A hectic and inspiring week before commencement

The week before graduation always has a frenetic feel to it, and this week was no exception. While the constant motion can be a bit tiring, I come away energized by the privilege of meeting so many exceptional students, faculty and staff.

McNair scholars go on to graduate studies 

On Monday I attended a special event for the McNair scholars who are graduating from this federally sponsored program, which aims to help first-generation and underrepresented students prepare for graduate studies.

Those attending the luncheon heard inspiring stories about students who will be attending medical school and graduate school to achieve their lofty dreams.

I want to thank Sarah Wynn, the McNair program director at UW-Stout, and her staff for running an excellent program and putting on a fantastic concluding event. mcnairphoto

Athletic Department gives out honors 

On Tuesday night I had the privilege of attending Athletics’ annual Senior Honors Night in the Memorial Student Center, where 84 seniors were honored.

Football offensive lineman Caleb Adams was honored as the male athlete of the year and basketball player Bailey Diersen as the female athlete of the year. Gymnastics Assistant Coach Seth Helland received the assistant coach of the year award.

Jessica DuVal received the WMG Humanitarian Award sponsored by the Waznik Moseler Group, which recognizes student-athletes who put sports into proper perspective, who encompass teamwork, campus and community in their everyday lives and put others ahead of themselves.

Gymnast Shadae Boone received the play of the year award, the gymnastics team was named the team of the year and the volleyball team received the game performance award.

I was very surprised and honored to receive an award of thanks from Athletic Director Duey Naatz.  UW-Stout Seniors Honor Night 2019

Leadership awards bring back memories 

On Wednesday night I joined my friend and fellow alumnus Scott Cabot at the UW-Stout Leadership Awards ceremony in the MSC. I gave a welcome and talked about my undergraduate days at UW-Stout.

Many students were recognized with awards, but the one that always holds a special place in my heart is the Samuel E. Wood Medallion Award. I received the medallion 40-some years ago during my undergraduate days at UW-Stout. The award honors the life and accomplishments of Sam Wood, who I knew as UW-Stout’s dean of students and adviser to the Stout Student Association. (With Sam’s help, I was able to work with the former state Elections Board to make it easier for students to register to vote.)

The medallion reminds me to try to lead like Sam Wood and to honor the “code of leadership” that signifies the medallion honorees.SamWood winners

Bestow the stole 

Last week I participated in the annual Bestow the Stole event sponsored by the Honors College. Each graduate receives a stole to wear during their respective commencement exercises.

I always take time to thank everyone who has helped these exceptional students get to this point of their academic careers, including their parents and other family members and their faculty mentors. I want to thank professors Chris Ferguson and Tom Pearson for their work with the Honors College. More on the Honors College is available here.

Commencement is Saturday 

On Saturday, I give my final commencement address as chancellor during three ceremonies in Johnson Fieldhouse. We will publish the text of the speech next week in this blog, but as a preview I discuss some of the life lessons I have learned in my personal and professional journey and do a little looking back on my time at UW-Stout, which will always be a special place for me and my family.

I certainly hope that as many faculty and staff as possible can attend one of the three ceremonies. More information is available here.

Willie Johnson assumes role of vice chancellor of Advancement and Alumni Relations 

I was pleased on Wednesday to welcome our newest administrator, Willie Johnson, who took over as vice chancellor of Advancement and Alumni Relations. Willie has been in higher education as a fundraiser since 1982, and I am sure that he will fit in well with the excellent staff that former Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons brought to the Louis Smith Tainter House.

If you see Willie on campus please introduce yourself and make him feel welcome.Willie_Johnson

A full week of advocacy efforts, from River Falls to South Hall to the Capitol

I had the opportunity to speak to a number of state officials in the last week to emphasize the importance of some items in Gov. Evers’ 2019-21 state budget.

Speaking to the Joint Finance Committee  

On Monday, April 15, Provost Patrick Guilfoile and I testified before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee during its hearing at UW-River Falls. We split up the issues to ensure that our major points would be addressed.

I spoke to the committee about the importance of the capacity building initiative developed by the UW System Board of Regents and supported by Gov. Evers. The initiative would add faculty in computer science, computer networking and applied mathematics; expand our engineering programs; and allow our Career Services Office to create more internship and co-op experiences.

I also asked them to support the $35 million proposal to renovate our South Hall residence hall, which was the first residence hall I called home at UW-Stout in 1975! The project is in Gov. Evers’ 2019-21 capital budget, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that it receives Joint Finance Committee and full Legislature support.

Provost Guilfoile then spoke eloquently about the need to pass Gov. Evers’ proposed pay package, which would give our employees 2 percent increases on Jan. 1, 2020, and on Jan. 1, 2021. Patrick pointed out that because we are so close to the Minnesota border, it is easy for institutions there to try to recruit our faculty and staff because of the disparity in salary levels.

Also, Patrick said, our faculty and staff often work in fields that are in high demand both in academia and in business and industry, which makes attracting and retaining quality employees that much harder.

Besides approving the pay package, Patrick said, it is important for the Legislature to provide full funding for it. In the past we have paid for 30 percent of that package, essentially through tuition increases. But the freeze on tuition means that source of funding is not available, so it is important that any pay package is fully funded by the state.  

Hosting Gov. Evers on campus 

Then on Tuesday, Gov. Evers made his first visit to campus as governor to promote the South Hall project. Patrick and I spoke at a news conference, as well as Vice Chancellor Lyons and, of course, the governor.

But I think the star of the show was Hannah Bragelman, outgoing president of the Stout Student Association and one of the finest student leaders I have ever worked with. Hannah emphasized that the South Hall project is in keeping with the devotion that UW-Stout students have to sustainability because renovating a facility is much easier on the environment than razing the building and constructing a new residence hall.

Plus, Hannah said, a renovation of South Hall would help keep students’ housing fees as low as possible. Hannah also did a great job in advocating for the governor’s 2-plus-2 pay package, saying salary levels in the UW System are not competitive with our peers.

I was happy to help give Gov. Evers and his staff a tour of South Hall, where he got to see firsthand just how badly the hall needs to be updated. It was clear that little had been done to the building since I lived there in the 1970s. Gov. Evers said he really enjoyed his visit and promised to make a return trip soon.

A story about Gov. Evers’ visit is available here. A video and photos from the University Communications staff is available on the UW-Stout Facebook page.


Joining student researchers in the Capitol Rotunda 

Finally, I was happy to join Provost Guilfoile in Madison to visit various legislative offices as part of the annual UW System Research in the Rotunda Day. We brought a remarkable group of students to the Capitol to display their research, and we enjoyed hearing about their projects. A news release on those project is available here.

We also had a chance to sit with a number of legislators to discuss our 2019-21 state budget priorities and fill them in on recent developments at UW-Stout, including our recent announcement of the 98.7 percent employment rate for 2017-18 graduates.

We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure our budget priorities are included in the 2019-21 state budget that passes the Legislature and is signed by the governor


Chancellor search process officially starts Wednesday 

Wednesday is the official start of the search process to select the eighth chancellor of UW-Stout. The search and screen committee established to recruit the next chancellor will meet on campus Wednesday. A list of committee members is available here.

As most people know, I have announced that I am retiring as of Aug. 18. Provost Guilfoile will serve as interim chancellor until the next chancellor takes office next year.

A number of listening sessions will be held Wednesday to help the committee write the chancellor prospectus, which is a job announcement that contains additional information about the university and community. It is important that the committee and the search firm helping the committee hear from a diverse group of campus members in putting that prospectus together.

Details on the listening sessions are available here. Please try to make at least one of these sessions to ensure your voice is heard.

State Science Olympiad held at UW-Stout again; impact, opportunity with chancellor search

Last Friday I had the privilege of giving welcome remarks to the hundreds of participants and their families for the Wisconsin Science Olympiad held at UW-Stout. As an engineer, I know how important it is to interest students in the STEM fields as early as possible, and the Science Olympiad is a great way to do that.

The tournament director was our own Forrest Schultz, a professor in the physics and chemistry department, and 150 or so volunteers from the campus community helped put on the event. We were privileged to have state Sen. Patty Schachtner on campus Saturday to help present the awards.

This is the ninth time we have hosted the competition, and we held the national event in 2016. Details on the event and the winners are available here. A news story is available here.

Visioning Session delayed a year

We previously announced that we would hold a Visioning Session this July to start work on the next version of our strategic plan. However, given my recent retirement announcement, we have decided to delay the Visioning Session for a year.

That delay will give the next chancellor the opportunity to participate with the session.

I had the opportunity to participate with the 2014 Visioning Session, although I had not formally taken office, and found it extremely valuable as we fashioned the current strategic plan. That is why I decided it’s best to delay the next round of planning for a year.

Please apply to be on chancellor search and screen committee

With spring break coming, I would like to remind the campus community that the deadline is approaching to apply to be on the search committee that will help pick the next UW-Stout chancellor.

Please use this link to nominate yourself or a colleague by Monday, April 1, to serve on the committee, which will include two faculty members, one staff representative from the institution, one student and one community and/or alumni member.

After the committee membership is determined, the group will lead campus listening sessions that inform development of a position description to be finalized by early May. After candidates submit applications during the summer months, the committee will reconvene early in the fall semester to recommend semifinalists.

The Board of Regents anticipates that a new chancellor will be identified and selected by early December.

Have a great spring break

Can spring break really be here? The spring semester always seems to fly by, and this year is no different. I want to wish our students and employees a great spring break next week.

For those of you who are traveling, I hope you stay safe and enjoy your time away from campus. I intend to be away most of the week and recharge my batteries because the pace of activities picks up considerably as we head to commencement May 4.

Thanks for the good wishes, to those filling important interim positions

I wanted to take a moment to publicly thank everyone who has extended their best wishes to me and my wife, Debbie, after I announced last week that I am retiring on Aug. 18 after working at UW-Stout for 32 years.

These last five years as chancellor have been extraordinary for me and my family, so it obviously is bittersweet as I start down the road to retirement. I am fully committed, however, to remaining as active as ever as chancellor until my last day and look forward to continuing to make progress on the important issues and initiatives we are facing: the Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign, the state budget and employee pay plan, enrollment, etc.Registering to Vote

I also want to thank Provost Patrick Guilfoile for agreeing to serve as interim chancellor after I leave and for Associate Vice Chancellor Glendali Rodriguez agreeing to serve as interim provost. These are strong and capable leaders who will ensure that the future of UW-Stout remains bright.

Senior ShowFinally, I want to encourage as many people as possible to apply to serve on the search committee that UW System will establish to find the eighth chancellor in UW-Stout’s history. The committee will need two faculty members, either an academic staff or university staff member, a student and a community member or alumni member. Please use this link to nominate yourself or a colleague by April 1 to serve on the committee.

UW System President Ray Cross has said that the Board of Regents would like to have a new chancellor appointed at the Regents meeting in December, so the process will move along rapidly.

Again, this has been a very emotional time for Debbie and me as we contemplate this next phase of our lives. But we will always remain devoted Blue Devils!

Governor’s budget proposal a good first step; gymnast shines; wishing Mark Parsons the best

In advance of his formal budget introduction Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers has released the outline of his 2019-21 proposal for the UW System. The budget includes a $43.69 million funding increase for 2019-20 and another $65.99 million increase for the second year of the biennium.

The governor also wants the UW System to get $40.4 million over the biennium to pay for its share of a proposed pay increase: a 2 percent increase on July 1; and another 2 percent on July 1, 2020.

Of the new money, UW-Stout would benefit from a $45 million increase for so-called “capacity building” initiatives. UW-Stout has submitted a proposal, in excess of $800,000, to add faculty in computer science, computer networking and applied mathematics; expand engineering programs; and allow our Career Services office to create more internship and co-op experiences.

The campus also would share in a $50.4 million allocation to replace money that would be lost by continuing the tuition freeze for another two years. The budget proposal can be viewed here.

These are positive proposals for UW-Stout and the UW System, and I thank Gov. Evers for making the UW System a priority in his first budget. However, we know that these proposals are just the first step in the state budget process. I and two other UW-Stout representatives were in the Capitol last Wednesday as part of the Chippewa Valley Rally and had a chance to discuss our budget priorities with various legislators from both parties.

The governor’s proposal certainly aligns with those priorities. We will continue to make the case with legislators for increased wages for our faculty and staff and additional funding to ensure that we continue to provide a quality education for our students. We also will keep the campus informed as the budget process unwinds this year.

Gymnast accomplishes a first

I wanted to bring to your attention an amazing feat accomplished last Friday by UW-Stout gymnast Shadae Boone. Competing at UW-La Crosse, she scored at 9.60 by becoming the second-ever Division III gymnast to complete the Yurchenko layout 1 ½. She also was selected as the WIAC gymnastics specialist of the week for the second time this season.

I’m not going to try to convince you I know anything about gymnastics — my daughters were swimmers in high school — but given the viral reaction on social media to this accomplishment, I know it is something for the ages.

I highly recommend you go to our Facebook page and watch the vault for yourself!

UW-Stout Blue Devils Gymnastics vs. Winona St.

A fitting send-off for Mark Parsons

We held a grand party Friday for Mark Parsons, who is retiring as our vice chancellor for Advancement and University Marketing. His last day on campus is Tuesday.

I am pleased so many people stopped by at the Louis Smith Tainter House to congratulate Mark on his retirement and to thank him for his exceptional service to the campus. I certainly want to echo those sentiments and wish Mark and his wife Kathy all the best in retirement.



Bittersweet trip with Vice Chancellor Parsons; state budget work to begin

Last week I had the privilege of spending some time in Florida with Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons, development officer Brenda Thompson and Bob Salt, dean of the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences. We were visiting benefactors, who we hope will help us contribute to our students’ success and reach our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign goal.

It was a bittersweet trip for me because it was the final one I will take with Mark, who is retiring as of April 1 and will be on campus for the last time Feb. 26. Mark and I have spent many, many hours traveling together as we met with benefactors all over the state and country, and I can’t say enough about his amazing relationship-building and fundraising prowess.

It all starts with his ability to make whoever we are meeting with feel comfortable and appreciated. He truly listens to what these benefactors hope to accomplish through their generosity to the university. Mark also has been invaluable in providing me with advice on a range of issues involving advancement, marketing, alumni relations and many other topics.

No matter how serious the issue, Mark always remains calm, thoughtful and caring. He also has a great sense of humor. I will miss him greatly, as will the rest of the campus.Mark Parsons

We are planning to honor Mark’s career at UW-Stout from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Friday in the Louis Smith Tainter House.  It would be great to see a big turnout to thank Mark for his services to UW-Stout.

I’m also happy with the progress that has been made in finding a successor for Mark in the newly reconfigured role of Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Alumni Relations. An announcement about the finalists went out to campus last Friday. More information is available here.

I want to thank Chair Maria Alm and the search committee for their efforts and Julie Zack of my office, who is providing staff support for the committee.

Debate over the state budget about to begin

The debate over the 2019-21 state budget is about to enter overdrive, with Gov. Evers set to release his first budget at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28. The first-term governor has been trickling out some details, as most previous governors have done, but few concerning the UW budget.

We will get information about the budget to campus as soon as possible after it is released.

University Communications again is hosting a state budget web page to keep the campus informed of developments. On the site, you can find our budget priorities for 2019-21. Increasing compensation for faculty and staff remains our No. 1 goal.

I will be joined by other UW-Stout administrators Wednesday in the state Capitol for the Chippewa Valley Rally, where we will have a chance to discuss our priorities with legislators and other elected officials in advance of the budget’s introduction.

Gymnastics team leaps to top national ranking

How great is this? The UW-Stout women’s gymnastics team has vaulted (a little gymnastics humor!) to the No. 1 ranking in the entire country for Division III teams. The team’s accomplishments were highlighted in today’s Leader-Telegram. You can read the story here.  All too often, sports like gymnastics get overshadowed by sports that draw a bigger audience, like football and basketball. But this team, coached by Becky Beaulieu, has done something that apparently no other UW-Stout team has done: achieved a No. 1 national ranking.  Layne Pitt, our sports information director, said we have had teams that have been ranked highly, but to his knowledge, this is the first time a team has gone to No. 1. Coach Beaulieu said in the newspaper story that this success was somewhat unexpected, but added, “it’s really a tribute to a group of 19 women that are so hungry and have so much trust in each other and in the program. They’ve really worked their tails off.”  You can catch this amazing team in action tonight during the UW-Stout John Zuerlein Invitational.  The WIAC Championship meet also is at UW-Stout’s Johnson Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 9.  More information is available at the gymnastics website.  I’d like to personally congratulate Coach Beaulieu and her entire team for making us all Stout Proud!20190116_gym_ww_dick_0449

Thanks to everyone who helped out during our cold weather

I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to everyone who worked in very difficult conditions this week to keep our campus open and our students well taken care of.  We obviously had to deal with bitterly cold conditions, so extreme that we were forced to cancel classes for two days in a row (apparently the first time we have done that in modern history). We certainly weren’t alone: Every other campus in the UW System either cancelled classes or closed the campus entirely. We made the decision to keep the campus open, however, and I want to thank everyone who made life as comfortable and safe as possible for our students, employees and guests. This long list includes our facilities, dining, housing, student centers, public safety and many, many others.  Thanks again!Campus Snow