Here you find all the latest news for the CommNS including additions to our faculty and staff and our newest, award winning community-engaged projects. For the latest on our events and upcoming events, please see our events page. We are constantly updating our website with news and events, so please check back frequently.

Most Recent Newsletter

_CommNS Newsletter Winter 2019_FINAL


CommNS Out At Conferences

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoorThe CommNS was busy in March sharing and learning at national conferences! Grant team members Sara Aylesworth Ansell and Alex Wells, and Sam Pinzl and Ashley Deering, community partners from the Marathon County Health Department, presented on “Moving from Coalition to Collaboration in a Rural Wisconsin County” at the Active Living Conference in Charleston, SC! And, Executive Director Mary Beth Collins presented on “What is Social Entrepreneurship, Anyway?” at the 2019 IMPACT Conference at UVA in Charlottesville, VA. At IMPACT we were also able to participate in our UW Morgridge Center for Public Service “Bucky Delegation” and conversations with the Madison House, and learn SO much from Charlottesville activists! Forward!

Faculty Updates

We are exited to announce Dr. Brian McInnes will be joining us in the Fall of 2019 from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He brings a wealth of knowledge surrounding indigenous studies and recently publish a book entitled: Sounding Thunder – The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow

Project Updates

Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment seed grant awards. Congratulations to several CommNS staff who received Baldwin grants from the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment seed grant. In an effort to increase the CommNS’s international presence and further current connections overseas, the CommNS’s Executive Director, Mary Beth Collins, received a grant funding the UW-Madison CommNS and Mandela Fellows Collaboration Program for Community Initiatives.

The goal of this Collaboration Program is to respond to the requests of Mandela Fellows (the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative) for collaboration with and support from the CommNS and its graduate students, as well as to connect with appropriate community partners in Wisconsin who are in the CommNS network. By structuring an opportunity for graduate students (from the School of Human Ecology Applied Master’s Program or other programs on campus) to be assigned to and paired with a Mandela Fellow’s local community or nonprofit program, each student will have the opportunity, in collaboration with the Fellow, to share informational resources, make connections across professional networks relevant to the local initiative, collaboratively generate ideas and strategies, and share practices across contexts. 

In addition to Mary Beth Collins, Amy Hilgendorf received a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment seed grant to bolster the Morgridge-CommNS Special Initiatives (MoSCI) community-university partnership. The goal of the project is to make the university more accessible for interested community groups to build mutually-beneficial community-university partnerships.

Congratulations to CommNS Affiliate Professor Constance Flanagan
Professor Constance Flanagan was awarded an NSF grant, Urban STEM Stewards, to assess the potential of an innovative citizen science model to pique the interests of students from low-income and racial/ethnic minority backgrounds in science, engineering, and math. Working in groups with community partners, students learn about environmental problems in their urban community and how they can apply STEM learning to mitigate the problem.

Congratulations to CommNS Affiliate Professor Lori Bakken
Professor Lori L. Bakken recently published “Evaluation Practice for Collaborative Growth: A Guide to Program Evaluation with Stakeholders and Communities”. Dr. Bakken’s approach to evaluation gives practitioners a straightforward, in-depth, and studied guide to collaborative program evaluation developed through decades of evaluation acumen. You can buy this book here.





Harvesting Data to Grow Farmer’s Markets
Alfonso Morales and the CommNS worked to develop the Metric and Indicators for Impact – Farmers Markets (MIFI-FM).In 2015, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to engage Wisconsin Main Street organizations and farmers markets in the Metrics and Indicators for Impact – Farmers Markets (MIFI-FM) toolkit.  Formulating performance measures and subsequently, collecting and interpreting data is commonplace in business and government, but it can pose challenges for farmers market managers. Managers know that the activities are important but they lack the resources and training to integrate them into their routine practices.  In business and government, reliable performance data drives creative initiatives and decisions, and research indicates that market managers share this need for information.

MIFI-FM provides farmers markets with the means to develop customized knowledge that enhances their internal decision-making and external communication activities.  Markets select metrics that will help them understand and evaluate their performance within the context of their goals, their community, and in this case, the Main Street initiatives.  For example, they are collecting data on visitor attendance and vendor sales, which provides important insight the economic contributions of markets, and they are collecting data on visitor spending at the market and neighboring businesses and visitor transportation to the market, which supports the program’s mission of revitalizing downtowns around the State of Wisconsin.

For more information, please see:


fly-in photo.jpegUnion of Concerned Scientists invited Prof. Alfonso Morales to inform House and Senate staffers on his USDA funded research for “Agroecology Day on the Hill.” He will be returning for more visits and a presentation to USDA on






Congratulations to CommNS Affiliate Shannon Sparks, Academic Partner of the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health. This organization was one of seven to receive recognition through the 2017 Community-University Partnership Awards last month. The Healthy Hmong Women project is one of the “exemplary partnerships that get to the heart of the Wisconsin Idea.”

Check out the article here: