Monthly Archives: September 2017

Bridge to Hope a ‘vital’ asset; fall enrollment decline is concerning

Recently I was pleased visit the Bridge to Hope’s open house. Bridge to Hope offers assistance, shelter and other resources to victims of domestic abuse. This vital community asset is moving to a new facility at 2110 Fourth Ave. N. in Menomonie.

Unfortunately, the need for Bridge to Hope resources is growing rapidly, and this move will allow it to expand its shelter from three rooms to 10.

Bridge to Hope is raising funds to pay for the facility. Contact Naomi, 715-235-9074, to donate. My wife, Debbie, who is board chair for Bridge to Hope, and I are both donors and view the new facility as an important community resource.

The organization also is offering an Over the Bridge Restaurant Tour from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1. Food samplings from five restaurants are included in the $30 “passport.” Call the organization for more information and where to purchase tickets.

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Preliminary enrollment report shows a decline

Few things are more important to the vitality of an educational institution than enrollment. Healthy institutions generally show steady, but managed, growth. That is why I am concerned about our most recent enrollment report that showed, after three years of enrollment records, we are facing a decline for 2017-18.

We submitted a preliminary report to UW System that showed a headcount of 9,335, compared to last year’s preliminary headcount of 9,545. The final enrollment figure will be posted by UW System later this year and usually is higher than our preliminary number. For example, last year our final number was 9,619.

We showed a decline in just about every category, including new freshmen, transfer students and continuing students. The one bright spot was our graduate students, which went up by 61.

I have spoken about the importance of enrollment before and how working on admissions is everyone’s responsibility. I also am pleased with my initial discussions with Aaron Aure, our new executive director of Enrollment and Retention Services, who is working with others across campus on our new strategic enrollment management plan.

You only need to look at other campuses in the UW System that have suffered chronic enrollment decreases to see what long-term problems result from those declines. I am adamant that we take immediate steps to reverse our decline this year and continue our steady, but managed, growth.

Gov. Walker issues vetoes, signs budget

I wanted to make sure you saw the news last week that Gov. Walker signed the 2017-19 state budget, after issuing a number of partial vetoes, some of which will affect UW campuses. One of those vetoes took away the ability of campuses to pick the individual metrics that will determine the amount of the $26.5 million in new funding included in an outcomes-based model that will judge us on our performance in four areas. UW System will determine our metrics, we hope after consulting with the campuses.

The other veto gives the authority to the state Department of Workforce Development, rather than the UW System, to determine what high demand fields will qualify for support under a new $5 million Innovation Fund for 2017-18. UW System has tentatively decided that those fields would be health care and engineering, and we hoped to qualify for a portion of the $5 million.

I am pleased that the governor left intact the legislative decision to move the two 2-percent pay increases to July 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019.

More information on the 2017-19 state budget is available at the UW-Stout state budget website.

Manufacturing Advantage Conference

Manufacturing Advantage Conference a successful event

For 10 years, UW-Stout has offered manufacturers from Wisconsin and the Midwest an opportunity to come to campus for two days and hear from experts on ways they can improve their operations, as well as network with other manufacturers.

I was pleased to participate in the conference this year, held last Tuesday and Wednesday in the Memorial Student Center. The event is hosted by the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center, and I’d like to thank the center’s director, Larry Blackledge, and everyone else who worked so hard to put together a successful 10-year-anniversary conference.

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State budget passes Legislature; scholarships, ambassador program great opportunities for students  

I am pleased to report that the Legislature has wrapped up its work on the 2017-19 state budget, and it includes additional funding for the UW System in both years of the biennium, as well as general pay increases.

The state Senate on Friday sent the budget to the governor for his signature, after vetoes are issued this week. Gov. Walker has indicated that the budget will be signed by Friday. I have communicated some of these budget provisions previously, but some of the major ones include:

  • Two pay raises averaging 2 percent each, one July 1, 2018, and the second one Jan. 1, 2019. The last general pay increases were 1 percent July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014.
  • Creation of a $5 million “innovation fund” for 2017-18 intended to raise enrollments across the system in programs serving high demand areas, including engineering and health. We believe we will be eligible for some of this funding.
  • Creation of a $26.5 million fund for 2018-19 that will be allocated across the system based on a new, but not yet determined, model that takes into consideration an institution’s performance based on metrics in four categories: grow and ensure student success; improve and excel at student progress and completion; expand contributions to the workforce; and enhance operational effectiveness and efficiency.

The budget also includes nonfiscal items that directly impact the UW, such as requiring the system to monitor the workloads of faculty and instructional academic staff; freezing tuition for the next two years; and prohibiting institutions from requiring that candidates for system president or campus chancellors be eligible for tenure. Details about the budget are available at the UW-Stout state budget website.

This budget is a tremendous improvement over the 2015-17 budget, which had a net effect of cutting aid to the UW System by $250 million. I’d like to thank our legislative delegation, in particular Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, for the improved budget and salary increases. The improvements will help us meet our mission of graduating students who can make immediate contributions to the workforce of Wisconsin.

Event symbolizes importance of scholarships

No one has to tell me how important it is to help as many of our students as we can to pay for their education through scholarships and other financial aid. As a student at UW-Stout in the 1970s, the Owen F. Goodman Scholarship I received twice played a major role in helping me stay in school.

I had the tremendous opportunity last Thursday to talk about the important role scholarships played in my life during the annual awards banquet sponsored by Stout University Foundation. The foundation has awarded more than $12 million in scholarships since it was established in 1963; this year, 388 students received a record of more than $790,000 in scholarships.

Before the event, I also was able to thank the generous donors who make these scholarships possible. I hope that the comprehensive capital campaign underway will make even more scholarships available to our students.

Scholarship Reception

Cookout, ice cream events great opportunities to meet students

I was happy to join other UW-Stout staff members in helping serve burgers, corn on the cob, potato salad and other picnic fare at the annual Great American Cookout last Tuesday on the south campus mall. The best part of this event is meeting students and seeing their smiling faces as the new semester gets going.

Last Wednesday was the annual free ice cream event sponsored by my office, where I join members of my Cabinet in handing out containers of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the student center, again another great opportunity to meet and talk with our students, as well as faculty and staff.

Chancellor's Free Ice Cream Event

Please nominate a UW-Stout ambassador

I’d like you to consider a request from the UW-Stout Alumni Association, which is seeking outstanding students to apply for this year’s ambassador program. Faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to students who they believe would be good ambassadors for UW-Stout and encourage them to apply.

This program is a networking opportunity and resume builder and capitalizes on a student’s leadership and hard work.

The application process includes an interview. The online form is due by noon Tuesday, Sept. 26. Ambassador duties begin during the Board of Regents meeting at UW-Stout Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, and continue throughout the year. All the requirements and events are on the application.

Homecoming Parade 2016

Congratulations to football team on historic win; busy start to semester

First, I would like to congratulate Coach Clayt Birmingham and the Blue Devil football team for its historic 25-22 victory Saturday over St. Thomas. There have been a lot of memorable and significant games played in Don and Nona Williams Stadium, but few could rival this contest.

2017 UW-Stout Football vs. St. Thomas

I was incredibly proud of our student athletes and the way they fought back time and time against adversity to pull out the win. I couldn’t attend the game because of a previous engagement, but I was able to listen to the radio broadcast, and it certainly was thrilling.

The win earned the Blue Devils a 25th ranking in the latest D3football.com Top 25 poll. You can read about the game here and the ranking here. The Blue Devils have a bye this week and open WIAC competition Sept. 30 at UW-Platteville.

Garding Against Cancer a memorable event

Keeping with the sports theme, I was privileged to participate in a fantastic fundraising event last Thursday sponsored by UW-Madison men’s basketball coach Greg Gard and his wife, Michelle. It was part of their foundation, Garding Against Cancer, which raises money across the state for cancer research.

I provided a welcome at the luncheon in the Memorial Student Center, where I talked about my sister, who has battled cancer. Coach Gard has lost his father to brain cancer, and that led to the establishment of the foundation.

UW-Stout Cross Country Head and Shoulder shots

The Gards announced that more than $27,000 would be donated locally to help with the cancer fight. I had several interactions with Coach Gard and his wife and found them to be very down to earth and personable.

As part of this effort, the Badgers will play the Blue Devils in an exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Kohl Center. A news story about the event is available here.

Finance committee moves up two pay raises

This information was included in the UW-Stout Today daily email publication, but it is worth repeating:

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, in approving the 2017-19 state budget, has moved up the schedule for two, 2 percent (on average) pay increases to July 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019. We have advocated strongly with our legislators for earlier increases, and so I was pleased with this development.

Of course, we will continue our efforts to close the pay disparities between our employees and their peers at institutions in other states. The Legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget soon and send it to Gov. Walker, who has vowed to sign it into law before Sept. 22. Follow UW-Stout Today for details.

Another way to contribute to hurricane relief

Following the Hurricane Harvey devastation in southeast Texas, I included an appeal for donations to national relief organizations in a previous blog post. Now, following the landfall of Hurricane Irma in Florida, donations are even more important. You can find those organizations in the Sept. 1 blog.

However, I’d like to mention a relatively new fundraising effort to help the victims of both hurricanes initiated by a group called One America Appeal. This campaign features the five living presidents, and every dollar donated will help the victims recover. More information is available here.

An update on Knock and Talk

I blogged last week about the Knock and Talk program, sponsored by the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, that uses UW-Stout employees to have conversations with mainly older students about important issues as the academic year begins. I wanted to report that this year the program distributed 778 welcome bags to students at their residences, and the volunteers had about 250 personal contacts at open doors.

Some 17 faculty and staff volunteered that day to encourage the students to make good decisions and engage in safe practices in the year ahead. I’d really like to see that number increase next year. Please put Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, on your calendar now and donate a couple of hours to this effort.

UW System asks for DACA continuation

Finally, I’d like to bring to your attention a letter from UW System President Ray Cross, on behalf of the chancellors across the system, to members of our congressional delegation asking that Congress pass legislation to ensure the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  I was happy to endorse this letter because DACA is important to our continued efforts at UW-Stout to encourage a diverse and inclusive campus. The letter reads:

On behalf of the University of Wisconsin System chancellors and myself, we respectfully request that you pass legislation that will, at a minimum, swiftly ensure the continued protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Based on the recent announcement by the Executive Branch, that it will rescind the DACA program, and refer the matter to Congress for a legislative answer, it is critical that Congress find a solution that will advance protections for undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as minors. These young people need clarity and certainty from our government to advance their lives and to continue to serve the economic needs of our country.

As we previously noted in a letter to President Trump, the UW System strongly urges continued support of the DACA program as a step in the right direction to eventually providing these young individuals with permanent residency in the United States of America.

In addition to extending provisional protection from deportation, DACA allows participants to stay, work, and study in the United States. It is widely acknowledged that DACA students make invaluable contributions, both economic and social, to university campuses and communities in Wisconsin and across the country.

The United States faces growing economic and demographic challenges. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce:

  • S. jobs requiring postsecondary education and training are expected to reach a new high of 65 percent in 2020.
  • By 2020, the United States is projected to face a shortage of three million workers with associate’s degrees, or higher, and five million workers with technical certificates and credentials.
  • Thirty-six million Americans have low basic skills that limit their earning power without further education and training.

As you know, Wisconsin’s workforce needs to reflect similar challenges. Our traditional population of college-going students is declining, and there is a projected shortage of workers in critical fields such as medicine, engineering, nursing and teaching. This projected gap affirms the need to ensure we utilize the talents, dedication and full potential of everyone in our great country.

We appreciate your consideration and thank you in advance for your support. We stand ready to work with you to find bipartisan consensus on a legislative solution with vital consequences for Wisconsin and the nation.

Sincerely,

Ray Cross

UW System President

 

Great memories rekindled on Move-in Day; Blue Rah, Knock and Talk a success

On Sunday I helped move students into the residence halls during the annual Move-in Day. Once again, I was very proud of how well-organized the event was, and I want to thank the staff for making it such a great success.

I especially want to thank our athletes and coaches who took time away from practice to help our students move in. I heard many, many comments praising our efforts and thanking the staff who helped make the experience painless and fun.

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While helping students move into HKMC, I visited second floor Milnes where I served two years as a resident adviser when I was an undergraduate student from 1975 to 1980. As I visited second Milnes, I ran into a former colleague, Nancy Murray, who was helping her daughter Catherine settle into her room. Coincidentally, I lived in Catherine’s room when I was an RA!

Nancy served our retail merchandising and management program while I was a dean at UW-Stout from 2000 to 2007. Nancy’s parents met at UW-Stout in the 1960s and married in their junior year. Nancy also graduated from UW-Stout in 1988, making Catherine a third-generation student. Nancy was kind enough to snap a picture of our get-together and send it to me.

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A bit later at CKTO residence hall, I ran into a retired colleague, Lou Moegenburg, and his wife, Julie Best, moving in their son Hunter. Hunter was moving in with his friends Tucker Nauss and Austin Boetcher. It was great seeing them on their move-in day. Julie snapped this photo:

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Left to right:  Abby, Ethan, Dana and Greg (’95) Boetcher; Bob Meyer (’80, ’83); Hunter Moegenburg; Tucker Nauss; Julie Best (’84); Austin Boetcher; and Louis Moegenburg (’62, ’64).

The Boetcher family has 14 UW-Stout graduates spanning three generations! Julie Best’s grandmother graduated from “Stout Normal School” in the early 1900s.

Obviously, I met and helped move in a lot of other first-generation UW-Stout students, but it was gratifying to see so many alumni helping move in a son or daughter. It continued to demonstrate for me just how valuable a UW-Stout degree continues to be for so many people like myself, my wife, Debbie, and daughter Erica.

Blue Rah an energizing event

After resting up following my furniture moving experiences, I had the opportunity to get totally energized for the new academic year at the Blue Rah pep rally Sunday night in Johnson Fieldhouse. Everyone had smiles on their faces during the event, and I want to thank those in the Memorial Student Center and Britta Miller, freshman orientation coordinator, who organized this year’s Blue Rah. It was very uplifting.

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Knocking and talking for a safe year

For the second year in a row, the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse has organized a fantastic effort called Knock and Talk in which UW-Stout employees fan out across student housing areas off campus to have discussions with mainly older students about ways to stay safe this year. I had the opportunity to visit with a number of these students Tuesday and found the initiative very valuable.

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Students were a bit surprised to see the chancellor knocking on their door, but they were very gracious and appreciative, both for the contact and for the bag full of literature, gift certificates and pens and other items that were distributed. I was joined by a Leader-Telegram newspaper reporter for part of the trip, and that story is available here.

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I applaud Nate Kirkman and Jake Bloom of the coalition for all the time they spent putting this effort together, securing the volunteers and mapping out the areas to be covered. I also want to thank all the employees who gave a part of their day to have these important conversations.

 

My personal connection with Hurricane Harvey and an appeal to help the victims

Everyone, it seems, has been transfixed on the tragedies that continue to unfold in southeastern Texas and adjoining areas after Hurricane Harvey settled in on the Gulf Coast and dumped in excess of four feet of rain on the already low-lying areas, causing horrific damage and deaths and disrupting hundreds of thousands of lives.

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The videos and stories are impactful enough, but my wife, Debbie, and I watch with a heightened sense of concern because our youngest daughter, Melly, lives and works in downtown Houston.

We were thankful that Melly was out of town when the hurricane hit and lives in a high-rise apartment building far above the floodwaters. However, her employer, an oil and gas exploration company, has been closed all week. Also, it took Melly all week to make it back to Houston, her apartment and her beloved cats (who were well taken care of during her absence!).

Therefore, I am writing to ask the UW-Stout community to do whatever you can to help the Hurricane Harvey victims in their time of need and to help with the recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. I am sure many of you have done this already, but I would remiss if I didn’t use my personal connection to appeal to our generous faculty, staff and students, as well as our friends in the community, for assistance.

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So how to help? Experts say financial support remains the most effective way to give aid. Here are some recommendations:

  • The American Red Cross, which has opened shelters and is getting supplies to victims, is accepting donations on its website. Donors also can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text “Harvey” to 90999 to make contributions. Alternatively, some companies are collecting donations for the Red Cross relief effort on their websites.
  • The Salvation Army, which says it has disaster teams from across the country mobilizing to help Harvey victims and will support long-term recovery efforts, is also taking donations on its website. Or, you can call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or text “STORM” to 51555.
  • For assistance with a Wisconsin connection, former Wisconsin Badger football star JJ Watt, now a Houston Texan, has organized a crowdfunding effort at YouCaring that has raised more than $10 million for charities in southeastern Texas.

These obviously are just a few of the ways to help. My only hope is that you try to do something for the hundreds of thousands of my daughter’s fellow Texans who find themselves in dire need of assistance.

Thank you.