Letter from the Director

Dear Friends of 4W,

Lori DiPrete Brown, 4W Initiative Director

Greetings from the 4W Initiative at UW-Madison. As I write today, I recall with gratitude that many of us had the chance to come together in celebration for International Women’s Day. We embraced and shared stories, poems, and songs. We spoke many languages. We rededicated ourselves to equality for all, and some of us even danced!

So much has changed since that day. Now, we are staying apart physically so that we can save lives and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are facing all kinds of challenges. And at the same time, we are looking within, appreciating what is close, and staying connected to family and friends around the world as best we can.

Our 4W programs continue, and are as important as ever. While our international internships were cancelled, our other activities continue with adaptation. We have awarded grants to faculty and graduate students whose projects address a range of important topics related to gender and wellbeing, such as parenting programs for incarcerated mothers and preventing harassment in STEMM. We look forward to featuring these leaders and sharing other ongoing projects in our 2020 4W Progress Report. It is a good time to honor past work, and looking at it holistically will help us be responsive to the changing environment in 2020-2021.

Our 4W team is responding to COVID-19 in creative ways. I am involved in a campus-wide effort designed to help people cope and go the distance, both during this time of physical separation, and during the recovery that will follow. We are working around the state, trying to ensure that no one is left behind. 4W graduate student Samantha Crowley is doing research about the gendered impacts of COVID-19, which will inform this work going forward. 4W Assistant Director Olivia Dahlquist has kept us all connected with creative centering practices. In addition to research and scientific communications, we are developing simple guidance for people to use everyday. 4W Intern Olivia Anderson created one of our messages, “4W Cares: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy,” which is included below. Take a look and see how you are doing! We hope you will use this list to check in with yourself and your loved ones.

Our Leadership Circle is resilient and reaching out. In addition to making the rapid adjustment to online teaching and supporting the needs of students, 4W leaders have been responding in our outreach programs and partnerships. Emily Auerbach was able to procure computers for all of her students and move the Odyssey Project online. Araceli Alonso developed a COVID-19 community-engaged response model with her partners from Health by All Means, and women in rural Kenya are using it to prevent illness and death in their communities. Sarli Mercado, leading 4W’s Translation Project, has helped us share artistic expressions from around the world through translation praxis. Stephanie Rytilahti is working on the April 2021 Conference, “Resistance and Reimagination: Gender, Change, and the Arts.” 4W leaders are adapting programs and responding to current needs in so many sites around the world: supporting grandmothers in rural Malawi; working on preparedness in Tibetan nunneries and monasteries; reaching out to domestic workers who share crowded living spaces in Singapore; raising awareness about impacts for migrants on the US/Mexico border; and supporting our long-term artisan partners in Ecuador, Mexico, and Nepal.

I want to hear from you about what matters. It is unusual for a newsletter like this to invite reply, but I want to do that today. I want to hear about how you are doing, and how you are envisioning the future. One of the most important aspects of 4W is our hopefulness. This hope must be grounded in truth, as we look at life today and life as it can be going forward. This mindset encourages us to face uncertainty with a balance of patience and impatience, resistance and acceptance, love and just rage, a strong dose of grit (We are women after all!), and most of all, resilient care for ourselves and each other.

What are the challenges you are facing now?
What is your hope for Wisconsin and our world as you look toward the future?
Please share your thoughts with us at 4w@sohe.wisc.edu. We will collect your responses and share them with our community later in May to mark the end of the academic year. We will also use your thoughts to guide our work going forward. Please include your name as you would like it to appear in your responses, or you may request to be marked anonymous. Please reply with a maximum of 100 words, and feel free to include a photo or drawing with a short caption. Thank you for all you do to support women and wellbeing in Wisconsin and the world. We will continue to make life better for women and make the world better for all.


Lori DiPrete Brown
Director, 4W Initiative
University of Wisconsin-Madison