Learning communities for CAE Scholars

Like many students, CAE Scholars will choose a learning community program for their first year. A learning community is a “high-impact practice”, typically consisting of one or more courses, named as such for the significant educational benefits for students who participate in them. In a learning community, you will connect more closely with your course instructors and peers over engaging course content in smaller-sized classes. This list is specifically selected by CAE as a great fit for most CAE Scholars. You will participate in at least one, and in most cases you can choose others, too!

Learn about each option by following the links provided: each program has much more information on its own website.

And your CAE academic advisors are here to help you choose your learning community. Before your SOAR summer orientation program, you will meet with an advisor to talk about learning communities, your Fall classes, and more.

Choose during the admissions process before or close to May 15 — Residential Learning Communities (in campus housing), the L&S Honors Program, and the Summer Collegiate Experience are generally have earlier application deadlines. Read the entries below, and on the programs’ websites, for exact dates for this year.

Choose during SOAR summer orientation First-Year Interest Groups, Undergraduate Research Scholars, Wisconsin Emerging Scholars classes, and other individual classes can be selected through the summer.

Discovering your UW paths: CAE Edition


Explore potential majors and your UW degree with fellow peers.

INTER-LS 139 Belong, Explore, Become: Discovering your UW paths  This Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS) fall-semester course has three special sections specifically for first-year CAE Scholars. The small-class experience focuses on strategic exploration and allows you space to consider yourself, your CAE and UW communities, and your degree. You’ll discover and evaluate potential majors and future paths by exploring what a liberal arts degree is, as well as UW-Madison departments, opportunities, and resources. Together and independently, you’ll engage with concepts of belongingness and transitions, and consider questions of identity and community. Build connections with one another as you explore your own UW Madison academic paths.
Belong to our community. Connect with other students. Learn about yourself and your sense of belonging.
Explore your college path. Dive into your interests. Consider new possibilities. See what UW-Madison has to offer you.
Become empowered. Create your own toolkit to draw from as you become who you want to be now, and in the future.

  • Class capacity: 20 students per section
  • Attributes: L&S credit
  • CAE-specific sections are:
    • Section 003: Mondays 2:30-3:45 pm in 394 Van Hise Hall
    • Section 004: Thursdays 1:00-2:15 pm in 355 Van Hise Hall
    • Section 005: Tuesdays 4:00-5:15 pm in 355 Van Hise Hall

Talk with your academic advisor during SOAR about this opportunity when you enroll in your Fall 2024 classes.

First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs)


Build community in the classroom.

figs.wisc.edu — FIGs are clusters of (usually) three Fall-semester UW–Madison classes, linked together to explore a common theme, and open to incoming freshmen who attend these classes together. There are about 60 different FIGs each fall.

At the heart of each FIG is a top-notch instructor who develops and leads a class exclusively for the students in your FIG. The FIG instructor selects two complementary UW classes, combining and expanding what you learn in these classes with the main FIG seminar.

  • All classes in the FIG are taken together. If you decide to drop one class, you need to drop all the FIG’s classes.
  • Some FIG courses have requisites (conditions that must be met before enrolling) such as placement test scores or direct admissions into a specific UW–Madison college. Read the notes for each FIG to see these listed. Such FIGs are open only to students who meet those conditions.

Enroll during SOAR, after consulting with your academic advisor during SOAR.

Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS)


Use research and creative practices as ways to explore possible majors and build community.

urs.ls.wisc.edu — This two-semester program is for students interested in exploring the nature of research, creative practice, and discovery, and approaching this in an interdisciplinary way: from natural science, to social science, to the arts and humanities.

Students meet weekly in a 20-person seminar class to develop critical thinking and writing skills. Each student is matched with a member of UW-Madison’s faculty, research staff, or an advanced graduate student as a project Mentor, working together a few hours each week (schedule varies) for hands-on experience and skill development.

  • This is a two-semester commitment. You must be willing to engage in research and the seminar course for the entire year.
  • There is a weekly seminar (usually Wednesdays 5:30-6:30pm, both fall and spring semesters).
  • Most URS Scholars participate during their first year. A few spots are available to second-year students.

Apply to URS as soon as you know you are interested: before or soon after SOAR. Typically, applications are open until mid-August. The URS Program reviews applications as they come in and offer spots on a rolling basis.

Residential Learning Communities

Live and learn in a themed community.

housing.wisc.edu/residence-halls/learning-communities — University Housing offers 11 residential learning communities that bring together faculty, staff, and students around a shared focus like international cultures & languages; biology; gender & sexuality; or sustainability. The Bradley and Chadbourne RLCs are good options for students with a mix of interests.

Each residential learning community includes a seminar class for all students in the RLC, special events, faculty guests, field trips, and many ways for students to create their community on campus.

  • If you are in an RLC, and you want this to be your only first-semester learning community as a CAE Scholar, you must enroll in one of the RLC classes.

When you sign up for Housing (go.wisc.edu/my-housing), select your preferred RLC and choose “learning communities” as your priority for hall preferences.

Honors in the Liberal Arts

Create meaningful academic and personal connections throughout your degree.

honors.ls.wisc.edu —  Honors in the Liberal Arts is not about classes being harder, but about genuinely engaging with your professors, peers, and course content. Honors offers access to small, discussion-driven classes exclusively for Honors students; enriching projects; and the opportunity to participate in special events including social gatherings, dinners with professors, volunteer opportunities, and more. No previous secondary-school Honors experience is required.

  • Taking an “Honors Only” class in the first semester on campus meets the CAE expectations of a learning community.
  • Students accepted into the Honors Program meet with an Honors advisor for their SOAR session.

All incoming L&S students can apply, with relevant deadlines in spring before you would begin at UW. Application information is on the Honors Program website under “Admission.” The Honors in the Liberal Arts application is online through the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH) and involves a few short essays. The L&S Honors Program determines which applications are successful, and how many students will be admitted into the Honors in the Liberal Arts Program.

Wisconsin Emerging Scholars (WES) calculus classes

Deeper dive into content for motivated students with a strong background and interest in math.

math.wisc.edu/undergraduate/wes — Discussion sections for certain calculus courses that provide you with an opportunity to study mathematics in an interactive and friendly environment. Students work in small groups on challenging and thought-provoking problems designed to foster high levels of understanding and interest.

  • Your math placement test scores, AP/IB credits, or transfer credits must meet the requirements for WES–Calculus classes.
  • For Fall 2024, enroll in MATH 228: “WES Calculus Supplement” PLUS one of the following:
    MATH 221: “Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1”
    MATH 222: “Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2”
    MATH 234: “Calculus—Functions of Several Variables”

At SOAR, after consulting with your academic advisor, you request permission to enroll through the instructions on the Math Department WES–Calculus webpage. Once approved to enroll, you enroll in both WES classes at the same time.

Wisconsin Emerging Scholars (WES) computer science classes

Develop confidence, excitement, and belonging with students from underrepresented groups in Computer Science.

cs.wisc.edu/undergraduate/wes — WES-CS (CS 304 and CS 638) is a fun, interactive study group for students who are new to programming or the computer sciences.

  • For students taking CS 200 (Programming I) and CS 300 (Programming II). Through weekly meetings led by peers, you’ll earn one additional credit and gain greater mastery of CS 200 material. These small sections focus on learning via group activities and games, ensuring that everyone understands basic concepts, connecting Computer Science to social good and activism, and coding fun projects.

Please ask your CAE advisor for a link to enroll. Students who are authorized for the study group should add the appropriate course (CS 304 or CS 638) to their class schedule and then attend during the scheduled meeting time. When enrolling, select 1-credit option if you want to course to count for credit. Questions: advising@cs.wisc.edu.

History 100-003: A History of Madison/Teejop

Build community by thinking about what it means to call a place “home.”

“Where do you call home?” When we ask people this question, we are showing them that we want to find out about their lives and are interested in what we have in common. But this question can also be a way of asking what histories have shaped our communities, our families, and ourselves. This semester, we will explore “Where do you call home?” as a historical question, in part through our own biographies, and in part by asking what it means that we are all also now “from” Madisona place also known, for countless generations and today, as Teejop (Four Lakes), part of the ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk people.

Summer Collegiate Experience (SCE)

Build community and get a gradual start to your first year on campus.

cae.ls.wisc.edu/summer-collegiate-experience — The Summer Collegiate Experience is a quality-learning, first-year experience for students entering the university. You take two classes for degree credit and learn about UW–Madison resources and campus culture during a six-week, on-campus program. Tuition, housing, meals, and book are covered by UW–Madison.

  • About a dozen classes are typically offered each summer, ranging from core foundation classes to more advanced study.

SCE is only for CAE Scholars and students in selected other cohort programs. Admitted students invited to become CAE Scholars can opt in to SCE before May 15 each year.

Students who participate in SCE will typically join another learning community in the fall.