Commencement time already? Holiday reception, military ball enjoyable, inspiring

Is it just me, or did that semester seem to fly by?  It is hard to believe that we will be holding our commencement ceremonies Saturday already. I want to take this opportunity to encourage as many of our faculty and staff as possible to attend the ceremonies to wish our graduates well as they begin the next phase of their lives. I also want to thank our students, faculty and staff for a tremendous semester; your hard work and dedication is unmatched in the UW System, and I am proud to call you my colleagues.  Next week’s blog will have a full report on commencement, including a text of my address.  This year’s address also will include something that has never been tried before.  I’m not going to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.  You can read more on our commencement exercises here.

Spring Commencement

Holiday reception a time to catch up 

Speaking of the holidays, I sure enjoyed spending last Tuesday afternoon with many friends, old and new, at the annual holiday reception my office sponsors in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.  My wife Debbie and I enjoyed fantastic food, catered by Dining Services, along with music, under the direction of Aaron M. Durst, and the annual holiday giving tree.  A photo album of the event is available here.

Chancellor's Holiday Reception

 Military Ball an inspiring event 

Then at the end of the week Debbie and I had the privilege of attending the annual Reserve Officers Training Corp Military Ball in the Great Hall, sponsored by the Northwoods Army ROTC Battalion.  The ball recognizes the cadets who will be graduating this year, as well as their achievements.  The battalion consists of cadets from UW-Stout, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stevens Point.  The speaker was retired Lt. Col. Scott Bolstad, who was in charge of the UW-Stout ROTC program before leaving to join the staff of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.  I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with Scott and he gave an inspirational address to the cadets and the audience.  Scott did an outstanding job establishing our ROTC program during the years I served as dean of the former College of Technology, Engineering and Management.  He established an excellent program that now enjoys solid leadership under Lt. Col. Jessen Johnson.

Regents act after SSA resolution on performance metrics 

Finally, I would like to commend the Stout Student Association, under the leadership of President Alex Vernon, for their initiative in asking the UW System Board of Regents last week to amend a set of metrics the UW System will use to allocate $26.25 million in performance-based funding approved by the Legislature in the 2017-19 state budget.  The SSA asked the Regents to include a metric for post-graduation employment in the allocation proposal. The board then amended its original resolution and asked UW System administrators “to develop means to appropriately measure the job placement rate for each University of Wisconsin institution, gather that data on job placement rates for each institution and then evaluate the quality of the data.”  The resolution further states that a decision should be made by 2020 on “the utility of such data in outcomes-based funding models.”   The SSA should be very proud of its efforts on this and other system-wide issues this semester.  Officials in Madison are listening!


Holiday season means seasonal events on campus 

The calendar has flipped to December, and we officially are in the holiday season. This means several events will be happening on campus to get us in the holiday spirit.

Through my attendance at these events in the past, I know they are great performances that immerse you in the spirit of the season. I hope you have the chance to participate.

  • The Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir will sing at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 910 9th St. E. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance at the Memorial Student Center, online and at the door before the concert. Jerry Hui, UW-Stout choral director and an associate professor, said the concert will capture in music the struggles of establishing a home, the longing for a home past or future and the celebration of a new home. More information is available here.

Winter Band Concert

  • Then on Sunday, Dec. 3, the Symphonic Band, under the direction of Associate Professor Aaron M. Durst, will perform its annual winter concert at 2 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. Tickets are $5 and are available online, at the Service Center in the Memorial Student Center, 715-232-1122, and at the door. Aaron said the band will perform works that the students have been working on this fall and feature some unique sounds. To help celebrate the approaching holidays, the band will also perform “Russian Christmas Music” by Alfred Reed, based on an ancient Russian Christmas carol; “Christmas Travelogue” featuring Christmas themes from many countries arranged by James Curnow; and closing with “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson. More information is available here.

    Winter Band Concert

  • For an ethnic view of the holidays, I would recommend the 11th annual Hmong New Year celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Multipurpose Room in Johnson Fieldhouse/Sports and Fitness Center. While general admission is $5, UW-Stout students, faculty, staff and children 5 and under are free. Student artwork will be presented, and there will be performances in the afternoon and evening as well. The event is hosted by the Hmong Stout Student Organization. More information is available here.

Hmong New Year

I also want to make sure students, faculty and staff are aware of the annual Chancellor’s Holiday Reception from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, in the Great Hall. This is a great time to spend time with friends and colleagues, while enjoying some refreshments. Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off for the annual Holiday Giving Tree that supports Dunn County’s Christmas for Kids program. Individuals may choose to provide a gift to a specific child by registering at the reception or at Holiday Giving Tree/Christmas for Kids 2017.

Chancellor's Holiday Reception

Please take the time to attend one or all of these events. You won’t be disappointed!

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving; employees recognized 

As we enter the holiday season at UW-Stout, I want to wish everyone the happiest Thanksgiving possible. I will be flying to Houston with my wife and older daughter to spend the weekend with my youngest daughter.

I hope that you have time as well to spend with family and friends. I know that I also will be reflecting on all that I can be grateful for.

I was asked by University Communications to videotape a Thanksgiving message for our Facebook page. This is what I said:

I am thankful that UW-Stout has a staff that is focused on continuing James Huff Stout’s vision of preparing students for their future careers. Our 97.4 percent placement rate is evidence that the dedicated efforts of our staff to realize this vision and our mission is working.

I’m grateful for the work that our program directors do listening to our employers to make sure our programs are responsive to their needs and prepare students to hit the ground running.

All of these efforts take resources, and I’m grateful that our state leadership has provided us with a better budget this biennium that supports our work as we transform lives. This budget also provides for a raise package that is long overdue and recognizes our staff for their hard work.

I am also genuinely appreciative of all of our alumni and donors who also help support our students and our efforts to prepare them for future careers. 

I am thankful to the citizens of Menomonie who make our campus community both safe and welcoming to all of our students.

Recently, we were recognized by the UW System for our staff’s efforts to make our veterans more successful on campus. I’m grateful for these efforts and also very appreciative of our veterans and those in uniform who have committed themselves to protecting our freedoms.

Finally, I’m grateful for our own protective services personnel who work to make our campus safe day in and day out.

To all of our staff, students, and community members, I wish you a very happy 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 104 employees who were honored for reaching certain milestones in their years of service to UW-Stout.

Three of the employees have served for 40 years, and five have served for 35 years. I proudly joined seven others in receiving a pin for 30 years of service. As I said in announcing the years of service awards:

UW-Stout is an exceptional place to learn because of our talented, dedicated and supportive faculty and staff. They make a difference every day in students’ lives, so it’s an honor to recognize our employees for their many years of service.

I also want to thank Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons and his staff for organizing a great ceremony. More information is available here.


UW restructuring approved; VETS certification; 10 retirees honored

As most of you have heard by now, the UW System Board of Regents last Thursday approved a sweeping restructuring of the UW System that will bring the two-year campuses under the operation of four-year campuses and shift the administration of UW-Extension departments to either UW-Madison or System administration.

UW-Stout was not chosen to receive a two-year campus, so our direct impact of this restructuring is minimal. However, I have said publicly a number of times and want to reiterate here that we will do everything in our power to ensure that we retain our recruiting presence at UW-Barron County and other campuses during and after this transition period.

We recruit, on average, about 100 students a year from all of the two-year campuses, about a quarter of whom come from UW-Barron County. In comparison, we recruit three times as many students from the technical colleges in Wisconsin.

The UW System has established a steering committee made up of one member from each campus and System staff. I have asked Doug Mell, executive director of Communications and External Relations, to represent me on the committee. He will use his communications position to ensure that the campus is informed of important developments in the implementation of this restructuring and to help me ensure that our transfer pipeline is maintained.

Please let me or Doug know if you have questions or concerns about the restructuring plan. More information is available here.

 UW-Stout achieves UW VETS certification

Also at the Regents meeting Thursday, I was honored to join Eric Konsela, our associate registrar, in a ceremony honoring the campus for achieving UW VETS — Veterans Education and Transition to Success — certification.

To be VETS certified, a campus must go above and beyond in providing a wide range of critical supportive services, including counseling, a welcoming campus environment and giving student veterans a voice in university life. The certification also recognizes each institution’s commitment to helping student veterans succeed.

It was especially fitting that the ceremony occurred just two days before Veterans Day and the certificates were handed out by UW System President Ray Cross, who served our country in Vietnam in the U.S. Army.

Earlier this year, UW-Stout was named a national Military Friendly School, a Best for Vets School and a Top Military School.

My father was an Army veteran who served in World War II, and I am proud of the way our institution responds to the needs of the brave men and women who give so much of themselves defending the freedoms that we enjoy each day. More information is available here.

Retirement ceremony honors 10 employees 

Last Wednesday we said goodbye to 10 hard-working and dedicated employees who have retired or are retiring from UW-Stout. These employees have served the institution for a total of 216 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.


Front row from left, David Fly, engineering and technology; Jo Anderson, STEMM; Ann Zielieke, Stout Online; and Judy Gifford, Child and Family Study Center. Second row, Diana Nutter, Custodial Services; Julie Bower, communication technologies; and Brad Nasset, Discovery Center. Back row, Rodriguez; Elvin Newhouse, Custodial Services; and Meyer.

Blue Devils make UW-Stout proud in game at Kohl Center

Heart and determination were on display Sunday in the Kohl Center in Madison as the Blue Devils men’s basketball team took on the Wisconsin Badgers in an exhibition game in front of more than 17,000 fans.

The Blue Devils might have lost 85-56, but it was relatively close at halftime, 41-28, and the players never quit right up to the final horn. It had to be a huge thrill for our players to take the court against the Badgers, who recently played for a national championship.

UW-Stout Coach Eddie Andrist commented after the game, “What an honor to come in here and play the Badgers.”

My wife, Debbie, and I joined several other alumni and UW-Stout staff at the game to cheer on our Blue Devils.

The game was part of a fundraising campaign initiated by Badgers Coach Greg Gard and his wife, Michelle, after Coach Gard’s father died of brain cancer.

We were honored earlier this fall to host two Garding Against Cancer events on campus, and I want to thank Coach Gard, Michelle and the entire Badgers organization for involving UW-Stout in this effort.

Coach Gard said after the game, “Hopefully we can continue to raise awareness and help the state of Wisconsin through our efforts.”

More information is available here.


UW-Stout was on grand display last week 

Two events last Thursday and Friday helped spread the message of the tremendous ways UW-Stout contributes to the economy and the workforce of northern Wisconsin and the entire state.

Todd Wanek gives an inspiring Cabot Executive in Residence presentation 

On Thursday I had the privilege of welcoming alumnus Todd Wanek back to campus as part of the Cabot Executive in Residence program. Todd is president and CEO of Ashley Furniture in Arcadia, and he spent a large part of his presentation talking about what his industrial technology (now engineering technology) degree 30 years ago meant to him and how UW-Stout is poised to help Ashley remain in the forefront of the furniture business.

The ballrooms were packed in the Memorial Student Center, and Todd certainly didn’t disappoint the crowd with his presentation, which emphasized the company’s need to stay ahead of the competition by harnessing existing and emerging technology. He also emphasized that Ashley Furniture’s success will depend on continuing to find the right talent for the future.


During a tour that I helped lead, Todd and his father, Ron Wanek, Ashley founder and board chairman, were especially interested in how UW-Stout can help Ashley employ robotics in their plants.

Todd Wanek was a perfect example of the kind of speaker we seek for the Cabot program, now in its 33rd year. It is named in honor of Arthur R. Cabot, a successful pet products manufacturer. His son, Scott Cabot, earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in 1978 and a master’s in 1979. More information on Todd Wanek’s presentation is available here.


Bob’s Cervenka’s life and vision celebrated on Friday 

On Friday the campus celebrated the life and accomplishments of Robert F. Cervenka when we dedicated the new School of Engineering in his name. Bob, the plastics pioneer who founded Phillips Plastics, and his wife, Debbie Cervenka, have been incredibly generous to UW-Stout over the years.

Inclement weather prevented Debbie from joining us for the ceremony, but she watched via livestream from the Memorial Student Center. Debbie prepared some fantastic remarks, read by a close family friend, that showed how valuable UW-Stout and our graduates were to Phillips Plastics as Bob was building the business.

Although the Cervenkas eventually sold Phillips Plastics, the Robert F. Cervenka School of Engineering will stand forever as a reminder of Bob and Debbie’s lifetime of contributions to UW-Stout. You can watch the event here.  More information on the ceremony is available here.


Football team on three-game winning streak 

Finally, I want to once again congratulate our outstanding football team, led by Coach Clayt Birmingham, for its convincing win Saturday night over UW-Eau Claire. That is three wins in a row for the Blue Devils, who face a tough UW-La Crosse squad Saturday on the road.

I unfortunately had to be out of town on Saturday so I couldn’t attend the game at Carson Park in Eau Claire, but I didn’t even have to check on the score myself because so many alumni and other fans contacted me after the game with the happy news! More information on the game and the team is available here.



Two major celebrations planned this week; first Free Speech Week events were a success

Two major events are being held this week on campus, and I would like to invite the entire campus community to attend. Both events involve celebrating incredible supporters of UW-Stout’s efforts to produce students who will have immediate success in the workplace.

Cabot speaker features Ashley Furniture president  

The first event is the annual Cabot Executive in Residence program on Thursday. This year’s speaker is Todd Wanek, president and CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. in Arcadia. Todd, a UW-Stout alumnus, will speak on “Leadership and Innovation in Changing Times” from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. Thursday in the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center.

I’ve gotten to know Todd and his father, Ashley founder Ron Wanek, very well over my time as chancellor and even traveled to Germany last spring with Ashley officials to visit advanced manufacturing facilities. I am honored that Todd and Ron are taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in the Cabot program this year.

This is the 33rd year of the Cabot Executive in Residence program, which is named in honor of Arthur R. Cabot, a successful pet products manufacturer. His son, Scott Cabot, is a personal friend of mine who earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in 1978 and a master’s in 1979.  More information is available here.



Bob Cervenka to be remembered at School of Engineering dedication

The second event has been in the planning stages for months. On Friday, we will officially dedicate the Robert F. Cervenka School of Engineering. The campus community is invited to a ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. Friday in the student center ballrooms.

The late Bob Cervenka was the founder of Phillips Plastics. He and his widow, Debbie, have been major financial supporters of UW-Stout for a long time, and naming our new engineering school after Bob is a great way to keep his memory and passion for UW-Stout alive for generations to come.

Debbie Cervenka will speak at the ceremony, along with UW System Regent Mark Tyler, STEMM Dean Chuck Bomar, Vice Chancellor Mark Parsons and myself. Refreshments also will be served.  More details are available here.



Campus Free Speech Week a success 

The first week of programming by the new Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, directed by Tim Shiell, went very well last week. I was honored to be asked to participate in the first session that discussed campus free speech issues, including a recent policy adopted by the Board of Regents. I was joined on the panel by Regent Tim Higgins and Capital Times newspaper Associate Editor John Nichols.

The discussion, held in Micheels Hall, was lively to say the least, with fantastic participation by the students, faculty, staff and public who attended.

The center is intended to bring exactly these kinds of issues to campus so they can be discussed in a civil and rational manner.

Other events were held throughout the week. Topics included Controversial Campus Speakers; Freedom of Creative Expression; Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis meets the KKK; Free Speech in the Classroom; Three Perspectives on Confederate Monuments, Flags and Symbolism; and a high school First Amendment workshop.

Tim is already planning for additional events this academic year, and I hope you take the time to attend.