Thommy Thopmson

As Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson’s goal was to
bring people together to accomplish positive change.
We share that goal.

More about the Governor More

Who We Are

people in leadership


scholarship icon


policy issues


Showcasing Examples of Leadership

Observation and interaction are critical to learning; and because the Thompson Center wants people to learn how to be effective leaders, we will help them observe and interact with effective leaders. The Thompson Center devotes a significant amount of its attention to showcasing examples of leadership. We do this by hosting various speakers to talk about leadership, by helping to support leadership education on campus, and by holding conferences on effective public leadership.

One way the Thompson Center showcases examples of leadership is by hosting various speakers across the state who discuss public leadership. Each year we host at least one lecture headlined by a prominent figure (or figures) who will discuss an aspect of current politics or policy through the lens of effective leadership. Additionally, throughout the year we host smaller events that feature policymakers, professors affiliated with the Center, and/or other invited faculty speakers.

Another way the Thompson Center showcases examples of leadership is by supporting leadership education on the UW-Madison Campus. The Center will work to facilitate greater learning about public leadership among students.

The Thompson Center also showcases examples of leadership by hosting conferences. These conferences will bring people together to tackle substantively important policy issues and bring effective leadership practices to bear to resolve them. For more information on these conferences, please see our events page.

Scholarship on Effective Leadership

The Thompson Center will also support faculty scholarship on leadership issues. Leadership studies tend not to examine public leadership; rather, they focus on leadership in the private sector. Studies that do examine public leadership are often limited in scope, if not number.  At the Thompson Center, we seek to mold better leaders. This means focusing on practices that individuals can adopt to become more effective.

In this vein, we host an annual grant competition for projects focused on topics prioritized by the Center’s Public Leadership Board and which speak to effective public leadership. We prioritize research on leadership in American political and legal institutions, public policy making, and program implementation that exemplify cutting-edge legal, government, and political solutions. Professors and researchers from any discipline at a UW System Institution are welcome to propose projects, as long as they address or have clear implications for public leadership and make important contributions to the pressing policy issues in Wisconsin, highlighted by the Board.   

The Thompson Center will be especially prioritizing leadership research in the areas of Preparing for Public Emergencies, Reforming the Administrative State, and Privacy in a Digital Age during the 2020-2021 academic year. Application guidelines  can be found under “Grants” on this website.

Taking Leadership

The Thompson Center also takes the lead on policy matters of the day that call out for greater leadership. For example, one area the Thompson Center focused on is criminal justice reform. Employers across the state of Wisconsin and abroad tell us they have difficulty finding skilled laborers to fill positions. At the same time, we have high incarceration rates. Wouldn’t it be useful if, when prisoners of low level offenses complete their sentences, they could return to the workforce with skills? How can we make prison time more cost effective for governments while also generating long term social benefits? Additionally, we examined the use of prosecutorial discretion and civil forfeiture.