Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin Madison campus sits on 926 acres of picturesque land like a jewel on the southwestern shores of Lake Mendota. In 1868 it became one of the nation's first land-grant college, established to promote the "Wisconsin Idea." This concept defines the university's teaching, research, and community service as a public asset, guided by open debate, civil discourse, and tolerance of many different individuals and ideas. Among the more than 40,000 students are representatives from every state in the union and over 125 countries. The University is ranked third in the nation for enrollment of students from other countries, and many of them are in graduate programs. Graduate enrollment fluctuates between eight and ten thousand students annually, making the UW Graduate School one of the largest in the nation.
The center of student life, the Memorial Union with its famous terrace on the lake, boasts a Rathskeller and a Stiftskeller, indicating the strong influence of German immigration in the history of the state. Here too one can enjoy another symbol of Wisconsin's traditions: the University produces fresh daily its own cheeses, yogurt, and over 100 flavors of ice cream for students, faculty, and guests! Located across the quadrangle from the Union is the Elvehjem Art Museum, the University's own teaching museum, with objects dating from 2300 BC to the most contemporary installations. The large holdings of original German Expressionist works on paper are especially noteworthy. Nearby is Mills Concert Hall, the centerpiece of the Music School where a lively music culture is maintained for the entire community.