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Odyssey Project, Badger Ready help local dad resume dream of earning a bachelor’s degree

Albert Watson had a great deal on his plate, including working and raising a family, when he applied to the University of WisconsinMadison Odyssey Project. At the time, it was hard to see past the obstacles in his life.

Watson completed the program—including its two-semester, six-credit course exploring English literature, philosophy, and history—in 2008, and he hasn’t looked back since. Now he’s beginning his next educational journey—completing a bachelor’s degree—with help from both Odyssey and UW–Madison’s Badger Ready program.

“If it were not for Odyssey helping me financially, supporting me morally, and just being there for me by guiding me and giving me some advising, I don’t think I’d be able to enroll at UW–Madison this spring,” Watson says.

Watch the video below to learn more about his journey.

Opening doors to achievement

For the past 16 years, Odyssey has helped adults facing poverty, institutional racism, incarceration, and other extreme difficulties find their voices and believe in their potential. Students develop resilience and critical thinking skills as they study great thinkers such as Martin Luther King, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson.

In addition to connecting students to award-winning UW–Madison faculty, the program provides resources such as dinner and child care when class is in session and after-class appointments with a financial counselor and a social worker. It’s also an opportunity to form enduring relationships with fellow lifelong learners.

Students also tend to find success after completing Odyssey. More than 75% take additional college courses, 24% have completed undergraduate degrees or professional certificates, and the vast majority report voting more often in local and national elections and sharing the importance of education with friends and family.

Odyssey students
Odyssey classes provide opportunities to form relationships with fellow lifelong learners.

Finding paths to a degree

A related program, Onward Odyssey, connects Odyssey graduates with other opportunities to learn at UW–Madison. It helped Watson find the English course and academic advising services that led him to Badger Ready, a new program for adults with some college experience but no degree.

Once selected for Badger Ready, students must complete at least 12 UW–Madison credits with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. After meeting this requirement, they can be admitted as undergraduate transfer students and work toward bachelor’s degrees. Watson plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice in addition to serving the community in other ways, such as volunteering as a teacher for Odyssey Junior, an educational enrichment program for the children and grandchildren of Odyssey participants.

For more information about Odyssey, or to apply, see the program’s website or contact Emily Auerbach, 608-262-3733, emily.auerbach@wisc.edu. To donate to Odyssey, Onward Odyssey, or Odyssey Junior, visit the Support Odyssey page. For details about Badger Ready, see its webpage and list of frequently asked questions.