"News from around the UW System" - Remarks to the Board of Regents

Kevin P. Reilly, President, University of Wisconsin System

Board of Regents Meeting
Friday, February 10, 2012

At this time, I’d like to share with you some news from around the UW System.

  • First, on behalf of the UW System, I’d like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Edwin Young, who passed away on Jan. 2 at the age of 94.  Dr. Young served as Chancellor of UW-Madison during the tumultuous Vietnam War era, and also served as President of the UW System from 1977 to 1980.  Dr. Young helped shape Wisconsin’s public university at a pivotal moment in our proud history. Having served as the UW-Madison chancellor, he worked diligently to ensure that individual universities and colleges retained maximum operational freedom within a unified statewide system. We would do well to keep that goal in mind, as we work today to preserve a world-class UW System that serves 180,000 students and all Wisconsin citizens. Known for his folksy Maine accent and dry humor, he also had a canny political mind, and he will be missed. 

  • A new report from our Office of Policy Analysis and Research (OPAR) shows that the number of students transferring into or within the UW System in 2010-11 reached 17,209.  UW-Milwaukee was the most frequent destination, with more than 2, 500 transfer students, followed by UW-Madison, UW Colleges, and UW-Oshkosh. .. Almost one-third of new degree-seeking undergraduates were transfer students. .. Some other interesting facts… 28% of new transfers were from out-of-state institutions, 25% from the Wisconsin Technical College System, and 7% from Wisconsin private institutions. … Also, new transfers were more likely than new freshmen to be non-traditional aged students. .. and half of new transfers were first-generation college students. We continue to work on making transfer a smoother, more efficient process for our students. There is work yet to be done. At the same time, we can all be proud – the Board of Regents, the System Administration, and the institutions – of the major improvements we have made in transfer policy and practice in recent years. More and more of our students are “voting with their feet” to take coursework at more than one campus – including Regent Pointer, I should note! – and we have a central role in ensuring that this decision on their part is an enhancement of their undergraduate experience.

  • We have news from UW-Madison … Professor Jae “Jim” Park, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and a native of South Korea, has received South Korea’s Order of Service Merit in recognition of his volunteer consulting for a multi-billion-dollar river restoration project in that country. The Order of Service Merit is among the highest honors in Korea, and is comparable to the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. Dr. Park, who is an expert in biological processes for removing toxic compounds in waste-treatment processes and the environment, gives new meaning to burning the midnight oil. As recounted in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, Dr. Park’s second workday would often begin as his UW colleagues were going to sleep. When it’s nighttime in Madison, it’s daytime in South Korea, and Dr. Park would talk with engineers and the presidential office overseeing the project by email and Internet telephone. He also made appeals on national television there and wrote many articles for Korean journals about the value of river restoration. All of this, incidentally, was on a volunteer basis. Students in Dr. Park’s UW-Madison classrooms also reaped the benefits of this work, hearing about his first-hand experiences with a major river restoration project.  

  • From UW-Oshkosh, we have some news that’s “hot off the press.” Earlier this week, it was announced that UW-Oshkosh has become only the 25th institution in both the United States and Canada – and the first in Wisconsin – to earn a Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). This is a huge accomplishment. While UW-Oshkosh has been repeatedly honored with listings among Princeton University’s “Guide to Green Colleges” and the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools,” the rigorous and all-encompassing STARS assessment process is the strongest, most quantifiable validation of UW-Oshkosh’s sustainability practices yet. Congratulations to Chancellor Rick Wells and the UW-Oshkosh campus community on this honor.  I should also note that UW-Green Bay and UW-River Falls each earned Silver STARS ratings this past year. Hats off to those campuses as well.

  • Several of our campuses are celebrating the opening of new -- or newly improved – facilities. Late last month, UW-Stout officially opened the doors on its newly renovated Memorial Student Center after nearly eight years of studying, researching, planning, designing, and construction. The new center features new and improved lounge and meeting space, a variety of dining options, a new outdoor amphitheater, and an involvement center for student organizations. UW-Stout students, it should be pointed out, were closely involved in every stage of the renovation process. As Chancellor Sorenson put it, “We have taken a building that badly needed updating and made it into a fantastic facility that will serve our campus for many years to come.” There will be a grand opening celebration on April 18. Congratulations to the entire UW-Stout community on this new addition.

  • Last month also marked the official debut of “The Rita,” UW-Parkside’s new Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities. I was fortunate enough to attend the grand opening, and I can tell you that it is truly an impressive addition to the campus, with its theaters, gallery, studios, and classrooms. The generosity of the late Rita Tallent Picken, for whom the building is named, not only helped with the bricks and mortar part of the project, but she also provided endowed scholarships for students in the arts and humanities. This new center is expected to be a bridge between UW-Parkside and the community, enriching the lives of both the people on campus and throughout this entire region with its academic and artistic programming. Congratulations to Chancellor Ford and the UW-Parkside campus community.

  • Speaking of new construction, UW-Platteville’s Rountree Commons is making progress and is on track to be complete for next school year. The six-story residence hall is a necessary addition in light of the university’s growing enrollment and will be home for over 600 students beginning in the fall.

  • UW-Eau Claire is pleased to announce that in coming months the UW-Eau Claire Foundation will receive its largest gift ever, a $4.3-million gift from the estate of Lt. Col. George L. Simpson Jr., whose father was one of UW-Eau Claire’s first faculty members, and whose mother was a member of the university’s first graduating class in 1917.  The current gift is in addition to a $2-million gift made to the Foundation at the time of Mr. Simpson’s death in 2003. In noting the university’s gratitude for such generosity, Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said Lt. Col. Simpson “clearly found the university to be an important part of his life and ... now ensures that it will continue to make a difference in the lives of its students for years to come.”

  • UW-Whitewater is also the benefactor of generous donors. Two alumni, Quint and Rishy Studer (STOO-der), recently provided $1 million for scholarships to Janesville high school students who attend UW-Whitewater. The newly established Janesville Promise Fund will award $50,000 annually to graduates of Craig and Parker high schools. Chancellor Dick Telfer says the full impact of this gift is nearly impossible to predict. “The students who receive the Janesville Promise Fund scholarship will graduate and become leaders in the community,” he said, adding that southeastern Wisconsin will benefit from the Studers’ generosity for many years. 

  • UW-Superior is pleased to announce that the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute has a new five-year agreement with the U.S. Maritime Administration to study environmental issues facing the Great Lakes maritime industry. Among its first tasks will be determining whether it is economically feasible for steam-powered ships to switch from fuel oil to natural gas to meet approaching federal emissions mandates. The Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute is a consortium involving UW-Superior and the University of Minnesota-Duluth, along with 10 affiliate universities around the Great Lakes. Congratulations to Chancellor Wachter and the UW-Superior community.

  • In other news from UW-Madison, biochemist Judith Kimble has been chosen to be a member of President Obama’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. As a committee member, Kimble will help choose the next recipients of the honor, which is the nation’s most prestigious science award. Dr. Kimble is the Vilas Professor of Biochemistry at UW-Madison, and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She studies the molecular regulation of animal development, and has made a number of key discoveries in the field, including finding the first stem cell “niche,” the micro-environment that controls stem cell maintenance. Congratulations to Chancellor David Ward, Dr. Kimble, and the UW-Madison community on this honor.

  • We also have news from UW-Green Bay, where the women’s basketball team is staking its own claim to Titletown lore. As you may have seen in a large New York Times spread recently, the Phoenix women’s basketball team is truly a force to be reckoned with – and this despite competing against programs with 10 times their budget. The Phoenix hit a bump in the road last night but still have the impressive record of 20-1, and this past weekend moved up into the top 10 in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. These rankings, I should point out, are the highest in program history. As the article noted, the team’s run of 13 consecutive Horizon League regular-season championships stands as the longest active streak of its kind in the country. Since a loss more than a year ago at Marquette, the Phoenix are 45-1. Senior guard Hannah Quilling, one of eight Phoenix players from Wisconsin, told the New York Times, “Our mind-set is to keep that tradition going and be that team that shocks people.” The Phoenix made it to the Round of 16 in last year’s playoffs, and I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb in predicting a return appearance. Definitely something to keep an eye on!

  • In other sporting news, the UW-La Crosse Water Ski and Wakeboard Team was named the 2011 Team of the Year by the National Collegiate Water Ski Association at the USA Water Ski Awards in January. The UW-L team topped a field of 72 teams from across the country – especially impressive, I’d say, given our somewhat shorter open water training season! They do not train on ice boats! Congratulations to Chancellor Gow and UW-La Crosse.

  • Finally, the UW System eCampus hosted a college fair last month that, by almost any measure, has to be considered wildly successful. The first-ever College Fair via Twitter was a one-hour event geared to providing information and inspiration to adult returning students who are considering online degrees. As part of the event, a panel of experts tweeted about financial aid, the 100 online programs available throughout the UW System, and tips for adult students. Just how successful was this event? With more than 1,100 tweets generated using the UWCollege Fair hashtag, it’s estimated that as many as 100,000 people got the word about UW System’s eCampus. Not bad! Think about it this way: when was the last time you saw 100,000 people at a college fair?

Related: Read February 9 (day 1) news summary