Monthly Archives: December 2016

Commencement efforts appreciated; goodbye to Chief Walter and to 2016; save the date, Jan. 17


A very wintry but satisfying commencement day

Every commencement ceremony is special to me, but the fall 2016 exercise will stand out and not just because it brought our 125th anniversary celebration essentially to a close. It will be noteworthy because of the hardships many in the audience had to endure simply to get to Johnson Fieldhouse through a heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures.

With ominous forecasts of snow earlier in the week, we had several discussions to determine whether we would continue with our ceremonies. We had to balance travel safety with the high desire to recognize our 697 students for reaching a major milestone. We decided to hold commencement as scheduled with myriad warnings about the impending weather conditions, and we offered the option to watch a livestream of the ceremonies.

I’m grateful the snow stopped in time for our very dedicated Physical Plant crews to get our sidewalks, parking lots and other facilities cleared before guests arrived. Local road crews also did a fantastic job making it possible for people to drive to Menomonie safely, if a bit slower than usual. I’d like to thank our Physical Plant personnel and everyone who was involved in planning and executing commencement for all their hard work and long hours. You made me proud to work alongside you every day.

I concentrated my commencement speech on the tremendous compassion and empathy for others I witnessed on campus and in the community after the Oct. 31 death of student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. I drew parallels between this degree of compassion and the compassionate way our founder, James Huff Stout, lived his life. More on the speech and commencement is available here. I also recommend our UW-Stout Facebook page for a video and many more pictures from commencement.


Senior projects on display at School of Art and Design show

A highlight of commencement week is always the School of Art and Design Senior Shows on the Friday evening before the Saturday ceremonies. The public event in the Applied Arts building features capstone accomplishments of graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts students.

Hundreds of people generally attend, and I always am impressed by the creative achievements of the students displaying projects in graphic, interactive, interior, industrial and entertainment design, as well as studio artwork including sculpture, metals and printmaking. The exhibits were scattered throughout Applied Arts, with a throng of parents and the public taking it all in with delight.


Best wishes in retirement, Chief Walter

Talk about bittersweet. I attended a retirement reception Friday afternoon for our campus police chief, Lisa Walter, who is leaving after 23 years. Her last day is Jan. 6.

I have come to depend on Lisa for well-reasoned advice on many topics, and she has worked extremely hard throughout her career to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Managing a campus police department has become increasingly complex over the years, and Lisa has worked diligently to keep our department at the forefront of innovative policing techniques and practices.

The reception was bittersweet because although we will miss her experience, training and good judgment, I’m happy she’ll have more time for family and to pursue outside activities, including Special Olympics.

To her credit Lisa has succeeded with developing a team that will be able to function at high levels in her absence. Well done, Chief Walter. Thank you for your tireless, selfless and extraordinary service.

Please attend our ‘You Said…We Did’ presentation

I hope everyone on campus will be able to attend our annual “You Said…We Did” presentation from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. 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.

These actions are intended to help us achieve our FOCUS 2020 goals. We also will take this opportunity to recognize individuals and teams who helped make these accomplishments possible. There will be fun, laughter and celebration as well.

We value your feedback in helping achieve the goals of our planning process. More information about January Professional Development is available here.

Happy holidays and thanks for a great 2016

This is my final blog for 2016, and I want to end it with my best wishes for students, faculty and 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 2017.

I hope that you also have the opportunity to recharge. Our 125th anniversary year has been exciting and challenging. Thanks to everyone for their good work and good cheer and for being the best group of colleagues a chancellor could wish for.

Pay request is good move; December ‘whirlwind’ continues

Regents put pay increases on front burner

A spate of news has come out recently about salaries in the University of Wisconsin System, spurred by the commendable action Thursday by the Board of Regents to formally request that Gov. Walker and the Legislature appropriate sufficient funding in 2017-19 to support the equivalent of 2 percent pay increases in two consecutive fiscal years, beginning July 1, 2017.

While this is a request, I can assure you that I will advocate strongly with our legislative delegation for the pay plan. It is one of my top priorities for the 2017-19 budget. UW System President Ray Cross asked each chancellor for a statement on compensation to give to the regents. My statement said:

“As UW-Stout’s Chancellor I would like to emphasize the importance of the compensation request that UW System has submitted. It is with great pride that I regard UW-Stout as a ‘high performer.’ We strive to meet the needs of employers, and consequently our graduates enjoy an outstanding employment rate that consistently exceeds 97 percent.

“Our success is directly related to the quality of our staff and their efforts to shape our programs in a way that is responsive to employer needs. That success is at risk, however, given multiple years of flat or regressive budgets and pay plans. In 1995 our faculty were at 95 percent of their peers with respect to compensation; today it’s 79 percent.

“Across the UW System we are not as competitive with respect to compensation, and it has resulted in key staff leaving for opportunities outside of Wisconsin. A better compensation package is critical toward keeping the quality of our staff and programming at high levels. In doing so we can continue to excel at meeting the needs of our students and employers.”

I will keep the campus informed about our efforts to advocate for increased compensation for our employees, as well as stable funding for our budget.

A busy (and fun) time of year

The month of December, I have found, tends to be a whirlwind for a chancellor. There are so many places to be that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But I enjoy the invitations and the chance to experience all that this campus has to offer. Here is a sampling of my stops last week:

Everyone was smiles Wednesday at the annual Chancellor’s Holiday Reception in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. It’s important to take as much time as possible during the holiday season to visit with those who are most important to you. For three decades now, starting with my time as a student, I have considered the faculty, staff and students at UW-Stout as important people in my life. My wife, Debbie, and I appreciated and enjoyed spending Wednesday afternoon catching up with old friends and meeting new ones at the reception.

Debbie’s head and mine were spinning a little Friday evening when we left the Stout Game Expo in the Great Hall. More than two dozen games and interactive experiences made by more than 100 students were on display. They included an array of platforms and formats: PC games, board games, virtual reality experiences, a hand-made arcade cabinet, an escape room and a preview of a transmedia project that combines the work of game designers, sculptors, animators, cinema students, industrial designers and comics artists. Like I said, our heads were spinning a little bit because of the tremendous creativity and expertise that was on display.

Debbie and I then headed over to the concert Friday night put on by the UW-Stout Chamber Choir, Symphonic Singers and the Devil Tones Acapella ensemble.

Jerry Hui, director of choral activities, noted at the outset that our founder, James Huff Stout, was known for his innovative and experimental approach to education in the late 1800s. Jerry said he adopted that experimental mindset when he chose music for the concert, titled A Sound Experiment. In fact on one selection the performers surrounded the audience so the sound came from all angles. In the program notes, Jerry said: “Each piece serves to demonstrate how composers seek innovation in creating music for choir…”

We enjoyed the performance immensely.

I was honored to participate in a ceremony Saturday afternoon honoring former men’s basketball coach Dwain “Dewey” Mintz when the court in Johnson Fieldhouse was named in his honor. Dewey’s teams had 385 wins over 27 years at UW-Stout, including three league champions. He was NAIA District 14 Coach of the Year in 1966 and 1973 and was NAIA Area IV Coach of the Year in 1969. He retired in 1989.

There were plenty of testimonials from former players and coaches about what a tremendous influence Dewey was in their lives and the effect his teachings continue to have.

The naming of the floor is part of a fundraising effort to refurbish Johnson Fieldhouse, including facility branding, creating and expanding the Blue Devil suites and a new scorer’s table.

Please help our students celebrate at commencement

Saturday is UW-Stout’s graduation, and I would like to personally invite every faculty and staff member on campus to help me congratulate the students who will be receiving their diplomas. Graduation Day is a momentous event in our students’ lives, and it is important that as many UW-Stout representatives as possible attend the ceremonies to send these students off in grand style. More details about commencement are available here.

University history book is out; ’tis season for special events

University’s history chronicled in a new book


I’m so happy to report that the definitive history book of UW-Stout’s first 125 years is now available for purchase. “An Idea Comes of Age: UW-Stout, 1891-2016” was written by Jerome Poling, assistant director of University Communications, and it tells the university’s story, how we grew into a special mission campus that remained true to the ideals of James Huff Stout and gives us fresh perspectives about the leaders who have shaped UW-Stout into the innovative campus it is today.

The book also looks at how the campus has grown over the years, how the campus culture has evolved, and what student life was like then and now.

For many of us, UW-Stout is an integral part of our lives. This book will help each of us understand how the campus evolved so we can better prepare for our next 125 years.

The hardcover version of the book, with nearly 140 historic photographs, is $29.99. Place your order through publisher Thomson-Shore and the Seattle Book Club. A limited number of first edition copies are available.

Hmong New Year celebration a great event


I was able to celebrate the new year a little early on Saturday by attending the 10th annual Hmong New Year event in the Multipurpose Room of the Sports and Fitness Center. I always look forward to this event, which typically falls on the first Saturday of December.

The celebration includes Hmong traditional dancing, instrumental performances and singing, as well as handmade, colorful garments and Hmong food. The event honors Hmong ancestors and spirits while welcoming the new year.

My wife, Debbie, and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the event, which is hosted by the Hmong Stout Student Organization and supported by the Stout Student Association, Residence Hall Association and Multicultural Student Services.

Band concert strikes the perfect holiday chord


There’s nothing like holiday music performed with artistry and enthusiasm to get you in the mood to celebrate this special season. My spirits certainly were lifted Sunday after Debbie and I attended the winter concert by the Symphonic Band in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

The performance showcased the many talented students in the band and truly captured the spirit of the holiday season. It was a fantastic and enjoyable way to spend our Sunday afternoon.

The band is directed by Associate Professor Aaron M. Durst, who does a great job selecting just the right music for the season, including “Snowflakes Dancing,” which brought to mind what the first snowfall Saturday night sounded like. Hearing “Sleigh Ride” at the end of the concert never, ever gets old.

I was especially impressed by the Tower Saxophone Quartet that played two selections. The quartet is made up of Josh Bergman, of Reedsburg; Christian Gauvin, of Appleton; Elizabeth Jacobson, of Eden Prairie, Minn.; and Ellen Plumb, of St. Paul.

Debbie and I are looking forward to the UW-Stout Choral Concert at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Tickets are $5. I highly recommend that you consider attending this worthwhile event.