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

New academic year kicks off; progress on salaries, Pathways Forward, enrollment

Welcome back to a new academic year. I hope you had a chance to relax a little during the winter break. I also hope you were able to attend the event Monday when I reviewed the accomplishments of 2018 and took a peek at 2019.

The subsequent You Said…We Did event organized by Assistant Chancellor Meridith Wentz also was enlightening and amazing.

I would like to emphasize some points I made Monday:a19a0477

Salaries continue to be my priority

Although our employees received a 4.04 percent salary increase in 2018-19, we will continue to press Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature for additional pay raises. I will make salaries – and the Board of Regents’ proposal to raise salaries by 3 percent in 2019 and 3 percent in 2020 – my highest priority in our advocacy efforts.

I plan to be at the Capitol in Madison on Wednesday, Jan. 30, for the Chippewa Valley Rally and will discuss this issue with as many legislators as I can.

Fundraising campaign off to a great start

I couldn’t be happier with how well our Pathways Forward comprehensive fundraising campaign is progressing. We have raised, as of Dec. 31, almost $34 million of our $35 million goal, and we are well on our way to accomplishing our aspirational goal of $40 million.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to consider participating in the campaign. No gift is too small to make a difference.

While many, many people have contributed to the success of this campaign, I want to again thank Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons for all he has done for the foundation and for UW-Stout. Mark will be leaving campus for the last time on Feb. 26 for a well-deserved retirement, and he will be missed greatly.Pathways Forward Campaign

Enrollment shows improvement

I spent some time during my remarks updating the campus on enrollment. After two years of decline, I am happy to report that so far in this recruitment cycle the number of new freshmen we have admitted is up almost 300 from last year and up 28 from 2017.

That is an impressive improvement, and I want to thank the dedicated employees in Enrollment and Retention Services and in University Marketing for their efforts. But I also want to thank all of you because, as I said Monday, keeping our enrollment healthy is everyone’s responsibility. So, thank you and keep up the good work.Students on Campus

Best wishes to a new governor for a successful administration

I also had the privilege of being invited to Gov. Evers’ inauguration event on Jan. 7. I attended, along with a number of other chancellors and UW System President Ray Cross. I have known the new governor for a long time, given his tenure as secretary of the Department of Public Instruction and as a member of the Board of Regents. I have indicated to the governor that I will do everything I can to help him and his administration achieve their goals.

Finally, please accept my sincere thanks for all you did in 2018 to make UW-Stout such an amazing place to learn and to work. I hope that 2019 is great for you and your family.

Fitting honor at commencement for important mentor; mark Jan. 14 on calendar; marketing students impress

In everyone’s professional career, there are people who play a key role in shaping your direction and helping you become the best you can be. I have been very fortunate to have had a number of these valuable mentors and role models over the years.

Last Saturday at our afternoon commencement exercise, I was thrilled to bestow an honorary Doctor of Science degree on former UW-Stout instructor Larry Schneider of Colfax. I am not going to go into everything that Larry did for either me or UW-Stout during his illustrious career, which ended with his retirement in 1997. You can read about that career here.

However, Larry was instrumental in starting UW-Stout down the road toward the engineering programs offered today and helping establish the Stout Technology Transfer Institute.

I also told the graduates that without the privilege of working with Larry, I might not be the chancellor of this proud institution. I used my commencement speech to draw lessons from how Larry lived and taught, including his desire to help others. “He really lifted up the people around him,” I told the graduates.

For those who were unable to attend the ceremony and would like to watch it, go here. Lots of great commencement photos and a video from University Communications are available on our Facebook page, or find it all in the commencement digital newsletter.

I also would like to thank Britta Miller, the commencement coordinator, and everyone else involved in the commencement effort for making it a success. By the way, Britta received a master’s degree at the exercise she planned. You can read that story here.

Please attend my welcome address and You Said … We Did in January

I hope everyone on campus will be able to attend my welcome back address and our annual You Said … We Did presentation from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. We will open with my annual welcome address and then transition to the You Said … We Did session.

Information will be presented on actions that already are underway, or are ready to be taken, based on the feedback we received from campus at the fall Engagement Sessions. Organizers are saying the feedback “will feature a fresh approach that you don’t want to miss.”

Individuals and teams who helped make these accomplishments possible will be recognized. It is important to note that in 2019 we will begin the next phase in our planning process, with a visioning session in the summer.

More on You Said … We Did is available here. More information about January Professional Development is available here.

Marketing students’ project benefits Bridge to Hope

I love this time of year because there are so many opportunities to see our students report on projects they’ve completed. I’m always amazed by what our students accomplish and proud of the support our faculty and staff provide to facilitate their learning and success.

This past week I saw Kevin McDonald’s marketing students present their ideas to better market and brand the Bridge to Hope. The Bridge to Hope provides vital support to victims of domestic abuse (and my wife serves on the Bridge to Hope board).

I was really proud of the ideas that Kevin’s students presented to the Bridge to Hope board to help improve marketing and branding. The students’ ideas were terrific, innovative, well-researched and very well-presented. Consequently, the students’ proposals were very well-received by the board.

I want to thank Kevin, as well as all our faculty and staff, for their very effective work helping our students grow and learn. Those efforts are highly valued and greatly appreciated.

Happy holidays and thanks for a great 2018

This is my final blog for 2018, and I want to end it with my best wishes for students, faculty, staff, alumni and other stakeholders to have a very happy holiday season and a great new year.

My family and I will be taking some time away from campus to reconnect and to regroup for 2019. I hope that you also have the opportunity to recharge. Thanks to everyone for their good work and good cheer and for being the best group of colleagues a chancellor could wish for.

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