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Public Service Opportunities

Service Learning Courses

Community-Based Research

Volunteering Opportunities

Alternative Breaks

Some Specific Opportunities in the Biological Sciences

Service Learning Courses

Service learning courses include a public service component, so students can apply their academic knowledge and skills to real problems in the community. Instructors work with community partners to create meaningful projects relating to the environment, public health, science education, wildlife conservation, and other issues. Service learning courses provide ready-made, easy opportunities to hook into these existing service projects. International internships and academic programs can also have a public service component.

  • The Morgridge Center's web site includes information about service-learning courses across campus. There are opportunities in conservation, biology education, and other fields. 
  • Although some courses that offer service learning are listed officially as such, many are not. For example, students in the second semester of Introductory Biology 151/152 may choose a community-based research project to fulfill their independent project requirement. 
  • The Global Health Institute offers an undergraduate certificate involving field work. 
  • For international opportunities, check out International Academic Programs, the International Internship Program, and CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) International Programs Office.

Community-Based Research

You can combine public service and research by using biological sciences research to help solve community-identified problems. You can get credit for it, too. With community-based research, students often collaborate in the creation of the research project itself, working with other researchers and community members to design and implement a project.

  • A great resource for putting together a community-based research project is the Community-University Exchange (CUE). It's a "science shop" where students, faculty, and staff can drop in at a "clinic" to consult with an Engaged Scholarship Graduate Fellow who can help them link with ongoing interdisciplinary community projects or find community partners that have approached the clinic with scientific research ideas. It's kind of like a matchmaking hub for community partners and University researchers.
  • Visit the Undergraduate Research section of this website for helpful information like how to find a research mentor
  • The College of Letters and Science has an Office of Service Learning and Community-Based Research.
  • Check out funding sources for community-based research here.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering can take many forms. It usually doesn't involve pay or credit, but volunteering can be extremely valuable, both personally and professionally. There are existing opportunities in health care, wildlife conservation, agriculture, science education, recycling, and many other biology-related fields, or you can create your own. You can volunteer locally or travel somewhere else in the U.S. for a project during a semester break. You can volunteer on your own or with a student group or group of friends.

The best source of volunteer information is the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Consult the Students section of their website, and meet one of their peer advisors at the Red Gym.

  • VolunteerYourTime.org is a searchable database features hundreds of local non-profit agencies and their current volunteer opportunities.
  • The Badger Volunteers Program is a semester-long volunteer program at the Morgridge Center that provides training and support, along with established volunteer opportunities in a variety of fields.
  • The Science Alliance is a consortium of UW–Madison community outreach programs in the sciences, with a website that brings information about lots of programs (that need volunteers) into one place.
  • The Global Health Institute has a listing of volunteer field opportunities.
  • The Center for Leadership and Involvement has a volunteering page with many excellent links.
  • For clinical volunteer opportunities, visit the Center for Pre-Health Advising's volunteering page.

Alternative Breaks

If you don't have time to volunteer during the semester, or if you want to go farther afield, you can travel, serve and change lives (including yours) on an Alternative Break. The Alternative Breaks program, which is part of the Wisconsin Union directorate, provides an opportunity to participate in volunteer and educational trips to culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged communities throughout the United States. Some trips include health and environmental projects, including conservation work on national lands and youth outreach on Native American reservations.


Some Specific Opportunities in the Biosciences