Monthly Archives: November 2016

Hosting students from Saudi Arabia makes Thanksgiving special

My wife, Debbie, and I had the great privilege of hosting several of our students from Saudi Arabia for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a chance to honor Hussain Saeed Alnahdi and celebrate his life while learning a bit more about each other.

IMG_2325.JPG

We had a map of Saudi Arabia on hand, and our guests signed in on it and told us a bit about their hometowns, families, programs they are enrolled in and future plans.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend our Thanksgiving. UW-Stout’s students from Saudi Arabia, as well as our other international students, are a tremendous blessing to us. They enrich our campus and the lives of our staff and students.

Thanksgiving was an appropriate time to host these students as we could express our gratitude to them for being part of our campus community and for generously sharing information about their backgrounds and culture.

IMG_2332.JPG

We were joined by Lou Mougenburg, a retired faculty member who spent time teaching in Saudi Arabia. He brought some amazing acorn squash and baked yams to the event.

Not present at this feast but critical to it were Nancy Schofield, Kirsten Berkemer and Jeanne and Rich Rothaupt. They prepared a variety dishes and desserts that were enjoyed by everyone in attendance.

A great and successful trip to China

I spent the week of Nov. 12-19 traveling to Beijing, China, to encourage more faculty and student exchanges and research between UW-Stout and Chinese educational institutions. Christine Colby from our Office of International Education and my wife, Debbie (traveling at her own expense), joined me.

Our first meeting was with the China Scholarship Council. The CSC provides oversight and financing to Chinese citizens wishing to study abroad as well as foreign scholars wanting to study in China. The purpose of the CSC is to develop educational, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges between China and other countries. This past year the CSC sponsored nearly 100,000 scholars.

We had a productive conversation with CSC Deputy Secretary-General Ning Zhang and hope that our discussions will encourage support for student and faculty exchanges between UW-Stout and China’s universities.

photo-1Our next meeting was with China’s Department of Vocational Education and International Cooperation & Exchanges. With Director-General Jiping Wang and Director Hongjie Liu, we discussed China’s talent development needs. These needs mirror ours in the U.S. in that China also is experiencing a talent gap brought on by a shortage of designers, engineers and scientists.

Of mutual interest is the encouragement of more study abroad opportunities for student and faculty scholars between China and the U.S. One interesting idea discussed was the development of more international student internships. With this concept our students would intern with a Wisconsin or regional company that has production facilities in China. Such an internship would not only prepare students for employment in their discipline but also would boost their intercultural skills required in our global economy.

Director Wang also expressed an interest in learning more about models of career and technical education that are successful in the U.S., including Fab Labs. There is an interest in pursuing more research regarding the success of various models of CTE delivery, and this could pose an exciting opportunity for us, given our strong reputation and deep experience in this area.

Our third meeting was with the Confucius Institute headquarters. It has a mission similar to the China Scholarship Council in that it supports student and faculty exchanges between China and other countries.  We already have a number of partnerships between UW-Stout and universities in China. Support from the Confucius Institute could help further develop these partnerships.

One of our partnering universities, Qilu University of Technology, has jointly applied for a Confucius Institute with us — there are 97 such institutes in the U.S. and 475 around the world — and joined us for this meeting. We made a positive impression on the Confucius Institute representatives and hope that the visit will garner the support needed to expand our partnership and its related activities.

SONY DSC

Next we traveled by bullet train to Jinan to visit Qilu University of Technology. As mentioned above, Qilu is already one of our emerging partners in China. While on Qilu’s campus we presented to faculty and students about UW-Stout, toured the College of Bioengineering, the School of Food Science and Engineering, the Qilu Ceramic Glass Science and Art Museum and several art-related laboratories. Qilu has a program array very similar to UW-Stout’s and is a perfect fit for study abroad opportunities.

Our visit to Qilu included the signing of a degree completion agreement between UW-Stout’s food science and technology program and Qilu’s food science and engineering program.

photo-3

This was my first time to China and one focused mainly on the further development of our partnerships there. But our hotel in Beijing was close enough to walk to the Forbidden City and a short ride to the Great Wall, which we were able to shoehorn in!

photo-4photo-6photo-5

We also had the great opportunity to rendezvous with our own Michael Bessert in Beijing. He teaches in our biology department and is on sabbatical this term. As part of his sabbatical, Michael has traveled to China to develop study abroad opportunities for student and faculty research related to the impact that pollution has on the longevity of fish.

My wife, Deb, Christine Colby and I joined Michael and two fellow Chinese researchers, Chenhong Li and Zhenyu Zhang, husband and wife, for a wonderful Peking duck dinner and discussion in Beijing. Their work together is fascinating and exemplifies how study abroad opportunities can enrich everyone involved while conducting meaningful and impactful research.

photo-7

It was a great week. I found the Chinese people to be incredibly gracious hosts, and they certainly made us feel welcome and comfortable. I hope we can build on our successes to expand our study abroad opportunities in China in the future.

Board of Regents hears about Hussain Alnahdi

bor_cbm

I was privileged Thursday to be invited to address the UW System Board of Regents in Madison on the tragic death of UW-Stout student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi on Oct. 31. Regent President Regina Millner also discussed Hussain’s death, which followed an attack in downtown Menomonie on Oct. 30. I thought you might be interested to read both of our remarks:

Regent President Millner’s remarks to the full Board of Regents

Nov. 10, 2016

Thank you. Before we get started this morning, on behalf of the Board of Regents and President Cross, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and others who knew Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. His death last week was a tragedy, not only for his family and friends but also for our communities. By all accounts, this young man from Saudi Arabia was an enthusiastic, well-liked and a valued member of the UW-Stout campus community, and it is clear he will be missed and remembered. I take heart in the strong message coming from both the campus and Menomonie community recognizing that so much more draws us together as people than divides us. As many have said, “This is not us.”

Chancellor Meyer’s remarks to UW System Board of Regents

Nov. 10, 2016

Thank you President Millner for allowing me a few minutes to discuss with the board, and its guests, an incident near campus that is so deeply tragic that words are insufficient to describe it but also illustrates the magnificent ability of a campus community to pull together, put aside any difference and to give comfort and assistance to grieving family and friends some 7,000 miles away.

The darkest day of my tenure as chancellor was Oct. 31 when I was told that Hussain Saaed Alnahdi, a bright and passionate young Saudi Arabian student of 24, had died as the result of injuries sustained in a violent attack in downtown Menomonie the day before. Much has been written about the incident, so I won’t go into the details. What I want to talk about is Hussain, what he brought to our campus and the way our campus has responded to his tragic passing.

I have spent hours and hours with Hussain’s friends in the last week and have heard about his gregarious spirit, keen sense of humor, love of America and deep bonds he forged with anyone he met, both Saudis and Americans.

It did not matter to Hussain if you were Saudi or American — if you had the capacity to laugh and enjoy life, you were his friend forever. He was truly color-blind when it came to friendship, which was obvious when you saw the UW-Stout students, some wearing the traditional white Saudi dress and the Americans in jeans, who took the podium last Thursday night to pour their hearts out over what Hussain meant to them and the heartache they now are experiencing.

Although I wouldn’t wish this tragedy on any chancellor, my spirits continue to be lifted by the fact that we have been deluged by expressions of sympathy, support and offers of assistance from across the state, nation and world.

On our campus, our students, faculty and staff have pulled together to comfort each other, collectively discuss our loss, and try to find some ray of hope each day.  We have heard from state and national leaders from both parties, our alumni and my colleagues in the UW System.  President Ray Cross made the trip to Menomonie on his own volition last Thursday for Hussain’s memorial service, and I continue to hear how much everyone appreciated his presence and his words of comfort.  Regent Tyler visited campus on Tuesday to attend a session on intercultural competence in times of crisis and I appreciated that as well.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a few efforts that continue to be priorities for me in the wake of this tragedy. 

First of all we are doing everything we can to help the Menomonie Police Department solve this crime. The city and the Stout University Foundation have teamed up to offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the assault.  Another $5,000 reward is being offered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Anyone with information about the assault is asked to call Menomonie police investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-231-8511.

I am also helping Hussain’s friends establish a memorial in his honor on campus.  A memorial fund has been established to remember the joy and happiness that Hussain brought to our campus.  Please contact the Stout University Foundation if you are interested in donating to the fund.

As you can imagine, this is an especially unsettling time for our international students, so I have asked the campus and the Menomonie community to reach out to those students to provide them comfort and a sense of support and security at this difficult time.

Finally, I just to express from the bottom of my heart my gratitude and appreciation for every email, note, phone call and other message I have received since Oct. 31.  Our campus knows that you all stand with us in our time of tragedy.

Thank you very much.

 

Campus Response to the Assault on Hussain Alnahdi

I am writing to express my deepest thanks for the tremendous outpouring of support and compassion that I have witnessed across campus in the week since we learned the tragic news that one of our students, Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, was fatally injured in an assault on October 30 in downtown Menomonie.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-2-57-35-pm

While we continue to work with the Menomonie Police Department to find the person responsible for Hussain’s death, I am constantly reminded what a caring and loving campus we have at UW-Stout.  The nearly 1,000 people who turned out for Hussain’s touching memorial service last Thursday evening was a great example of that.  Speaking at that memorial service was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  During my remarks, I noted what a bright and passionate young man Hussain was, one with a very promising future.  I also noted the overwhelming amount of sympathy, support, encouragement and offers of assistance that have poured in across the state, nation and world in the wake of Hussain’s death.  But most of all, I thanked the students who organized the memorial, roommates and friends of Hussain, who came together in the midst of their grief to put together a tremendous event that left not a dry eye in the MSC amphitheater.  These students, I noted in my address, were a source of inspiration, hope and strength for Hussain’s grieving family, friends and community.

I am aware that emotions, including mine, continue to run high over this incident.  I want to encourage students who feel the need for assistance to contact our counseling center and for our faculty and staff to avail themselves of our employee-assistance program 

Questions have been raised about what happened to the memorial that sprung up last week in front of Topper’s Pizza, the site of the assault.  The memorial was removed with the support of those who knew Hussain best.  With their support and consultation, memorial items are being treated with the utmost reverence and care.  Those items that are culturally appropriate will be sent to the family, and most of the other items are being carefully preserved by the university archivist to allow for future reflection.  Also, an event has been scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to start a conversation on campus about the impact of this event on our diversity efforts.  The event is titled “Cultural Competence in Times of Crisis” and will be held in Ballroom A of the Memorial Student Center.  The speakers include Carol Vang, diversity representative of the Stout Student Association, and Kate Thomas, chair of the Diversity Leadership Team.  The stated purpose of the meeting is to “improve awareness of our own cultural foundations and intercultural engagement at UW-Stout.” 

One of my main goals this week is to keep the public aware that we need to do everything we can to help the Menomonie Police Department find the person responsible for Hussain’s assault.  The city and the Stout University Foundation have teamed up to offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the assault.  Another $5,000 reward is being offered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Anyone with information about the assault is asked to call Menomonie police investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-231-8511.  Anonymous information can be submitted at 855-847-3866 or at http://dunncocrimestoppers.com.  You may also text “TIPDUNN” followed by your message to 274637 (CRIMES).

A memorial fund also has been established by the Stout University Foundation in Hussain’s name, to remember the joy and happiness that Hussain brought to this community and to establish a permanent memorial to honor Hussain.  Those who want to give can do so at https://foundation.uwstout.edu/pages/givings/hussain-saeed-alnahdi-memorial-fund. 

Many people have signed memorial books that we had out at the memorial service Thursday.  It still is possible to submit something for the books, which will be sent to Hussain’s family in Saudi Arabia.  Michael Lee of our Office of International Education is accepting submissions at his office, 70L in Harvey Hall, or by email at leemi@uwstout.edu.  Please have your submissions in by Friday.

Finally, the assault on Hussain has raised questions about just how safe our students or anyone else is in Menomonie.  This is what the New York Times reported on November 3: “Statistics show that in 2014 Menomonie had a violent crime rate that was below the national average.”  In fact, statistics the newspaper used showed that in 2014, there were just 32 assaults in all of Menomonie.  The city had a violent crime rate of 121.5 per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 202.6.  A number of previous years had even lower ratios, including 28.3 per 100,000 population in 2010.  On campus, there was one reported aggravated assault in each of 2015, 2014 and 2013.  I think these statistics are a good indication that we live, study and work in a relatively safe community.  Our future efforts should focus on making our community an even safer place to live, learn and grow!

 

Please join me for a beverage break

20160923_Beverage_Break_with_Bob_02.JPG

I’d like to remind all faculty and staff who haven’t joined me yet that the third “Beverage Break with Bob” is coming up on Nov. 11 at the Raw Deal on Broadway St.  The event is held between 5 and 7 p.m. and features complimentary food and beverages. Stacked Eatery caters the event, and a variety of Raw Deal beverages, including a new stout beer, will be available. The event is sponsored by friends of UW-Stout, Raj and Swati Lall of Vets Plus. I promise everyone will have a great time! Space is limited so register here.

We grieve for Hussain

student_death_03

Flowers and notes were left on Main Street today in memory of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi.

This is a painful time on campus for everyone. My heart aches for Hussain Saeed Alnahdi’s family, which received the awful information Monday afternoon that their son had been fatally injured in downtown Menomonie early Sunday.

My heart also aches for the friends, faculty and staff whose lives Hussain had touched since coming to UW-Stout in 2015. And my heart aches for the dedicated and compassionate staff at UW-Stout whose responsibility it is to respond to this type of tragedy.

It is a normal reaction in a time like this to look for reasons for this tragedy. I certainly have many questions and concerns that I wish we had answers to about what led to Hussain’s assault. But I, along with everyone else who grieves for Hussain, have to wait for the outcome of the Menomonie Police Department investigation into this horrific incident.

It is vitally important that no one jumps to any conclusions about what may have precipitated this attack before the facts are known.

My priorities right now are twofold: to do everything I can to support the family, friends and others who knew Hussain and have lost a loved one and to ensure that the full resources of UW-Stout are engaged to help Menomonie police bring Hussain’s assailant to justice.

If you or anyone you know has any shred of information about what happened shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday in front of Topper’s Pizza, please call Menomonie police investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-231-8511. Anonymous information can be submitted at 855-847-3866 or at Crime Stoppers. You also can text “TIPDUNN” followed by your message to 274637 (CRIMES).

We will do our best to keep the UW-Stout campus community updated about developments through emails, this blog, our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

The reaction of the UW-Stout community to this tragedy has shown, once again, why this place is so special to me. 

Student_Death_01.jpg

Student_Death_02.jpg

 Student_Death_04.jpg