Another great homecoming celebration; Paul Hoffman, SVRI recognition; Free Speech Week events

Another homecoming celebration is history, and I couldn’t be happier with the events and enthusiasm displayed last week on campus.

I would like to thank our Homecoming Committee, Blue Devil Productions, the Alumni Association, Athletics, Urec and everyone else who planned events and put in many hours of effort to make homecoming a success.

I had the privilege of helping lead the Saturday morning parade, along with the new Stout Ambassadors, and it was a treat to see all the children and adults lining the route on a somewhat chilly but sunny Saturday morning. (I’ll be sure to have candy to throw to the crowd next year!) The tailgate party in the football parking lot before the game gave people a chance to socialize as well.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate Coach Clayt Birmingham and the entire Blue Devil football team for the gutty victory over UW-River Falls in very challenging conditions. It was a perfect way to cap a very successful homecoming week.

Homecoming Football Game

The staff at University Communications did a great job in documenting the weeklong celebration; if you haven’t already, I would recommend you check out their photos and video from homecoming on our UW-Stout Facebook page.

A fitting recognition for the founder of Stout Technology and Business Park

Before Saturday’s homecoming events, I was proud to participate in a ceremony at the Stout Technology and Business Park honoring the late Paul Hoffman, founder of the department of rehabilitation and counseling and the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute.

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Hoffman was asked by Chancellor Emeritus Sorensen to bring community and campus leaders together to find the best use for land that was donated to Stout University Foundation. The technology park grew out of those discussions.

I told the attendees that because of Hoffman’s vision the tech park now hosts 48 businesses with more than 2,400 employees.

As a new faculty member, I got to know Paul, and I told the gathering that he was a true gentleman who cared deeply for his colleagues.

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Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute celebrates 50 years

Speaking of the SVRI, the institute celebrated its 50th anniversary during homecoming week with a full schedule of events Thursday through Saturday. The anniversary was dedicated to Hoffman’s work and brought back to campus many of the retired faculty members who have worked with SVRI throughout the years.

A very inspirational keynote address Friday featured Loretta Claiborne, an international Special Olympian and six-time gold medalist.

The celebration brought attention once again to the incredible history of SVRI and the breadth of services and innovation in vocational rehabilitation it has produced at UW-Stout and across the nation.

Celebrate Free Speech Week at UW-Stout

I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to attend the free speech events being sponsored this week by the UW-Stout Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation as part of Free Speech Week. I will participate in a panel discussion tonight; other events are scheduled each day this week. The schedule can be found here.

 

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Homecoming 2017 is here; Regents’ meeting on campus is a success

In March 1917, Stout Institute officials decided to invite alumni back to the fledgling campus to celebrate a historic day: the dedication of the brand new, four-story brick Domestic Science Building constructed just east of the Manual Training Building. So, 100 years ago, to celebrate the opening of what we now know as Harvey Hall, UW-Stout’s homecoming celebration was born.

With this historical tidbit in mind, I’d like to invite our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to participate in the wide range of activities planned for this week. The full homecoming schedule is available here.

There are so many things to do it’s hard to pick out a few, like the Soapbox Derby put on Blue Devil Productions, the Blue Devil Run/Walk organized by Urec, the 50th anniversary celebration of the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute and the homecoming parade, organized by the Homecoming Committee. Of course, there’s the final event — the 2 p.m. football game against UW-River Falls.

A lot of people have put in hours and hours of hard work to make our centennial homecoming a success. As a proud UW-Stout graduate, I always look forward to this special week.

Homecoming Parade 2016

UW Regents enjoy UW-Stout’s hospitality

We bade a fond farewell to the UW System Board of Regents Friday morning, which wrapped up its monthly meeting in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. There was a lot of traditional media and social media coverage of the meeting, so I won’t go into the details. I’d recommend anyone looking for a recap to visit the UW-Stout Facebook page as well as the UW-Stout News page.

Mostly, I would like to thank the dozens of students and employees who helped make the two-day meeting a success. I can’t tell you how many compliments I received from Regents and UW staff for our planning and hospitality.

I’d also like to single out the students, faculty members and staff who attended the Friday morning session to protest a freedom of expression resolution the board was debating and eventually passed. Although we were on opposite sides of that issue, the protest was respectful.

I’d also like to congratulate Stout Student Association spokesperson Coltan Schoenike for successfully addressing the Regents. Coltan did a fantastic job and made me #StoutProud.

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Student government essential to shared governance

On Saturday, I was privileged to welcome a meeting of representatives of UW System student governments who met in the Great Hall. I took the opportunity to talk about the role I played 40 years ago as a member of the Stout Student Association and how I learned from that experience what a crucial role our students play in the shared governance structure, which is still important on campus today.

I also learned crucial leadership, team-building, planning and accountability skills that I use daily as chancellor.

UW-Stout center sponsors discussion on free speech

Speaking of free speech, next week features a series of presentations and panels organized by our new Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, headed up by Tim Shiell, as part of UW-Stout Free Speech Week.

I will participate in a panel, the first night, that Tim will moderate on perspectives of campus free speech. The panel will include Tim Higgins, a UW Regent, and John Nichols, associate editor of the Capital Times newspaper in Madison.

Other panels scheduled throughout the week will include UW-Stout faculty and staff and national experts. Visit this link to view the week’s itinerary.

Regents meeting allows UW-Stout to shine; Career Conference, applied math program anniversary  

Final preparations are being made for an exciting two days at UW-Stout. The campus hosts the UW System Board of Regents meeting Thursday and Friday in the Memorial Student Center. I sent an email to campus previously with an invitation to attend all or part of the meeting, but I wanted to remind everyone how important it is for UW-Stout to have the Regents, UW System staff and guests here for two days. It gives us a special opportunity to showcase everything that makes UW-Stout special.

I also want to take a minute to thank everyone who has worked so hard on this effort. It really does take dozens of people working very long hours to make this event a success. I can’t name everyone, but I would like to single out my senior special assistant, Kristi Krimpelbein, for pulling everyone together and making sure the details are taken care of.  Kristi has handled the planning and execution of these details with professionalism and grace, and I want to publicly thank her for her hard work.

My presentation to the Regents is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Great Hall; other administrators will give presentations to committees Thursday morning. The details on the meeting, including a link to the agenda, can be found here.

Career Conference busting at the seams

Anyone attending the Career Conference last Tuesday and Wednesday in the Multipurpose Room of the Johnson Fieldhouse saw for themselves what a success this event was, with a record number of employers vying for the opportunity to talk to our students and recent graduates about the co-op, internship and full-time job opportunities.

The conference attracted more than 400 employers, and with another one in the spring it’s one of the main reasons we have maintained an employment rate for recent graduates that exceeds 97 percent every year.

I love attending the conference and talking to many alumni who come back to recruit our students for positions in their companies. They all speak fondly of their years at UW-Stout and how much of a role their education played in their workplace success.

For the record, the conference attracted 413 employers that filled 450 booth spaces. More than 2,000 students attended, as well as 100 faculty and staff. Seventy of the employers were new to the event.

I’ve heard from several employers since the conference, expressing their gratitude for an absolutely “top shelf” experience. I would like to thank Bryan Barts, Career Services director, and his staff and student workers who made it a success.

Career Conference

Applied math and computer science program celebrates 50 years

I have always been interested in mathematics and graduated from UW-Stout with a mathematics teaching minor. I felt right at home Saturday as I helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the undergraduate program in applied mathematics and computer science in the Memorial Student Center.

I was particularly happy to help recognize the efforts of Eino Maki, of Menomonie, who served for 25 years as the applied math program director. I had Eino as an (excellent) instructor and then worked with him as a faculty member and college dean; I have the utmost respect for his efforts.

I would like to thank Terry Mason and other UW-Stout faculty and staff who successfully organized this great event. I also want to thank a couple of alumni who helped plan the gala: Colleen Hartmon Bollom, a 1988 graduate who is a member of the Stout University Foundation board; and Eric Austvold, a 1989 graduate who was master of ceremonies.

Bridge to Hope’s Restaurant Tour a great event

On Sunday I was pleased to help facilitate the Bridge to Hope’s Restaurant Tour. The fundraiser allowed participants to tour five Menomonie establishments and sample food. Skoog’s Parkside, Silver Dollar, Lucette Woodfire Eatery, Duke and Dagger and Dean & Sue’s provided delicious food for tourists in support of this successful event.

Members of UW-Stout’s women’s basketball team as well as UW-Stout’s Outreach and Prevention Counseling Center helped facilitate activities at the restaurants.

Proceeds will help the Bridge to Hope’s efforts to offer assistance, shelter and resources to victims of domestic abuse.

If you’d like to donate to the “Bridge,” contact Naomi at 715-235-9074.

[Pictured with me at the Bridge to Hope fundraiser at The Silver Dollar are Kryshak Hazelton and Brianna Banks from our women’s basketball team.  Alexa DeMoe from our Outreach and Prevention Counseling Center was also on hand to assist with the fundraiser.]

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Tripling down on providing hurricane relief

Many people are struggling in the wake of the devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and now Maria. Previously, I appealed to you to support relief efforts if you are willing and able. My wife, Deb, and I are tripling down on our efforts to help through donations to ongoing relief activities, and I encourage you to consider helping as well.

As the images of destruction continue to come in from Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands, our hearts go out to those who have lost love ones and are attempting to put their lives back together.

Fortune magazine has published a comprehensive look at places to donate for Hurricane Maria relief. That review is available here. Thank you for considering my request.

Bridge to Hope a ‘vital’ asset; fall enrollment decline is concerning

Recently I was pleased visit the Bridge to Hope’s open house. Bridge to Hope offers assistance, shelter and other resources to victims of domestic abuse. This vital community asset is moving to a new facility at 2110 Fourth Ave. N. in Menomonie.

Unfortunately, the need for Bridge to Hope resources is growing rapidly, and this move will allow it to expand its shelter from three rooms to 10.

Bridge to Hope is raising funds to pay for the facility. Contact Naomi, 715-235-9074, to donate. My wife, Debbie, who is board chair for Bridge to Hope, and I are both donors and view the new facility as an important community resource.

The organization also is offering an Over the Bridge Restaurant Tour from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1. Food samplings from five restaurants are included in the $30 “passport.” Call the organization for more information and where to purchase tickets.

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Preliminary enrollment report shows a decline

Few things are more important to the vitality of an educational institution than enrollment. Healthy institutions generally show steady, but managed, growth. That is why I am concerned about our most recent enrollment report that showed, after three years of enrollment records, we are facing a decline for 2017-18.

We submitted a preliminary report to UW System that showed a headcount of 9,335, compared to last year’s preliminary headcount of 9,545. The final enrollment figure will be posted by UW System later this year and usually is higher than our preliminary number. For example, last year our final number was 9,619.

We showed a decline in just about every category, including new freshmen, transfer students and continuing students. The one bright spot was our graduate students, which went up by 61.

I have spoken about the importance of enrollment before and how working on admissions is everyone’s responsibility. I also am pleased with my initial discussions with Aaron Aure, our new executive director of Enrollment and Retention Services, who is working with others across campus on our new strategic enrollment management plan.

You only need to look at other campuses in the UW System that have suffered chronic enrollment decreases to see what long-term problems result from those declines. I am adamant that we take immediate steps to reverse our decline this year and continue our steady, but managed, growth.

Gov. Walker issues vetoes, signs budget

I wanted to make sure you saw the news last week that Gov. Walker signed the 2017-19 state budget, after issuing a number of partial vetoes, some of which will affect UW campuses. One of those vetoes took away the ability of campuses to pick the individual metrics that will determine the amount of the $26.5 million in new funding included in an outcomes-based model that will judge us on our performance in four areas. UW System will determine our metrics, we hope after consulting with the campuses.

The other veto gives the authority to the state Department of Workforce Development, rather than the UW System, to determine what high demand fields will qualify for support under a new $5 million Innovation Fund for 2017-18. UW System has tentatively decided that those fields would be health care and engineering, and we hoped to qualify for a portion of the $5 million.

I am pleased that the governor left intact the legislative decision to move the two 2-percent pay increases to July 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019.

More information on the 2017-19 state budget is available at the UW-Stout state budget website.

Manufacturing Advantage Conference

Manufacturing Advantage Conference a successful event

For 10 years, UW-Stout has offered manufacturers from Wisconsin and the Midwest an opportunity to come to campus for two days and hear from experts on ways they can improve their operations, as well as network with other manufacturers.

I was pleased to participate in the conference this year, held last Tuesday and Wednesday in the Memorial Student Center. The event is hosted by the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center, and I’d like to thank the center’s director, Larry Blackledge, and everyone else who worked so hard to put together a successful 10-year-anniversary conference.

State budget passes Legislature; scholarships, ambassador program great opportunities for students  

I am pleased to report that the Legislature has wrapped up its work on the 2017-19 state budget, and it includes additional funding for the UW System in both years of the biennium, as well as general pay increases.

The state Senate on Friday sent the budget to the governor for his signature, after vetoes are issued this week. Gov. Walker has indicated that the budget will be signed by Friday. I have communicated some of these budget provisions previously, but some of the major ones include:

  • Two pay raises averaging 2 percent each, one July 1, 2018, and the second one Jan. 1, 2019. The last general pay increases were 1 percent July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014.
  • Creation of a $5 million “innovation fund” for 2017-18 intended to raise enrollments across the system in programs serving high demand areas, including engineering and health. We believe we will be eligible for some of this funding.
  • Creation of a $26.5 million fund for 2018-19 that will be allocated across the system based on a new, but not yet determined, model that takes into consideration an institution’s performance based on metrics in four categories: grow and ensure student success; improve and excel at student progress and completion; expand contributions to the workforce; and enhance operational effectiveness and efficiency.

The budget also includes nonfiscal items that directly impact the UW, such as requiring the system to monitor the workloads of faculty and instructional academic staff; freezing tuition for the next two years; and prohibiting institutions from requiring that candidates for system president or campus chancellors be eligible for tenure. Details about the budget are available at the UW-Stout state budget website.

This budget is a tremendous improvement over the 2015-17 budget, which had a net effect of cutting aid to the UW System by $250 million. I’d like to thank our legislative delegation, in particular Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, for the improved budget and salary increases. The improvements will help us meet our mission of graduating students who can make immediate contributions to the workforce of Wisconsin.

Event symbolizes importance of scholarships

No one has to tell me how important it is to help as many of our students as we can to pay for their education through scholarships and other financial aid. As a student at UW-Stout in the 1970s, the Owen F. Goodman Scholarship I received twice played a major role in helping me stay in school.

I had the tremendous opportunity last Thursday to talk about the important role scholarships played in my life during the annual awards banquet sponsored by Stout University Foundation. The foundation has awarded more than $12 million in scholarships since it was established in 1963; this year, 388 students received a record of more than $790,000 in scholarships.

Before the event, I also was able to thank the generous donors who make these scholarships possible. I hope that the comprehensive capital campaign underway will make even more scholarships available to our students.

Scholarship Reception

Cookout, ice cream events great opportunities to meet students

I was happy to join other UW-Stout staff members in helping serve burgers, corn on the cob, potato salad and other picnic fare at the annual Great American Cookout last Tuesday on the south campus mall. The best part of this event is meeting students and seeing their smiling faces as the new semester gets going.

Last Wednesday was the annual free ice cream event sponsored by my office, where I join members of my Cabinet in handing out containers of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the student center, again another great opportunity to meet and talk with our students, as well as faculty and staff.

Chancellor's Free Ice Cream Event

Please nominate a UW-Stout ambassador

I’d like you to consider a request from the UW-Stout Alumni Association, which is seeking outstanding students to apply for this year’s ambassador program. Faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to students who they believe would be good ambassadors for UW-Stout and encourage them to apply.

This program is a networking opportunity and resume builder and capitalizes on a student’s leadership and hard work.

The application process includes an interview. The online form is due by noon Tuesday, Sept. 26. Ambassador duties begin during the Board of Regents meeting at UW-Stout Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, and continue throughout the year. All the requirements and events are on the application.

Homecoming Parade 2016

Congratulations to football team on historic win; busy start to semester

First, I would like to congratulate Coach Clayt Birmingham and the Blue Devil football team for its historic 25-22 victory Saturday over St. Thomas. There have been a lot of memorable and significant games played in Don and Nona Williams Stadium, but few could rival this contest.

2017 UW-Stout Football vs. St. Thomas

I was incredibly proud of our student athletes and the way they fought back time and time against adversity to pull out the win. I couldn’t attend the game because of a previous engagement, but I was able to listen to the radio broadcast, and it certainly was thrilling.

The win earned the Blue Devils a 25th ranking in the latest D3football.com Top 25 poll. You can read about the game here and the ranking here. The Blue Devils have a bye this week and open WIAC competition Sept. 30 at UW-Platteville.

Garding Against Cancer a memorable event

Keeping with the sports theme, I was privileged to participate in a fantastic fundraising event last Thursday sponsored by UW-Madison men’s basketball coach Greg Gard and his wife, Michelle. It was part of their foundation, Garding Against Cancer, which raises money across the state for cancer research.

I provided a welcome at the luncheon in the Memorial Student Center, where I talked about my sister, who has battled cancer. Coach Gard has lost his father to brain cancer, and that led to the establishment of the foundation.

UW-Stout Cross Country Head and Shoulder shots

The Gards announced that more than $27,000 would be donated locally to help with the cancer fight. I had several interactions with Coach Gard and his wife and found them to be very down to earth and personable.

As part of this effort, the Badgers will play the Blue Devils in an exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Kohl Center. A news story about the event is available here.

Finance committee moves up two pay raises

This information was included in the UW-Stout Today daily email publication, but it is worth repeating:

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, in approving the 2017-19 state budget, has moved up the schedule for two, 2 percent (on average) pay increases to July 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019. We have advocated strongly with our legislators for earlier increases, and so I was pleased with this development.

Of course, we will continue our efforts to close the pay disparities between our employees and their peers at institutions in other states. The Legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget soon and send it to Gov. Walker, who has vowed to sign it into law before Sept. 22. Follow UW-Stout Today for details.

Another way to contribute to hurricane relief

Following the Hurricane Harvey devastation in southeast Texas, I included an appeal for donations to national relief organizations in a previous blog post. Now, following the landfall of Hurricane Irma in Florida, donations are even more important. You can find those organizations in the Sept. 1 blog.

However, I’d like to mention a relatively new fundraising effort to help the victims of both hurricanes initiated by a group called One America Appeal. This campaign features the five living presidents, and every dollar donated will help the victims recover. More information is available here.

An update on Knock and Talk

I blogged last week about the Knock and Talk program, sponsored by the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, that uses UW-Stout employees to have conversations with mainly older students about important issues as the academic year begins. I wanted to report that this year the program distributed 778 welcome bags to students at their residences, and the volunteers had about 250 personal contacts at open doors.

Some 17 faculty and staff volunteered that day to encourage the students to make good decisions and engage in safe practices in the year ahead. I’d really like to see that number increase next year. Please put Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, on your calendar now and donate a couple of hours to this effort.

UW System asks for DACA continuation

Finally, I’d like to bring to your attention a letter from UW System President Ray Cross, on behalf of the chancellors across the system, to members of our congressional delegation asking that Congress pass legislation to ensure the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  I was happy to endorse this letter because DACA is important to our continued efforts at UW-Stout to encourage a diverse and inclusive campus. The letter reads:

On behalf of the University of Wisconsin System chancellors and myself, we respectfully request that you pass legislation that will, at a minimum, swiftly ensure the continued protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Based on the recent announcement by the Executive Branch, that it will rescind the DACA program, and refer the matter to Congress for a legislative answer, it is critical that Congress find a solution that will advance protections for undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as minors. These young people need clarity and certainty from our government to advance their lives and to continue to serve the economic needs of our country.

As we previously noted in a letter to President Trump, the UW System strongly urges continued support of the DACA program as a step in the right direction to eventually providing these young individuals with permanent residency in the United States of America.

In addition to extending provisional protection from deportation, DACA allows participants to stay, work, and study in the United States. It is widely acknowledged that DACA students make invaluable contributions, both economic and social, to university campuses and communities in Wisconsin and across the country.

The United States faces growing economic and demographic challenges. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce:

  • S. jobs requiring postsecondary education and training are expected to reach a new high of 65 percent in 2020.
  • By 2020, the United States is projected to face a shortage of three million workers with associate’s degrees, or higher, and five million workers with technical certificates and credentials.
  • Thirty-six million Americans have low basic skills that limit their earning power without further education and training.

As you know, Wisconsin’s workforce needs to reflect similar challenges. Our traditional population of college-going students is declining, and there is a projected shortage of workers in critical fields such as medicine, engineering, nursing and teaching. This projected gap affirms the need to ensure we utilize the talents, dedication and full potential of everyone in our great country.

We appreciate your consideration and thank you in advance for your support. We stand ready to work with you to find bipartisan consensus on a legislative solution with vital consequences for Wisconsin and the nation.

Sincerely,

Ray Cross

UW System President

 

Great memories rekindled on Move-in Day; Blue Rah, Knock and Talk a success

On Sunday I helped move students into the residence halls during the annual Move-in Day. Once again, I was very proud of how well-organized the event was, and I want to thank the staff for making it such a great success.

I especially want to thank our athletes and coaches who took time away from practice to help our students move in. I heard many, many comments praising our efforts and thanking the staff who helped make the experience painless and fun.

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While helping students move into HKMC, I visited second floor Milnes where I served two years as a resident adviser when I was an undergraduate student from 1975 to 1980. As I visited second Milnes, I ran into a former colleague, Nancy Murray, who was helping her daughter Catherine settle into her room. Coincidentally, I lived in Catherine’s room when I was an RA!

Nancy served our retail merchandising and management program while I was a dean at UW-Stout from 2000 to 2007. Nancy’s parents met at UW-Stout in the 1960s and married in their junior year. Nancy also graduated from UW-Stout in 1988, making Catherine a third-generation student. Nancy was kind enough to snap a picture of our get-together and send it to me.

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A bit later at CKTO residence hall, I ran into a retired colleague, Lou Moegenburg, and his wife, Julie Best, moving in their son Hunter. Hunter was moving in with his friends Tucker Nauss and Austin Boetcher. It was great seeing them on their move-in day. Julie snapped this photo:

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Left to right:  Abby, Ethan, Dana and Greg (’95) Boetcher; Bob Meyer (’80, ’83); Hunter Moegenburg; Tucker Nauss; Julie Best (’84); Austin Boetcher; and Louis Moegenburg (’62, ’64).

The Boetcher family has 14 UW-Stout graduates spanning three generations! Julie Best’s grandmother graduated from “Stout Normal School” in the early 1900s.

Obviously, I met and helped move in a lot of other first-generation UW-Stout students, but it was gratifying to see so many alumni helping move in a son or daughter. It continued to demonstrate for me just how valuable a UW-Stout degree continues to be for so many people like myself, my wife, Debbie, and daughter Erica.

Blue Rah an energizing event

After resting up following my furniture moving experiences, I had the opportunity to get totally energized for the new academic year at the Blue Rah pep rally Sunday night in Johnson Fieldhouse. Everyone had smiles on their faces during the event, and I want to thank those in the Memorial Student Center and Britta Miller, freshman orientation coordinator, who organized this year’s Blue Rah. It was very uplifting.

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Knocking and talking for a safe year

For the second year in a row, the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse has organized a fantastic effort called Knock and Talk in which UW-Stout employees fan out across student housing areas off campus to have discussions with mainly older students about ways to stay safe this year. I had the opportunity to visit with a number of these students Tuesday and found the initiative very valuable.

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Students were a bit surprised to see the chancellor knocking on their door, but they were very gracious and appreciative, both for the contact and for the bag full of literature, gift certificates and pens and other items that were distributed. I was joined by a Leader-Telegram newspaper reporter for part of the trip, and that story is available here.

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I applaud Nate Kirkman and Jake Bloom of the coalition for all the time they spent putting this effort together, securing the volunteers and mapping out the areas to be covered. I also want to thank all the employees who gave a part of their day to have these important conversations.