WAA intern Laurel Bruesehoff x’16 stands in front of the state capitol bearing postcards from alumni to legislators. After WAA asked alumni to contact their legislators during the spring of 2015, WAA staffers and students hand-delivered thousands of postcards to key state senators and assembly members. Tens of thousands of alumni engaged in advocacy efforts throughout the state-budget debate.
In a year when the university faced unprecedented challenges, WAA helped alumni to speak out.
In late 2014 and early 2015, the threat of cuts to the UW budget and changes to the university’s governance structure dominated conversations on campus and across the state.
But long before details of the proposed state budget became public, WAA had a plan to help Badger alumni around the world to stand up for the university, its tradition of academic excellence, and its reputation. This preparedness stems from the organization’s origins: WAA was founded in 1861 for the primary purpose of protecting the university’s interests, which included state funding.
Nearly 5,500 people participated in a teletown hall meeting with Chancellor Rebecca Blank, and 35,480 received a voice message from the chancellor.
With a multifaceted advocacy campaign, WAA sought to inform alumni about the budget discussion through letters, email, online updates, public relations, special events, a teletown hall, and other initiatives. In total, the alumni association delivered more than 1.5 million budget-related messages during the debate.
The result of these efforts was an outpouring of support for the UW. Alumni throughout the nation spoke up — online, in print, and through social media. More than 100 alumni participated in face-to-face meetings with 13 state legislators at seven advocacy events, and 6,065 alumni sent postcards to their legislators. In addition, 2,320 alumni sent personal letters or emails to their legislators in support of the UW, and more than 1,100 alumni took the step of signing up to be advocates for the university.
As a result of all of these efforts, Wisconsinites and people around the country know more about this great university and the Wisconsin Idea. Legislators became more aware of the strong, grassroots support that the UW has throughout the state. And new advocates stepped forward — alumni who have pledged to support the university in the future.
The state government will continue to face budget challenges, and chances are, the university will be a political target again in the future. If that happens, the Wisconsin Alumni Association and UW alumni will be ready to stand up once more.