Beaming with pride: CDIS supporters make their mark on new building

Steel beam with signatures is being lifted into the air. Construction workers stand by

The School of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences (CDIS) invited UW supporters including students, donors, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members to make history by signing a 16-foot steel beam that now resides in the new building’s superstructure as part of a topping off celebration.

Opening in 2025, the new CDIS building will house Computer Sciences, Statistics, and the Information School, as well as Biostatistics & Medical Informatics, the Center for High Throughput Computing, the American Family Data Science Institute, and the N+1 Institute. The building will serve as a lighthouse for technology and innovation in Wisconsin and will bring together Badgers from across campus for collaboration and discovery.

An estimated nine hundred CDIS supporters, including donors, faculty, staff, and students took part in this exciting milestone and left their mark on the new building.

“Welcoming and inclusivity is core to CDIS’ mission,” said CDIS Founding Director Tom Erickson. “As much as computing and data are part of our everyday lives, we hope our new facility will become a part of the everyday life of all students, and in the notion of ‘CDIS without Borders’, it’s also a gathering place for K-12 students and professionals as the heart of a vibrant tech ecosystem in the region. Inviting everyone to participate in the beam signing is exemplary of the Wisconsin Computing Idea.”

Principal donors, John and Tashia Morgridge kicked off the signing festivities on October 27. The Morgridge’s extraordinary support has not only made an indelible mark on the School of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but also the future of technology in Wisconsin.

Approximately five hundred UW-Madison alumni and campus leaders signed the beam during the By the Light of the Moon Gala on October 27. The gala celebrated 175 years of the University of Wisconsin and honored the ideas and accomplishments that have illuminated the world since the university’s founding in 1848.

Two people sign beam at By the Light of the Moon Gala
Guests use markers to sign a beam that will hang in the new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences (CDIS) building during the 175th anniversary gala

The celebration recognized that an idea can change the world at the University of Wisconsin. The new CDIS building exemplifies this idea, creating a space for people across campus to collaborate and make every idea better. Representing the next 175 years for UW–Madison, the beam was an opportunity for all attendees to commemorate the celebration.

“Our community of our alumni, donors, faculty, staff, students, and industry partners are making CDIS’ future possible,” Erickson added.  “We’re extremely grateful for Badgers of all walks of life who are participating in sustaining UW-Madison’s pre-eminence in technology.”

More than three hundred students across CDIS programs signed the beam during the student signing event on October 31. In addition to longstanding and highly ranked graduate programs, CDIS students represent the largest major on campus (Computer Sciences), the fastest-growing major (Data Science), and one of the newest undergraduate majors (Information Science). The new CDIS building will serve as a hub for collaboration and will bring together students from across campus.

Students sign the beam during the student celebration

A sophomore in political science with a certificate in computer sciences, Nicholas Sinn, has seen the CDIS building built from the ground up. He saw the opportunity to sign the beam as a way to contribute to the larger picture.

“The beam signing felt like a tangible way to imprint my presence in this ever-evolving campus landscape, especially in the high-tech sector. The CDIS building isn’t just another campus building; to me it’s a symbol of my university’s commitment to continue its reputation and legacy as a world-class institution in high-tech education and research,” says Sinn. “Being part of its history, even in a small way like signing a beam, feels like I’m contributing to this larger narrative of growth and excellence as a Badger.”

The series of events reached its pinnacle with faculty and staff on November 1 at a topping off celebration to honor the dedication and hard work of everyone who will call the new building “home.” Representatives from each department shared their vision for what the building will enable in the way of collaboration and discovery.

Man signs steel beam
CDIS faculty and staff got the opportunity to sign the beam during the Topping Off event on November 1st

“It’s fun to know we’ve left our mark and that decades from now a little part of us will still be a piece of the foundation for this exciting building,” says Nancy Brinkerhoff, Academic & Enrollment Program Coordinator in the Department of Statistics.

As the culmination of the celebration, faculty and staff watched as the beam was lifted into the air by Findorff and placed into the superstructure of the building, serving as a permanent tribute to CDIS supporters and those that helped make the new building a reality.

construction workers place beam into building
Findorff construction places beam into the superstructure of the building

“Participating in the beam signing was ultimately more than just leaving a mark; it was about connecting with the university’s journey, contributing to a legacy, and looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead for all of us Badgers here,” says Sinn.

Watch a recap video of our faculty and staff topping off ceremony on YouTube.