A great year; campus climate; commencement

Thanks for a great academic year

Boy, that seemed quick — the end of the spring semester I mean. Just like that, the 2015-16 academic year is coming to a close.

I want to take this last blog post of the academic year – I will blog sporadically during the summer if an important topic arises – to thank everyone for their hard work, dedication, good humor and insight this past year.

I know that it was been a particularly challenging year because of the turmoil created by the 2015-17 budget reductions, the abnormally high number of colleagues who have left UW-Stout and the continued uncertainty over tenure, fiscal matters and the general political climate. Through it all, however, I am convinced that this campus rallied to continue to deliver to our students the kind of quality education that they expect from Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. That is a testament to the quality of faculty and staff I am privileged to work with every day.

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This is a historic year for UW-Stout, our 125th anniversary. In my commencement speech, I gave a little history lesson about our founder, James Huff Stout, and the grit and determination he needed to rebuild his fledgling institution after it burned to the ground just six years after it opened. I, of course, am eternally grateful that Stout found that wellspring of courage to rebuild, which I am reminded of every day when I see Bowman Hall and the iconic Clock Tower. When I am confronted with a particularly troubling situation at work, I am reminded of what it took for James Huff Stout to keep his dream alive and, frankly, it’s a lot easier to find a way out of whatever morass I am in.

It is important to note that I see the same grit and determination demonstrated daily across our staff as they face our significant challenges. Thank you for your persistence, hard work and contributions to our students and the university.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy, relaxing and safe summer. We have all worked very hard this past year and deserve some time away to reconnect with our families, indulge our personal passions and get ready for the upcoming academic year. Thanks again for all of your hard work. I consider it a privilege to call each and everyone one of you a colleague.

Progress reported on campus climate recommendations

Given the budget challenges, it’s more important than ever to make UW-Stout a place where all students, faculty and staff feel at home — and choose to stay. While each of us plays a part in creating a welcoming environment, we’re lucky to have the support of the campus community focused on implementing recommendations from the most-recent Campus Climate Survey.

In 2015, the Strategic Planning Group recommended approval of six action items from this survey, which I approved. I am happy to share that significant progress was made on all of the action items. The Diversity Leadership Team worked with people across campus to make the university more inclusive, driving initiatives like contracting with Empathia, which provides individual and organizational services that maximize well-being, safety and productivity in the workplace. In response to concerns about bullying behaviors, the senates formed a joint subcommittee to make recommendations that will be included in the handbook.

Efforts are continuing to engage faculty, staff and students in understanding and using the Intercultural Development Inventory framework. Criteria were established for when internal hiring can occur outside of a formal recruitment process. A training program was implemented for faculty, staff and new undergraduate students that includes information about sexual misconduct and bystander intervention.

I want to thank all the people who helped implement these important initiatives. The survey next will be administered in spring 2017, and I hope to see improvements on ratings aligned with these initiatives.

Graduation: A special time

It was a special honor Saturday to deliver the commencement speech at the three ceremonies in Johnson Fieldhouse and hand out diplomas to our happy graduates, including our first terminal degrees. I also enjoyed the chance to meet the family members and friends of graduates at the receptions and chat with our faculty and staff who took part.

I would like to thank those staff members who took the time to join me in celebrating this major milestone in our students’ lives.

Congratulations, graduates. All of your hard work has paid off. Best wishes on the start of your careers or in seeking an advanced degree.

Here is the text of my speech:

Greetings on this great day to all the graduates, their families and friends, my colleagues on stage and in the audience and everyone else who is here to celebrate with us today.

It is truly an honor and a pleasure to be here to recognize the accomplishments of so many talented individuals. This day is all about the graduates, those who are in front of me in their gowns and mortar boards. But we all know that it takes a lot of support for these graduates to actually get to today. So I would like to recognize the parents, grandparents and other family members who traveled here to see these cherished diplomas being handed out. Could all of these family members please stand up so they can be recognized?  Thank you.

I also want to take a moment to wish all the mothers in the audience a very special and happy Mother’s Day. Everyone knows how important mothers are in the lives of their children and the hard work, tears and patience it takes to be a good mother these days. Unfortunately, I lost my own mother this year. I do hope all mothers have a special day tomorrow.

I stand here today as UW-Stout celebrates a tremendous milestone: our 125th anniversary.  We started the celebration on our official birthday, Jan. 5, with an event that featured Gov. Scott Walker presenting us with a proclamation honoring our 125 years of service to the state. I especially like the part of the proclamation in which the governor says we have been transformed into a modern university with innovative undergraduate and graduate programs, but we have remained true to the original mission set forth by our founder, James Huff Stout, of “learning through involvement.”