Students Don Stewart and Dennis Thomson work on a satellite weather photograph receiver in 1964.
In 1964, students Don Stewart and Dennis Thomson work on a satellite weather photograph receiver. Photo: University of Wisconsin–Madison Archives

Sky’s the Limit

In 1853, a professor named J.W. Sterling — yes, Sterling Hall’s namesake — began taking meteorological observations on campus from the roof of North Hall. This marked the start of what would become the University’s meteorological program. In 1948, that program became an official department and was renamed the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) in 1991. AOS celebrated its 75th anniversary on campus in October, convening alumni and current students and faculty.

That history includes a 40-year research partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and interstellar research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Just last year, Professor Michael Morgan was tabbed to become NOAA’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. Professors Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin (also known as the Weather Guys) have become fixtures on Wisconsin radio and in newspapers, answering community questions about weather-related oddities once a month.

“We have some of the top minds in weather and climate here, addressing issues such as saving lives from extreme weather, solving the climate crisis or making sure we all have healthy air to breathe,” says Department Chair Ankur Desai.

I didn’t realize what an impact it would have on me. It really makes you look at your life and be introspective about your well-being.

Stella Olson Art & Science of Human Flourishing course student A favorite class available each fall is the Art & Science of Human Flourishing. It’s a collaborative course that helps students develop their own mindfulness toolkit to navigate their first year of college and beyond. And a recent study shows it works. Now, professors and researchers are hoping to find a way to share their findings beyond the classroom and in the community. Read more at

Students hand out flags at Bascom Hill for Latinx Heritage Month.
Students handed out flags at Bascom Hill to kick off Latinx Heritage Month on campus this year. Photo: Bryce Richter

Declaring a New Major

This fall semester marks the first time that UW–Madison students can pursue a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree in the Program in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies (CLS), or ChicLa, as it’s commonly known. The new major is the first of its kind among Wisconsin’s colleges and universities. It was approved earlier this year thanks to student demand and a thriving certificate program. According to department figures, 25 students have registered for the major so far, a number that’s expected to increase in future semesters.

The current 18 class offerings in the CLS program are also expected to cover multiple academic disciplines, including art, education and LGBTQ+ issues. L&S alumna and the academic advising manager for the program, Rachelle Eilers (’09, MS ’11), is thrilled that today’s students will have the opportunity to experience what she didn’t as an undergraduate when UW–Madison offered only five Chicano Studies courses.

“This was a long time coming,” says Eilers, who notes that it took almost three years for the major to become a reality. “And I’m really glad it’s here.”

Bill Cronon at an event.
Bill Cronon Photo: Jeff Miller

Rewarding Research

The Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program is celebrating 25 years since its founding. Each year, Scholars in the program are matched with UW–Madison faculty or staff for a yearlong research or creative practice project. In 1996, Professors Bill Cronon and Aaron Brower, along with then–L&S Honors Assistant Dean Maree Elowson, attended a conference at the University of Michigan about its undergraduate research program. “They were really impressed by the mission and success of that program, so they became absolutely determined to establish a similar program here at UW,” URS Director Hannah Bailey explains. And that’s exactly what happened. URS was founded in 1998, and by 1999 they had their first class of undergraduate students. Today, the program supports about 180 students with help from 120 mentors and 20 URS Fellows. “Students learn what research and creative practices look like and how knowledge is built here,” Bailey says. “We’re excited to continue that work into URS’s 25th year.”


The number of student engagements with alumni mentors in 2022–23 through the College of Letters & Science’s career services program, SuccessWorks.

More From Fall 2023

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

College of Letters & Science Dean Eric M. Wilcots shares what makes a liberal arts education so valuable.

A Pediatric Prognosis

James Li believes we need to radically rethink the way mental health disorders are diagnosed.