State Science Olympiad held at UW-Stout again; impact, opportunity with chancellor search

Last Friday I had the privilege of giving welcome remarks to the hundreds of participants and their families for the Wisconsin Science Olympiad held at UW-Stout. As an engineer, I know how important it is to interest students in the STEM fields as early as possible, and the Science Olympiad is a great way to do that.

The tournament director was our own Forrest Schultz, a professor in the physics and chemistry department, and 150 or so volunteers from the campus community helped put on the event. We were privileged to have state Sen. Patty Schachtner on campus Saturday to help present the awards.

This is the ninth time we have hosted the competition, and we held the national event in 2016. Details on the event and the winners are available here. A news story is available here.

Visioning Session delayed a year

We previously announced that we would hold a Visioning Session this July to start work on the next version of our strategic plan. However, given my recent retirement announcement, we have decided to delay the Visioning Session for a year.

That delay will give the next chancellor the opportunity to participate with the session.

I had the opportunity to participate with the 2014 Visioning Session, although I had not formally taken office, and found it extremely valuable as we fashioned the current strategic plan. That is why I decided it’s best to delay the next round of planning for a year.

Please apply to be on chancellor search and screen committee

With spring break coming, I would like to remind the campus community that the deadline is approaching to apply to be on the search committee that will help pick the next UW-Stout chancellor.

Please use this link to nominate yourself or a colleague by Monday, April 1, to serve on the committee, which will include two faculty members, one staff representative from the institution, one student and one community and/or alumni member.

After the committee membership is determined, the group will lead campus listening sessions that inform development of a position description to be finalized by early May. After candidates submit applications during the summer months, the committee will reconvene early in the fall semester to recommend semifinalists.

The Board of Regents anticipates that a new chancellor will be identified and selected by early December.

Have a great spring break

Can spring break really be here? The spring semester always seems to fly by, and this year is no different. I want to wish our students and employees a great spring break next week.

For those of you who are traveling, I hope you stay safe and enjoy your time away from campus. I intend to be away most of the week and recharge my batteries because the pace of activities picks up considerably as we head to commencement May 4.

Thanks for the good wishes, to those filling important interim positions

I wanted to take a moment to publicly thank everyone who has extended their best wishes to me and my wife, Debbie, after I announced last week that I am retiring on Aug. 18 after working at UW-Stout for 32 years.

These last five years as chancellor have been extraordinary for me and my family, so it obviously is bittersweet as I start down the road to retirement. I am fully committed, however, to remaining as active as ever as chancellor until my last day and look forward to continuing to make progress on the important issues and initiatives we are facing: the Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign, the state budget and employee pay plan, enrollment, etc.Registering to Vote

I also want to thank Provost Patrick Guilfoile for agreeing to serve as interim chancellor after I leave and for Associate Vice Chancellor Glendali Rodriguez agreeing to serve as interim provost. These are strong and capable leaders who will ensure that the future of UW-Stout remains bright.

Senior ShowFinally, I want to encourage as many people as possible to apply to serve on the search committee that UW System will establish to find the eighth chancellor in UW-Stout’s history. The committee will need two faculty members, either an academic staff or university staff member, a student and a community member or alumni member. Please use this link to nominate yourself or a colleague by April 1 to serve on the committee.

UW System President Ray Cross has said that the Board of Regents would like to have a new chancellor appointed at the Regents meeting in December, so the process will move along rapidly.

Again, this has been a very emotional time for Debbie and me as we contemplate this next phase of our lives. But we will always remain devoted Blue Devils!

Governor’s budget proposal a good first step; gymnast shines; wishing Mark Parsons the best

In advance of his formal budget introduction Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers has released the outline of his 2019-21 proposal for the UW System. The budget includes a $43.69 million funding increase for 2019-20 and another $65.99 million increase for the second year of the biennium.

The governor also wants the UW System to get $40.4 million over the biennium to pay for its share of a proposed pay increase: a 2 percent increase on July 1; and another 2 percent on July 1, 2020.

Of the new money, UW-Stout would benefit from a $45 million increase for so-called “capacity building” initiatives. UW-Stout has submitted a proposal, in excess of $800,000, to add faculty in computer science, computer networking and applied mathematics; expand engineering programs; and allow our Career Services office to create more internship and co-op experiences.

The campus also would share in a $50.4 million allocation to replace money that would be lost by continuing the tuition freeze for another two years. The budget proposal can be viewed here.

These are positive proposals for UW-Stout and the UW System, and I thank Gov. Evers for making the UW System a priority in his first budget. However, we know that these proposals are just the first step in the state budget process. I and two other UW-Stout representatives were in the Capitol last Wednesday as part of the Chippewa Valley Rally and had a chance to discuss our budget priorities with various legislators from both parties.

The governor’s proposal certainly aligns with those priorities. We will continue to make the case with legislators for increased wages for our faculty and staff and additional funding to ensure that we continue to provide a quality education for our students. We also will keep the campus informed as the budget process unwinds this year.

Gymnast accomplishes a first

I wanted to bring to your attention an amazing feat accomplished last Friday by UW-Stout gymnast Shadae Boone. Competing at UW-La Crosse, she scored at 9.60 by becoming the second-ever Division III gymnast to complete the Yurchenko layout 1 ½. She also was selected as the WIAC gymnastics specialist of the week for the second time this season.

I’m not going to try to convince you I know anything about gymnastics — my daughters were swimmers in high school — but given the viral reaction on social media to this accomplishment, I know it is something for the ages.

I highly recommend you go to our Facebook page and watch the vault for yourself!

UW-Stout Blue Devils Gymnastics vs. Winona St.

A fitting send-off for Mark Parsons

We held a grand party Friday for Mark Parsons, who is retiring as our vice chancellor for Advancement and University Marketing. His last day on campus is Tuesday.

I am pleased so many people stopped by at the Louis Smith Tainter House to congratulate Mark on his retirement and to thank him for his exceptional service to the campus. I certainly want to echo those sentiments and wish Mark and his wife Kathy all the best in retirement.



Bittersweet trip with Vice Chancellor Parsons; state budget work to begin

Last week I had the privilege of spending some time in Florida with Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons, development officer Brenda Thompson and Bob Salt, dean of the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences. We were visiting benefactors, who we hope will help us contribute to our students’ success and reach our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign goal.

It was a bittersweet trip for me because it was the final one I will take with Mark, who is retiring as of April 1 and will be on campus for the last time Feb. 26. Mark and I have spent many, many hours traveling together as we met with benefactors all over the state and country, and I can’t say enough about his amazing relationship-building and fundraising prowess.

It all starts with his ability to make whoever we are meeting with feel comfortable and appreciated. He truly listens to what these benefactors hope to accomplish through their generosity to the university. Mark also has been invaluable in providing me with advice on a range of issues involving advancement, marketing, alumni relations and many other topics.

No matter how serious the issue, Mark always remains calm, thoughtful and caring. He also has a great sense of humor. I will miss him greatly, as will the rest of the campus.Mark Parsons

We are planning to honor Mark’s career at UW-Stout from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Friday in the Louis Smith Tainter House.  It would be great to see a big turnout to thank Mark for his services to UW-Stout.

I’m also happy with the progress that has been made in finding a successor for Mark in the newly reconfigured role of Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Alumni Relations. An announcement about the finalists went out to campus last Friday. More information is available here.

I want to thank Chair Maria Alm and the search committee for their efforts and Julie Zack of my office, who is providing staff support for the committee.

Debate over the state budget about to begin

The debate over the 2019-21 state budget is about to enter overdrive, with Gov. Evers set to release his first budget at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28. The first-term governor has been trickling out some details, as most previous governors have done, but few concerning the UW budget.

We will get information about the budget to campus as soon as possible after it is released.

University Communications again is hosting a state budget web page to keep the campus informed of developments. On the site, you can find our budget priorities for 2019-21. Increasing compensation for faculty and staff remains our No. 1 goal.

I will be joined by other UW-Stout administrators Wednesday in the state Capitol for the Chippewa Valley Rally, where we will have a chance to discuss our priorities with legislators and other elected officials in advance of the budget’s introduction.

Gymnastics team leaps to top national ranking

How great is this? The UW-Stout women’s gymnastics team has vaulted (a little gymnastics humor!) to the No. 1 ranking in the entire country for Division III teams. The team’s accomplishments were highlighted in today’s Leader-Telegram. You can read the story here.  All too often, sports like gymnastics get overshadowed by sports that draw a bigger audience, like football and basketball. But this team, coached by Becky Beaulieu, has done something that apparently no other UW-Stout team has done: achieved a No. 1 national ranking.  Layne Pitt, our sports information director, said we have had teams that have been ranked highly, but to his knowledge, this is the first time a team has gone to No. 1. Coach Beaulieu said in the newspaper story that this success was somewhat unexpected, but added, “it’s really a tribute to a group of 19 women that are so hungry and have so much trust in each other and in the program. They’ve really worked their tails off.”  You can catch this amazing team in action tonight during the UW-Stout John Zuerlein Invitational.  The WIAC Championship meet also is at UW-Stout’s Johnson Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 9.  More information is available at the gymnastics website.  I’d like to personally congratulate Coach Beaulieu and her entire team for making us all Stout Proud!20190116_gym_ww_dick_0449

Thanks to everyone who helped out during our cold weather

I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to everyone who worked in very difficult conditions this week to keep our campus open and our students well taken care of.  We obviously had to deal with bitterly cold conditions, so extreme that we were forced to cancel classes for two days in a row (apparently the first time we have done that in modern history). We certainly weren’t alone: Every other campus in the UW System either cancelled classes or closed the campus entirely. We made the decision to keep the campus open, however, and I want to thank everyone who made life as comfortable and safe as possible for our students, employees and guests. This long list includes our facilities, dining, housing, student centers, public safety and many, many others.  Thanks again!Campus Snow

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.