National task force work a privilege; cheers for CTE Summit, pay increases

Last week I was honored to be in Washington, D.C., to help the American Association of State Colleges and Universities with a major project. I was asked to participate on AASCU’s Task Force on University Partnerships, chaired by Richard Rush, president emeritus of California State University-Channel Islands in Camarillo, Calif. Doug Mell, UW-Stout’s executive director of Communications and External Relations, attended the meeting with me.

The task force will issue a report in the fall that is intended to be a guide for university chancellors and presidents, as well as other higher education leaders, on the best ways to form partnerships with external stakeholders, the benefits of partnerships and the potential pitfalls. Muriel Howard, AASCU president, told task force members that business leaders “are asking for our help” to build their workforces, and “we are going to have to go to the private sector for more resources.”

The evening before the task force met for the first time we had an incredible dinner conversation with former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, who was asked by AASCU to discuss his views on higher education and partnerships. This former Democratic presidential candidate still is full of enthusiasm and passion at 76 and stressed the importance of education in building and maintaining this nation’s middle class.

He repeated over and over that the keys to a successful economy are education, training and research and admonished us to be “obsessive” in our quest to preserve access to higher education for all Americans.

I also was happy to reconnect with Christina Hamilton, the former chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, who now works for Gephardt and who I got to know before Rep. Obey left office.

Serving on the task force is an incredible privilege and is important to me because I believe so strongly in the value of strong partnerships with many groups, including the private sector. We will share the task force’s report with the campus when it is published.

IMG_0521

CTE Summit a success

Kudos to our career and technical education faculty for putting together an outstanding CTE Summit Monday and Tuesday in Jarvis Hall Science Wing. The event attracted CTE educators and others interested in the field from around Wisconsin and beyond, and I was pleased to be part of it.

Participants reviewed actions that have taken place since the 2016 summit; discussed how to “groom talent” to meet the emerging challenges of the workplace; and discussed the future vision of CTE in Wisconsin.

The event also was an excellent chance to network with many in the CTE field.  More information is available here.

IMG_0569

Salary increases appreciated

I also wanted to take a minute to reiterate how much I appreciate the efforts of all our advocates, both on campus and externally, who helped make the case for increased salaries for our employees. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has approved two increases of 2 percent each for UW System employees, one that will take effect Sept. 1, 2018, and the second May 1, 2019.

While I certainly would have liked the increases to be larger and to take effect sooner, I appreciate the efforts of the governor and legislators to help us address the salary inequities that many of our employees find themselves in.

I also will do everything possible to try to find additional campus resources to provide supplemental increases, although we continue to face challenges in the enrollment area for 2017-18 that will make the job harder.

###

Thanks for a great year; commencement, leadership awards are special year-end events

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.42.53 AM.png

As the 2016-17 academic year comes to a close, I want to thank the students, faculty and staff for their tremendous efforts over the past year and for everything each and everyone one of you does to make UW-Stout a special place for me.

Even though I have a long history with this university, as a student, faculty member, administrator and now chancellor, I continue to be amazed by the special things I see happen every day in the classroom, laboratory and athletic fields, in the student organizations, through our outreach efforts to employers, and among all my colleagues who continue to impress me with their hard work, innovation and dedication to UW-Stout. I feel it is a privilege to serve you as chancellor.

I hope that you have the chance to recharge your batteries during the summer, to reconnect with family and friends and to enjoy as much as possible the best months in Wisconsin. I have some vacation plans that I am looking forward to as well.

On the immediate horizon for 2017-18, we will be hosting the UW System Board of Regents in October, a great opportunity for us to showcase this campus and everything we offer here.

Commencement address focused on Baldrige, polytechnic designation

This past academic year was heavy on anniversaries. In 2016 we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of UW-Stout by James Huff Stout. This year marks two major, more recent milestones: the 15th anniversary of UW-Stout receiving the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the 10th anniversary of UW-Stout being designated Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University by the Board of Regents.

I used my commencement address Saturday to discuss the impact on UW-Stout of both events.

I love everything about commencement; everyone is happy, and it shows. The graduates are proud of what they have accomplished and are ready to embark on the next stage of their lives. Pride also shows in the family and friends who helped their graduates secure that valuable diploma. It is a great day all around. Here is the text of my commencement address.

Here are links to coverage of the event:

Leadership Awards an inspiration

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.49.43 AM

I attend a lot of celebrations during the last few weeks of the academic year, but I always make time to attend the Leadership Awards presented annually by the Involvement Center. These awards are for students who have made outstanding contributions in student organizations, advocacy, service, student employment and advising. In short, these students will be the leaders of tomorrow in their workplaces and communities.

The ceremony also includes the Outstanding Co-op Student of the Year awards and the Samuel E. Wood Medallion award winners, sponsored by the Stout Student Association, for seniors who have shown outstanding leadership and excellence while at UW-Stout. It was an inspiring night. Much more information and a list of winners is available here.

This will be the last of my regular weekly blogs for the academic year, but I will post if there is a need during the summer. We will do our best to keep the campus apprised of the 2017-19 state budget as the Legislature works on the document in May and June.  Have a great summer!

Fab Lab pays dividends; Extra Effort event inspiring; commencement Saturday

The Discovery Center’s Fab Lab continues to pay dividends for UW-Stout. It was one of the first fabrication laboratories in the state, and because of our long history with this technology, state leaders look to UW-Stout for assistance in spreading the use of fab labs across Wisconsin.
IMG_0438

Last Tuesday, I joined Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has toured our fab lab many times, at the Altoona School District’s fab lab to help announce a $25,000 grant for Altoona to use in expanding its fab lab. The lieutenant governor is always very complimentary when she talks about UW-Stout, even to off-campus audiences. She is very aware of our 97.4 percent employment rate for recent graduates and cites that statistic from memory. You can’t ask for better branding than that!

I was very happy to join Lt. Gov. Kleefisch and several legislators to assist the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in announcing a second round of fab lab grants. Others from UW-Stout — the Discovery Center’s Randy Hulke and Larry Blackledge — appeared at other grant recipient locations to help with other fab lab announcements. You can read more on the Altoona fab lab event here.

Grant to help with fab lab collaboration

Russian Fab Lab Exchange

On a related note, I want everyone to be aware that the Discovery Center has received a grant from the WEDC to develop a web portal to help school districts across the state collaborate on fab lab issues such as curriculum, equipment usage, training and professional development.

Besides helping fab lab operators in Wisconsin, the portal will help those school districts that are interested in applying for future grants. More on the fab lab portal project is available here.

Extra Effort event is awe-inspiring

I get invited to attend a lot of functions toward the end of the academic year, but I can honestly say that one of the most rewarding is the Extra Effort awards reception I attend every year. The awards are sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Newspapers, which includes the Dunn County News and the Chippewa Herald, and are given to high school students in our area who have overcome obstacles or provided exemplary services to their communities.

Each of the 15 students at this year’s event in Eau Claire had an amazing story to tell. I was honored to present a UW-Stout scholarship to Valerie Yang from Elk Mound High School. She was raised in a big Hmong family and, frankly, was terrified about speaking in public. She has improved her English skills greatly and now wants to do what she can to help others. She will be studying psychology at UW-Stout.

I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Valerie to campus and to congratulate all the award winners. More on the Extra Effort awards is available here.

Please attend graduation

20150508_Commencement_Rehearsal.JPG

I would like to personally invite all faculty and staff to participate in the commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 6, in Johnson Fieldhouse. Nothing is more exciting than to see students walk across the stage and receive their diplomas and then look out in the audience to see the pride that exudes from the students’ families and friends.

I would like to have a large number of faculty and staff sharing that moment with everyone in the fieldhouse.

The 9:30 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates from the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management. The 1:30 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates from the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences. The 5:30 p.m. ceremony will be for the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Graduate School.

If you want to be part of the processional, please email commencement@uwstout.edu. If you wish to attend but not be a part of the ceremony, contact Britta Miller at millerbri@uwstout.edu. More on graduation is available here.

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.

balboabay5

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!

balboabay3

balboabay1

balboabay2

balboabay4

###

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.

Police_Oath_of_Office_02.jpg

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.

everendwins1

 

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.

rubegoldberg2017_2

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.