Alumni College

May 28 - May 31
CANCELED, more info below.

We’ve been monitoring rapidly changing conditions and new information about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Following recent recommendations from public health officials and guidelines established by UW–Madison leadership, we have decided to cancel all alumni events through the end of May. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this cancellation, and we appreciate your continued support of UW–Madison.

This year’s Alumni College retreat presents you with the chance to join fellow alumni and friends in learning about a wide array of important UW–Madison research. Opportunities await to take field trips and attend presentations by an interdisciplinary team of top UW faculty members and experts, with topics covering limnology, medicine, astronomy, and political science.

Choose from website tabs below to learn more about this informative, all-inclusive weekend getaway in the beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods.

Attendee Information

What can I expect?

In addition to staying in a private resort, this exclusive weekend getaway includes all meals, presentations by UW faculty, relaxation and recreational opportunities, and more. Guests will meet UW faculty at the start of the trip and interact with them throughout the weekend. You’ll also get a tour of the UW’s Trout Lake Station, a year-round field station located in the Northern Highland Lake District that supports environmental and limnological research, training, and outreach. For more information on each day’s activities, please reference the schedule tab.

Cost per person

$650 Commuters (Does not include lodging)
$995 WAA members (Includes lodging for three nights)
$1,050 Nonmembers (Includes lodging for three nights)


Full Schedule

This schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Thursday, May 28

3 p.m. Arrival and check-in at Red Crown Lodge
5 p.m. Welcome reception and program overview
6:30 p.m. Dinner
8 p.m. Meet your Alumni College faculty
8:30 p.m. Explore Red Crown Lodge at your leisure with optional campfire and s’mores

Friday, May 29

7 a.m. Buffet breakfast
9 a.m. “A Political Scientist Looks at the 2020 Presidential Election” led by Barry Burden
10:30 a.m. “Limnology at UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Idea” led by Jake Vander Zanden and Gretchen Gerrish
12 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. Trout Lake Station tour
3:30 p.m. Afternoon free time with trip to Minocqua; recreational activities available at Red Crown Lodge
5:30 p.m. Reception
6:30 p.m. Dinner
8 p.m. At your leisure

Saturday, May 30

7 a.m. Buffet breakfast
9 a.m. Yoga (optional)
10:15 a.m. “The Milky Way’s History Unveiled” led by Elena D’Onghia
12 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. “Harnessing the Immune System to Cure Children and Adults of Cancer” led by Paul Sondel ’71, PhD’75
3 p.m. Afternoon free time with trip to Minocqua; recreational activities available at Red Crown Lodge
5 p.m. Reception with pontoon boat rides and cocktails
6:30 p.m. Dinner
8 p.m. At your leisure with optional campfire and s’mores

Sunday, May 31

8:30 a.m. Buffet brunch
11:30 a.m. Checkout and program close

Program Information

It’s time to learn like a Badger again! This program offers once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities you don’t want to miss. Read on for more information about each speaker, the speech topics, and field trips.


Elena D’Onghia

Associate professor, UW–Madison’s Department of Astronomy

A 2018–20 Vilas Associate Professor Research Fellow, D’Onghia is interested in what happens outside of our solar system. Her research uses analytic models and high-resolution numerical simulations to gather insights into the processes that form the stellar skeleton of our galaxy.

During her talk, D’Onghia will discuss her cutting-edge research. For centuries, researchers have known that our sun is located in the stellar disk of the Milky Way, a typical spiral galaxy. Galactic astronomy, however, entered a period of renaissance in 2013 thanks to the Gaia satellite and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-IV, the latter partnered by UW–Madison. These two space missions have mapped the stars in the stellar disk of the Milky Way. New technologies adopted in these surveys are finally making a study of the structure of our galaxy possible. D’Onghia and her team are involved with two major research areas: high-resolution numerical studies of the structure and evolution of the Milky Way, and the ways in which dwarf satellite galaxies get cannibalized by the Milky Way, feeding a halo of stars surrounding the galaxy.

Gretchen Gerrish

Director of the Trout Lake Station, UW–Madison’s Center for Limnology

An evolutionary ecologist, Gerrish examines how organisms adapt to changing ecological conditions. Her research looks at aquatic invertebrates whose life cycles and reproductive strategies allow them to survive in variable environments. She is currently investigating how vertical migration behavior in zooplankton changes in relation to moonlight throughout the lunar cycle.

Jake Vander Zanden

Wayland Noland Distinguished Chair, professor, and director, UW–Madison’s Center for Limnology

Although Vander Zanden’s research focuses largely on Wisconsin lakes, his work has spanned aquatic ecosystems around the world. He works on developing a more holistic understanding of lake food webs that include benthic pathways and linkages among habitats and ecosystems. On the applied side, his research includes efforts to understand and predict the spread and impact of aquatic invasive species in inland waters.

In their talk, Gerrish and Vander Zanden will highlight how research at UW–Madison and Trout Lake Station has provided insight into climate change, invasive species, water quality, and acid rain. Fresh water is a vital resource for humanity, and the role of water is especially evident in lake-rich northern Wisconsin. The discipline of limnology — the study of inland waters — was founded at UW–Madison, and UW researchers have studied lakes in the Trout Lake region for nearly 100 years. This research has provided fundamental insights into the functioning of freshwater systems. The presentation and field trip to Trout Lake Station will highlight the link between past and present research, and it will provide participants with a stronger sense of place within the aquatic landscape of northern Wisconsin.

Barry Burden

Professor, UW–Madison’s Department of Political Science; director, Elections Research Center; and the Lyons Family Chair in Electoral Politics

Among his many works, Burden is the author of Personal Roots of Representation and the coauthor of Why Americans Split Their Tickets. His research and instruction focus on U.S. elections, representation, public opinion, and Congress, and his recent research has centered on aspects of election administration and voter participation. Burden is a cofounder of the Elections Administration Project and is affiliated with the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Center for Demography of Health and Aging.

What does a political scientist think about the 2020 presidential election? In his talk, Burden will offer an analysis of the Democratic presidential nomination and the November general election. The presentation will illuminate the ways in which the current campaign reflects and deviates from previous election cycles and what factors are likely to drive the results in Wisconsin and across the country.

Paul Sondel ’71, PhD’75

Reed and Carolee Walker Professor of Pediatric Oncology, UW–Madison’s Department of Human Oncology

Sondel joined the UW faculty in 1980 and has led scientific policy through several roles at the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the National Cancer Institute, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He also has worked with the COG to contribute to the progress of developing curative treatments for childhood cancers.

Although cancer remains the largest cause of death for adults between the ages of 40 and 70 in the U.S., Sondel will address in his talk the real progress that’s been made so far. In January, the American Cancer Society indicated that the death rate from cancer is falling faster than ever before. Over the past 10 years, the concept of immunotherapy — using a patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer by giving treatments to boost specific aspects of the immune system — has moved from the laboratory into the clinic with several examples of striking successes. This progress was considered the “breakthrough of the year” by Science magazine in 2013, and it was the focus of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2018. There is still much more to be done to better treat cancer and prevent cancer-induced mortality and morbidity, but progress is being made, with the UW playing a role in this effort.

Field Trips

  • Tour the UW’s Trout Lake Station and learn more about the important research being done there.
  • Enjoy a trip to Minocqua for shopping and exploring.

Red Crown Lodge

Red Crown Lodge is a corporate retreat in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin, that was established in 1922 by Standard Oil. Sited on Trout Lake in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, the lodge has served as a meeting facility for more than 80 years. It offers spacious guest rooms and opportunities for body-and-mind enrichment.

Questions? Contact Stephanie Wallace ’05 at or 608-308-5528.

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