Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation

MCSII's mission and staff support programs on campus, in the community, and across the region.
In this Section

MCSII logoThe Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation (MCSII) mission is to promote the study and discussion of civil liberties and related institutions (governmental, civic, business, social, scientific, religious, etc.) and innovations through scholarly inquiry, educational activities and community outreach. 

MCSII is housed in the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Science, and subject to UW-System, UW-Stout, and Stout Foundation policies and procedures. 

A Board of Advisors composed of UW-Stout shared governance representatives, participating institutions representatives, and others provide guidance to the MCSII Director.

Upcoming Events

FreeSpeechDilemma Poster

Free Speech Dilemmas on Social Media

April 13 - 3-4 PM - via ZOOM


Moderated by Tim Shiell, MCSII Director. Featuring Kate Klonick, Assistant Professor of Law at St. John's University. Professor Klonick holds an A.B. with honors from Brown University where she studied both modern American History and cognitive neuroscience, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and a Ph.D. in Law from Yale Law School. She teaches Property, Internet Law, and a seminar on information privacy. Klonick's research centers on law and technology, using cognitive and social psychology as a framework.

Time will be left for audience Q&A at the end. 

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University


The Transformative Power of Student-Activists: Challenges and Consequences of Students Creating Change

April 22 - 6:30-8:00 PM - via ZOOM


Featuring Dr. David Ragland, one of the co-founders and co-executive director of the Truth Telling Project and the director of the Grassroots Reparations Campaign. David is a writer, scholar, and activist who recently taught at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Event will consist of a student activist panel discussion followed by a Q&A session. 

Hosted by Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict studies - Co-sponsored by UW-Stout Applied Peace Studies and MCSII.

Spring 2021 Student Civil Liberty Contest

MCSII is calling for students to submit their essay, poetry, photo, artwork, video, or other creation on a civil liberty topic to help educate others and for the chance to win a prize.


1st Prize: $500

2nd Prize: $200

Up to Three Honorable Mention Prizes: $100 each

Preferred topics include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to vote. Direct questions about other topics to

Entries must be received by 12:30 pm, Friday, April 2, 2021. Entries submitted after that time will not be considered. Winners will be notified by Friday, April 9. Prize winners must collect their award within 90 days of notification.

Please send all entries to complete with high-quality photograph(s) of entry and statement of civil liberty message.


Tim Shiell invited as founding member of Academic Freedom Alliance

Tim Shiell, English and philosophy professor and director of the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, was invited to be a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance. A list of founding members can be seen here.

The nonpartisan AFA will provide pro bono legal and other support to faculty whose academic freedom is violated or threatened. The AFA’s defense will not depend on a faculty member’s viewpoint, nor will it endorse the content of what they express. It will simply defend their right to expression. 


Tim Shiell's book awarded CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Director of the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation Tim Shiell, English and philosophy, was awarded the 2020 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for his 2019 book titled "African Americans and the First Amendment: The Case for Liberty and Equality." This award reflects the best in scholarly titles, both print and digital, reviewed by CHOICE during the previous year and brings with it the recognition of the academic library community. These works are selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field and their value as an important -- often the first -- treatment of their subject. Read more about the book here.

Student Civil Liberty Contest

The Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation (MCSII) is delighted to announce the winners of its Fall 2020 Student Civil Liberty Contest. 

Thank you to all students who entered the contest. We are planning another student contest for Spring 2021. 

1st Place: Elizabeth Kelly

Liberty is a human birth right. The freedom in which one chooses to do as one wills. Nothing should take away this right.

I grew up in Kenosha for 18 years and moved to Milwaukee area 2 years ago. I left my friends and everything that I knew when I moved and later that summer left for college. I started this new chapter in my life. This year has been a weird with all of ups and down events. I returned home to visit family and decided to do my photo-130 project while I was there. I traveled down to Kenosha to visit some of the riot locations. Since I grew up there, seeing the locations of the riot devastation in the town was very hard to see and very emotional. Seeing all the destruction of the burnt down car lots, several buildings, and all the graffiti messages, gave mixed emotions on the events that occurred. Liberty is a right and shouldn’t be abused by destroying property or taking lives.

Liberty is for standing up for what is right and for persevering for something you believe in or want to accomplish. This country highly respects perseverance, ambition, and achievement. These qualities are not handed to you, you have to work for it to achieve it. This country is beautiful and diverse and provides so much opportunity for those that desire it and are willing to seek it out to achieve their dreams. It is all thanks to our founding fathers that stood up for what was right for the fight for liberty.

Photo of destruction from Kenosha riots, 2020

Photo of destruction from Kenosha riots, 2020

2nd Place: Katie Reeves

As an openly gay woman. I face a lot of ignorance and oppression in my day-to-day life. I have dealt with a plethora of intolerant people, and it has had a very negative impact on several areas of my life. These ignorant ideologies are not innate. They are taught, starting at a young age. This is amplified by the censorship of LQBTQIA+ themed literature in schools. The first amendment allows us many freedoms, including the freedom of speech. I believe that this means we have the rights to expresses ourselves freely without censorship or restraint as long as we are not infringing on the rights of others, while doing so. I believe that the heavy censorship of LQBTQIA+ themed literature in schools and libraries that is happening in the United Stated is violating this right for the Queer youth of America. We are doing our nations young people a great disservice by heavily censoring this type of media in schools. In my essay, I explore this very topic. When in middle and high school, I was given almost no access to Queer literature, and because of this, it took me a long time to figure out who I was. I spent a lot of time wondering what was wrong with me and why I didn’t seem to see myself in any of the literature that we were exploring in the classroom. Every student deserves to see themselves represented in the books that they read in schools.

Read Katie Reeve's essay on LGBTQIA+ Censorship in Schools

3rd Place: Katrina Franda

In this poem, I chose to focus on the civil liberty that was promised to “all men created equal” but was then only awarded to those of socially perceived privilege. The poem’s purpose is to take the reader back to the beginning of our country’s establishment and recognize the unjust actions that resulted in the racial disparities and inequality we encounter in our nation today. 

Read Katrina Franda's poem, "Fighting for 'Freedom'"

Honorable Mention: Simon Brown

This infographic's message is about coercive interrogation and what reasons the government and its agents give to justify torture of American citizens, which I believe violates our civil liberties.

Infographic on coercive interrogation

Honorable Mention: Matteo Vera

This video's message is that people should use any tactic that is effective to protect civil liberties. I also talk about the paradox of tolerance, no platforming and political violence.

Watch Matteo Vera's video on protecting civil liberties

Honorable Mention: Shelby Vadnais

The civil liberty of Bodily Integrity relates to a lot of my work as a woman artist. In my two Untitled pieces, I think about what Bodily Integrity really means. I have had many experiences in the medical world, and the world at large, where this doesn’t always feel like a liberty I can fully claim. Things like lack of comprehensive sex education, access to birth control, lack of autonomy in medical care, and abortions are all things that hinder the idea of Bodily Integrity, especially for people who are not cis white men. How can one feel they have Bodily Integrity when a doctor will not let people choose what they want to do with their bodies? When reproductive and sexual rights are constantly at risk of being taken away? When there is often little to no punishment for those who sexually take advantage of other people?

Art 1: Untitled, 2019, Gouache, ink and collage, 8"x10"

Art 1: Untitled, 2019, Gouache, ink and collage, 8"x10"

Art 2: Untitled, 2019, Gouache, ink and collage, 8"x10"

Art 2: Untitled, 2019, Gouache, ink and collage, 8"x10"

MCSII Programs & Participating Institutions

MCSII's mission and staff support the following programs on campus, in the community and across the region.

Student Research

MCSII will provide up to $2000 to students during the 2020-2021 academic year to support research and scholarship on civil liberties and their relationship to institutions and innovation. Only students, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled full time at institutions participating in the MCSII campus network are eligible. Applicants are encouraged to contact the MCSII Director about potential proposals. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Student Research Application

Student Internships

MCSII will provide up to $4000 per student during the 2020-2021 academic year to support faculty supervised student internships related to civil liberties or the relationship of civil liberties to institutions or innovation. Only students, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled full time at institutions participating in the MCSII campus network are eligible. Applicants are encouraged to contact the MCSII Director about potential proposals. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Student INTERNSHIP Application

Faculty Research

MCSII will award up to four $5,000 faculty research stipends during the 2020-2021 academic year to promote civil liberties and related institutions and innovations. Only tenured or tenure track faculty employed full time at institutions participating in the MCSII campus network are eligible. Applicants are encouraged to contact the MCSII Director about potential proposals. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Faculty Research Application

Speaker Grants

MCSII provides grants to support public discussion of civil liberties or the relationship of civil liberties to relevant institutions or innovation. Proposals may be submitted by individuals or organizations. Organizational proposals must identify one individual as the lead proposer. Applicants are encouraged to contact the MCSII Director about potential proposals. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis. Preference is given to proposals that involve presentation of multiple points of view, for example, a speaker with a responding panel, a dialogue / debate between two or more speakers, or a speaker series. Preference also is given to proposals that are co-sponsored by additional campus or community organizations. MCSII funded events should be open to the public and provide opportunity for audience involvement. 

Participating Institutions

To support its mission, MCSII provides funds to other public and private universities and colleges in Wisconsin to promote the study and discussion of civil liberties and their relationships to institutions and innovation. In 2019-2020, there are twenty-two participating institutions: UW-Eau Claire, UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Parkside, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior, UW-Whitewater, Alverno College, Beloit College, Concordia University, Lawrence University, Marian University, Marquette University, Ripon College, St. Norbert College, Viterbo University, and Wisconsin Lutheran College. 

Participating institutions receive funds to conduct programming supporting MCSII mission and designate a campus coordinator to organize the programming. Programming can include speakers, debates or panels; book groups; faculty-supervised student research; workshops; and more. All programming is expected to include multiple points of view. 

Faculty and students at participating institutions are eligible to apply for the Faculty and Student Research Awards and Speaker Grants.

Menard Family Gift to MCSII

Menard Family Open Letter

An open letter from the Menard family to the communities we serve:

Anyone who knows the Menard family knows how proud we are of our Midwestern heritage and the principles it’s instilled in us. Chief among those is a dedication to hard work and our belief in the power of education to unlock the extraordinary human potential that lies within all of us.

We believe that big dreams can come true for those who are willing to work for them. In 1958 we started transitioning from farming and teaching to build our home improvement business from scratch, building it, as has been reported, "one two-by¬ four at a time." Since then, Menards’ reputation for offering superior value has led to success far beyond our expectations.

We want to share in that success by investing in the future of the communities where our employees, customers and business partners live, learn and work. Our hope is to empower as many people as possible to have the opportunity our family did to use their innate abilities to learn, contribute and succeed.

When one person succeeds, we all succeed. By providing opportunities that help people realize their potential, we drive progress, because the more people who are creating value for society, the stronger we all become. So it's a win-win all around.

How do we do that? We think one good place to start is with higher education.

To tackle the tough issues facing this country, that are holding so many people back, requires big, bold ideas. And where do we find those? One place is at colleges and universities like the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Who doesn't remember at least one professor or guest lecturer in college who exposed us to a new way of thinking or captivated us with previously unimagined possibilities? Who inspired us to dream? Who pushed us to do more than we thought we were capable of? That is the essence of learning. That is what leads to innovation. That is what moves society forward.

A seminal part of the college experience is hearing from people who have a diversity of viewpoints and track record of creating value for others. At Menards, we want to give more students the opportunity to have that experience and to develop a lifelong love of learning as a result.

From the beginning of time the one constant in the world is change. Thanks to the technological revolution we are all living through--and benefiting from--today's rate of disruption seems faster than ever, and it spares no one. We don't even cut two-by-fours like we used to.

To stay relevant, all of us need to embrace learning and new ideas so that we can create an America where nobody gets left behind. We hope our support of the University of Wisconsin-Stout will enhance the educational experiences of students, preparing them for future success and inspiring generational prosperity throughout communities across the Midwest to lead the way.

John Menard founded his namesake home improvement stores while he still was a student at UW – Eau Claire. Today, Menards has 325 stores and 41 manufacturing facilities located in 14 Midwestern states. In Wisconsin alone, Menards has 44 stores and 11 manufacturing facilities.

Menards’ commitment to UW-Stout will enable it to expand its Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, which promotes the study and discussion of civil liberties and related institutions and innovations through scholarly inquiry, educational activities and community outreach. Free speech and freedom of expression are critical to the innovation and advances that have improved our lives, and the center embodies the university’s mission to provide an education that will help tomorrow’s leaders solve real world problems.

Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation

All Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation News

Event to explore graphic novel’s themes of environmentalism, time travel by bicycle, fate of humanity

Ken Avidor’s ‘Bicyclopolis,’ set in the Twin Cities, part of Reading Across Campus

Reading Across Campus focuses on dystopian novel ‘1984’

Science fiction expert to lead virtual lecture Feb. 16

Menard Center director, professor contribute to new civil liberties book

A University of Wisconsin-Stout Civil Liberties Symposium sparked the idea for a new book “Civil Liberties in Real Life: Seven Studies.”