students wanted to discuss was the difference between students from the Midwest and the coasts. But now that issues of racial discrimination, gender nonconformity, and economic disparity have shot to the forefront of national news, students from different racial, ethnic, gender, and class backgrounds are eager to meet and talk about how these dimensions have shaped their experiences and perceptions.

UW professor of counseling psychology Steve Quintana, who directs Diversity Dialogues, says that one of its primary objectives is to help students recognize that all people (not just those who are obviously similar to them) are “living rich, interesting, and complex lives.” The theory behind deepening social understanding is that it makes it easier for people to understand and appreciate (if not always love) why others may act a certain way or hold a certain view.

To help students who typically have never met before they start talking, Quintana and other dialogue facilitators give participants different cues, such as asking them to describe pivotal childhood experiences or their own negative or positive experiences of diversity. A running rule is that no one can interrupt whoever is speaking for at least 90 seconds. Facilitators also work to sustain a respectful balance by reminding participants that every person’s perspective and personal experience are valid.

They also point out that mixed-company conversations on race, in particular, have a tendency to become “one-sided white confessionals,” wherein white students wax on describing their guilt over certain societal privileges they’ve enjoyed, at the expense (in terms of comfort) of black students in the group. But just naming the potential dynamic up front and noting that it can place additional burdens on black students is a surprisingly effective way of keeping it at bay, Quintana says.

After they’ve participated in the program, many students tell him that learning how to trade notes on class, race, sexuality, and other topics in a calm, non-adversarial setting (unlike so many of the combative finger-pointing sessions we see on TV today) made them feel more flexible and open — and eager to keep speaking with people who aren’t obviously like them. Getting new “windows into the depths of people’s experience is rewarding,” Quintana says. Once they’ve realized that everyone has an interesting story to tell, students often say they’re more likely to break the ice with strangers in everyday settings.

Comfortable with uncomfortable

UW professor Christy Clark-Pujara often spends the first few sessions of her classes on African American history and the history of slavery speaking with students about why it’s important for them to be able to discuss race together, even though it’s a subject many of them have been told to avoid. And she explains that “it’s okay to feel uncomfortable in this class, and even a good thing, because that’s where you learn and grow.” Clark-Pujara knows most of her students have so far been taught only the scantest rendition of black American history: “First there was slavery. That was bad, but some people were nice. Then there was Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, and now everything’s fine.” But then she begins fleshing out that time line with stories that fly in the face of certain well-oiled myths, including the myth that slaves did little to resist their circumstances.

“When you look at the primary documents, the history of slavery becomes a history of great resistance — not only physical, but moral, emotional, and cultural resistance,” Clark-Pujara says. She also disproves the folkloric belief that Wisconsin was always free of slavery. French-Canadian trappers brought slaves with them when they settled here in the early 1700s. When Southerners — including Henry Dodge, two-time governor of the Territory of Wisconsin — arrived in the early 1800s to mine for lead in the southwestern part of what later became the state, they had slaves with them, too.

At some point during the semester, students of different races overflow with “indignation” over never having been given an inkling of this richer, more complicated history. Clark-Pujara is there for all of it, ready to help them talk through and process “the terribly uncomfortable” fact that the “economic ascent of the United States rests on the backs of enslaved black people.” Empathy is a major theme in the class, she adds.

As we neared the end of our own conversation, Clark-Pujara pulled out two thank-you notes she had just received from students who’d taken her Introduction to African American History course. Each described a different way in which the class and Clark-Pujara’s teaching had changed not only their minds but their lives. The notes were beautiful. And they reminded me why talk, at the UW and everywhere, is so vital to staying alive and engaged: our world is never going to be perfect, and individuals and systems will inevitably let us down. But we should by no means withdraw and give up.

By debating and grappling with new ideas together with others, in real time — riding tides of confrontation without getting too rattled, watching one another’s faces light up and fall and light up again — we get to take another look at what we think, and make it better.

But we can’t get there through silence.

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Bad News Badgers Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:41:24 +0000 Black and white photo showing students in stands at 1968 Badger football game

UW Archives 2018s00431

In 2017, the Badgers lost just one football game. In 1968, they couldn’t win one.

It’s almost impossible to believe in these days of annual bowl game appearances, but the UW once suffered through 23 straight winless games — 22 losses and a tie. A key contributor was the ill-fated 1968 squad, whose 0–10 finish remains, 50 years later, the worst record in the school’s history.

I’m the poor soul who covered that team for the Daily Cardinal, which gave me a front-row seat for a debacle that was as hard to watch as it was to stomach. The Badgers scored an average of just 8.6 points per game — while allowing more than 30 — and endured three straight shutouts. There were blowout losses to the likes of Arizona State (55–7), Michigan State (39–0), Iowa (41–0), and Ohio State (43–8).

That, though, was merely misery. Agony was witnessing the gut-wrenching ways the Badgers squandered their few shots at victory. In a 21–17 home loss to heavily favored Washington, the UW threw four interceptions in the game’s last four minutes.

At Northwestern, the Badgers led 10–6 in the fourth quarter when their tailback broke free up the middle, only to pull up with a leg injury. Three straight Wisconsin penalties killed the drive, and the Wildcats won 13–10.

The ultimate heartbreaker was the UW’s Homecoming game against Indiana. The underdog Badgers lost 21–20 after missing six field goal attempts, the last one coming with 22 seconds to play after the holder mishandled the snap.

While the players never quit, they couldn’t overcome a shortage of talent and an oversupply of injuries and penalties, some the result of officiating blunders. It all added up to the first — and still only — season that failed to produce even a tie since 1889, when the inaugural Badger squad finished 0–2. The season ended with many of the team’s African American players boycotting the football banquet, saying the coaching staff treated them unequally.

The captain of this sinking ship was second-year head coach and former UW star quarterback John Coatta ’53, MS’59, who had inherited a mess and went 0–9–1 in his debut season.

Victory finally arrived four games into the 1969 season, when the UW scored 23 straight fourth-quarter points to upset visiting Iowa, 23–17. Those Badgers won three games, but Coatta’s contract was not renewed. Only six winning seasons followed in the next 23 years — until a guy named Alvarez turned weeds into roses in 1993 and beyond.

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Chris Linehan Freytag ’87 Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:15 +0000 Chris Linehan Freytag leads outdoor yoga class


Chris Linehan Freytag ’87’s first aerobics class at the UW, which she took back in the ’80s, inspired a lifelong passion for exercise — and that has led to an online fitness empire. Freytag is the founder and CEO of, a digital publishing company based in the Minneapolis suburbs. It encompasses a website, blog, newsletters, social media, and a subscription-based workout service that reaches more than 2 million women a month.

Although Freytag’s first job after college was in direct-mail marketing, she never left fitness far behind. Getting certified as an aerobics instructor was quickly followed by becoming a personal trainer. Soon she was working for Lifetime Fitness in the Twin Cities, where she still teaches everything from yoga to cardio and strength conditioning.

After developing a strong following from her classes, Freytag began selling her own workouts on VHS tapes (remember those?). Before long, she had partnered with Rodale Publishing, producing dozens of fitness DVDs and serving as a contributing editor at Prevention magazine. She gained further exposure with appearances on the Home Shopping Network and a Twin Cities morning news program.

Then came her website, which is when things exploded for Freytag. Despite her success, the former journalism major — who composed her first stories on a typewriter — hasn’t always found the digital world easy. “I’ve had to teach myself how to create a digital presence,” she says, “everything from selling online advertising to working with brands.” It also doesn’t hurt that her three full-time employees are millennials, “digitally savvy and with so many ideas for execution.”

A streaming subscription workout series called GetHealthyUTV is Freytag’s latest project. “So many people today don’t have time for the gym,” she says. Her fitness series is currently bringing what she calls the “power of the group” into 10,000 homes.

Many of GetHealthyU ’s clients are middle-aged, like its founder, and for them she has some advice:

  • Start at any time: you’re never too old.
  • Begin slowly so you don’t get injured. (Don’t start with CrossFit!)
  • Consistency is key. The quick fix no longer works in your 40s or 50s.
  • Aim for moving your body and eating right 80 percent of time. You don’t have to become obsessive.
  • Learn to love your body. And stop looking at magazines full of 20-year-olds.
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Local News Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:14 +0000 Nash Weiss poses with book of old newspapers

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Bill Glauber

For Nash Weiss x’19, the path to a career in journalism returned him to his hometown of Mondovi, Wisconsin. Over the summer, Weiss, a senior in the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication, served as interim editor of the Mondovi Herald-News, which ran his birth announcement years ago. He stepped in at the local weekly during the current editor’s maternity leave. “I grew up here. I care about the community. I always will,” Weiss told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This is the way I could give back.”

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A Move to the Modern Age Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:13 +0000 Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. ]]> Poster for movie, "Ralph Breaks the Internet"After cowriting Wreck-It Ralph, an Oscar-nominated Disney film released in 2012, Phil Johnston ’94 has done it again as codirector and cowriter for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, hitting theaters November 21.

In the first film, video game villain Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) longed to be a hero; the sequel tags along with him and his friend Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman) as they venture through the internet after finding a Wi-Fi router in their arcade.

The film features many characters whom audiences are sure to recognize (in one scene, Vanellope meets a group of Disney princesses, including Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Moana, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, Snow White, and more), along with new faces (including Yesss, an algorithm voiced by Taraji P. Henson, whom Ralph meets along the way).

Alex Kang

Alex Kang

“It’s not so much a clash between generations as it is the loving integration of modern technology into that older world … and hopefully they find harmony,” Johnston said in a February interview with, noting that the Wreck-It Ralph sequel still strives to show appreciation for old characters and games.

Johnston, who majored in journalism at the UW, has worked on several other films, including Zootopia, The Brothers Grimsby, and Cedar Rapids.

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From Wisconsin, With Humor Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:41 +0000 Manitowoc Minute, a comedic take on the news.]]> Fresh out of UW–Madison with degrees in journalism and geography, Charlie Berens ’09 was ready to break into broadcasting. But whether he was working in Texas, California, or Washington, DC, he received essentially the same feedback: you talk funny.

He stressed the o in opinion too much. He drew out the a in bag. He used strange words like bubbler when he was thirsty.

What was a Wisconsin guy — let alone one raised in a big family with a passion for fishing and the Green Bay Packers — to do? Ditch the accent to become more marketable?

Let’s just say Berens did the opposite, and the internet is grateful.

• • •

In June 2017, Berens posted a short video online that he called the “Manitowoc Minute.” Wearing a camouflage jacket that he stole from his dad and sitting at a bare-bones “news” desk, he gave a shout-out to a bait shop in Plover and poked fun at Stevens Point before getting into the headlines: the misconception held by some Americans that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, President Trump’s latest approval rating, and Bill Cosby’s mistrial. Each bit of news served as a setup for a joke, and Berens delivered it all in his thickest Wisconsin accent.

Peppered with comments that would soon become his catchphrases — “Ohmygosh,” “Holy smokes,” and “Keep ’er movin’ ” — he ended with a heartfelt wish — “I hope this was the best minute of your life” — and a none-too-subtle plug for the Packers and a dig at the Chicago Bears.

To date, that first episode has racked up more than a half million views on Facebook, but it almost didn’t happen.

“I was almost hesitant to release it, like, I don’t know that people want to see this,” Berens says. “And then I put it out, and it did well, and then I thought, well, I guess I’m going to do a second episode.”

And he did. And a third and a fourth and another and another each Monday, serving up a mix of headlines from his home state and beyond with a hearty dose of Wisconsin charm. The show, with Berens a constant as the affable host, has garnered fans around the world, inspired a collection of Manitowoc Minute merchandise, and even sparked a tour of sold-out live shows across Wisconsin. • • •

Before Wisconsin culture became the bread and butter of his comedy career, Berens lived it as a kid. The second oldest of 12 siblings, he grew up in New Berlin and Elm Grove, with frequent trips up to Fond du Lac to visit his grandparents. He loved the Packers, waterskiing, hunting, and public-access fishing shows.

At the UW he dabbled in music — “guitar, mandolin, kind of folk stuff,” he says — playing covers and original songs at coffee shop open mics and the Memorial Union Terrace.

During the 2008 presidential election, Berens got a gig with MTV’s Choose or Lose campaign, which deployed “citizen journalists” across the country to serve as correspondents. It opened his eyes to less formal, more entertainment-focused modes of reporting.

After graduating, Berens embarked on a career that took him around the country and had him working as a correspondent for a millennial-focused news website; a reporter and host for a Dallas television station, where he won an Emmy; and a host for entertainment and sports outlets in Los Angeles.

All the while, comedy brewed in the background. Berens had been doing stand-up and writing when he posted a video online in 2016 called “If Jack Dawson Really Was from Wisconsin,” dubbing in his own voice for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic character, said to be from Chippewa Falls, to give him a more “accurate” way of speaking. It’s been viewed more than 13 million times.

The success of the video, as well as how audiences responded when he revealed his exaggerated accent in stand-up, reassured him that the world was ready for more Wisconsin. • • •

To create each episode of the Manitowoc Minute, Berens culls headlines from politics to sports to pop culture. “And that really actually helps with joke writing,” he says. “The news is basically your setup. Every day you have new setups. So it does help to be a little bit of a sponge for pop culture.”

Occasionally he goes out into the field for a segment. He’s gone fishing with his unamused father, water-skied in the summer, downhill skied in the winter, and taken a yoga class with a bottle of beer perched next to his mat. And while in Madison for a performance at the Wisconsin Union Theater in January, he stopped by the state capitol.

“I went to the capitol expecting to hop on a tour or something,” he says, “and ended up really lobbying to get a bipartisan deal done to just change the Wisconsin flag a little bit.”

His proposal: replace the rope and pickax that the flag’s sailor and miner have been holding since 1848 with bottles of Miller Lite and Spotted Cow, swap out one of the guys for a woman, and change the “Forward” motto to “Keep ’Er Movin’.” The state legislature may not have adopted his changes, but a revised flag is now available for purchase on his website.

In addition to the supper clubs, taverns, and other Wisconsin locales that Berens namechecks in his show, he brings his geography background to bear in his favorite segment: the Craigslist Kicker.

“I feel like you can tell a lot about a place just by looking [at] the classifieds,” he says. “For example, there are so many silos for sale. … Coming from the perspective of a geography alum, what does that say about where we live? It’s almost symbolic of the larger farming community — you’re selling your silo? It’s interesting.”

Ultimately, Berens’s goal with the show is bringing folks together.

“When everyone is laughing, we’re all on the same page, even if it’s just for a joke,” he says, adding that the show has become a platform for his audience to donate to causes like Wounded Warriors, the Boys and Girls Club, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Fans always seem to jump at the opportunity to support a variety of causes. It’s a great reminder that there’s a lot of common ground we share.”

• • •

These days, Berens and his wife, Alex Wehrley ’09, a communication arts grad and former Miss Wisconsin, split their time between Los Angeles and the Badger State to make the most of this Manitowoc moment.

As he continues to do stand-up, as well as write and produce comedy sketches and pilots, Berens is thinking about what comes next for the web series.

“I think there’s a way to bring the show to outside of Wisconsin, of finding a way to engage and potentially create a network of other people doing similar things around the country,” he says. “So maybe there can be a full-on newsroom. I think it would be fun to have other people who represent where they’re from and do it in the same way the news networks do it.”

What will never change, though, is his love for Wisconsin, and the way he shares it with the world.

“This is who I am,” he says. “I like to laugh at myself, I’m self-deprecating, and I think Wisconsin culturally has that sense of humor. I think people get it. It’s all in good fun.”

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Cynthia Hornig ’91 Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:07 +0000 Portrait of Cythia Hornig

Rachel Schultz

Ten years after Cynthia Hornig ’91 and her friend Jen Jones left their jobs in 2001 to start a public-relations agency in New York City, they launched a website to fill a critical need. Women You Should Know features a collection of untold and inspirational stories about the impact women have on their communities and the world.

With a nod to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the pair shared the stories of seven female first responders during the terror attacks. In less than a day, Huffington Post republished them, and the site was off and running as a pioneer in digital empowerment. Today, you’ll find features on feminism, entertainment, and women in science, technology, engineering, and math; trailblazers in photography and finance; a look at concussion dangers in women’s ice hockey; and a profile of an 11-year-old who is collecting 1,000 books about black girls.

Along the way, Hornig and Jones heard from women who were raising money for new businesses, charitable causes, and artistic projects. Recognizing another way to support the important work that women do, they designed the crowdfunding platform Women You Should Fund and offered hands-on public relations and marketing feedback for every campaign.

Women You Should Fund launched in March 2017 with a bid to raise funds for the nonprofit Harriet Tubman Home historical site in Auburn, New York. The campaign exceeded its $25,000 goal in less than three weeks. The platform has since supported 12 additional campaigns, including an illustrated series about women in science and a cheese-storage-and-preservation device (sure to appeal to Hornig’s fellow Badgers). United Women Firefighters raised nearly $20,000 on the site to fight gender disparities at the New York City Fire Department.

Hornig and Jones have also launched a product called (em)Power Laces — a collection of shoelaces featuring words such as fearless and warrior — to support their women’s advocacy initiatives. And Women You Should Fund has been featured on, Upworthy, and other media outlets.

Filmmaker Leah Warshawski turned to Hornig and Jones to raise money to market and distribute her feature documentary Big Sonia, about her grandmother — a business owner and Holocaust survivor.

“Cynthia and Jen are two of the hardest-working women I know,” Warshawski says. “We talked almost every day. We felt like a team.”

Thanks to more than 600 donors, the film crew beat its goal and raised just under $80,000. “The campaign was a success, but more importantly, [Hornig and Jones are] like family now,” Warshawski adds. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

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7 Objects of Affection Fri, 03 Nov 2017 23:02:36 +0000


Professor: Daniel Young, entomology

Object: Beetle-mania

Overhead shot of pinned beetle specimens each with detailed label.

Doug Erickson

“Most everything in my office probably would be considered creepy or gross to many people, but not to me,” says Young, whose officemates are thousands of dead insects. His research collection of fire- colored beetles — his specialty — is estimated to be the third-largest in the world.


Professor: Harry Brighouse, philosophy

Object: Doctor Who art

Doug Erickson

Forty-four years ago, Brighouse, age 10 and living north of London, ran to a newsstand and bought three copies of Radio Times, a TV Guide-like publication with Doctor Who on its cover. Today, he’s known for an office full of objects related to the British television series, including a reproduction of that 1973 cover. “The show influenced my values and views on society, even teasing me into abstract thinking, which is what I ended up doing for life,” he says.


Professor: Carrie Sperling, law

Object: Needlepoint house

Doug Erickson

Soon after Sperling successfully helped a client through the Wisconsin Innocence Project, the man thanked her with this needlepoint house made in prison. Students who take the time to look it over are rewarded: Sperling stocks its numerous secret compartments with candy.


Professor: John Valley, geoscience

Object: Rock that contained the oldest known piece of Earth

A piece of sandstone mounted on a wood board with label that reads, "Jack Hills sandstone. Contains zircons from 4.4 to 3.1 billion years old. Source of the oldest known piece of Earth."

Doug Erickson

Valley extracted the rock from an outcrop in Australia. In 2014, he and a team of researchers reported that it contained a speck of zircon — a tiny, hardy crystal — that is 4.4 billion years old. That’s the oldest known bit of Earth’s crust. Alas, the priceless zircon is stored elsewhere on campus under lock and key. But Valley keeps in his office the rock it came from, itself one of the oldest objects on campus at three billion years old.


Professor: Emily Stanley, integrative biology

Aged glass bottle filled with lake sediment.

Doug Erickson

Object: Lake sediment

As pioneers of freshwater science, UW lake ecologists Edward Birge and Chancey Juday analyzed hundreds of Wisconsin lakes. Stanley cherishes one of their sediment samples, passed down to her from a predecessor and marked “Aug. 7, 1907, Lake Manitowish.” It’s now just dried mud in a discolored bottle, but it’s also a point of pride.


Professor: Bill Tracy, agronomy

Object: John Steuart Curry reproduction

Framed painting of five men, one in foreground and four in background, standing in cornfield.

Chazen Museum of Art

Curry, one of the great painters of American Regionalism, served as the first artist- in-residence at the agricultural college. In 1941, he painted Dean Chris Christensen in a field of sweet corn. The original hangs at the Chazen Museum of Art, but a 72-by-48-inch reproduction that once graced the dean’s residence ended up in a warehouse, where Tracy, agronomy department chairman, rescued it. “I’m very proud that it’s in a place of honor again,” he says.


Professor: Sandra Adell, Afro-American studies

Object: Painted mannequin legs

Upside-down pair of black mannequin legs streaked with colorful paint and wearing high healed shoes.

Doug Erickson

While jogging years ago, Adell rescued the discarded legs from a curb. They languished, unpainted, in a corner of her office until 2004, when student Brody Rose ’99, MFA’05 stopped by. “You have to paint my legs,” Adell told him. They now rise prominently from her desk, capped with high heels from her closet. “What I hope the legs convey,” she says, “is that this professor is a bit unconventional and a lot of fun.”

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John Hanc MA’83 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 19:28:35 +0000

Courtesy of John Hanc

To write a book proposal on a woman known as the Marathon Goddess, John Hanc MA’83, a runner himself, spent a weekend shadowing Julie Weiss in Los Angeles — even running part of the 2017 LA marathon at her side. Weiss earned her nickname by running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise funds for pancreatic-cancer research. “She said I really nailed her voice,” Hanc says. “I did that because I’d been with her; I heard her; I looked her in the eye and ran in her shoes.”

The author’s love of participatory journalism — immersing himself in the lives of the people he covers — is modeled after his hero, George Plimpton, the late editor of the Paris Review and a renowned practitioner of this journalistic craft.

Hanc channeled his subjects’ voices with precision and empathy when cowriting a string of award-winning memoirs, including Not Dead Yet with diabetic bike racer Phil Southerland, and The Ultra Mindset with endurance athlete Travis Macy. Hanc was on site when the city of Athens, Georgia, closed down for its historic Twilight Criterium — a grueling, 80-lap (roughly 50 miles) bike contest in which Southerland competed and lost. Hanc seized on the defeat and the intense atmosphere to open the memoir.

Drawing people into his method of telling incisive stories extends beyond the printed page. As an associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology — where he was voted the professor who made the greatest impact — he will often have students read his rough drafts “to let them see the writing process as it unfolds. Students love that immediacy,” he says.

Hanc’s own career took off after working postcollege in the public- relations department of his hometown newspaper, where he yearned to hone his journalism skills. With a scholarship in hand, he enrolled as a graduate student at the UW to earn his master’s. “I did the degree in a year, which almost killed me, but they taught me to think more critically and write more concisely,” he says. “I learned how to read research papers that turned out to be very helpful to this day. It was a thrilling experience to be there with so many brilliant, talented people.”

Hanc’s tenacity also drove him to journey 7,000 miles with 228 people from 15 countries to the bottom of the earth to take part in the 2005 Antarctica Marathon, which he chronicled in his own memoir, The Coolest Race on Earth. For 26.2 miles on King George Island, Hanc tramped through dense mud, loose rocks, and slushy glacial trails, eventually finishing 17th in four hours and 42 minutes. Some parts of the race went unreported because, he explains, he was “delirious with pain. While aspects of it were magical, improbable, and even laughable, it was a really hard slog.”

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Our Man in Berlin Mon, 22 May 2017 17:47:49 +0000 Louis Lochner 1909 was dumbfounded when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to London and trumpeted “peace for our time” after signing a pact in Munich that allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The mood outside 10 Downing Street on September 30, 1938, was euphoric, and Chamberlain recommended that the assembled crowd “go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”

Lochner, the bureau chief for the Associated Press in Berlin, couldn’t understand the naïveté behind appeasement — he knew better than anyone that Adolf Hitler would not stop until he dominated all of Europe. That night, as Britain slept, the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia.

Six weeks later, Lochner filed this story for the AP:

Berlin, Nov. 10 — The greatest wave of anti-Jewish violence since Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 swept Nazi Germany today and Jews were threatened with new official measures against them.

Millions of dollars worth of Jewish property was destroyed by angry crowds. Jewish stores were looted. Synagogues were burned, dynamited or damaged in a dozen cities.

Sounds of breaking glass and shouts of looters died away only near midnight. Hundreds of Jews voluntarily spent the night in jails fearing worse violence as reports of burning and looting continued to come in from many cities.

Those three paragraphs were the first that many in the English-speaking world read of Kristallnacht, a nationwide pogrom that killed dozens of Jewish people and led to the systematic persecution and murder of six million.

During two decades as a foreign correspondent, Lochner filed stories about the rise of the Nazis and knew long before many Americans had heard of Hitler that Germany was headed for war. Before the U.S. entry into World War II, he was among a handful of journalists credentialed to cover the German army in battle. He also managed to tick off Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the Third Reich, and was interned by the Germans following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Lochner returned home and wrote a book detailing the rise of the authoritarian regime, in which he eschewed his wire service objectivity and let his emotions flow: “I want the reader to feel as burning an anger as I do at the perversion of civilization that Adolf Hitler is trying to foist on an unwilling world.” • • •

Lochner was the son of German immigrants — his father was a Lutheran minister — and he grew up in Milwaukee speaking their native language at home. He went on to study journalism at the UW, after switching his major from Greek and Latin, and his senior thesis was on Wisconsin’s primary elections. He was active on campus as director of the German Glee Club, secretary of the junior class, a writer for the Badger yearbook, a Daily Cardinal reporter, and a member of the International Club.

“I place my association with students from all parts of the world ahead of my book learning and technical training I acquired,” Lochner wrote in his memoir, Always the Unexpected. “It was certainly splendid preparation for my later life’s work as a foreign correspondent. I learned to cultivate the ‘international mind.’ ”

As a student, Lochner became active in the peace movement, and in 1909, he attended an international meeting of students in Holland. There, Lochner recalls in his memoir, British journalist and pacifist William Stead, editor of the journal Review of Reviews, told the students that modern wars had become so costly and destructive that countries would never risk “unleashing the terrifying instruments of death which technology has developed.” Stead’s words resonated with Lochner, who had no inkling he would later cover a war that would unleash instruments of death that killed millions of people.

Later that year, Lochner graduated, and he served as editor of the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine (the predecessor of On Wisconsin) for six years. He continued to travel abroad and play an active role in international pacifist organizations, including working for auto tycoon Henry Ford’s failed Peace Ship expedition to Europe in 1916 — experiences that he said influenced his work as a journalist in Germany. “I could never persuade myself that any nation is made up of preponderantly bad people,” he wrote.

His first wife, Emmy, died in 1920, a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic, and in 1921 Lochner moved to Berlin, where he later met and married a German woman, Hilde De Terra. He wrote for a labor press service and freelanced stories to daily newspapers and trade union publications. He also worked as a literary agent for Maxim Gorky, helping the Russian writer find a publisher for his books in Japan.

• • •

Joining the Associated Press in Berlin in 1924 was a dream come true.

“It was Big League journalism whose gates I had crashed. I was now working for the world’s largest news-gathering association, whose daily dissemination of information covered events in every corner of the globe and was read by millions of readers,” Lochner wrote.

As a reporter for the AP in Berlin, and later its bureau chief beginning in 1928, Lochner’s words and photographs documenting the rise of the Third Reich were transmitted around the world. He interviewed Hitler shortly after his release from prison in 1925 and the publication of Mein Kampf, the first of many interviews as he began his rise to power.

Whether by cultivating sources, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, or assiduously reading German newspapers and periodicals for tidbits of information that could lead to a bigger story, Lochner was adept at his job — one that became more difficult when Hitler became chancellor in 1933. All German journalists needed government- issued permits to work and could lose them for writing or saying anything not in line with the Nazi regime. Losing a job and livelihood at a time when much of the world was in an economic depression meant there were few dissenting voices in Germany.

Many newspapers closed and publications that remained all printed the same news — hand-fed by Goebbels and the propaganda ministry. Foreign journalists working in Germany faced restictions that were not quite as draconian, but they were kept under surveillance — their phones tapped, mail opened, and conversations monitored. A daily terror was suffocating Germany, and Lochner witnessed Brown Shirts beating people in the street. He heard the anguished cries from Gestapo headquarters on Berlin’s Prinz Albrecht Strasse. He repeatedly requested to visit concentration camps — pleas that the Nazi propaganda office rebuffed.

In the book Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else, a chapter about foreign correspondents describes the difficult position Lochner often found himself in: “Reporters in Nazi Germany had to walk a tightrope — especially important for news agency staffers because of their thousands of clients — in balancing the need to cover the story with maintaining access to officials and avoiding expulsion. Almost inevitably, there were accusations, which AP consistently fought, that Lochner was pro-German.”

In 1939, Lochner won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage, which often went without a byline, as was the custom for the wire service. When he returned to the United States to pick up the award that June, he visited his hometown and stopped by the Milwaukee Journal. Staffers in the newsroom asked Lochner where and when Hitler would strike next. Though Lochner’s comments were off the record at the time of his visit, a story the Journal published on October 24, 1942, recounted the AP newsman’s prescient remarks: Hitler probably would not make a move until late August, and the crisis might involve border disturbances or trouble concerning a minority of Germans living in another country. He also told the newspaper’s reporters and editors not to underestimate Hitler.

After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, under the pretext of retaking land disputed between the two countries, Lochner was among the foreign journalists who followed German troops as they swept through Poland, followed by Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece. He cabled thousands of words from the front lines and witnessed the French surrender in June 1940 in Compiègne — in the same rail car where Germany had signed the armistice that ended World War I. He was in Paris when Nazi troops marched down the Champs-Élysées. • • •

Lochner knew his days working freely in Berlin were numbered once Germany declared war on America, but he didn’t think they would come to an end until spring 1942 at the earliest. On December 7, 1941, he was dining with top Nazi officials in Berlin when a telephone call from New York interrupted his dinner with an urgent message: Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and the AP needed reaction from German officials. Lochner returned to his dinner companions, asked questions, scribbled some notes, and phoned them in to the bureau. Two days later, the FBI arrested German newsmen in the United States. He knew, under the German system of reprisals, American journalists in Germany faced a similar fate.

The next day Lochner showed up for the daily press conference at the propaganda ministry, where a Nazi official told him and the other U.S. journalists to go home, which meant house arrest, until further notice. But Lochner didn’t go straight home — this was news, and he needed to file a story. He wrote and sent his last Berlin dispatch, called the city’s other AP journalists and told them not to come into the office, and thanked the bureau’s German staff.

Lochner was among 115 Americans interned for almost five months at a hotel near Frankfurt, unable to file any stories home. In a scrapbook, now housed among Lochner’s papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society on the UW campus, the newsman affixed souvenirs of his internment at a chateau in Bad Nauheim. Black-and-white photos show prisoners performing daily calisthenics, and a pamphlet lists classes Lochner and his fellow internees taught at the “University in Exile” they established to stave off boredom. (His subjects were American geography and German military history.)

“Lochner is behaving in an especially contemptible way. His attacks are directed above all against German propaganda and he aims at me personally,” a frustrated Goebbels wrote in a May 19, 1942, diary entry. “I have never thought much of Lochner. We made too much fuss about him. We can now see what happens in time of crisis.” (The diary was found in the courtyard of the Reich Ministry of Propaganda in Soviet-occupied Berlin in 1945, and Lochner was the one who did the translation after its discovery.) The propaganda minister was furious that while German journalists wrote what they were told, he couldn’t control foreign reporters.

By late May, the Germans released the American reporters in a prisoner swap. • • •

When Lochner returned to U.S. shores on June 1, 1942, an AP colleague met him at the dock and slapped him on the back with the greeting, “What about Germany?” For the next 30 days, the question was repeated with increasing insistence from colleagues who thought he should write a book about his experiences there. Lochner hesitated, because the material he was able to bring home from Germany was incomplete and, in a way, he felt he was too close to the events that took place during his more than two decades in the country. But he ultimately decided the task was too important, and he finished work on it five months later.

“I had to assume that a copy of such a book would fall into Nazi hands — in fact, I hope it will. I know the methods of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, but I can face, with considerable equanimity, his efforts to discredit it,” he wrote in the foreword to What About Germany?

The book succinctly and eloquently outlined how Hitler managed to take over an entire country and twist Germans to subscribe to his obscene ideas, and it examined why no one stopped the dictator before it was too late.

Hitler recognized that the common man can grasp an idea better if it is presented to him in concrete symbols rather than abstract, Lochner wrote. And the dictator knew that in order to “remain virile,” a movement needs not only its own ideology but an opponent against whom it can match wits (Jews and Communists in his case). He also had a remarkable faculty for being all things to all people.

“Hitler merely had to unleash the proper emotions in each crowd, show sympathy and understanding for its problems, and the case was won,” Lochner wrote. “Apparently no one bothered to expose the inconsistencies in his arguments.”

Lochner returned to Europe in 1944, this time reporting on American troops as they fought against the German army he had followed into battle just a few years earlier.

“I had gnashed my teeth many a time in impotent rage when I saw how Hitler was overrunning Europe,” he wrote in his memoir. “Now I was retracing my steps, this time with an army determined to restore freedom to Europe. It made all the difference in the world to me.”

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