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Public Service Fellows

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Applications are closed for 2021 Public Service Fellows. 


A summary program flyer can be found here (pdf)

The Public Service Fellows program is a three-semester professional development sequence for graduate students in STEM who care about the social impact of their work.

This course sequence counts towards the PhD minor in Community-Engaged Scholarship, if desired. Applicants considering the community-engaged teaching pathway are strongly encouraged to have some teaching experience.

Participants in the program will:

  • Acquire foundational knowledge in public service and community engagement in STEM
  • Gain significant practical experience in a specific public service pathway: community-engaged teaching, direct service/outreach, public policy, or social entrepreneurship
  • Connect with peers who are invested in the social impact of their work in STEM
  • Explore career options and build their CVs
  • Enroll in a 1-credit seminar in each semester (3 courses total)

In the third semester, participants complete a practicum in a public service pathway of specialization:

  • community-engaged teaching,
  • direct service,
  • policy & governance, or
  • social entrepreneurship.

There are no course prerequisites, and a range of previous experience with the pathway(s) you are interested in will be considered. You may apply to more than one pathway. However, accepted fellows will be admitted into one pathway.


Spring: Learn the fundamentals of public service and civic engagement in STEM

Fellows meet weekly for two hours, completing a one-credit seminar on the fundamentals of community engagement in the STEM disciplines. The cohort will work together to explore the core pathways of public service and civic engagement (direct service, community-engaged teaching, public policy, social entrepreneurship, activism, and philanthropy), learn the basics of community partnerships, and reflect on personal experiences with community engagement.  

Average time commitment: 2–4 hours/week

Summer: Engage in relationships & prepare materials

Fellows meet on a semi-regular basis to develop a workplan for the semester, initiate community partnerships, and create materials for use in their practicum.  Fellows will focus intensively on acquiring pathway-specific knowledge and skills. There will also be opportunities to practice transferable skills, problem-solve, and support your cohort members.

Average time commitment: 1–5 hours/week. This time commitment is variable, and there will be a mix of meeting types.  Some weeks we will continue to learn and work collaboratively as a cohort, and some weeks will be devoted exclusively to work within your pathway of specialization.  Some meetings may be held with practicum partners in the community.

Fall: Implement in real-world settings

Fellows engage in a practicum in their public service pathway of specialization, working directly with a community partner.  Participants will see how theories and concepts in their pathway play out in real settings, by implementing, refining, and evaluating the materials they have prepared for their practicum.  A particular emphasis will be placed on working with community partners and their constituents in a way that is ethical, demonstrates a high level of commitment, and is inclusive of all stakeholders.  Fellows will acquire the knowledge and skills to become leaders who advocate for civic and community engagement in the STEM disciplines.

Average time commitment: 6–10 hours/week.  Fixed time commitments are a 2-hour full cohort meeting every 2 weeks, and a 1-hour pathway meeting on alternate weeks.  Additional time spent working on the practicum project will be more variable, but should be no less than 6 hours/week.  Discuss your participation in this program and its time commitments with your graduate advisor (or equivalent) before applying.

Pathways of Public Service and Civic Engagement

The Pathways of Public Service and Civic Engagement is a framework developed by the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University and used by the Public Service Fellows program as a way of understanding the spectrum of possible approaches for connecting the work of scientists & engineers to issues of public concern.

Graduate students applying to the program will indicate their interest in specializing in one or more of the four pathways offered through the program.  These pathways are:

  • Community-engaged teaching.  Community-engaged teaching describes courses that connect learning in the classroom to issues of public concern, and frequently includes learning in community spaces.
  • Direct service/outreach.  Direct service addresses the immediate needs of individuals and communities and frequently involves working directly with community members.  The most common example of direct service in STEM is frequently referred to as outreach.
  • Policy & governance.  Policy and governance encompasses activities related to policymaking, interacting with policymakers, and participating in governance processes.
  • Social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility.  Social entrepreneurship draws on ethical private sector approaches to effect social change.

Example Practicum Placements From Past Cohorts

Community-engaged teaching

Melanie Callaghan, co-instructor in the community-engaged first-year seminar Exploring Service in Science:

The community-engaged teaching practicum is an experience guided by the WISCIENCE Director of Community-Based Learning in which a team of public service fellows teach the freshmen seminar course “Exploring Service in Science”. In teaching this course, I aim to connect students with spaces, organizations, and institutions within the Madison community, as well as gain experience guiding internal classroom discussions and overseeing assignments. In addition to the course learning goals for students, my intentions for the practicum are to develop professionally as an instructor, communicator, and connector, and I will receive student feedback at the culmination of the semester. Additionally, we have modified this course to the fall semester from its previous spring schedule, and I have developed a new teaching unit for use in future years.” 

Direct service/outreach

Christi Binkley, informal STEM education with Camp Compass at Lowell Elementary:

“In partnership with Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR), this practicum provides STEM exploration opportunities for incoming 4th and 5th grade students enrolled in summer camp. The camp serves a wide demographic of families in the Madison area, and thus serves as medium to increase STEM accessibility. During summer camp, I lead a weekly, 1-hr "science camp" where I implemented hands-on activities that cover various STEM topics, experiment types, and learning styles. I designed the lessons to ultimately encourage curiosity and interest in STEM topics, and grow the students' confidence and identity as someone who can be a scientist. Upon completion of the practicum, MSCR will receive my curated lesson plans which include scientific explanations in layman's terms, affordable and easy-to-find materials lists, and can be reused for future science camps.”

Public policy

Laura Borth, advocacy & policy in the area of food access with Feeding Wisconsin

“I am working in partnership with the executive director of Feeding Wisconsin to develop policy related tools for use with the legislature and community to help advance grassroots advocacy and state level policy. For potential meetings with legislators, I’ll write policy memos regarding the child reauthorization act and collect stories from people at food banks who are affected by the recent SNAP eligibility change. To assist community partners, I’ll finish an advocacy toolkit and create media about the impact of hunger on nutrition and life outcomes. The end goal is a finished product: a packaged toolkit to assist partners of Feeding America in easier advocacy.”

Social entrepreneurship 

Bethany McCarty, connecting industry research with foundations 

“I am working in partnership with a company that researches connections between public health issues, treatments, and support for patients. My project will begin with a literature review to understand the current status of a specific health disorder. Then I’ll compile the data and create a summary for in-house epidemiologists, and a public-facing version for a foundation that supports patients who are impacted by the condition. I’ll be able to use communication skills targeted for these different audiences, including technical and non-technical writing, as well as the creation of infographics for the general public.”

Anna Courtier, PhD

Director of Community-Based Learning
Contact Info

(608) 265-5526


Room 104F

445 Henry Mall

Madison, WI 53706

I earned my PhD in geophysics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and my BS in geology and geophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Before coming to WISCIENCE, I taught general education and geophysics courses at James Madison University, and later served as the Science Outreach Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
At WISCIENCE, I coordinate service-learning coursework for undergraduate and graduate students and oversee the service peer leadership students. I also serve as the director of the Adult Role Models in Science program (ARMS), which supports many partnerships between the university and surrounding communities.