A CALL FROM 'THE RIGHT OFFICE'
UW-Stout first university to win national Malcolm Baldrige award
By Jennifer Klement
The determining call from Washington D.C. came at 3:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30.
A ring from U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans would signify that UW-Stout won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. A buzz from Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige National Quality Program, would mean that the university would need to apply again.
As Secretary Linda Wagner transferred the call, she whispered, "It is the right office!"
Still recovering from knee surgery, Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen struggled into his office to accept the good news: UW-Stout had become the first university to receive the prestigious Baldrige Award, considered America's highest honor for performance excellence and quality achievement.
"I talked to the (Commerce) Secretary for about four minutes or so. I was in a very euphoric state," Sorensen says.
Since the Menomonie-based campus could not officially announce its success until the U.S. Department of Commerce made a public announcement, Sorensen eagerly rushed to assemble the other members of the UW-Stout Baldrige team: Jan Jordan, assistant to the chancellor; and Julie Furst Bowe, associate vice chancellor.
"I think we were all trying to absorb the simple fact that we had accomplished what no other university in the nation had done," Sorensen says.
When White House officials announced the Baldrige recipients on that following Tuesday, Dec. 4, the bells of UW-Stout's historic Bowman Hall rang wildly to celebrate the university's achievement.
"This award is among the highest levels of recognition any university in the country can achieve," Sorensen says. "This is a marvelous tribute to our university; and to our students, faculty and staff. It is truly one of the greatest events in the history of this institution."
President George W. Bush presented the award to UW-Stout officials during a ceremony in Washington D.C. on March 7. UW-Stout attendees will include students, faculty, staff, administrators, political leaders, alumni representatives and friends of the university.
UW-Stout, known for its specialized career-oriented majors, applied for the Baldrige award the past three years and received a site visit twice. To apply, organizations must submit a report detailing their achievements and improvements in seven key areas.
"I believe we won the award because we were able to verify everything included in our application," says Furst Bowe. "And, in many areas, we are able to serve as a role model for best practices in higher education."
Furst Bowe outlines how UW-Stout's achievements fit the Baldrige categories for academic organizations:
Winning the Baldrige award has impressed not only faculty and staff but also UW-Stout's student body, which numbers approximately 8,000.
Mike Bombaci, vice president of the Stout Student Association, the university's student government, says the award will attract more students and recruiters, lead to more grants, and generate additional partnerships with business and industry.
"They will be impressed by what is going on here and with what the students and the university has to offer," says Bombaci, a senior majoring in packaging.
Furst Bowe agrees: "Winning this award has elevated the status of our campus and provided greater visibility for our academic programs."
"The award is a validation of our mission," Sorensen says.
Jennifer Klement is an associate university relations specialist at UW-Stout.
About the Malcolm
In conjunction with the private sector, the National Institute of Standards and Technology designed and manages the program and honor process for the award. Five awards are given in each year for manufacturing, service, small business and, added in 1999, education and health care. The Baldrige award program, its criteria and award recipients are imitated and admired worldwide.
For links to information about the Baldrige National Quality Program and more details about UW-Stout's receipt of the award, visit http://www. uwstout.edu/mba/.
About the University
Traditionally, UW-Stout's programs have prepared students for productive careers in business, industry, technology, education, human development, and art and design. A combination of course work in the humanities, social and natural sciences, as well as work in career fields, is a key part of an educational plan that produces graduates who live, think and work creatively.
The success of UW-Stout's approach to education can be measured by the growth of the university and its high employment record.
To those who know it well, the UW-Stout campus is a place of beauty, history and character. It is a place to learn and grow - to gain an appreciation and respect for the past and a new perspective for the future.