Popular Searches

Catalyst Day — held each fall and spring — is designed to showcase Ripon College’s Catalyst curriculum and celebrate the achievements of the students who are completing the junior-level collaborative capstone. Throughout the day, attendees will have the opportunity to watch teams of students present problem solving projects that tackle worldwide issues.

The Challenges

Catalyst 300 students are tasked with developing solutions to prominent real-world issues. This term, students were given the choice of the challenges listed below or a “wild card” option for students to choose their own topic they are passionate about, pending approval by the faculty members.

Spring 2023 Catalyst Challenges:

Water Stress and Water Rights

Water stress affects every continent in the world, including North America. According to CEO Water Mandate, a UN Global Compact Initiative that mobilizes business leaders on water, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), water stress refers to the strain to meet human and ecological demand for fresh water. Water stress “considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water availability, water quality, and the accessibility of water, which is often a function of the sufficiency of infrastructure and the affordability of water, among other things.” In 2019, a study examined 204 watersheds in the United States and found that shortages will likely occur in 83 basins in the near future (2021–2045), 92 basins in the mid-future (2046–2070), and 96 basins in the far future (2071–2095) if no adaptation measures are taken. These shortages are projected to happen even with continued improvements in water efficiency on pace with the rate at which water efficiency is changing today. As U.S. water supply decreases, demand for water throughout the United States is set to increase due to a rise in population, exacerbating the challenge.

This challenge is to identify a city, region within a state or state in the United States that is already facing water stress or will experience water stress in the near future and develop a strategy to address this. Alternatively, groups can focus on one specific area or state in the United States where speculators are accused of buying up properties for their water rights only in hopes of future profit, without concern for the public interest.

Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn

Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Historical Memory and Minority Rights

For decades social movements have worked to advocate for, secure, and protect the rights of minorities and other marginalized groups. The recovery and dissemination of historical memory has become an important part of efforts to explore and understand any particular group’s successes, failures, and challenges, and lesser-known peoples, places and events are often brought to the forefront as more and more research about them takes place. Nationally, the establishment of institutions such as the African Burial Ground National Monument, the Stonewall National Monument, and the Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn have become emblematic of past human rights failures, but many places, events and figures associated with minority rights are still not widely-known and remain outside of mainstream America’s collective cultural knowledge. Efforts to recover and document their “forgotten histories” can help form a better understanding of American life and culture.

This challenge is to construct a more complete record of a forgotten or disadvantaged community (as you define it), identify a significant and relatively unknown event, establishment, organization, environmental or health crisis, or figure associated with minority rights that your group believes should be more familiar to the general public, either in Wisconsin or on the national scale.

Flowers and trees in Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Enhancing Community Life in Northeast Wisconsin

The Fond du Lac Area Foundation strives to enhance community life in the region by promoting philanthropy, awarding grants, and fostering sustainable leadership initiatives throughout northeast Wisconsin. Their grants program favors projects that

    1. “Propose practical solutions to current community problems;
    2. Promote cooperation among agencies without duplicating services;
    3. Stimulate others to participate in problem solving;
    4. Promote volunteer involvement;
    5. Strengthen an agency’s effectiveness or stability; and
    6. Address themselves to prevention as well as remediation”

This challenge is to identify a significant community problem in the Fond du Lac area and write a grant proposal to address it.

Landscape of hills surrounded by autumn trees in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Conserving Wisconsin’s Natural Resources

Since 1986, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has sought to protect Wisconsin’s natural heritage through conservation, private-sector engagement and outreach programs, and regularly funds projects that have a beneficial influence on the environment. It currently offers grant monies to organizations that protect state lands, waters, and wildlife, and that educate the public about environmental issues. For example, in October 2022 the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin received approximately $7,500 to increase access to natural areas and make birding more inclusive for people of color. The foundation’s strategic plans for the future include several different initiatives to support ongoing conservation, so many grant opportunities exist for interested parties. 

This challenge is to identify a significant problem related to a natural resource in Wisconsin and write a grant proposal to address it.

"Pratts Block" in downtown Ripon, Wisconsin

Building Bridges: Creating College-Community Partnerships

While town-gown relations in other places are not always favorable, Ripon College is proud of its connection to the city and has always maintained good relationships with its surrounding communities. Nevertheless, partnerships between the college and local entities can be short-lived, because they often depend upon the efforts of an individual or of a particular group, and when said individuals/groups move on, their affiliations usually come to an end. This is unfortunate because such programs greatly enhance the quality of life for all.

This challenge addresses the establishment of a sustainable partnership between the college and a community entity that will benefit both sides.