Being a Badger

Getting Involved

A woman standing next to posters describes the Multicultural Student Center to interested students.
Students check out the Multicultural Student Center booth during the Fall Student Organization Fair at the Kohl Center.

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 Registered Student Organization directory. 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 at cfli.wisc.edu. 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:

  • Association of Asian American Graduate Students (AAAGS): Brings together Asian-Americans for fellowship, education, and a better understanding of what it means to be Asian-American.
  • Association of Graduate Engaged Scholars (AGES): Supports the community-engaged research and teaching efforts of UW–Madison graduate students from any department.
  • Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA): Supports black graduate and professional students through participating in learning and personal development experiences, exploring career and networking opportunities, building a strong social and professional network, and serving the community at large.
  • Catalysts for Science Policy (CaSP): Educates graduate students about science policy and emphasizes the importance of increasing scientist participation in science policy issues, both local and national.
  • Community: Provides social, academic, and professional support to underrepresented graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at UW–Madison. Membership is open to graduate students who practice or are interested in STEM, and who identify as being from a group that is underrepresented within their department or field.
  • Graduate Women in Science (Sigma Delta Epsilon), Beta Chapter (GWIS): Provides a local support network for women scientists through a variety of events, such as monthly seminars about issues faced by women scientists.
  • Indian Graduate Students Association (IGSA): Promotes Indian culture on the UW campus and helps new Indian graduate students to get settled into life in Madison.

There are many more organizations out there for both undergrads and graduate students that may align with your interests and hobbies, so ask around, attend events like the Student Org Fair, or look online through the Wisconsin Involvement Network. 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.

Multicultural Graduate Network

The Multicultural Graduate Network (MGN) is your resource for social networking, learning and professional development. Housed within the Graduate School at UW–Madison, MGN focuses on the needs of graduate students of color, and also serves as an inclusive network for all graduate students. MGN has three major goals for supporting graduate students of color:

  1. Bridging the gap between admissions and enrollment;
  2. Creating multicultural spaces through which graduate students can build communities across campus;
  3. Providing learning and professional development opportunities to support graduate students from the beginning to end of their graduate program(s).

Contact mgn@grad.wisc.edu to get connected and sign up for the MGN newsletter.

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 older 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 3 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, beer service, 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-run 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 connect to those similar to you? Stop in 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: Dean of Students Office

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 Dean of Students Office (DoSO) 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. DoSO is here to help!

Major functions of the Dean of Students Office include:

There is a role in the office specifically dedicated to supporting and assisting graduate students. Elaine Goetz-Berman (egoetz2@wisc.edu) 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

Women’s Clinic: University Health Services (UHS) has a clinic for women, located on the third floor, that offers services including contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, routine gynecological exams, health issue counseling, health education, and more.

Campus Women’s Center: The Campus Women’s Center (CWC) was founded in 1983 to confront the oppression women may face on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability. The CWC works to provide women-centered support services, educating the campus community on a number of women’s issues and serving as a resource and referral center for all students.

In addition to the CWC, there are a number of women’s graduate organizations specializing in different fields. The Center for Research on Gender & Women maintains a list of women’s organizations on campus.

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.

Safety

Madison is a relatively safe city to live, work, and study, but like anywhere else, crime sometimes happens. Remember these eight common sense safety tips provided by the Division of Student Life:

  1. Lock your doors. Theft is a crime of opportunity.
  2. Do not walk alone at night.
  3. Do not walk in dimly lit or rarely traveled areas.
  4. If you feel unsafe traveling at night, use the SAFE nighttime services.
  5. Do not post your address or phone number on social media.
  6. 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.
  7. Remember, there is a correlation between alcohol use and crimes: alcohol and other drugs are involved in 90% of student felonies.
  8. Take responsibility for your personal safety. For more safety information visit uwpd.wisc.edu.

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. 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 Natatorium ( “the Nat”) is near the vet school, Lakeshore dorms, and the hospital on the west end of campus.
  • A new facility, the Nicholas Recreation Center (“the Nick”) is expected to open in 2020 on the southeast side of campus.
  • The Shell, near Camp Randall, is the furthest from campus dormitories and tends to attract faculty and grad students. It offers indoor ice skating for a small fee.
  • The Nielsen Tennis Stadium is one of the best indoor tennis facilities in the nation. As a grad student, it only costs $6 to play singles for 75 minutes and $3 for doubles, with discounted rates available during certain times of the week. Lessons and drills are also available from the tennis professionals on staff.

The Nat and the Shell both have closed parking lots that do not require permits after 4:30 p.m. Most campus facilities have lockers (bring your own lock).

University Recreation & Wellbeing offers Group Fitness classes for a small fee at the Nat to currently enrolled students, faculty/staff, and spouse/domestic partners that have paid the recreation membership fee. Classes include floor classes, aqua, yoga, Pilates, cycling, and specialty courses. 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.