Students visit Ecuador's Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve

Students Logan March, Carly Wilson and Liam Olsen visit Ecuador’s Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve as part of the Tropical Ecology and Conservation First-Year Interest Group (FIG). FIGs are one of many high impact practices administered by the College of Letters & Science. 


My daughter is a high school senior deciding where she will attend college next fall.

One thing that we know about some students who consider UW-Madison is that they are concerned about its size and assume a lack of personal attention. In fact, we offer a growing number of ways for students to get the personal attention they need to succeed.

The College of Letters & Science, which teaches 86 percent of first-year student credits and graduates half the seniors at the university, is big on structuring engaging experiences for students.

Meaningful engagement with extraordinary faculty and diverse peers, with connecting ideas and cutting-edge research, with campus resources and student organizations, is the college experience at its best.

These experiences have been shown to be what higher education researchers call High-Impact Practices – or HIPs.

My daughter and I have logged many miles visiting campuses and listening to presentations by admissions staff. Every school talks about their version of HIPs, but I have come to increasingly appreciate the distinct nature of L&S HIPs and the student pathways they create.

When students select University Housing, they have 10 residential learning communities to choose from – focusing on topics ranging from languages to sustainability to entrepreneurship and more. Beyond theme housing, these communities involve faculty and feature small courses and social activities.

For example, the Chadbourne Residential College offers a first-year seminar, an on-site academic advising office and a common read program – all in support of student success and broadening liberal arts education.

At summer course registration, students have about 60 First-year Interest Groups (FIGs) to explore.

Our FIGs are each individually developed by a faculty member for small groups of students and link three courses together to explore a common theme.

“Citizenship, Democracy, and Difference” is a FIG that examines the racial disparities right in our back yard in Dane County. That main Political Science course is linked to “American History: The Civil War Era to the Present” and “Leadership and Civic Engagement for Social Change.” This FIG also features a service-learning component.

Beyond that, the L&S Honors Program provides a community for high-achieving and highly motivated students.

Honors offers small faculty-led courses and research opportunities. Beyond past performance in high school, Honors seeks students who want to be engaged in L&S.

Students can develop the skills that many employers seek through Honors in the Liberal Arts, which requires a broad distribution of courses in subjects ranging from the humanities to the social and natural sciences. Students can also pursue Honors in the Major, or both.

Pursuing a liberal arts degree at a research university offers opportunities to be engaged in cutting-edge research that spans the spectrum of the sciences and humanities.

The L&S Undergraduate Research Scholars program matches new students with faculty research mentors. Weekly, in small groups, students meet with peer mentors to discuss their research experiences.

We’ve worked hard to put L&S students in touch with learning, research and scholars in a personal way, one that will help them reach their goals and thrive in their chosen fields.