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UW–Madison History

The University of Wisconsin, created through an act of the Wisconsin territorial legislature, opened in 1849, the year after Wisconsin became a state. Its first class had 17 students. In 1851, North Hall, the first campus building, opened as a classroom facility and men’s dormitory.

Before the city of Madison existed, UW–Madison’s lakeshore site was an Indian encampment. Remanents of Indian effigy mounds—many in the shape of animals—still are still evident on the 935-acre campus.

As one of the nation’s first land-grant universities, UW–Madison maintains a strong research emphasis in agricultural and life sciences. Award-winning research spanning academic disciplines has earned UW–Madison a place among the world’s elite institutions of higher education. UW–Madison graduate and undergraduate programs consistently score high marks in national rankings.

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