Pay raises pushed at budget hearing; Foundation, alumni events productive

I had the chance last Tuesday to speak to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee during the committee’s public hearing in Spooner on the 2017-19 state budget. Because of the short time allowed for speakers, two minutes, I had to condense what I really wanted to get across to the committee as the No. 1 priority for the upcoming budget: the need to provide immediate salary increases for our faculty and staff.

I told the committee that we are losing many valuable employees who are being offered better salaries elsewhere, and this could endanger the quality of the education we offer our students.

I also listed some of the ways we stand out in preparing our students for challenging and successful careers (yes, I did mention our 97.4 percent employment rate for recent graduates!). A video and transcript of the testimony are available here.

I want to assure everyone on campus that I will continue to advocate as often and as loudly as possible for better compensation for our employees as the budget process continues because I truly believe you are the reason UW-Stout is truly extraordinary.

Finance committee also hears from Provost Guilfoile

I also joined Provost Patrick Guilfoile at the finance committee’s hearing the last Wednesday in Ellsworth. Patrick did a great job echoing my comments on the compensation issue as well as explaining to the committee the need for legislators to back the UW System Board of Regents’ proposal to allow us to increase tuition by a small percentage in the second year of the biennium.

Patrick told the committee that the additional revenue from the increased tuition would be used to continue our efforts to meet the workforce demands of our business and industry partners. A video and transcript of his remarks are available here.

I was joined at the Spooner hearing by UW-Superior Chancellor Renee Wachter. Joining Patrick and I in Ellsworth were UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt and UW-River Falls interim Provost Faye Perkins.

Hearty thanks to Stout Foundation Board

My Saturday included a very interesting and productive meeting with the Stout University Foundation Board of Directors. We discussed a number of topics, including the comprehensive fundraising campaign that the board has endorsed.

These board members spend a lot of time on Foundation board matters and do an excellent job. I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their service to UW-Stout.

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Alumni event a highlight of a trip to California

Speaking of fundraising, I spent a week recently on the West Coast meeting with alumni and donors to talk to them about the comprehensive campaign and all the great things that are happening at UW-Stout. A highlight was a fantastic evening at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, Calif., at an event sponsored by alumnus Bill Hendricksen. I can’t thank Bill enough for his generosity in supporting this event. Everyone who attended had a great time!

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Family Weekend offered family fun, impressive events

I had the opportunity to attend several Family Weekend events over the weekend and really enjoyed all of them. This special event gives me the opportunity to learn a lot more about our students and their families who attend as well as listen to their feedback about our wonderful campus and staff.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped plan and execute the weekend’s activities — they really are too numerous to mention.

‘Seussical’ a great musical

My wife, Debbie, and I had the opportunity to see “Seussical,” a terrific musical tribute to Dr. Seuss’ works, performed in Harvey Hall Theatre. Kudos to Paul Calenberg, the director and choreographer; Michaela Gifford, the musical director; Audric Buhr, the orchestra conductor; Jennifer Sansfacon, who designed the scenes and lighting; Barb Weisenberger, costume designer; Corey Schoff and Jeremiah Bowe, sound designers, and our many talented student performers who made this performance an outstanding success and one perfectly suited for Family Weekend audiences.

More details are available here.

Fashion Without Fabric an inspiring experience

Debbie and I also were able to take in the Fashion Without Fabric show, which had Real Genius as a theme and offered student interpretations of the MacArthur Fellows genius program. More than 100 student projects were showcased, demonstrating some amazingly creative interpretations that were designed, developed and choreographed over three short weeks.

The work of our students was nothing short of impressive and completely “wowed” the audience, including yours truly.

Special thanks are in order to show advisers Robert Atwell and Cathie Weissman for making the event a huge success. I would also like to thank our faculty who worked so closely with the students to complete their impressive projects, including Timothy Alberg, Tom Hollenback, Masako Onodera, Geoffrey Wheeler, Josh Wilichowski, Molly Uravitch and many others.

David Beck, Cynthia Bland and Laura Oliver (of UW-Eau Claire) also did a great job with the unenviable task of judging the projects. That seemed nearly impossible given the impressive work turned in by the students. Many, many other people made the event special, including the emcee, student Gemma Schlotthauer, to whom I’m very grateful.

I left the event feeling very proud of our art and design students and staff. More details on the event are available here.

Book club to feature new UW-Stout history

On Saturday afternoon I also stopped by a book-signing event featuring our own Jerry Poling, the assistant communications director who has authored an incredible history of UW-Stout’s first 125 years entitled “An Idea Comes of Age: UW-Stout, 1891-2016.” The book signing was in front of the campus Stoutfitters apparel and bookstore on the lower level of the Memorial Student Center, which has the book in stock.

We also are planning a book club event on consecutive Tuesdays, April 25 and May 2, that I will attend if possible. The book is the first full-length history of UW-Stout, chronicling 125 years from its founding by James Huff Stout as Stout Manual Training School to eventually becoming a full-fledged university and part of the UW System. It’s also available online at the Seattle Book Company, on Amazon, at Bookends on Main in Menomonie and at Volume One’s Local Store in Eau Claire.

People can register for the book club here.

Regents approve Bowman Hall repairs

At the UW System Board of Regents meeting last week, an important capital project to repair the exterior of Bowman Hall was approved, moving the issue next to the Legislature’s State Building Commission.

The project, costing nearly $9 million, will repair and restore the exterior masonry on the building, constructed in 1897, as well as conduct structural repairs on the clock tower. Windows and doorways also will be replaced with more historically accurate ones.

This is an important building in the history of our campus, and I thank the regents for their approval. We will be working with our legislative delegation to receive final approval at the Building Commission, tentatively scheduled in June.

Legislators, regents meet on campus to discuss budget; athletes shine

 

We had the privilege of hosting an important meeting on campus Friday when eight western Wisconsin legislators and three members of the UW System Board of Regents gathered for an annual lunch meeting that I co-host each year with the chancellors of UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire.

We rotate the location of the lunch among the three campuses. This meeting took on a special urgency because the debate over the proposed 2017-19 state budget is beginning to heat up. In fact, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf attended just hours after the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee began its review of the UW System budget.

I had the chance to give the legislators and regents some campus updates concerning our new employment rate for recent graduates of 97.4 percent and our new economic impact study. I also stressed that my top priority for this budget is to secure compensation increases for our faculty and staff. While we have been able to make some headway on this issue through internal reallocations, it is imperative that the Legislature appropriates funds for general pay increases as well. I will have a chance to address the Joint Finance Committee on April 18 in Spooner and will make the same case there as well.

We will keep the campus apprised of the budget debate as it continues, and the latest news and documents are available here. I also had the chance to brief the legislators and regents on our recently completed economic impact study that clearly demonstrates the value of investing in UW-Stout. That report can be viewed here.

UW-Stout in national gymnastics spotlight

It isn’t often that UW-Stout has the chance to host a national athletic tournament, so I was happy to spend a lot of time Friday and Saturday attending the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Championship in Johnson Fieldhouse.

I am pleased to report that the Blue Devils certainly took advantage of hosting the championship by posting the squad’s best finish in more than 30 years, placing fifth. A number of our gymnasts had outstanding competitions, including Kaylee Jondahl, of Elk River, Minn., who earned three All-America honors during the weekend, bringing her career total to eight.

I was inspired by the excitement, dedication and athleticism I witnessed. I also saw what excellent ambassadors we have in the student athletes who make up the UW-Stout gymnastics team.

It is also worth noting that Erin Sullivan, associate athletic director, was named administrator of the year for the Western Region of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women. Congratulations to Coach Becky Beaulieu, her assistant coaches and the entire team. Many UW-Stout staff members worked hard to make this event a resounding success, and I am grateful for their effective efforts. More information on the championship is available here.

Outstanding UW-Stout scholar athletes honored

Speaking of outstanding student athletes, I helped hand out awards last week to 21 senior scholar athletes and 129 underclassmen scholar athletes at the Memorial Student Center. The scholar athlete award is given to those who have a cumulative 3.50 grade point average in the semester preceding their final season of eligibility.

I was joined at the ceremony by Provost Patrick Guilfoile, Vice Chancellor Phil Lyons and Athletic Director Duey Naatz.

Naatz reported that at the end of 2016 spring semester more than 285 student athletes had a GPA of 3.0 or more, and the cumulative GPA of all student athletes was a record 3.251, a tremendous achievement.  More information and the names of the honored student athletes is available here.

New UW-Stout police chief sworn in

One of the duties of a chancellor is to swear in members of our Department of Police and Parking Services. Last week I swore in just the second campus police chief as Jason Spetz took over for veteran Chief Lisa Walter.

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Jason has almost nine years of experience with the campus police department and extensive experience in law enforcement and other public service. Chief Walter did a great job in bringing modern police practices to UW-Stout, and I am confident that Chief Spetz will build on that tradition. I also swore in a new officer, Chase Becherer. More information is available here.

Summit helps campuses offer digital textbooks

Keeping the cost of attending college as affordable as possible is an important topic, and UW-Stout last week hosted a free summit on providing affordable digital textbooks and other resources.

About half of our textbooks today are digital books, and the summit was intended to help other campuses develop a comprehensive digital program.

I had the opportunity of welcoming the summit attendees to UW-Stout, and I want to thank Bob Butterfield, our Instructional Resources Service director, for helping to organize the summit. More information is available here.

UW-Stout: An award-winning university

Our game designers bring home a national championship

On April 3, the college basketball world will crown a new men’s Division I national champion. I’m proud to say that UW-Stout has its own national champion: A group of students won the Best Visual Quality award at the Intel University Games earlier this March for a video game they designed. Everend is about a young owl caught in a massive cave after an ancient volcanic eruption; the game was designed by 12 students in a class taught by associate professor Dave Beck, the game’s executive producer. Games from 11 universities and colleges from around the U.S. were chosen by Intel to compete at the showcase. “Although they were new to the event this year, UW-Stout brought an amazingly artistic team, and they deservedly grabbed the top prize in the Best Visual Quality category,” said Randi Rost, manager of Intel’s game developer experience team. I want to congratulate the students and Professor Beck for showing the rest of the world that great things can happen at campuses like UW-Stout and for bringing home a national championship. More details are available here.

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We appreciate the award from Main Street of Menomonie

Speaking of awards, I wanted to make sure everyone knows about the exceptional award we received recently from the Main Street of Menomonie: the Spirit of Excellence award for our partnership with downtown Menomonie. This award is for an entity that goes above and beyond the support that is typical in helping to revitalize the downtown. I want to thank Main Street of Menomonie for the award and thank my senior special assistant, Kristi Krimpelbein, for her service on the Main Street board of directors. A Dunn County News story about the awards is available here.

High schoolers show off engineering skills at the Rube Goldberg event

Continuing with the award theme, I was privileged to help judge and hand out the awards last week for the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest regional held in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. As an engineer, I love watching these high school students use their already impressive engineering skills to build these ridiculous machines; the goal this year was to use as many steps as possible to apply an adhesive bandage. The winner was from Elk Mound High School and their machine used a bicycle wheel, balls, chutes and ramps, as well as a marble that bounced off two bongo drums, in 75 steps. The event was hosted by the UW-Stout Technology Education Engineering Collegiate Association and is a perfect fit for a polytechnic university. Details about the competition are available here.

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Celebrating a rainbow of diversity at Qubie Gayla

Awards also were handed out at the 4th annual Qubie Gayla that I attended Thursday night in the Great Hall. The night honors and celebrates progress and achievements in advocacy for LGBTQIA+ equity. I want to thank Coltan Schoenike for doing such as great job as the master of ceremonies. Coltan also did a fantastic job promoting the event earlier in the week on the WEAU-TV Hello Wisconsin morning show. The evening started with a fantastic dinner and ended with the Qubie Ball. Kudos to everyone at the QUBE who worked so hard on this event.

Busy time: Board of Regents, a celebration and meeting student athletes of color

Regents adopt UW-Stout post tenure review policy

I’m happy to report that the UW System Board of Regents today unanimously approved a post-tenure review policy for UW-Stout. I want to thank the chair of the Faculty Senate, Nelu Ghenciu, the entire Faculty Senate, Provost Patrick Guilfoile and his staff and everyone else who was involved in the development of this important policy. We needed to establish this policy as part of the conversion of tenure procedures from state law to Board of Regents policy. The full policy is available here.

During the Regents’ Education Committee discussion of this policy, Regent Margaret Farrow was very complimentary. She called it “very clear and very understandable” that perfectly reflected the nature of Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. In his remarks to the Education Committee, Provost Guilfoile said he appreciated the cooperation of the Faculty Senate in working on this policy, and I want to echo that sentiment.

A great celebration of Baldrige and polytechnic developments

A19A8819Two major developments in the history of UW-Stout have anniversaries in March, and I was happy to participate in a celebration of those anniversaries on Tuesday, March 7.  Fifteen years ago, a contingent from UW-Stout, led by Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen, went to Washington, D.C., to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from former President George W. Bush.  I was privileged to have been part of that contingent as dean of the former College of Technology, Engineering and Management.

Ten years ago, on March 9, 2007, the Board of Regents unanimously voted to designate UW-Stout as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. The history behind these developments and their impacts were explored thoroughly in the well-attended ceremony in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

Although I was at UW-Stout while both ideas were debated and pursued, I still learned a lot about how these developments came to fruition.

Our undergraduate employment rate keeps going up

meyerwalkerI used the occasion of the Baldrige/polytechnic celebration to announce, with great pleasure, that our employment rate for 2015-16 graduates is an amazing 97.4 percent. When I returned to UW-Stout as chancellor in August 2014, the rate was 97 percent. I just hoped that we would be able to maintain the percent in the future.

I should have known better! We actually increased that employment rate to 97.1 percent in 2013-14 to 97.3 percent in 2014-15 and then 97.4 percent in 2015-16.

The median salary for our graduates increased as well, from $40,000 in 2014-15 to $42,500 in 2015-16, and 85 percent of our graduates were working in fields related to their major, up from 83.3 percent.

I was happy that Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch could join us on Tuesday, and she applauded the increase in our employment rate.

I then traveled to Madison to participate with the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment conference on Wednesday and shared this great news with Gov. Scott Walker. Kleefisch and Walker have been great marketers for UW-Stout in that they frequently mention our employment rate as a goal for other universities to achieve. I said at the event Tuesday, and I want to reiterate, that we have achieved this employment rate through the hard work, innovation and dedication of a lot of people all across the campus. Thank you for your good work.

Adviser providing support for student athletes of color

Recently I had the great privilege of meeting with our student athletes of color. This group is convened on a regular basis by Michael Bond, a Multicultural Student Services adviser and 2015 graduate of UW-Stout in vocational rehabilitation counseling. A

As a UW-Stout student and athlete of color, Michael started 10 games as a defensive back for our football team in 2013 and 2014 and was named to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athlete Conference All-Sportsmanship team. He is pursuing his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and regularly meets with student athletes of color to provide them a forum to discuss issues, address challenges and gain a sense of belonging on campus.

His efforts are paying off as nearly every athlete attending the meeting asserted how important Michael’s work has been in helping them adjust to college life, establish focus as a student and athlete and feel welcome on campus.

While at the meeting, I had a chance to describe my role as chancellor as well as a few of my past experiences with athletics as a student (a long time ago)! The meeting also gave me a chance to discuss the importance of supporting diversity at UW-Stout as well as describe some of the actions we are taking to encourage inclusiveness across campus.

One important action we are taking is the deployment of the Intercultural Development Inventory. The IDI assesses intercultural competence — the ability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities. Intercultural competence has been identified as a critical skill required in today’s global economy, and the IDI assessment can be used to help develop this capability.

As I shared at the meeting, we are encouraging staff and students to use the IDI to develop this critical skill set. In doing so we also believe that we will build a more inclusive campus environment.

I really enjoyed our interaction and discussions at the meeting and quickly developed an appreciation for how impactful this group has been for our student athletes of color. Thank you for your great work Michael Bond!!

Spreading the word about our career and technical education

I was happy to spend Thursday, March 9, in Wisconsin Dells, at the annual conference of the Wisconsin Technology Education Association. I recognized many of the people at the conference as either former students, which made me feel a little old, or colleagues in the area of technical education.

I believe we need to do more as an institution to raise the profile of our career and technical education undergraduate and graduate programs. We are a leader in this area, and we need to build on that success, so that is why I valued my time at the WTEA conference.

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Baldrige/Polytechnic event March 7; volunteers fight hunger; enrollment plan discussed

Two seminal events in the history of UW-Stout — winning the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award and being designated Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University – will be celebrated Tuesday, March 7. I would like to invite the entire campus to join us for this special event beginning at 9 a.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

We have put together a great program to look at the impact of the winning the Baldrige and officially becoming a polytechnic university. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will attend to read a proclamation from the governor, a UW System representative will attend and we’ll have remembrances from Chancellor Emeritus Sorensen.

We also are planning to make a major announcement concerning our 2015-16 employment rate for recent graduates and the economic impact of UW-Stout on the regional economy.

Refreshments will be served.

Look for further information this week in your email and in UW-Stout Today and Campus Life Today.

Joining the effort to fight kids’ hunger

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I was happy to join our international students and others from campus at last Wednesday’s Kids Against Hunger event organized by two Menomonie Rotary Clubs. Our group packed more than 2,000 meals, and everyone who participated packed more than 45,000 meals, which consisted of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and 21 essential vitamins and minerals.

The meals will be distributed in the Chippewa Valley and across the world.

Other groups participating in the event at the Stout Ale House included University Marketing and the Stout Student Association. A WEAU-TV story is available here.

A good start on an enrollment plan

I want to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the various sessions held by the consultants working for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, who have been asked for recommendations on how to implement a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan at UW-Stout.

I was impressed by the consultants’ thoroughness and knowledge as they conducted their briefings and look forward to their recommendations.

After a few years of growth, it appears that we will be severely challenged to maintain our present enrollment level in fall 2017. That fact adds even more urgency to the need to develop a campuswide enrollment management plan and to implement it as quickly as possible.

Alumnus speaks up on state budget; campus busy with legislator visit, Career Conference, ‘Stout Proud’ film

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Joseph Pregont, President and CEO of Prent Corp.

I wanted to share with you a column that ran in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel written by a great friend and supporter of UW-Stout, Joseph Pregont, the president and CEO of Prent Corporation in Janesville who graduated from here in 1981 and was the 2011 Cabot Executive in Residence. This 2,000-employee company has dozens of UW-Stout graduates in its workforce.

In the column, Joe supports Gov. Walker’s 2017-19 state budget proposal that calls for increased funding for the UW System, as well as salary increases for UW employees. I believe this column will have a significant impact on our advocacy efforts for the UW budget, and I want to publicly thank Joe for adding his voice to our supporters. We also are working with other employers in Wisconsin to join our advocacy efforts.

Rep. Stafsholt holds listening session on campus

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UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer, left, with Rep. Rob Stafsholt.

Speaking of advocacy, I had the privilege Tuesday afternoon of introducing state Rep. Rob Stafsholt before his listening session in the Memorial Student Center. I thanked Rob for holding his meeting on campus and had a chance to explain our thoughts on Gov. Walker’s 2017-19 state budget.

The meeting was well-attended, and the speakers included members of the Stout Student Association leadership.

The Leader-Telegram covered the meeting; the story is available on their website.

Career Conference a great experience

I don’t think I could ever spend too much time at the two Career Conferences held on campus, in the fall and again in late winter. I enjoyed walking around the conference Tuesday in Johnson Fieldhouse Multipurpose Room speaking to the employers who were looking to hire Cooperative Education students as well as permanent employees and to students who were seeking those positions.

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There are many UW-Stout alumni in the employer booths, and I even ran into a couple of former students I remembered having in class some years ago. The employers seemed pleased with the quality and the quantity of the students they were attracting to their booths.

Career Services does a great job organizing this event. More information is available on their website.

Alumni Association film truly thrilling

I still am marveling at the tremendous “Stout Proud” video produced for the Alumni Association that premiered last Friday during Stout Proud Day in the Memorial Student Center. The video was made by two recent alumni, Christopher Bartlett and R.T. Vrieze, who co-own Knorth Studios in Eau Claire.

More than 55,000 people have seen this video since it was posted Friday on our Facebook page. I encourage everyone who hasn’t seen the video to watch it.

I’d also like to thank Christopher and R.T. for the time they spent producing the video and everyone at the Alumni Association who worked on the project.