Category Archives: Updates

Great musical performances bring joy to holiday season; Regents back pay increase

The holiday season is certainly upon us, and I wanted to say publicly what an enjoyable time my wife, Debbie, and I had on Friday as the Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir presented their annual holiday program, this year entitled Silent Night, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

The program was conducted by Jerry Hui and accompanied by pianist Michaela Gifford. The theme commemorated the centennial of World War I and featured music from the United Kingdom, France and Germany composed during the war.

The program was very well choreographed, and we especially enjoyed the inclusion of the memories from WWI veterans. Deans Bob Salt and Maria Alm also excelled in their readings during the performance.

The event also marked the bicentennial of the composition of the carol “Silent Night.”

I want to compliment everyone who had a hand in this great performance.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Stout Symphonic Band winter concert on Dec. 2. Although I was unable to attend, I have heard many comments from those who attended about the exceptional program that Aaron M. Durst and the performers staged in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

I truly wish I had gotten to hear the Tower Saxophone Quartet and the newly formed polka band as well.

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Holiday reception was a great success

Keeping with the holiday theme, I want to thank everyone who attended the Chancellor’s Holiday Reception last week. I was happy to see the Great Hall packed with students and employees who took some time to celebrate the holiday season and socialize with each other.

The event was a reminder to me of the great students, faculty and staff I have the privilege of working with at UW-Stout.

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Regents approved proposed pay package

In the last blog, I described a proposed pay package that the Board of Regents would consider when they met last week at UW-La Crosse. I am happy to report that the Regents approved that proposal, which will now be sent to the state Department of Administration for possible inclusion in the 2019-21 state budget that Gov.-elect Tony Evers will submit to the Legislature in February.

The proposal calls for a 3 percent increase for all UW employees on July 1, 2019, and another 3 percent increase on July 1, 2020. It also calls for the state to fully fund the increases, rather than each campus picking up 30 percent, as has been the case.

As most people know, Gov.-elect Evers is a Regent, but he did not vote on the package. However, many people believe that he will look favorably on this proposal. We will be doing everything we can to convince our local legislators that this package is incredibly important to our ability to keep and retain quality faculty and staff.

Regents to consider pay package proposal on Thursday; holiday reception is Tuesday

I wanted to share some important news on the compensation front with you before you hear about it in the news media. On Thursday, the Board of Regents will vote on a proposed compensation package for 2019-21 that would increase salaries by 3 percent for all eligible UW employees on July 1, 2019, and another 3 percent on July 1, 2020.

In another important development, the Regents will vote to ask Gov.-elect Evers and the Legislature to pay 100 percent of these increases; historically, each campus was responsible for paying 30 percent of any pay plan increase.

I applaud President Cross and the Regents for aggressively addressing the crying need around the UW for competitive salaries. While these increases would not bring our faculty and staff to parity with their peers, it certainly would help.

If approved by the Regents, I will work with our elected representatives to ensure they know how vital this pay package is for our faculty and staff – and for the quality of education we offer our students. For the last six years, our salary increases have averaged less than 1 percent a year, with no increases in five of the last eight fiscal years. By comparison, in 2017-18 faculty compensation nationally grew by 3 percent.

We have seen the results of noncompetitive increases on our campus, with turnover rates that in the past have exceeded UW System averages. I am happy to report that our turnover rate has stabilized in the last year, but that does not mean we can let up on our efforts to provide competitive salaries for our faculty and staff.

More information on the proposed pay package is available here.

Opening Day

Please join us at the Holiday Reception

I’d also like to personally invite employees to the annual Chancellor’s Holiday Reception that I and my wife, Debbie, are sponsoring from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

Each year, our students, faculty, staff and administrators partner with a local nonprofit to help kids in our area have a happy holiday season. This year’s Holiday Giving Tree supports Christmas Miracle coordinated through the Road 2 Freedom MRO.

If you are interested in donating a gift to a local child, please bring an unwrapped item to the reception.

Chancellor's Holiday Reception

It’s a time to be thankful; special events recognize years of service, retiring employees

As we enter the holiday season at UW-Stout, I want to wish everyone the happiest Thanksgiving possible. I will be spending my holiday with family and friends, and it will be a great time to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for.

While family and health obviously top my list of what I am grateful for, I also know I am blessed by working for an institution that I love that has dedicated, hard-working and innovative students, faculty and staff. While this job has its challenges, I am excited about coming to work every day because of who I get to work with.

UW-Stout has a lot going for it, but our main assets are our students, faculty and staff. So, while I am thankful for many, many things in my life, the ability to serve this campus as chancellor is at the top.

Please have a healthy and safe Thanksgiving.

Event honors employees for their years of service 

How time flies. That was the prevailing sentiment last week in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center as I helped our University Advancement office recognize 98 employees for reaching certain milestones in their years of service to UW-Stout.

One of the employees has served for 40 years, and four have served for 35 years.

During these ceremonies I always stress that UW-Stout is an exceptional place to learn because of our talented, dedicated and supportive faculty and staff. These employees from all over campus make a difference every day in students’ lives, so that’s why it’s an honor to recognize them.

I also want to thank Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons and his staff for organizing a great ceremony.

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Retirement ceremony honors 18 employees 

Last Wednesday we said goodbye to 18 hard-working and dedicated employees who have retired or are retiring from UW-Stout. These employees have served the institution for a total of 312 years, and they will be missed.

The employees come from all parts of campus, from faculty to custodial to accounting, and it was my privilege to thank them during a ceremony in the Memorial Student Center for their services and to wish them well in retirement.

It is always hard saying goodbye to colleagues, but I know that they will enjoy their retirement, which makes it easier.

Fall Retirement Reception

 

Congratulations to the winners of Tuesday’s elections; student voter turnout was impressive

Like most Wisconsin residents, I woke up this morning to learn that Tony Evers, a member of the UW System Board of Regents and state schools superintendent, had squeaked out a victory in his gubernatorial race.

I have gotten to know Gov.-elect Evers well during my four-plus years as chancellor, as well as during my six years as president of the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. I would like to publicly congratulate Gov.-elect Evers on his win and assure him that I and my administration will do everything possible to help him make a successful transition to the governor’s office and to achieve the higher education agenda he lays out.

I also would like to congratulate those who won legislative elections in western Wisconsin, including state Rep. Rob Stafsholt, who represents UW-Stout. I have developed a good working relationship with Rep. Stafsholt during his first term in the Assembly and look forward to working closely with him, and all our local legislators, during the 2019-21 legislative session.

We are heading into a budget year, which means that a lot of our time will be devoted to working with the new governor and legislators to ensure they are aware of our priorities.

Board of Regents

Impressive voter turnout by UW-Stout students

Maybe the biggest winner Tuesday in Wisconsin, however, was the electorate. Nearly 2.7 million people voted Tuesday, a record for a midterm election in Wisconsin.

In Menomonie, voting increased 22.4 percent in Wards 5 and 7, which are dominated by UW-Stout students who vote in the Memorial Student Center. In the 2014 midterm election, 589 votes were cast for governor, and that increased to 721 this year.

IMG_1097A group of students and dedicated faculty members worked tirelessly to increase student voter turnout this year, and it worked. I even got in the act by helping register students to vote on two occasions.

I want to thank and congratulate the Stout Votes! group and everyone who helped increase student voter participation this year. Voting really is democracy in action!

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A fitting tribute for a great leader; Election Day coming; campus forum on the budget

The campus is still talking about the wonderful tribute to the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen that took place Monday as we marked the renaming of Millennium Hall as Sorensen Hall.

We were privileged to host Chancellor Sorensen’s wife, Toni-Poll Sorensen, their three daughters, his two sisters and many other family members as we laughed, cried, told stories and recognized the tremendous accomplishments over 26 years by this campus leader.

During my remarks, I tried to summarize those accomplishments: the Baldrige award, the eStout program, a massive building program and the polytechnic designation. But the most important point I made was the example I found in Chancellor Sorensen of the great role model his life was for how education can radically improve a person’s future. He came from a humble upbringing, and education led him to the chancellor’s office. That is a great example for all of us in higher education.

I also want to thank everyone who helped organize the ceremony. It was a very fitting event for a tremendous leader. Lots more on the event is available here and on the UW-Stout Facebook page.

Sorensen Hall Dedication

Voting is putting democracy into action

I wrote last week about the importance of encouraging our students to register to vote, and this week I got to put those words into action. I sat at a voter registration table in the Memorial Student Center and helped students fill out their registration forms, which they can take with them when they vote Tuesday, Nov. 6.

I also will be at the registration table at noon on Election Day.

I have made a video for a student group, Stout Votes!, explaining what is needed for a student to register to vote. In the video, I discuss the importance of voting. I quoted John F. Kennedy, who once said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I truly believe our right to vote should be exercised by everyone, and in the process we can make a difference.

Louis Dearborn L’Amour, an American novelist and short-story writer, once said: “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”

In other words, our democracy reflects how well we exercise the terrific rights and privileges afforded to us. Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt summed it up best when he stated: “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials but the voters of this country.”

We have the power to make a difference. I hope you join me Tuesday, Nov. 6, to cast your vote as one of the most important ways we contribute to our democracy.

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Forum helps explain budget situation

As most people know, we have seen our enrollment decline for the last two years, which has budget ramifications. Those effects are too complex to go into detail here, which is why we held a 90-minute forum Wednesday to discuss our budget, what is being done to boost our enrollment and what actions might be necessary to meet our fiscal challenges.

I want to assure everyone, as I said at the forum, that no massive budget or position reductions are being planned and that there are preliminary indications that our enrollment problem may be easing.

Vice Chancellor Phil Lyons did a great job of organizing the forum and putting together a presentation that lays out the challenges and possible solutions. Provost Patrick Guilfoile also explained well the enrollment challenges and our efforts to address them.

You can watch the forum here.

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Ceremony on Monday to honor late chancellor; Cabot program featured Subaru exec; vote and help students vote Nov. 6

The campus will take time Monday morning to honor the life, accomplishments and lasting legacy of the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen. We will hold a renaming ceremony in the atrium of Sorensen (formerly Millennium) Hall beginning at 10 a.m., and I really hope that as many students, faculty and staff as possible attend.

Those who will speak include Chancellor Sorensen’s wife, Toni Poll-Sorensen, Regent Mark Tyler, former state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, former Dean John Murphy, vice chancellors Lyons and Parsons, Julie Zack from my office, myself and communications director Doug Mell, who will be master of ceremonies. A reception will follow.

Those who can’t attend can watch via livestream here.  More information is available here.

Sorensen Hall Signs Installed

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Another successful year for the Cabot Executive in Residence

For 34 years, UW-Stout students, faculty and staff have benefited from the Cabot Executive in Residence program, which brings experts from business and industry to campus to share their experiences, advice and good humor.

I was privileged to introduce this year’s executive, Denise Coogan, before her address Wednesday in the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center. I also spent time with Denise at other events.

As manager of Environmental Partnerships for Subaru of America, she described her leadership of the zero landfill effort at the company’s Indiana manufacturing plant. Amazingly, since 2004 the plant has sent no waste to landfills, and Denise described how the initiative was conceived and what steps were necessary to implement and maintain the effort.

She then described her subsequent efforts to bring the zero landfill effort to three national parks.

The Cabot executive program is named in honor of Arthur R. Cabot, a successful pet products manufacturer. His son, Scott Cabot, attended UW-Stout with me and earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in 1978 and a master’s in 1979.

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Please help students register to vote

Nothing is more important to the health and future of our democracy than voting. That is why I am asking everyone at UW-Stout to register to vote and do what they can to encourage our students to do the same.

As public employees, we obviously cannot participate in partisan political activities while at work. But we can, and should, encourage our students to register to vote and to go to the polls. UW-Stout’s Student Life Services has developed a very useful website that answers the questions a student may have about how to register and where to vote.

I feel so strongly about this effort that I will be working at the voter registration table in the Memorial Student Center from 2 to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and from noon to 1 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Free Speech Week a success, with Cabot event coming up; renovations at Price Commons are looking good

Free speech and civil discourse were treated to a full airing at UW-Stout this week with the successful series of forums sponsored by the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation during its annual Free Speech Week.

I had the privilege of moderating a very interesting, and lively, panel that included a former biology professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., Bret Weinstein, who challenged a day of racial segregation and faced backlash, including having to hold classes off campus because university police could not guarantee his safety. The other panelists were Damon Sajnani, of UW-Madison African Cultural Studies, and John Sharpless, co-director of the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at UW-Madison.

Student Free Speech in the UW was another topic on Tuesday at a panel that included Jim Manley, senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute, co-author of a model policy used by the regents; Coltan Schoenike, who is studying for a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at UW-Stout and opposed the policy’s adoption; and Casey Mattox, senior fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, who influences free speech policy and practice at a think tank. Doug Mell, UW-Stout executive director of University Communications and External Relations, moderated the session.

Other session topics included Debating Hate Speech and the First Amendment; and Free Speech and Originalist Jurisprudence.

I want to commend the center and director Timothy Shiell for excellent Free Speech Week activities and showing everyone that civil discourse about weighty and controversial issues is still possible in our society and on our campus. 

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Price Commons renovations impressive

I toured the renovations underway at Merle M. Price Commons, and they were very impressive. The first floor is being completely redone, including a new layout and an updated look to better serve our students and staff.

The work, which began in May and is expected to be completed in December 2019, includes upgrading the fire suppression, mechanical and electrical systems; renovating all four main entrances and patio; adding new exterior windows and sills; and remodeling offices and areas including SLS Tech, University Dining Administration, the Qube, Mini-Mart, and the Glass Lounge.

Price Commons is open during the renovations, which is important because the main dining hall, renovated previously, is on the second floor.

I want to thank Malinda Hebert, Student Centers assistant director, and our Facilities Management staff for arranging the tour. I look forward to another tour when the project is completed. More information on the renovation is available here.

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Please attend Cabot Executive in Residence address

I also want to encourage everyone to attend the 2018 Cabot Executive in Residence address from 10:10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the student center ballrooms. The address is by Denise Coogan, of Subaru of America.

Coogan, a champion of sustainability, women’s leadership and cultural sensitivity, also will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in numerous activities, classes and meetings from Tuesday through Thursday.

Faculty are encouraged to invite students to participate.

Denise Coogan Photo