The Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation (WORF) continues to be a valuable partner in outreach programs that help revitalize rural Wisconsin. This program is free to rural students and helps them explore the diversity of careers in science. Since its inception in 2007, the WROF has been supporting the program.
The workshop series brought more than 100 students and 15 teachers “face-to-face” to learn online from scientists at the Morgridge Institute for Research. The students and teachers logged on from 18 school districts in the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance and the Upward Bound program that focuses on underrepresented and first-generation pre-college students. Over six weeks, the students and teachers engaged with scientists working in the fields of metabolism, regenerative biology, medical engineering, medical imaging, and more.
“Through weekly Zoom calls, the students met with scientists, heard their personal stories, and began imagining their own paths into science,” says Dan Murphy, outreach and lab manager at the Morgridge Institute. During the workshop, students could select a morning or an afternoon lecture, and to Murphy’s surprise, many participated in both sessions. The students learned about the latest research at the Morgridge Institute, went on “behind-the-scenes” lab tours, and had Q&A time with the scientists.
“The opportunity opens up new possibilities for students and gives them the idea that UW-Madison is attainable for anyone,” wrote a participating rural high school teacher. “I am so thankful that this opportunity existed this summer for our students.”
Ross Soens, a graduate student in the Cantor Lab, said the summer workshop was a great way to work on his science communication skills, and to remember where he started as a budding scientist.
“I, too, was once a high school student in Wisconsin, and it was through the efforts of committed and enthusiastic teachers that I found myself on my current scientific career path,” Soens says.
Murphy says the workshop showed the Discovery Outreach team how an all-virtual experience can be a meaningful place to connect and inspire. The team is thinking about the next steps such as building in more virtual interactivity for next year. S
ince 1934, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. has invested in the education of people from rural Wisconsin so they, in turn, can transform and improve the economic health and quality of life in their rural areas. As a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, more than 6000 individuals have received over $6.2 million in scholarships and grants in agricultural and rural health care education in over 30 different Wisconsin educational institutions and programs.