Wisconsin Weekend Away Earns a Solid ‘A’

Wisconsin Weekend Away 2011

2011 Wisconsin Weekend Away participants gathered on the lush lawn of the Rancho Bernardo Inn just north of San Diego for their “graduation” picture. Everyone passed with honors and wonderful memories.

The syllabus for the 2011 Wisconsin Weekend Away featured food for thought and thoughts about food. A campus update, dinner cruise around the San Diego Harbor and Rancho Bernardo Inn’s golf and spa amenities made this year’s educational and entertaining weekend for UW-Madison alumni and friends complete.

The weekend began with a state of the University address and discussion led by Paul DeLuca, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Three faculty members presented two lectures each during the March 25-27 weekend. Diverse topics, some controversial, some novel but always intriguing, challenged the attendees and encouraged questions and discussion.

Professor Richard Davidson, named one of the most influential people in the world in 2006 by Time magazine, pioneered contemplative neuroscience, a hybrid discipline that uses science to study how meditation physically changes the human brain. In his talks, he discussed the connection between individual emotional styles and health, and how everyone can learn to respond in ways that promote health and happiness. He also described his friendship with the Dalai Lama over nearly two decades and how people can change their brains by changing their minds.

Professor Caroline Levine, a Victorian literature scholar, regularly assigns television programs as homework. She focuses her attention on the social role of art and the relationship between high art and popular culture. She explained why democracies need art, especially challenging art, to ensure that they are acting as free societies. She also looked at the image of professors from Socrates to today’s movie and television versions, asking why generations seem to both mock and worship their teachers. And just how, she posed, do professors view themselves?

As the raw milk versus pasteurized milk debate continues, Associate Professor Scott Rankin is often called on to offer scientific evidence. He discussed the complexities of this debate as Wisconsin finds itself in the legislative spotlight on this issue. As a judge at the World and U.S. Championship Cheese competition, Ranking explained how fine cheeses are judged and how people can do the same at their local markets. His presentation was accompanied by a selection of samples, which provided a tasty learning experience.

The UW Foundation’s new president and CEO Mike Knetter also was on hand to meet and update attendees on the Foundation’s work and discuss the New Badger Partnership as well as current University and Foundation matters.

Wisconsin Weekend Away is an annual event that invites alumni and friends to join top UW-Madison faculty for a spring weekend of Badger camaraderie and learning. The 2012 Wisconsin Weekend Away will be March 23-25 at the Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas.