Monthly Archives: April 2018

End of academic year, with commencement and honors, is an exciting and inspiring time

One of the most exciting aspects of this time of year for a chancellor is the opportunity I have to meet students who have excelled academically and are either graduating or very close to it. This week I had the chance to help recognize the 2018 graduates of our Honors College as well as attend the celebration banquet for our fantastic Multicultural Student Services office.

Bestow the stole

On Monday night I joined Professor Chris Ferguson, director of the Honors College, to participate in the handing out of stoles that each college graduate will wear Saturday, May 5, during their respective commencement exercises.

In my remarks, I pointed out the importance that our faculty mentors played in the success these Honors College graduates had in the classroom, as well as the support the students received from their family and friends. This support theme is something I always expound upon during my commencement address. I also commented that I find being in the company of honors students enjoyable because they really are extraordinary and, “They have a true spirit of adventure and a drive to excel and challenge themselves in astonishing ways.” More on the Honors College is available here.

Persistence to power

Tuesday night I had the privilege of speaking at the 35th annual spring banquet sponsored by the Multicultural Student Services office. During my welcome, I actually thanked those in attendance for the inspiration and energy that I gained by attending the event, adding, “Your steadfast focus on your goal to complete your degree and the persistence you have exhibited overcoming obstacles to get to commencement day is both inspiring and energizing.”

I also told the attendees that I found inspiration in a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

I also found inspiration in the graduate speaker, Marcus Lewis, who is a candidate for a doctoral degree in career and technical education. Marcus expounded on the theme of persistence and emphasized the value in constantly striving to improve oneself.

The testimonials from the students who talked about “who we are” reminded me of the tremendous challenges that some of our students face to achieve their goals, including earning a college degree.

I want thank Barb Miller, MSS director, Vickie Sanchez, student services coordinator, and the entire office staff and participating students for putting together such an inspirational event. More on the Multicultural Student Services office is available here.


Commencement on May 5

Finally, I would like to make my semiannual plea for as many of our faculty and staff to attend one (or all!) of the three commencement exercises we will hold Saturday, May 5. I believe it is vitally important that our graduates see the faculty and staff they interacted with during their time on campus at this very special day for them.

Those who attend the 9:30 a.m. ceremony will see, for the first time, six of our ROTC graduates given their oath after receiving their degrees. We also will see the first graduates in our mechanical engineering program receive their diplomas, and it will mark the last time Loretta Thielman, a professor in the mathematics, statistics and computer science department, will carry the mace at the head of the processional into Johnson Fieldhouse. More on commencement is available here.



Community needs to help UW-Stout address high-risk drinking

Few things are harder for a chancellor to address than the negative effects on our students of high-risk drinking. UW-Stout has developed several initiatives, led by efforts from our Dean of Students Sandi Scott and the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. 

I believe we have made an impact in this area and our efforts will continue, including the Knock and Talk event in the fall aimed at connecting with students who are of legal drinking age.

But we need community partners to help us, and that includes those who make their living off the sale of alcohol. As a Menomonie resident, I can attest that the great majority of those in the hospitality industry take their alcohol sale policy very seriously and act responsibly. However, that sadly is not the case with all establishments.

I recently was notified of one situation that I find particularly egregious and want to bring it to the campus’ attention. The night of April 12, officers from our University Police Department, the Menomonie Police Department and Dunn County Sheriff’s Department entered the Rehab bar, 631 S. Broadway St., on a tip of underage drinking activity. What they found was revolting: More than 50 citations were issued to people under age who were drinking in the bar.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I learned of this. It is incomprehensible to me how responsible tavern owners could allow this to happen on their premises. It also calls into question the commitment of some of our community partners to ensuring that all applicable alcohol laws and ordinances are followed.

The university has a responsibility to help our students avoid high-risk drinking, along with illegal drug use. Our efforts are encapsulated in the 2017-18 High Risk Drinking/AOD Action Plan administered by the Dean of Students.

But no office or individual can do much in this area without the cooperation of the greater community, and that includes those who profit from the sale of alcohol. I certainly hope that what happened at the Rehab on April 12 serves as a wake-up call for that establishment and any others inclined to serve alcohol to minors.

Inspiring weekend: A delightful musical, unique fashion show and very special student

This past weekend was Family Weekend, which is always a great time to spend on campus. I had the opportunity to see our students’ great work and progress on projects as well as meet with family members on campus.

In addition, my wife, Debbie, and I were able to see the opener for University Theatre’s “Big Fish,” a musical centered around the relationship between Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman, and his adult son, Will, who looks for what is behind his father’s tall stories.

The music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa are based on the novel by Daniel Wallace. This play was well choreographed. The wonderful sets were ingeniously designed. I was spellbound by the singing, acting and orchestral performances of our students.

The play runs through Saturday, April 14, and I recommend it with two thumbs up. More information is available here.

"Big Fish" the Musical

Fashion Without Fabric 

Debbie and I also attended the Fashion Without Fabric show put on by School of Art and Design students. Roughly 200 of these students employ creativity to produce unique fashions using any material other than fabric that conveys a topic or theme for the show. With this year’s theme “Bodies of Work,” designs were based on the art of 27 contemporary sculptors.

Students’ designs were amazing and incorporated materials that included coffee filters, balloons, pop can tops, videotape, plastic spoons, corrugated fiberboard and vinyl records to name a few. The students’ work was very innovative, inspiring and entertaining.

Fashion Without Fabric

Nick Nelson 

At the end of March, we learned that one of our freshmen aspiring to graduate with a degree in computer science-game design and development, Nicholas “Nick” Nelson, 19, lost his battle March 28 with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Nick was an honors graduate of Mondovi High School and was excited to be at UW-Stout.

Debbie and I attended Nick’s visitation and were very inspired by the large turnout celebrating his life. It was evident that Nick enjoyed the loving support of his family throughout. He had an incredible zest for life and a resolute determination to overcome all the obstacles he faced.

In his short time with us he inspired many people and exemplified a positive outlook on life, despite the roadblocks he faced. It was inspiring to learn more about Nick from his parents, grandparents and others who knew him.

Nick’s parents are extremely grateful that he had a chance to come to UW-Stout and expressed their appreciation for our welcoming staff, especially members of the men’s and women’s volleyball club teams, ASPIRE-Student Support Services and Disability Services.

I was proud to hear Nick’s father, John, express his thankfulness that our staff “adopted Nick” while he was here. I’m genuinely grateful for that as well.

An obituary for Nick is available here.

Great discussion with legislators, Regents; Civil Liberties Symposium coming up; golf partnership formed

I had the pleasure Monday of discussing UW-Stout and higher education issues in Wisconsin with a group of legislators from western Wisconsin and two UW System Board of Regents members during a lunch sponsored by UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls.

The annual event rotates among the three campuses, and this year it was held at the UW-Eau Claire Davies Center. The three chancellors highlighted developments and accomplishments on their campuses over the last year and drew attention to remaining challenges.

I took the opportunity to thank the legislators for approving a 4 percent pay increase for our employees in 2018-19, but I also emphasized the need for continued increases in our salary levels across all employee groups because our salaries lag behind our peers.

Attending were state senators Terry Moulton, a Republican who is retiring, and Democrat Janet Bewley, as well as four state representatives, Republicans Kathy Bernier, Rob Summerfield and Shannon Zimmerman and Democrat Dana Wachs. Regents President John Behling attended, as did newly appointed Regent Jason Plante from Eau Claire.

I appreciated UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt’s hospitality and the opportunity for a great discussion. The event will be hosted by UW-River Falls next year.


Symposium to highlight freedom of expression, civil discourse

There is a lot of talk these days on college campuses about freedom of expression. UW-Stout will be in the spotlight Wednesday and Thursday on this issue as our Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation holds its first Civil Liberties Symposium to encourage civil discourse on sensitive topics.

The center, led by Professor Tim Shiell, will sponsor eight sessions and three keynote speeches on campus. The aim of the symposium, as well as the center, is to bring people with a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints together to debate important topics in a civil manner.

This is a goal I fully support and, frankly, a quality I find lacking in society today. A list of speeches and sessions is available here.  More information on the event is available here. 

Partnership formed with local golf course

I was privileged last week to join Rajiv Lall, managing partner of the Tanglewood Greens golf course in Menomonie, to sign memorandums of understanding aimed at forming a mutually beneficial partnership between the campus and the golf course.

The agreement we signed says: “This is the beginning of a dialogue and not the end of the potential future outcomes.”

The areas where we and the golf course will explore projects include research, education, internships and work experience, events management and a “living laboratory” for soils analysis, turf management, etc.

The partnership will be very beneficial for our golf enterprise management bachelor’s program and other programs as well.

I want to thank Rajiv, who owns Vets Plus with his wife, Swati Lall, for cooperating so well with us on this endeavor. The Lalls have been generous supporters of UW-Stout in the past, and I welcome this new partnership.