Free Speech Week a success, with Cabot event coming up; renovations at Price Commons are looking good

Free speech and civil discourse were treated to a full airing at UW-Stout this week with the successful series of forums sponsored by the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation during its annual Free Speech Week.

I had the privilege of moderating a very interesting, and lively, panel that included a former biology professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., Bret Weinstein, who challenged a day of racial segregation and faced backlash, including having to hold classes off campus because university police could not guarantee his safety. The other panelists were Damon Sajnani, of UW-Madison African Cultural Studies, and John Sharpless, co-director of the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at UW-Madison.

Student Free Speech in the UW was another topic on Tuesday at a panel that included Jim Manley, senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute, co-author of a model policy used by the regents; Coltan Schoenike, who is studying for a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at UW-Stout and opposed the policy’s adoption; and Casey Mattox, senior fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, who influences free speech policy and practice at a think tank. Doug Mell, UW-Stout executive director of University Communications and External Relations, moderated the session.

Other session topics included Debating Hate Speech and the First Amendment; and Free Speech and Originalist Jurisprudence.

I want to commend the center and director Timothy Shiell for excellent Free Speech Week activities and showing everyone that civil discourse about weighty and controversial issues is still possible in our society and on our campus. 

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Price Commons renovations impressive

I toured the renovations underway at Merle M. Price Commons, and they were very impressive. The first floor is being completely redone, including a new layout and an updated look to better serve our students and staff.

The work, which began in May and is expected to be completed in December 2019, includes upgrading the fire suppression, mechanical and electrical systems; renovating all four main entrances and patio; adding new exterior windows and sills; and remodeling offices and areas including SLS Tech, University Dining Administration, the Qube, Mini-Mart, and the Glass Lounge.

Price Commons is open during the renovations, which is important because the main dining hall, renovated previously, is on the second floor.

I want to thank Malinda Hebert, Student Centers assistant director, and our Facilities Management staff for arranging the tour. I look forward to another tour when the project is completed. More information on the renovation is available here.

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Please attend Cabot Executive in Residence address

I also want to encourage everyone to attend the 2018 Cabot Executive in Residence address from 10:10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the student center ballrooms. The address is by Denise Coogan, of Subaru of America.

Coogan, a champion of sustainability, women’s leadership and cultural sensitivity, also will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in numerous activities, classes and meetings from Tuesday through Thursday.

Faculty are encouraged to invite students to participate.

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Homecoming weekend another great experience; new video production major approved

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Few things bring a bigger smile to my face than interacting with our alumni. That’s why homecoming weekend is one of my favorite events on campus.

Granted, this year’s weather was a little on the chilly side, but my wife, Debbie, and I enjoyed ourselves immensely Saturday at all the activities: the Blue Devil Run/Walk, great parade, tailgate in the football stadium parking lot and, of course, the game.

Even though the Blue Devils ended up losing to UW-La Crosse in overtime, it was a great game and I’m proud of how our team played and fought to the very end.

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.

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.

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Video production major gets UW System approval

During last week’s UW System Board of Regents meeting at UW-Parkside, UW-Stout received approval for our 50th undergraduate major. The Regents unanimously approved a Bachelor of Science degree in video production, a natural outgrowth of our successful photography and video minor.

Graduates of this degree will have the knowledge and skills they need to create and edit still photography and video projects. The degree fills an increasing demand for video content by business and industry.

Provost Patrick Guilfoile told the Regents’ Education Committee last week that “In keeping with UW-Stout’s career focus, this program is not aimed at film and video as fine art but rather as a communication medium for business, nonprofits and other entities wishing to reach an audience through visual means.”

Provost Guilfoile and I also had the chance to address the full board on what UW-Stout has submitted to the UW System as our “capacity building” initiatives for 2019-21. These initiatives are part of the system’s proposed 2019-21 budget that the regents approved earlier this year. Our proposals are intended to build capacity in our engineering programs; information technology and computer science programs; biochemistry, molecular biology and industrial chemistry programs; and Career Services office.

Free Speech Week events Oct. 15-18

I’d also like to encourage as many people as possible to attend Free Speech Week events beginning Monday, Oct. 15, sponsored by the UW-Stout Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation.

I will participate in a panel discussion Oct. 15. Other events are scheduled through Thursday of that week.

School visit with admissions counselors provides insight

This week I also had the opportunity to join Erin Konsela and Joan Ebnet on an admissions visit to Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minn. The visit gave me insight into the broad range of questions that our admissions counselors field, as well as gain hands-on knowledge of how user-friendly (or in some situations unfriendly) our online UW System application form is for prospective students.

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I was impressed with how customer-oriented Erin and Joan were and how incredibly successful the visit was with respect to helping Centennial students apply to UW-Stout.

I’d like to recognize the entire admissions staff for its efforts to help steer prospective students toward UW-Stout as we try to meet enrollment challenges. I’m very impressed and grateful for these efforts.

I was also very encouraged by the positive response that prospective students had to our new Blue Devil Guarantee.  The guarantee lets prospective students know up front what scholarship support they qualify for given factors including their academic performance and ACT scores.

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Homecoming 2018 full of exciting events

Homecoming began back in March 1917 when Stout Institute officials decided to invite alumni to the fledgling campus to celebrate a historic day: the dedication of the new, four-story brick Domestic Science Building constructed just east of the Manual Training Building.

Now, 101 years after the opening of what we now know as Harvey Hall, 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 by Blue Devil Productions, the Blue Devil Run/Walk organized by Urec and the 11 a.m. homecoming parade, organized by the Homecoming Committee.

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Of course, there’s the final main event — the 2 p.m. football game against UW-La Crosse. I hope you can help me cheer on our Blue Devils as they pursue elevating their record to 4-1.

I’d also like to recommend you take a look at the magnificent and inspiring homecoming video put together by Rachel Hallgrimson, our social media coordinator.

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 and express my gratitude to everyone who has worked to make homecoming a Stout Proud day!

Career Conference sets another employer attendance record

One of the hardest things I have to do each semester is trying to navigate my way around the two career conferences that our Career Services office puts on. Each year it gets a little more crowded as more employers sign up to recruit our students, either for co-ops or full-time positions.

For the Fall Career Conference that ended Wednesday, a record 420 companies filled the Multipurpose Room of the Sports and Fitness Center.

It’s also hard for me to get around because I keep running into alumni sent back by their employers to recruit students to follow in their footsteps. Some of these alumni, I hate to admit, were in classes I taught while a faculty member. Others I interact with either through the Alumni Association, our program advisory committees or elsewhere.

All of them, however, spend time telling me how much they enjoyed their time at UW-Stout and how well-prepared they were when they left for that important first job. It’s great to hear these wonderful stories.

Furthermore, some recruiters I met are UW-Stout students. They have a job waiting for them upon graduation because of a successful co-op experience and are recruiting while finishing their degree.

My only regret, frankly, is that we don’t have even more students for these employers to interview. I hope that our new recruiting efforts will help address that concern.

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Glad to see Foxconn recruiting at the conference 

I also was very pleased to see representatives of Foxconn Technology attend the career conference for the first time. Foxconn has announced plans to hire up to 13,000 people over the next five years in southeastern Wisconsin to staff and support a planned $10 billion flat-screen manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant. Foxconn also plans to open an innovation center in Eau Claire.

I know some people question the wisdom of the incentives the state has offered Foxconn, but I believe our institution has a lot to offer Foxconn. The company’s attendance at the career conference was a great step in our efforts to build a meaningful relationship.

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Congratulations to Career Services for another successful conference 

I would like to congratulate Director Bryan Barts and his Career Services staff for continuing to grow the career conferences and for making them such a success. Many, many employers said it simply is the best one they attend.

Read more about the career conference here and see photos on the UW-Stout Facebook page and a video.

Former Gov. Thompson still a fan of UW-Stout 

Last Friday I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend of UW-Stout: former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Gov. Thompson visited UW-Stout often when he was in office and came to appreciate the special place that we hold in the UW System.

Now Gov. Thompson has taken over as chair of the UW System Business Council, and we had a chance to talk after the council’s meeting in Madison. I can assure you he still remains a big fan of UW-Stout and even expressed a desire to take time out of his busy schedule to visit campus again. We are working on the details of that visit now.

Read more about Gov. Thompson and the Business Council here.

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Many thanks for a great Pathways Forward campaign kickoff

Our celebration Friday of the announcement of the public phase of our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign was a tremendous success. I have received many, many positive comments about the numerous events and activities, and the media attention was exceptional.

The amount of excitement, dedication and passion I felt for our campaign – from our faculty and staff and our generous benefactors – was incredible and very heart-warming. I certainly think that our campaign’s public phase is off to a great start.

If you were unable to watch the news conference Friday, see it here. If you couldn’t attend or view the late afternoon event in Harvey Hall Theatre, watch it here.

Putting on an event like this takes an incredible amount of hard work, and it would be impossible for me to name everyone who played a role in making the public phase launch successful. Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons did a great job of thanking people Friday afternoon, and I echo his sentiments. Certainly, the University Advancement staff put in hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in planning this event, as well as marketing, communications, the conference and events staff in the Memorial Student Center, dining, facilities and grounds, the three colleges – especially College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, which hosted the afternoon event – faculty and staff across campus who so enthusiastically hosted open houses and tours of our facilities, my office staff, parking, etc., etc.

I know I have neglected to name every contributor, but all of your efforts are truly appreciated.

As most people are aware, our campaign is off to such a great start that we have raised the unofficial – or aspirational – goal to $40 million, while the official goal remains at $35 million. We have raised more than $30 million so far.

Our campaign’s success is an indication of how our benefactors value your work at UW-Stout as well as the contributions our graduates provide to employers. We should all be very proud of that success.

I will use this blog and other methods to keep the campus updated on the progress of the campaign, which runs through June 30, 2020.

See photos and videos from the events at the UW-Stout Facebook page.

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The political season is upon us

It is hard to avoid the fact that we are in the middle of an intense political season. At UW-Stout, we work very hard to ensure that as many candidates as possible are made aware of the value of UW-Stout in preparing our students for successful careers and the challenges we face in meeting that responsibility.

We invite candidates from all parties to campus, and I meet personally with all of those who accept. So far five candidates have visited, and more are scheduled.

I believe this helps us immensely after the election when those candidates take office because they have a better understanding of UW-Stout and the UW System as a whole, particularly our most recent budget request.

I also would like to remind our campus community of the UW System rules and advice for engaging in political activity.

 

Academic year starts with new guaranteed scholarship program; Pathways Forward kickoff Friday

I hope the new academic year is off to a great start for everyone on campus. It’s always invigorating when the students return and the pace picks up.

I want to inform you about a major new initiative we are rolling out that is aimed at making attending UW-Stout even more affordable. Under the Blue Devil Guarantee program, any freshman who enrolls and meets certain GPA and ACT/SAT standards will be eligible for scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. The scholarships are renewable for a second year as well.

Even though the economy continues to improve, we are well aware that some students find they cannot afford a UW-Stout education or graduate with too much debt. While this program isn’t a panacea, I’m convinced that it will play a significant role in helping students attend UW-Stout.

We also hope that a byproduct of this scholarship program will be aiding our efforts to increase enrollment.

I want to thank everyone who worked so hard in putting this program together and ensuring that our prospective students are aware of what we are offering.  A news release about the program is available here.  More details are available here.

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Please attend Pathways Forward events Friday

I also want to remind everyone about a major event for the Stout University Foundation on Friday. We are rolling out the public phase of our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign, and we want to invite the campus to join the celebration.

We will be kicking the day off with tours and demonstrations across campus from 1 to 4 p.m. This is a great opportunity for you to see what others are doing to improve the student experience on campus. A map with locations and times can be found here.

Our kickoff opening address and celebration will begin at 4:15 p.m. in Harvey Hall Theatre, with appetizers, beverages and music to follow.

I hope you can be part of this historic time for UW-Stout.

 

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Here’s wishing everyone the best in a new academic year

With another academic year arriving, I want to wish all of our students, faculty and staff the best year possible.

As a UW-Stout graduate, I know how special it is to start a new school year, either getting to know new people or getting reacquainted with old friends, along with getting into the rhythm of classes, lab set-ups, organizations, etc.

As a former UW-Stout faculty member, I also remember well the experience of getting ready to face a new wave of students.

I want everyone to know that I appreciate every student who has chosen UW-Stout for their education and for all the hard work and dedication I see every day from faculty and staff.  We have issues to address in the new year, including a decline in enrollment, but I know that our incredible campus community is equal to the challenge. Go Blue Devils!

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Thanks for another great Move-in Day

I also want to thank everyone who helped with our extraordinarily organized and executed Move-in Day at the residence halls on Sunday. I had a prior commitment and was unable to attend this year, but I have witnessed many in the past.

It takes a lot of planning and hard work to get our students moved in efficiently, and I know that parents and others were singing the praises of how well this year’s day went.

A video from this year’s Move-in Day can be found here.

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Two special events planned for September, October

This semester also will feature two exciting and important events.

On Friday, Sept. 14, we will hold a series of events to announce the public phase of our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign. This campaign has a goal of raising at least $35 million for three important areas of focus: student experience, learning environments and program innovation.

As I noted in my address to faculty and staff last week, we have made incredible progress toward meeting this fundraising goal, but we will need everyone on campus to help push us over the finish line.

The kickoff includes tours and demonstrations across campus, a news conference and a late afternoon event in Harvey Hall Theatre, to be followed by music in the Clock Tower Plaza.

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On Oct. 29, we would like the campus to join us in a ceremony remembering the life and accomplishments of the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen, who passed away Feb. 23 in Florida. This event will be in the newly renamed Sorensen Hall, the former Millennium Hall. The UW System Board of Regents approved the renaming on Aug. 23.

The event will begin at 10 a.m., and we are working on the details, which will be shared with the campus as soon as they are finalized. A news release on the renaming can be found here.

Details on these events and others coming up during the fall semester can be found here.

Please help foster a welcoming environment on campus

Over the weekend I learned of a sign that was posted on a rental property on Broadway Street that was demeaning toward men. Our dean of students asked the tenants to remove the sign, but they refused. The university obviously has no authority to force the tenants to remove the sign. I want to emphasize that it is the responsibility of every member of the UW-Stout community to be considerate of others and to do everything possible to foster a welcoming environment. I have been a strong advocate of free expression; however, I also strongly believe that every right comes with significant responsibilities. With a new academic year ahead, I hope you carefully weigh the effect your words and actions may have on others.