Remarks by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly

Posters in the Rotunda Event, State Capitol

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hello, everyone, and good afternoon. I’m Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this year’s “Posters in the Rotunda: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research.” We are delighted to be joined, today, by members of the Board of Regents, university leaders from around the state, legislators and their staffs, and, of course, our gifted students and faculty.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the state legislators who have joined us this afternoon. Thank you all for coming here today. We value your support for our undergraduate researchers, and for quality public higher education in Wisconsin.

We gather here today painfully aware of the terrible tragedy that took place on the Virginia Tech campus this past Monday. We all want our campuses to be safe havens where young people can expand their horizons and deepen their humanity.

The violence in Virginia is a reminder of how important that work is.

I’d ask you all to join me in a moment of silence for the students, faculty, staff, and families at Virginia Tech struggling to deal with their grief.

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Thank you.

A positive reaction to what happened in Virginia is for us to celebrate the accomplishments of our UW students represented in their posters all around this beautiful Rotunda.

I hope you had an opportunity to look at these wonderful projects this morning. These dedicated undergraduates are proof-positive that there are talented UW System students who go above and beyond in their college careers. If today’s celebration shows us anything, it is that if we can give them the right resources and support, UW System undergraduates are capable of extraordinary things.

These students now have solid foundations for their futures. Their enthusiasm, dedication, and willingness to work to achieve success as undergraduates will no doubt serve them well in their post-college careers.

With the help of their faculty mentors, the undergraduates here today investigated dozens of scientific and social topics. Jeremy Smet from UW-Fond du Lac, for example, used Geographic Information Systems to map the top ten cities at risk from natural disasters. Amanda Jeske from UW-Green Bay studied the “Educating Healthy Kids Project” in Appleton, Wisconsin, which is designed to increase knowledge about healthy eating and physical activity among children and young adults. And UW-River Falls students Kyle Thompson and Da Vis Linder used new techniques to design a video game, learning how to develop such games rapidly and efficiently. Now who says video games make our kids unmotivated?

What these projects show most of all is the capacity for smart, dedicated, hard work among UW System students. Yes, these projects took a great deal of time and energy, but just look at the final products!

The same thing could be said for this university system as a whole. As budget season approaches, I ask our legislators in attendance to consider the “final product” of a strong investment in the UW System.

As many of you already know, this university is embarking on an ambitious Growth Agenda for Wisconsin. Under this Growth Agenda, we want to increase the number of four-year college degree-holders in Wisconsin, attract more degree-holders from other states to Wisconsin, and grow the number of knowledge-economy jobs in this state.

If the UW System is provided the necessary support to see this Growth Agenda through, it can reassert itself as a primary source of economic well-being for Wisconsin. Our highly educated graduates can help Wisconsin attract knowledge economy industries to the state.

With a greater number of career options in this state for college graduates, four-year degree-holders from elsewhere will be tempted to move to Wisconsin, contributing to the “brain gain” we hope to stimulate through this Growth Agenda.

Simply stated, if Wisconsin’s economy is to keep pace with our neighbors, this state needs a re-investment in higher education after years of large cuts. Promoting research, like the kind all around us today, is a great way to do this. Academic research and development creates more than 30,000 jobs and generates more than $800 million for Wisconsin’s economy each year, according to a report by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Our Growth Agenda is one way to build on this momentum, and we ask you all to support it.

With that, I’d like to introduce Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, who has long been a supporter of higher education in Wisconsin. She’s part of our momentum! She is also a UW alumna, with a master’s degree in Spanish from UW-Madison. Please join me in welcoming Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton…

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Three legislators representing Western Wisconsin are also joining us today to help congratulate our UW undergraduate researchers.

Senator Kathleen Vinehout is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education. She represents the 31st Senate District, which includes the UW-Eau Claire campus. Senator Vinehout is also a former college educator herself.

State Representative Jeff Smith represents the 93rd Assembly District, which also includes the UW-Eau Claire campus. Representative Smith serves as a member of the Assembly Colleges & Universities Committee.

Both of these legislators represent UW-Eau Claire student Lori Scardino, whom we’ll hear from in just a few moments.

Also joining us today is State Representative John Murtha. Representative Murtha is from Baldwin, Wisconsin, and represents the 29th Assembly District. His district includes the UW-Stout campus, which will be hosting a Systemwide Undergraduate Research Symposium this Friday.

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Looking around today, I’m reminded that this Capitol is one of the most gorgeous buildings in the state, if not in the entire country. The rotunda showcases works of art that lift the human spirit. Today, however, it is the works of the superbly talented UW System undergraduates that are lifting all our spirits.

Before I go, I’d like to encourage everyone here today to talk to the students and faculty who put these outstanding projects together. As you walk around, please think about how supporting this university can provide tremendous benefits for the state as a whole. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial an investment in the UW System is to the future economic strength of Wisconsin. We look forward to working with Governor Doyle and members of the state Legislature to make sure that higher education remains accessible to all of Wisconsin’s residents, and that this university maintains the high-quality academic performance for which it is known. You’ll see in the posters — and the faces — of our students and faculty with us today that it is justly known for that!

Thanks, again, to all of you for being here, and especially to all of those involved in preparing for this event.

That concludes our program. Thanks for coming.