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Jul 3, 201811:08 AMOpen Mic

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How alumni can carry the Wisconsin Idea forward

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Badger alumni have positive feelings about Madison, the university, and the state. Their strong connections to the university often lead to a lot of volunteering and giving back. Depending on their industry expertise and stage in life, some may be interested in moving back here or able to participate in advising newly formed companies. By mobilizing the base of alumni to be active partners in this work, we can accelerate economic development in the region while involving them in the expression of the Wisconsin Idea.

In fact, many notable companies got their start this way — alumni lending their expertise and getting involved with faculty, staff, and students to form companies. For example, the online food delivery service EatStreet was founded here on campus less than 10 years ago. What started as student idea, through alumni mentoring, faculty guidance, and more than $38 million from investors, turned into a thriving business in more than 250 cities. Numerous collaborations and networks engage alumni to help students and entrepreneurs, such as the Weinert Center for EntrepreneurshipMerlin Mentors, and gener8tor.

With a little help from our alumni, more innovations can make their way from the UW to the market, strengthening Wisconsin’s economy and enhancing the university’s contributions to the world.

Michael Knetter is CEO of the University of Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, the independent entity that raises funds and builds affinity for the university. This commentary is part of a series of articles organized by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). For over 90 years WARF has promoted a cycle of innovation through advancement of University research discoveries to the market and reinvestment in research at UW–Madison. Comments on this piece are encouraged at wisconsinidea@warf.org. See warf.org or WARF’s Cycle of Innovation for more details on WARF.

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