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Director's Notes

The "buy local" movement is an international trend that is gaining strength across the country. Closer to home, "Wisconsin Grown" branding was a key recommendation by the Wisconsin Academy's "Future of Farming and Rural Life in Wisconsin" project.

It's easy to understand why. Preference for fresh foods and the desire to support local agriculture are two important reasons. But preserving local economies and lands, food safety, and working to reduce our "carbon footprint" from transporting foods over long distances are also motivators.

When it comes to growing and consuming local intellectual and creative resources, Wisconsin is blessed with our own talented artists, some of whom appear at our James Watrous Gallery High Honors exhibition and in "Growing Our Own," and in this issue of the magazine. The Academy is also committed to nurturing and recognizing local intellectual talent that is capable of leading change, both locally and globally.

This spring the Academy will feature in our statewide Academy Evenings series top researchers on topics as diverse as restoring America's international leadership to discovering how microorganisms can save the earth. You don't need to be a CEO, a university professor, or an elected official to have access to these experts. Our Academy Evenings series offers everyone the equal opportunity for community conversation around issues of both local and global importance. Better yet, you don't have to attend a semester-long course or worry about exams. You don't need to pay expensive conference fees or tuition to participate. Generous donors, sponsors, and members of the Wisconsin Academy like you have teamed up with the artists and intellectuals who are committed to public service, making these opportunities for lifelong learning free of charge.

Wisconsin has a huge local asset in our state's investment in public and private university research and development, and the Wisconsin Academy helps to spread these resources around the state through Academy Evenings and this magazine. What the Wisconsin Academy does best is bring to light the people and resources from around the state that might not be apparent on the surface. The National Science Foundation reports that academic research and development activities in Wisconsin total about $1.067 billion in the latest year. That figure includes science and engineering research by the UW System, the Medical College of Wisconsin and other private colleges and universities. It does not include about another $42 million in research by the Marshfield Clinic and the Blood Center of Wisconsin, or another $72 million in non-scientific research at the UW-Madison. The Wisconsin Technology Council reports that this academic research and development is responsible for more than 38,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

It is on these resources of knowledge, innovation, citizenship, and ethics that our success as a state depends. One terrific example of groundbreaking research and innovation that the Wisconsin Academy shares with our fellow Wisconsinites is the work of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. In this issue of the magazine you can learn more about the promising research that University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Center director Tim Donohue coordinates in the effort to turn plant waste products into "grassoline," a sustainable, petroleum-free way to run our automobiles.

Coupled with the magazine, the Wisconsin Academy's James Watrous Gallery exhibitions and Academy Evenings lectures help to outline a brighter future by showing us how we can both create and consume great ideas on a local level.

Thank you for recognizing that the Wisconsin Academy--as an independent, non-partisan, and nonprofit organization--is playing a unique role in "harvesting" government and universities to bring you the best information on challenging and emerging state issues. Please invite your friends to stay connected to the best artists and thinkers by joining the Wisconsin Academy today, or give a gift of the magazine to your local library or professional's waiting room office. Most importantly, keep "growing new" with us every season.


Margaret Lewis was the executive director of the Wisconsin Academy from 2007 to 2011. For twelve years she served as Assistant, Associate and Acting Vice-President of University Relations for the University of Wisconsin System.

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Wisconsin Academy Offices 
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery 
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25