What is Constellations?

WHAT is Constellations?

Constellations is a humanities program housed in the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was established in 2018.  Our mission is to revitalize undergraduate interest in the humanities and curb the decline in humanities enrollment at UW-Madison. We aim to demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to all undergraduate majors and career trajectories. We want to help students from across the university become more adept at incorporating the skills, knowledge, and insights of the humanities into their studies, career preparation, and lifelong learning.

A Constellation = Core humanities Course + Co-Curriculum 

The term “constellation” refers to the unique assemblage of our humanities classes, our co-curriculum, and the additional events and opportunities that our program makes possible, as well as the network of disciplines incorporated into each class.

The concept of Constellations is, in part, based on the philosopher Walter Benjamin’s use of the term to describe the relation between ideas and objects: ideas are to objects what constellations are to stars. Constellations don’t actually exist in the heavens, but they allow us to perceive relations among existing stars and to give conceptual shape to the pattern that emerges from these relations.

HOW does Constellations work?

Our program supports up to four humanities professors (the Mellon-Morgridge Professors) and graduate students (the Mellon-Morgridge Fellows) who develop our curriculum and innovative classes. Constellations also provides funding and support to create rich experiences inside and outside of the humanities classroom. We develop high-impact co-curricular experiences for students at both the program- and course-level. Generally, these out-of-the-classroom opportunities are optional, but they provide students with ways to enhance their academic and professional skills.

Constellations is grounded in exceptional humanities classes that revolve around pressing, transdisciplinary questions. Our classes provide a number of high-impact experiences for students regardless of class size including:

  • Workshops related to course content, career preparation, and interdisciplinary skills development

  • Amplified in-class experiences, such as field trips, guest speakers, and specialized discussion sections

  • Training and mentorship in writing, including support for the pre-med writing intensive requirement

Beyond our classes, the Constellations program hosts events, workshops, and provides additional opportunities for undergraduates at all scales, from one-time workshops to extending coursework into research.

WHO can take a Constellations class?

Constellations classes are open to all UW-Madison undergraduates. Our curriculum is designed to be relevant and engaging to all students, especially STEM majors.

Students enroll in our classes through the Course Search & Enroll app, and do not need to do anything additional.

Our classes tend to appeal to non-humanities majors who want to stay on track with their 4-year plans while getting more out of the classes they take to fulfill their general education requirements.

WHY take a Constellations class?

Good question! Constellations offers students a variety of significant intellectual and practical benefits:

  • Fulfill general education requirements in a rigorous and thoughtful way.
  • Earn credits toward a variety of established certificate programs. Constellations provides on-ramps to the following certificate programs:
  • Train in new methodologies.
    • Each Constellation helps students develop intensive research & writing skills.
  • Learn additional skills depending on the Constellations including text analysis, curation, digital storytelling, etc.
  • Develop practical & employable skills.
    • We believe that humanities training can help students succeed in their professional lives, regardless of their career paths. Our program is designed to develop the kinds of skills and abilities that employers want from college graduates, such as:
      • Effective, persuasive, and powerful written and spoken communication
      • A capacity to confront and analyze complex problems
      • An appreciation and ability to recognize broader cultural and social contexts
      • Creativity
  • Earn L&S Honors credit
    • All Constellations classes can be taken for Honors credit in L&S
  • Satisfy pre-med writing requirements

Need more info? Contact the Constellations Assistant Director, Andrea Samz-Pustol, with questions!


“I learned so much and didn’t realize how much of the information taught in this class is applicable to daily life, which I loved.”