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.