New academic year kicks off; progress on salaries, Pathways Forward, enrollment

Welcome back to a new academic year. I hope you had a chance to relax a little during the winter break. I also hope you were able to attend the event Monday when I reviewed the accomplishments of 2018 and took a peek at 2019.

The subsequent You Said…We Did event organized by Assistant Chancellor Meridith Wentz also was enlightening and amazing.

I would like to emphasize some points I made Monday:a19a0477

Salaries continue to be my priority

Although our employees received a 4.04 percent salary increase in 2018-19, we will continue to press Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature for additional pay raises. I will make salaries – and the Board of Regents’ proposal to raise salaries by 3 percent in 2019 and 3 percent in 2020 – my highest priority in our advocacy efforts.

I plan to be at the Capitol in Madison on Wednesday, Jan. 30, for the Chippewa Valley Rally and will discuss this issue with as many legislators as I can.

Fundraising campaign off to a great start

I couldn’t be happier with how well our Pathways Forward comprehensive fundraising campaign is progressing. We have raised, as of Dec. 31, almost $34 million of our $35 million goal, and we are well on our way to accomplishing our aspirational goal of $40 million.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to consider participating in the campaign. No gift is too small to make a difference.

While many, many people have contributed to the success of this campaign, I want to again thank Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons for all he has done for the foundation and for UW-Stout. Mark will be leaving campus for the last time on Feb. 26 for a well-deserved retirement, and he will be missed greatly.Pathways Forward Campaign

Enrollment shows improvement

I spent some time during my remarks updating the campus on enrollment. After two years of decline, I am happy to report that so far in this recruitment cycle the number of new freshmen we have admitted is up almost 300 from last year and up 28 from 2017.

That is an impressive improvement, and I want to thank the dedicated employees in Enrollment and Retention Services and in University Marketing for their efforts. But I also want to thank all of you because, as I said Monday, keeping our enrollment healthy is everyone’s responsibility. So, thank you and keep up the good work.Students on Campus

Best wishes to a new governor for a successful administration

I also had the privilege of being invited to Gov. Evers’ inauguration event on Jan. 7. I attended, along with a number of other chancellors and UW System President Ray Cross. I have known the new governor for a long time, given his tenure as secretary of the Department of Public Instruction and as a member of the Board of Regents. I have indicated to the governor that I will do everything I can to help him and his administration achieve their goals.

Finally, please accept my sincere thanks for all you did in 2018 to make UW-Stout such an amazing place to learn and to work. I hope that 2019 is great for you and your family.

Fitting honor at commencement for important mentor; mark Jan. 14 on calendar; marketing students impress

In everyone’s professional career, there are people who play a key role in shaping your direction and helping you become the best you can be. I have been very fortunate to have had a number of these valuable mentors and role models over the years.

Last Saturday at our afternoon commencement exercise, I was thrilled to bestow an honorary Doctor of Science degree on former UW-Stout instructor Larry Schneider of Colfax. I am not going to go into everything that Larry did for either me or UW-Stout during his illustrious career, which ended with his retirement in 1997. You can read about that career here.

However, Larry was instrumental in starting UW-Stout down the road toward the engineering programs offered today and helping establish the Stout Technology Transfer Institute.

I also told the graduates that without the privilege of working with Larry, I might not be the chancellor of this proud institution. I used my commencement speech to draw lessons from how Larry lived and taught, including his desire to help others. “He really lifted up the people around him,” I told the graduates.

For those who were unable to attend the ceremony and would like to watch it, go here. Lots of great commencement photos and a video from University Communications are available on our Facebook page, or find it all in the commencement digital newsletter.

I also would like to thank Britta Miller, the commencement coordinator, and everyone else involved in the commencement effort for making it a success. By the way, Britta received a master’s degree at the exercise she planned. You can read that story here.

Please attend my welcome address and You Said … We Did in January

I hope everyone on campus will be able to attend my welcome back address and our annual You Said … We Did presentation from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. We will open with my annual welcome address and then transition to the You Said … We Did session.

Information will be presented on actions that already are underway, or are ready to be taken, based on the feedback we received from campus at the fall Engagement Sessions. Organizers are saying the feedback “will feature a fresh approach that you don’t want to miss.”

Individuals and teams who helped make these accomplishments possible will be recognized. It is important to note that in 2019 we will begin the next phase in our planning process, with a visioning session in the summer.

More on You Said … We Did is available here. More information about January Professional Development is available here.

Marketing students’ project benefits Bridge to Hope

I love this time of year because there are so many opportunities to see our students report on projects they’ve completed. I’m always amazed by what our students accomplish and proud of the support our faculty and staff provide to facilitate their learning and success.

This past week I saw Kevin McDonald’s marketing students present their ideas to better market and brand the Bridge to Hope. The Bridge to Hope provides vital support to victims of domestic abuse (and my wife serves on the Bridge to Hope board).

I was really proud of the ideas that Kevin’s students presented to the Bridge to Hope board to help improve marketing and branding. The students’ ideas were terrific, innovative, well-researched and very well-presented. Consequently, the students’ proposals were very well-received by the board.

I want to thank Kevin, as well as all our faculty and staff, for their very effective work helping our students grow and learn. Those efforts are highly valued and greatly appreciated.

Happy holidays and thanks for a great 2018

This is my final blog for 2018, and I want to end it with my best wishes for students, faculty, staff, alumni and other stakeholders to have a very happy holiday season and a great new year.

My family and I will be taking some time away from campus to reconnect and to regroup for 2019. I hope that you also have the opportunity to recharge. Thanks to everyone for their good work and good cheer and for being the best group of colleagues a chancellor could wish for.

Great musical performances bring joy to holiday season; Regents back pay increase

The holiday season is certainly upon us, and I wanted to say publicly what an enjoyable time my wife, Debbie, and I had on Friday as the Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir presented their annual holiday program, this year entitled Silent Night, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

The program was conducted by Jerry Hui and accompanied by pianist Michaela Gifford. The theme commemorated the centennial of World War I and featured music from the United Kingdom, France and Germany composed during the war.

The program was very well choreographed, and we especially enjoyed the inclusion of the memories from WWI veterans. Deans Bob Salt and Maria Alm also excelled in their readings during the performance.

The event also marked the bicentennial of the composition of the carol “Silent Night.”

I want to compliment everyone who had a hand in this great performance.

symphonicsingers2018a

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Stout Symphonic Band winter concert on Dec. 2. Although I was unable to attend, I have heard many comments from those who attended about the exceptional program that Aaron M. Durst and the performers staged in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

I truly wish I had gotten to hear the Tower Saxophone Quartet and the newly formed polka band as well.

symphonicband2018_1a

Holiday reception was a great success

Keeping with the holiday theme, I want to thank everyone who attended the Chancellor’s Holiday Reception last week. I was happy to see the Great Hall packed with students and employees who took some time to celebrate the holiday season and socialize with each other.

The event was a reminder to me of the great students, faculty and staff I have the privilege of working with at UW-Stout.

holidayreception

Regents approved proposed pay package

In the last blog, I described a proposed pay package that the Board of Regents would consider when they met last week at UW-La Crosse. I am happy to report that the Regents approved that proposal, which will now be sent to the state Department of Administration for possible inclusion in the 2019-21 state budget that Gov.-elect Tony Evers will submit to the Legislature in February.

The proposal calls for a 3 percent increase for all UW employees on July 1, 2019, and another 3 percent increase on July 1, 2020. It also calls for the state to fully fund the increases, rather than each campus picking up 30 percent, as has been the case.

As most people know, Gov.-elect Evers is a Regent, but he did not vote on the package. However, many people believe that he will look favorably on this proposal. We will be doing everything we can to convince our local legislators that this package is incredibly important to our ability to keep and retain quality faculty and staff.

Regents to consider pay package proposal on Thursday; holiday reception is Tuesday

I wanted to share some important news on the compensation front with you before you hear about it in the news media. On Thursday, the Board of Regents will vote on a proposed compensation package for 2019-21 that would increase salaries by 3 percent for all eligible UW employees on July 1, 2019, and another 3 percent on July 1, 2020.

In another important development, the Regents will vote to ask Gov.-elect Evers and the Legislature to pay 100 percent of these increases; historically, each campus was responsible for paying 30 percent of any pay plan increase.

I applaud President Cross and the Regents for aggressively addressing the crying need around the UW for competitive salaries. While these increases would not bring our faculty and staff to parity with their peers, it certainly would help.

If approved by the Regents, I will work with our elected representatives to ensure they know how vital this pay package is for our faculty and staff – and for the quality of education we offer our students. For the last six years, our salary increases have averaged less than 1 percent a year, with no increases in five of the last eight fiscal years. By comparison, in 2017-18 faculty compensation nationally grew by 3 percent.

We have seen the results of noncompetitive increases on our campus, with turnover rates that in the past have exceeded UW System averages. I am happy to report that our turnover rate has stabilized in the last year, but that does not mean we can let up on our efforts to provide competitive salaries for our faculty and staff.

More information on the proposed pay package is available here.

Opening Day

Please join us at the Holiday Reception

I’d also like to personally invite employees to the annual Chancellor’s Holiday Reception that I and my wife, Debbie, are sponsoring from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

Each year, our students, faculty, staff and administrators partner with a local nonprofit to help kids in our area have a happy holiday season. This year’s Holiday Giving Tree supports Christmas Miracle coordinated through the Road 2 Freedom MRO.

If you are interested in donating a gift to a local child, please bring an unwrapped item to the reception.

Chancellor's Holiday Reception

It’s a time to be thankful; special events recognize years of service, retiring employees

As we enter the holiday season at UW-Stout, I want to wish everyone the happiest Thanksgiving possible. I will be spending my holiday with family and friends, and it will be a great time to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for.

While family and health obviously top my list of what I am grateful for, I also know I am blessed by working for an institution that I love that has dedicated, hard-working and innovative students, faculty and staff. While this job has its challenges, I am excited about coming to work every day because of who I get to work with.

UW-Stout has a lot going for it, but our main assets are our students, faculty and staff. So, while I am thankful for many, many things in my life, the ability to serve this campus as chancellor is at the top.

Please have a healthy and safe Thanksgiving.

Event honors employees for their years of service 

How time flies. That was the prevailing sentiment last week in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center as I helped our University Advancement office recognize 98 employees for reaching certain milestones in their years of service to UW-Stout.

One of the employees has served for 40 years, and four have served for 35 years.

During these ceremonies I always stress that UW-Stout is an exceptional place to learn because of our talented, dedicated and supportive faculty and staff. These employees from all over campus make a difference every day in students’ lives, so that’s why it’s an honor to recognize them.

I also want to thank Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons and his staff for organizing a great ceremony.

20181112_Years_of_Service_07

 

Retirement ceremony honors 18 employees 

Last Wednesday we said goodbye to 18 hard-working and dedicated employees who have retired or are retiring from UW-Stout. These employees have served the institution for a total of 312 years, and they will be missed.

The employees come from all parts of campus, from faculty to custodial to accounting, and it was my privilege to thank them during a ceremony in the Memorial Student Center for their services and to wish them well in retirement.

It is always hard saying goodbye to colleagues, but I know that they will enjoy their retirement, which makes it easier.

Fall Retirement Reception

 

Congratulations to the winners of Tuesday’s elections; student voter turnout was impressive

Like most Wisconsin residents, I woke up this morning to learn that Tony Evers, a member of the UW System Board of Regents and state schools superintendent, had squeaked out a victory in his gubernatorial race.

I have gotten to know Gov.-elect Evers well during my four-plus years as chancellor, as well as during my six years as president of the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. I would like to publicly congratulate Gov.-elect Evers on his win and assure him that I and my administration will do everything possible to help him make a successful transition to the governor’s office and to achieve the higher education agenda he lays out.

I also would like to congratulate those who won legislative elections in western Wisconsin, including state Rep. Rob Stafsholt, who represents UW-Stout. I have developed a good working relationship with Rep. Stafsholt during his first term in the Assembly and look forward to working closely with him, and all our local legislators, during the 2019-21 legislative session.

We are heading into a budget year, which means that a lot of our time will be devoted to working with the new governor and legislators to ensure they are aware of our priorities.

Board of Regents

Impressive voter turnout by UW-Stout students

Maybe the biggest winner Tuesday in Wisconsin, however, was the electorate. Nearly 2.7 million people voted Tuesday, a record for a midterm election in Wisconsin.

In Menomonie, voting increased 22.4 percent in Wards 5 and 7, which are dominated by UW-Stout students who vote in the Memorial Student Center. In the 2014 midterm election, 589 votes were cast for governor, and that increased to 721 this year.

IMG_1097A group of students and dedicated faculty members worked tirelessly to increase student voter turnout this year, and it worked. I even got in the act by helping register students to vote on two occasions.

I want to thank and congratulate the Stout Votes! group and everyone who helped increase student voter participation this year. Voting really is democracy in action!

IMG_1103

 

A fitting tribute for a great leader; Election Day coming; campus forum on the budget

The campus is still talking about the wonderful tribute to the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen that took place Monday as we marked the renaming of Millennium Hall as Sorensen Hall.

We were privileged to host Chancellor Sorensen’s wife, Toni-Poll Sorensen, their three daughters, his two sisters and many other family members as we laughed, cried, told stories and recognized the tremendous accomplishments over 26 years by this campus leader.

During my remarks, I tried to summarize those accomplishments: the Baldrige award, the eStout program, a massive building program and the polytechnic designation. But the most important point I made was the example I found in Chancellor Sorensen of the great role model his life was for how education can radically improve a person’s future. He came from a humble upbringing, and education led him to the chancellor’s office. That is a great example for all of us in higher education.

I also want to thank everyone who helped organize the ceremony. It was a very fitting event for a tremendous leader. Lots more on the event is available here and on the UW-Stout Facebook page.

Sorensen Hall Dedication

Voting is putting democracy into action

I wrote last week about the importance of encouraging our students to register to vote, and this week I got to put those words into action. I sat at a voter registration table in the Memorial Student Center and helped students fill out their registration forms, which they can take with them when they vote Tuesday, Nov. 6.

I also will be at the registration table at noon on Election Day.

I have made a video for a student group, Stout Votes!, explaining what is needed for a student to register to vote. In the video, I discuss the importance of voting. I quoted John F. Kennedy, who once said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I truly believe our right to vote should be exercised by everyone, and in the process we can make a difference.

Louis Dearborn L’Amour, an American novelist and short-story writer, once said: “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”

In other words, our democracy reflects how well we exercise the terrific rights and privileges afforded to us. Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt summed it up best when he stated: “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials but the voters of this country.”

We have the power to make a difference. I hope you join me Tuesday, Nov. 6, to cast your vote as one of the most important ways we contribute to our democracy.

Voter

Forum helps explain budget situation

As most people know, we have seen our enrollment decline for the last two years, which has budget ramifications. Those effects are too complex to go into detail here, which is why we held a 90-minute forum Wednesday to discuss our budget, what is being done to boost our enrollment and what actions might be necessary to meet our fiscal challenges.

I want to assure everyone, as I said at the forum, that no massive budget or position reductions are being planned and that there are preliminary indications that our enrollment problem may be easing.

Vice Chancellor Phil Lyons did a great job of organizing the forum and putting together a presentation that lays out the challenges and possible solutions. Provost Patrick Guilfoile also explained well the enrollment challenges and our efforts to address them.

You can watch the forum here.

###