UW-Madison: WD adds CBS and WPR “external processors” to diverse, collaborative environment


Contact: Marianne English, 608-316-4687,
[email protected]

MADISON – When Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) director David Krakauer arrived on campus, he envisioned creating a place where leading-edge science effortlessly flowed beyond the walls of the Discovery building and the university.

He wanted to connect ideas and people of all walks of life.

“If you believe in diversity and interaction, then what’s not in the recipe at WID?” asks Krakauer. “It’s the communicators, film directors, musicians, artists – the people outside of the sciences – that are missing.”

That’s why WID developed External Professors at Discovery, a program that invites experts in the professional world to explore meaningful connections and collaborations at the institute. Krakauer says it’s a part of WID’s transdisciplinary approach to push beyond the lab bench to form hyper-connected communities and discuss big ideas from several vantage points.

For the 2012-13 year, the institute welcomes Emmy award-winning CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg, co-founder and interviewer for Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge (TTBOOK) Anne Strainchamps and executive producer and interviewer with TTBOOK Steve Paulson.

These external professors focus on public-oriented ways to communicate science, culture and ideas. In future years, external professors may focus on other areas such as film, music or art.

WID external professor Anne Strainchamps says the partnership makes her work more dynamic.

“The idea of trying to take some of the best of what TTBOOK does out of the airwaves and make it real on the ground – that’s exhilarating,” she says. “Creative insight doesn’t happen in planned institutional frameworks. It’s a much more chaotic and complex process that happens when people unexpectedly encounter ideas outside their own intellectual homes.”

It was similar inspiration that drove Peter Greenberg to return to Madison for visits throughout the year as an external professor.

“It’s all about connecting unsuspecting and nontraditional dots,” says Greenberg, who notes that some of the most impactful experiences he had at UW-Madison as a student occurred outside of the classroom.

Whether it’s chatting over coffee with researchers or giving public talks, moderating panels and teaching classes, external professors are teaming up with WID to more deeply engage with the campus community.

External professor Steve Paulson, also with the nationally syndicated radio show TTBOOK, says the chance to partner with WID and UW-Madison can help address communication gaps, especially for translating the university’s research findings to the public.

“Working with WID, we can make these discussions more personal and provocative and raise big questions,” Paulson says. “We work in the realm of ideas, not just information. I’m more interested in asking what things mean and why people should care.”