Friday, April 18, 2014

Open Letter to The University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dear University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Congratulations on your outstanding incoming class of 2018!  Some of my very favorite graduating seniors are heading to your campus in the fall, not least of which is my daughter, Emily.  As a proud Big Ten alumna, I couldn't be happier with her choice.  I already know that Emily will make you proud.  She's going to bring her smarts and talents and light up your campus--just you wait and see!

Emily is completely ready to head to college.  Like most parents, I am both excited and nervous for her.  I desperately want her undergraduate experience to be wonderful.  I know I can't make that happen for her.  I know she will have to do that for herself.  I'm hoping that you'll help her, though.  To that end, I've put together a few requests:

Challenge her daily.  Help her to find success in the classroom, but also a few failures.  Help her to learn that all good things are worth fighting for, especially a college degree.  Help her to learn how to ask for help. Surround her with opportunities to learn from people who are nothing like her.  Help her to find peers who feel familiar.  Force her to try new things.   Help her to see things in new ways.  Challenge her beliefs. Remind her not to squander the opportunity you have given her to receive a degree from an outstanding university. Help her grow into adulthood.  Provide enough fun moments that she will look back at her four years in Madison with a warm-fuzzy feeling.  Force her take some classes that are out of her comfort zone, specifically: Ballroom Dance.   Send her far away to learn new things in a different culture.  Make sure she knows she has a home on your campus.  Instill in her a pride for her Big Ten education.  Teach her how to Dougie.  Provide enough bitter days that she will truly appreciate the beauty of a spring by Lake Mendota. Build in successes.  Put her in classes with people who are smarter than her.  Give her a few classes that just feel easy.  Offer her experiences that help her know she has picked the right career path.  Keep her busy. Give her enough time to just sit on the quad and take it all in. Allow her to make mistakes.  Teach her that there are consequences for mistakes.  Help her find places where she can be a leader.  Help her find places where she can follow other great leaders.  Teach her that a college education is a privilege, not a right, and remind her that thousands of people would do anything to trade places with her.  Make her feel like she is part of something special.  Remind her that she is just one of many.  Remind her to stay true to who she is.  Force her to stay up all night every now and then.  Remind her that she doesn't know it all.  Remind her that she knows a lot.  Let her know that from the moment she steps on campus the clock is ticking, and her four years will go by in the blink of an eye.  Let her experience moments of complete joy and bitter disappointment.  Teach her that life is filled with both.  Let her know it's okay to change her mind.  Let her get away with one, but not too many. Reinforce the idea that hard work is the only way she's going to succeed.

University of Wisconsin, I hope you will be so awesome that Emily will want to put a Bucky Badger sticker on the back of every car she owns for the rest of her life.  Be awesome, University of Wisconsin, and be there for her. She's something special.  With your help, I know she can make magic.


Vicki Terlap


  1. Congratulations Emily and UW-Madison!! Your future together is bright!

  2. bravo. to you both. xo