In the early 1900s, University of Wisconsin President Charles Van Hise and Governor Robert LaFollette defined a third mission to be added to the teaching and research functions of the state University – a mission that would extend the resources of the University to serve the needs of Wisconsin people. These courageous leaders had a dream that gave birth to the Wisconsin Idea: extension of educational programs to address the relevant social, economic, environmental and cultural issues of its citizens.
The extension function of the University of Wisconsin was well established long before the creation of the University of Wisconsin-Extension as an institution. Wisconsin was one of the first states to institutionalize extension education and is nationally acclaimed for the innovative, progressive role of its University in relation to the people of the state. UW-Extension has a long, proud, and productive history of outstanding contributions to Wisconsin people and communities. In fact, many of Wisconsin’s institutions, organizations, traditions, and achievements as one of the most progressive states in the Union, are directly attributable to the Wisconsin Idea – education for people where they live and work, with practical applications for their daily lives.
Throughout the past century of progress, UW-Extension programs were created, not only by the University, but also by Wisconsin people who petitioned their state and local governments for the University to respond to their needs. The historic 1982 Board of Regents Policy on Extension provided the impetus for UW-Extension to embark on a new era of positive educational effort to meet the complex and urgent present and future needs of Wisconsin people, businesses, and communities. The highlighted history of UW-Extension in Wisconsin that follows illustrates how extension programs have grown and changed over the years to meet the changing needs of people, communities, the state, and the natio