Monthly Archives: April 2016

ASPIRE, McNair programs inspire; two important forums

ASPIRE recognitions and awards well-deserved

I had the honor Sunday night of attending the Spring Recognition Reception for the ASPIRE-Student Support Services students and staff in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. The two federally funded programs in this office are intended to help first-generation college students, low income students or students with disabilities stay in school and graduate.

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This program is a tremendous asset for our students and has contributed to amazing gains in student success, as measured by a significant increase in students remaining enrolled and graduating. Many ASPIRE students received well-deserved awards Sunday night, and I was very pleased to be a part of their program.

I can’t say enough about our committed ASPIRE staff and the dedication and persistence of our ASPIRE students. Both are an inspiration to me.

McNair Scholars program a valuable resource

Last week I also was pleased to join our McNair scholars, another federally funded program, as they celebrated the end of another successful year. The McNair Scholars Program serves first-generation, limited income or under-represented students who have a desire to conduct research and go on to graduate school. Students work closely with faculty mentors, participate in graduate school preparation workshops, attend conferences and prepare for the GRE.

I know how hard it is to get into graduate school and succeed academically at that level. It is even harder if a student comes from a family with limited means or is part of an under-represented group. The staff and students associated with this program are also extremely dedicated and impressive.

Two important forums are this week

I know this is a busy week, but I want to emphasize the importance of attending two forums on budget and other topics. They are:

  • A forum on the impacts of the 2015-17 budget reductions at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, April 27, in ballrooms A and B of the Memorial Student Center. This forum will include a presentation on the details of the budget cuts affecting the campus. At least two members of the Board of Regents—board President Regina Millner and Ed Manydeeds — have indicated they plan to attend. Other Regents may be there as well.
  • A forum featuring UW System President Ray Cross at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, April 28, in Room 290 of Micheels Hall. President Cross is interested in hearing opinions on a wide range of issues affecting the UW System in general and UW-Stout in particular.

Both forums are scheduled to last about an hour. It is crucial that students, faculty and staff attend both of these forums to ensure that our voices are heard at the UW System level.

Grieving for death of a student; campus activities

Student death hits everyone hard

WEB-RickeyAny death is hard — I know because I recently lost my mother. But deaths of students are a major “gut punch,” and that is what it felt like Saturday morning when I learned that Rickey Alan Hible, a sophomore engineering technology student, had been found deceased on a driveway in Menomonie. Authorities are still trying to piece together what contributed to this heartbreaking loss.

What we do know is that the loss of Rickey came far too early and is devastating to his family, friends and the campus community. Now is the time to join with Rickey’s family in Minnesota – he was from Shakopee – and his friends on and off campus to grieve the loss of a bright student who was full of life, ambition and, as his obituary states, “had a big personality and a strong presence.”

Rickey, as noted in the obituary, loved to hunt and fish, loved his family – he had joined his father in a business recently – and had a passion for sports and physical fitness. Students like Rickey make UW-Stout a truly special place.

Nothing I or anyone else can say will alleviate the overwhelming pain Rickey’s family and friends are feeling right now. So we are left with doing everything we can to show them that UW-Stout is a caring community that mourns when we lose one of our own.

I would like to thank everyone who responded Saturday morning to this tragedy: our University Police, Dean of Students Office and Counseling Center, among others. Their professionalism and compassion was evident. I also would like to thank the Menomonie Police Department and Chief Eric Atkinson for the cooperation the department showed in its response and subsequent investigation.

Finally, I ask that our students do everything possible to help each other stay safe as we head into the final weeks of the academic year. Please make smart decisions and take care of each other.

Family Weekend a whirlwind of activity

I don’t know where to start in describing the incredible events I attended Friday and Saturday as part of Family Weekend. I laughed almost nonstop Friday night at “Little Shop of Horrors,” the musical comedy University Theatre put on in beautiful Harvey Hall Theatre. On Saturday I participated in an insightful Coffee and Conversation with the Chancellor. I followed that with the Symphonic Band concert that featured Erika Svanoe’s composition “With Tower High,” which the band commissioned to commemorate our 125th anniversary.

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Twin Cities composer Erika Svanoe, Associate Professor and Band Director Aaron Durst

I capped off the weekend with the always enjoyable, and creative, Fashion Without Fabric show put on by the School of Art and Design.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see our University Choirs perform at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, but it is not surprising that I am hearing spectacular reviews of their performance. I hate to admit that I was a little weary by day’s end, but the energy and originality of our students, faculty and staff all weekend kept me going.

Details about Family Weekend are available here.

Student researchers take over the Capitol

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I was happy to join six of our students who were accompanied by some of their faculty mentors to showcase research projects last Wednesday in the state Capitol as part of the UW System’s Posters in the Rotunda day. The students met with legislators or their staffs from their home areas and spent a lot of time discussing their projects with visitors.

This is a great way for all campuses in the UW System to showcase the research projects they produce, as well as a shining example of the hands-on learning experiences we offer at UW-Stout. Details about our Posters in the Rotunda participants are available here.

Forming regional partnerships are important

While in Madison, I also had an opportunity to meet with state Department of Workforce Development Secretary Allen and Assistant Deputy Secretary Anderson, along with UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Leavitt and UW System Associate Vice President Bruckardt to discuss how the UW System can assist the state with its workforce development goals.

The meeting was productive and likely will lead to some regional partnerships that help leverage UW-Stout’s many assets as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University.

Alumni meetings are always special

I finished off my day in Madison by providing an update about UW-Stout to a gathering of alumni at the Milton Madison Monona Terrace. It’s always a joy meeting with proud alumni, and this gathering was no exception, leaving me energized for my return trip to Menomonie.

Update on budget; Outstanding Programs

An update on our budget status

There has been considerable news coverage lately across Wisconsin and locally about the impact of the 2015-17 state budget on all campuses in the University of Wisconsin System, including here at UW-Stout. As we near the end of the first fiscal year of the biennium, it is time to assess what the effects have been on our institution and what challenges we see in the future.

We have prepared a one-page sheet that summarizes the positive news that we continue to experience at UW-Stout; ways that we address the affordability issue; the overall numbers involved in our 2015-17 budget cut and how we responded; and the challenges we foresee in the future. To accompany that sheet, we prepared a narrative that explains the budget categories and gives details to round out the picture. We have posted both of those documents at our state budget website. I encourage you to review them. Additionally, the UW System has posted all of the one-page summaries here for the public to review.

As our documents indicate, we are doing everything possible to lessen the impact of the budget on our academic area and to keep the job cuts as minimal as possible. As our documents also indicate, however, our biggest challenge remains in the area of our salaries for faculty and staff, which are far below our peers and are having a dramatic effect on our ability to keep and retain the employees we depend on every day and make crucial contributions and deliver the positive news that the campus currently enjoys.

To more fully explain these issues and to answer your questions, we have scheduled a budget forum for 9:05 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27, in the Ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center. I am pleased to announce that Regina Millner, president of the Board of Regents, tentatively is scheduled to attend the forum, and other Regents may attend as well. Furthermore, UW System President Ray Cross will be on campus Thursday, April 28, for a number of meetings and events and will hold a campus forum from 11:15 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. in 290 Micheels Hall.

I hope as many students, faculty and staff as possible attend these important events. It is crucial that we communicate as fully as possible exactly what the budget has meant for us as an institution, how we have responded, and what challenges remain.

I also want to thank the students, faculty and staff for helping us address the issues created by the 2015-17 state budget and working towards an even brighter future for UW-Stout.

Our programs continue to excel

It has come to my attention recently that three of our programs have achieved national recognition:

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These rankings reflect the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff and program directors. Thank you to all of the faculty and staff for your continuing commitment to the university and our students during this challenging time.

German connection valuable; Science Olympiad, Packaging Jamboree inspire

An enlightening visit with a great German partner

Last month I had the honor of representing UW-Stout at the Hochschule Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany. We are a strategic partner with this university along with UW-Platteville, Purdue University, Penn State-Harrisburg and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

The partnership is partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to facilitate faculty and student exchanges. More than a dozen UW-Stout faculty and staff have headed to Germany to teach, guest-lecture or explore related opportunities. In addition, we have had several students visit, including Brenna Lesnar, Rebecca Wereley and Joe Rosewicz.

While in Darmstadt, Dean Chuck Bomar and I attended the seminar Strategic Partnerships Project: Creating a Transatlantic Applied Science Network in Engineering and presented to the participants on UW-Stout’s Role as a Polytechnic University.

The partnership is providing excellent opportunities to teach and study in Darmstadt, and it represents a growing array of international education opportunities at UW-Stout. These excellent opportunities of strategic importance will strengthen staff and student understanding of other cultures and of today’s global economy. A University Communications news release has more information about our Darmstadt relationship.

State Science Olympiad a preview of the upcoming national event

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If the state Science Olympiad is anything like the national event, we are in for quite a treat in a month.  I had the honor of giving a welcome and then presenting medals to the first-place finishers last weekend during the event, some of which was held in Johnson Fieldhouse.

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About 1,500 students competed in the state event from about 43 high schools and 29 middle schools. Competition categories include life-personal-social, earth-space, physical-chemistry, technology and inquiry. The technology category, for example, includes competition in air trajectory, bridge building, robot arm, mystery design, electric vehicle and Wright stuff.

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The national Science Olympiad will be held on campus May 18-21. This will be a huge event and a real jewel in our crown as a polytechnic university, with more than 7,000 people expected to attend.

Packaging Jamboree a ‘game-changing’ event

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I have a weakness for the packaging program on campus because my daughter Erica is a proud and successful graduate. That’s one of the reasons I gladly accepted the invitation to say a couple of words and help hand out awards at the Packaging Jamboree held Sunday through Tuesday on campus.

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The title of the event was Game-Changing Innovation, and it certainly was attended by a lot of present and future innovators. The major organizations involved in the Jamboree include the Fibre Box Association, the Institute of Packaging Professionals and the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation.

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I was honored that the organizers asked me to be a part of their event