Being a Badger

Getting involved

Two people stand behind a table with a banner and small display items of birds while talking and smiling with two visitors to their booth.
Students visit with members of the Audubon Society – UW-Madison chapter at their outdoor table during the annual Fall Student Organization Fair at the Kohl Center. The fair is an opportunity for students to learn about special-interest groups, activities and services offered by more than 400 student organizations on campus.

Student organizations

There are more than 1,000 student organizations on campus. The best way to seek out current organizations is to visit the Center for Leadership and Involvement (CfLI) and the Wisconsin Involvement Network, the official directory of registered student organizations. This list doesn’t include unregistered student organizations, and you may find groups in your department that you would like to get involved with as well.

If you are interested in registering an organization, you must register through CfLI. Once registered through CfLI, your organization is eligible for funding from ASM, the student government body, and your group can reserve rooms in the Union and access other resources.

Here are a few groups that bring together graduate students across different departments:

There are many more organizations out there that may align with your interests and hobbies. Ask around, attend events like the Student Org Fair, or look online through the Wisconsin Involvement Network to find them. Because campus has students from all around the world, there are also many organizations that bring students together based on different cultural interests and beliefs.

Student government

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) is the campus-wide student governance organization at UW–Madison. Graduate and undergraduate representatives are elected to the 33-member ASM Student Council based on their respective college or school. ASM is the student organization responsible for distributing money from student segregated fees.

The Wisconsin Unions

An orange and yellow chair with sunburst pattern.
The iconic sunburst chairs mean one thing when spotted outside on the shores of Lake Mendota: it’s terrace season.

There are two student union buildings on campus: the historic Memorial Union on Lake Mendota, and the newer Union South near Camp Randall. Most students refer to Memorial Union simply as “The Union,” while Union South goes by its full name. The unions are social, cultural, and recreational centers of the campus. If you’re enrolled in at least three credits, you’re automatically a member.

The Memorial Union Terrace is a can’t-miss feature of the UW–Madison campus. With an outdoor music stage, food and drink options, and a spectacular view of Lake Mendota, the Terrace is a timeless hangout for the entire community. It is also one of the few places close to campus that draws a large number of grad students and professionals from the area, which can be a nice change of pace on a campus dominated by undergrads.

Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD): Student-led WUD committees run all Union programs. WUD brings prominent speakers to campus, shows classic and current films, offers a wide variety of entertainment, and plans service events. Being part of WUD is a great opportunity to get involved in planning events, meeting people with similar interests, and taking a leadership role.

Wheelhouse Studios: Wheelhouse Studios provide short, fun, and informative courses for personal and professional development. If you want to learn how to cha-cha, carve wood, taste wine, or navigate the real estate market, check out Wheelhouse classes.

Morgridge Center for Public Service

Want to get out of the classroom and into the community? Put course theory into practice through service? Look for a resume builder during the semester? Or just to connect to those similar to you? Stop by the Morgridge Center for Public Service office to learn how you can start volunteering. It also offers opportunities specifically for graduate students related to community-engaged scholarship and research.

Wellness Spotlight: Office of Student Assistance and Support

Contributed by Elaine Goetz-Berman, Graduate and Professional Student Assistance Specialist

While in graduate school, issues might arise in your personal life and/or in your program. During these difficult stretches, the Office of Student Assistance and Support (OSAS) is here to support you. This office provides resources to students struggling with a variety of issues and seeks to be the go-to spot for student assistance on campus. Every staff member is dedicated to cultivating a caring environment where students can come and find support. OSAS is here to help!

Major functions of the Office of Student Assistance and Support include:

There is a role in the office specifically dedicated to supporting and assisting graduate students. Elaine Goetz-Berman ( is here to meet with you to discuss mental health/wellness resources, problems within your program or with faculty, financial concerns, and any other personal issues that arise during your time here on campus. Please reach out early and often if you are encountering anything that you need support with.

Diversity and multiculturalism on campus

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in all its forms is central to a robust educational, professional, and research environment. The Graduate School aims to increase the enrollment of students from historically underserved and underrepresented populations while helping them be successful academically and personally. The Graduate School is committed to supporting our schools and colleges in creating an inclusive environment for all students to thrive.

Graduate students on our campus are valued individuals who are teachers, leaders, workers, volunteers, advocates, family members, and researchers in our community. We endeavor to support them in all aspects of their identities.

Graduate School Diversity Statement

Graduate School Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding: The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding is your resource for social networking, learning, and professional development. Housed within the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, it focuses on the needs of underserved graduate student populations such as graduate students of color and first-generation graduate students.

Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement: The Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA) supports the mission of the University of Wisconsin–Madison as it works to create a diverse, inclusive, and excellent learning and work environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners at the university. It hosts the annual UW–Madison Diversity Forum each fall.

Gender and Sexuality Campus Center: The Gender and Sexuality Campus Center’s mission is to strengthen and sustain an inclusive campus community for LGBTQ+ and allied students by eliminating heterosexism, homophobia, and gender identity oppression. The center’s goal is to provide the services and resources necessary to meet the social, emotional, academic, and cultural needs of LGBTQ+ students. The center organizes workshops and events for the campus community – check out their website and social media for updates.

McBurney Disability Resource Center: The McBurney Disability Resource Center works with students, faculty, and staff to provide students with reasonable academic accommodations. Disabilities come in many forms, both visible and invisible, and disclosure of disability is always a personal choice. The McBurney Center and the entire university respect this and ensure that information about a student’s disability is kept confidential unless otherwise discussed with the student. If you think you may need accommodations, start early. Your instructors and the McBurney center will be able to accommodate you most effectively if they have plenty of time. In many situations, this means starting the dialogue before the semester starts. For information about non-academic accessibility issues such as employment accommodations and facilities accessibility, visit UW–Madison’s accessibility website.

Health insurance

UHS provides some of the most common health services, but students who are looking for comprehensive health coverage may wish to enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), which is the university-sponsored, comprehensive, and affordable health plan that provides additional coverage for the services that UHS does not provide. International students and J–1 scholars are required to enroll in the SHIP Health Plan or to file a waiver proving they are adequately insured in some other way.

PAs, TAs, and RAs with at least a 33.33% appointment are eligible for health insurance as a part of their benefits package. You should be given information about insurance options when you first begin your graduate assistantship. Contact the Benefits Coordinator in your department, or the UW Benefits Service Office for more information. Pay close attention to enrollment deadlines, which are often within 30 days of starting your assistantship.

Benefits for graduate assistants

For more information on health insurance and benefits for students with graduate assistantships, visit the Office of Human Resources’ Benefits website.


Madison is a relatively safe city to live, work, and study, but like anywhere else, crime sometimes happens. These services and resources are available to help:

  • If you feel unsafe walking alone at night, use SAFEwalk. A pair of SAFEwalkers will meet you at your location and walk with you to your destination. Note that SAFEwalk’s service area doesn’t include far west campus, such as UW Hospital and Eagle Heights.
  • Campus emergency phones are available around campus that dial 911 directly with the push of a button, and your call is connected to the UW–Madison Police Department (UWPD) Communication Center. The phones are for emergencies only.
  • Report crimes. Campus crimes should be reported to UW Police at 608-264-2677. Off-campus crimes should be reported to the Madison Police Department at 608-255-2345.

Check out UWPD’s website for more information about staying safe.

Sports and recreation

University Recreation & Wellbeing oversees club sports, fitness classes, intramural sports, and programs like lap swimming, weightlifting, and basketball on campus. It also offers personal training, massage therapy, and wellness coaching. Several athletic facilities are open to students on campus, and are accessible to individuals with disabilities. You need to show your UW student ID to enter.

  • The Nicholas Recreation Center (“the Nick”) is located on the southeast side of campus. It features fitness space, basketball courts, multipurpose studios, and a 50-meter pool and diving well.
  • The Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center on the west side of campus includes a 25-yard recreational pool, basketball courts, an ice sheet, fitness areas, multipurpose studios, and an indoor jogging track. The building also has spaces for supporting mental health.
  • The Nielsen Tennis Stadium is one of the best indoor tennis facilities in the nation. As a grad student, it costs $8 to play singles and $4 for doubles, with discounted rates available during certain times of the week. Lessons and drills are also available from the tennis professionals on staff.

Most campus facilities have lockers, so bring your own lock if you want to use one temporarily.

University Recreation & Wellbeing offers Group Fitness classes for a small fee at the Nick and the Bakke Center to currently enrolled students, faculty/staff, and spouse/domestic partners that have paid the recreation membership fee. Some classes are very popular, so you might want to arrive early to guarantee a spot or reserve your spot online for certain classes.

Intramural sports

Meet grads from all over campus by playing an intramural sport. Some teams get together to play outside of the league or meet socially after games. One grad student volunteers to captain, which requires registering the team and communicating with players.

A student wearing a shirt with the Motion W logo runs on a green field.
Students run drills on the intramural playing fields west of the Natatorium and Gymnasium on UW–Madison campus.

Team sports in Madison

Team sports can be a great way to meet new people and keep active. Many graduate students (and faculty, too) participate in team sports through non-university groups.

Sustainability on campus

The UW–Madison Office of Sustainability (OS) serves as a central hub for sustainability programs and initiatives on campus. The office’s mission is to align research and education on sustainability (its purpose) with campus operations (its practices) in the service of environmental, economic, and social responsibility to people and the planet.

Here are a few ways you can engage with sustainability on campus:

  • The Office of Sustainability website includes information and guidelines on composting, recycling, and sustainable transportation, as well as a Sustainability Dashboard where you can track the university’s progress.
  • The OS intern teams offer sustainability training and certification for campus labs, offices, and events. Graduate students can serve as a point of contact for green certification.
  • The Green Fund provides $50,000 in grants for student-initiated projects that reduce the environmental impact and operating costs of campus buildings. Students often work on teams to develop and propose projects.
  • The OS newsletter features stories about sustainability at UW–Madison, the larger community, and beyond. You can also stay up to date and find additional information by following the OS on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.