Wisconsin Idea

The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture is built upon a commitment to applied research, service learning and community-based pedagogy in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea. Department activities include student and faculty engagement with communities through service learning and applied research and service projects. Several examples are included here.   

  • Capstone projects for current BSLA and BS major programs. BSLA seniors take on an individual yearlong capstone project with a community partner. These average about 18 per year and serve municipalities, agencies, nonprofits and communities throughout the State of WI and beyond, including Troy Communities, City of Milwaukee, City of Madison, UniverCity Year initiative, UW System, and more. Capstone projects have occurred in more than 75% of Wisconsin's counties and with other organizations and tribal governments.For the 2017-2018 Capstone project, the Landscape Architecture program was able to accommodate 13 projects that include communities in Kaukana, WI; St. Louis, MO; Grantsburg, WI; Rusk County, WI; Racine, WI; and Wausau, WI. To be considered for the 2018-2019 Capstone Project, communities, organizations, etc., can send an email to Eric Schuchardt. 
  • MSLA Graduate Workshops and Labs. These courses involve theory, concepts and processes that are applied to problems facing national, state and local agencies and groups. Examples of collaborations include the National Park Service, Natural Heritage Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, WI DNR, Fitchburg Center, Inc., other land trusts and conservancies, Department of Public Health, neighborhood associations and other community based organizations.
  • URPL Graduate Workshop. As a requirement of the MS URPL, second year graduate students enroll in a semester-long workshop addressing a community planning issue. Recent projects have addressed non-motorized transportation, housing, land use, water quality, community and economic development, and more. Recent partners include the City of Monona, Marathon County, City of Fitchburg, Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Wisconsin DNR, Jefferson County, and more recently, Sauk City and Prairie-du-Sac! 
  • Client-centered community-based partnerships. Recent project partners for junior-level Landscape Architecture courses (LA365, LA351, LA451) include: International Crane Foundation, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (Milwaukee), Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (Milwaukee), Franklin Elementary School (Madison), The Rudin House – Frank Lloyd Wright Historic Site (Madison), St. James Preschool (Madison), UW Facilities Planning and Management (Madison), Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC), City of Madison Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development, Fitchburg Center, Inc. and the City of Fitchburg's Mayors Office.
  • Service learning field courses. Recent courses offered in: Honduras (Park Planning and Design), Costa Rica (Cloud Forest Restoration and Education), and Nicaragua (Global Health Certificate Course). Many other courses include applied elements and joint team-based student projects (e.g., site design, housing, food systems, water quality).
  • Applied research, engagement, and extension activities include projects addressing community and economic development, food systems, human health and the built environment, local government planning, analyses of urban growth and land use change, housing and transportation, rural amenity and recreation analysis, environmental and natural resources restoration and protection. Several faculty have formal integrated appointments with UW-Extension addressing many of these topics. All faculty and staff are engaged in local, statewide, national, and international service, applied research, and outreach activities. You can hear about our faculty's research in our annual Lecture Series where our faculty and friends in other departments come to speak about their research. 

Research Labs

 Earth Partnership Program 

Group of people gathered in front of pond displaying black bags of invasive plants that were collected

Earth Partnership promotes native habitat restoration as a process for community learning and land stewardship. Through facilitated relationship-building and dialogue, communities identify their shared stewardship vision, and how restoration education can help achieve it. Training is made available to a variety of learners through teacher professional development, youth programming, and family and community engagement. 

Earth Partnership includes three culturally-based initiatives: Indigenous Arts and sciences, Latino Earth Partnership/Colaboración Ambiental, and Global Earth Partnership. 

Environmental Design Lab 

gathering of adults and children in the shade surrounding a picnic table

The Environmental Design Lab (EDL) works to create healthy places for everyone. The EDL does community-based, participatory research in health and place. Their lab strives to be an embodiment of the Wisconsin idea: research, outreach and public service that extends beyond the university to engage with the larger world. The foundation of the work consists of building trusting working relationships with individuals and communities, with the ultimate goal of transforming the places where we live, work, and play.

The EDL does community-based research, evaluation, outreach, and design related to the effects of nature on human health, outdoor nature classrooms,  and are long-time collaborators with Earth Partnership. They are also partners in two statewide initiatives: the Wisconsin School Garden Network, a community-academic partnership project—funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health—that supports garden-based education in Wisconsin by providing free resources and workshops and creating spaces for educators to connect with each other, and the UW Obesity Prevention Initiative, a community-academic partnership that includes coalitions and community organizers across WI along with faculty from the School of Human Ecology and The School of Medicine and Public Health. 

Take a look at one of their projects! A Garden that Grows Learning

Health + Built Environment Lab 

Kaufman Lab 

Outreach Partnerships

PLA has outreach partnerships with the following: