From left to right in the front row, Regents Scholar award recipients Joseph Hupy, Mohammed Rabbanni and Tovio Kallas are pictured with Regent Mark Tyler and President Ray Cross during a UW System Board of Regents meeting held at Union South at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 4, 2016. In the background, from left to right, are chancellors Jim Schmidt (UW-Eau Claire), Dennis Shields (UW-Platteville) and Andy Leavitt (UW-Oshkosh). (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

(From left, front row) Regents Scholar grant recipients Joseph Hupy, Mohammad Rabbani and Toivo Kallas are pictured holding certificates alongside Regent Mark Tyler (center) and President Ray Cross during a UW System Board of Regents meeting held at UW-Madison. In the background are Chancellors Jim Schmidt, UW-Eau Claire; Dennis Shields,UW-Platteville; and Andy Leavitt, UW-Oshkosh. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents recognized three Regent Scholar grant recipients for 2016 and presented them with award certificates in the Research, Economic Development, and Innovation (REDI) Committee during the Board’s Feb. 4 meetings at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“I love the notion that we have the potential here in Wisconsin to develop a market niche that can be explored and adopted by so many other states in this country,” said UW-Eau Claire Associate Professor Joseph Hupy, whose student-faculty research involves “lowering overhead inventory costs within the industrial aggregate and sand mining industry using Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technology.”

Hupy joined two other groundbreaking UW System faculty members to each earn a $50,000 Regent grant to propel their ongoing research, including UW-Platteville Assistant Professor Mohammad Rabbani and UW-Oshkosh Professor Toivo Kallas.

  • Learn more about the faculty members’ research in a Jan. 21 UW System news release.

The Regent Scholar program was introduced in 2014 to recognize and reward innovative faculty-student research and to provide support for collaborative project initiatives with Wisconsin business and industry. Key objectives of the program include providing summer funding support for faculty to engage in research and other scholarly activities while stimulating innovation and industry outreach at UW System campuses across a wide spectrum of academic pursuits.

Regent Mark Tyler, who chaired the grants evaluation committee, reiterated the importance of this program for faculty and undergraduate research as well as the building of collaborations and partnerships.

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UW-Madison showcases ‘All Ways Forward’

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blanks speaks during her presentation at the UW System Board of Regents meeting at Union South at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 4, 2016. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Chancellor Blank speaks during her presentation at the UW System Board of Regents meeting Feb. 4. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Host Chancellor Rebecca Blank of UW-Madison highlighted student and faculty achievement in an address to the Board of Regents on Thursday, saying that, in many ways, 2015 was a record-setting year for the state’s flagship university.

And she urged a renewed commitment to keeping UW–Madison among the top public universities at a time when peer institutions are seeing greater investment from their respective states.

The state investment that began 168 years ago helped grow UW–Madison into one of the top 25 universities in the world, Blank said. The university has been nurtured by a partnership between citizens of the state, students, alumni and donors. Maintaining that status will require continued investment by all partners, she said.

“We’ve had a series of difficult years in terms of budget, here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as all the System schools. And that is particularly troublesome because our peers are investing,” Blank said.

Academically, UW-Madison reached new levels in 2015 in applicants and degrees awarded. More undergraduates are earning their degrees in six years or less than ever before.

In addition, the year saw a host of student and faculty awards, and major research breakthroughs such as the discovery of early human fossils, the engineering of human vocal cords, and the creation of new yeast hybrids.

Meanwhile, the graduation gap between targeted minority students and all students is the narrowest since the university started measuring that statistic. It has dropped to half of what it was a decade ago.

Advancements stretch beyond the classroom as well, Blank said. Nearly two-thirds of current UW–Madison seniors report that they’ve held internships or participated in a program while an undergrad that gave them career experience. More UW students are studying abroad and more participate in public service as part of their classes than ever before.

UW System lays out federal priorities for 2016

Kris Andrews, UW System’s Associate Vice President for Federal and Corporate Relations, provided an overview of federal relations activities and priorities, both in 2016 and looking ahead.

A key success this past year was the extension of the federal Perkins Loan program, which had been scheduled to end in September 2015, potentially leaving hundreds of thousands of students nationwide in financial limbo.

“Working with a national coalition and a bipartisan congressional delegation – led by Senator Baldwin and Congressman Pocan – the UW System strongly advocated for and helped get a two-year extension of this important student loan program. This was a huge win,” Andrews said.  She noted that in 2013-14, the Perkins Loan program had disbursed almost $29 million to about 16,000 UW students.

Other positive developments in the past year included changes in the Federal Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA) application process that will expedite student loan processing, an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award; increases in funding for the National Institutes of Health and others; and $5 million in the federal budget bill for competitive funding at non-land grant colleges of agriculture and natural resources.

Looking ahead, student financial aid continues to be a top priority, Andrews said. In 2014-15, total federal student aid to UW System students topped $1 billion. Nonetheless, average unmet need for Wisconsin undergraduates is nearly $10,000 annually, nearly doubling in the last decade. “The UW’s top priority is advocating for continued increases to the maximum Pell Grant award and federal student financial aid programs,” said Andrews, adding that these programs are essential for bringing postsecondary education into reach for many low- and moderate-income students.

Other high priorities include maintaining high levels of funding for university research; the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; and proposed regulatory changes.

UW-Madison Athletics report

Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez led UW-Madison’s presentation of its NCAA Division I Athletics 2014-15 Annual Report. Under a reporting framework established in 2012, institutions that participate in NCAA Division I athletics must annually provide information to the Board regarding academic, fiscal and compliance matters.

UW-Madison reported that it provided educational support and athletic opportunities to nearly 900 student athletes in 23 sports.

Highlights featured in the 2014-2015 report include:

  • The Badger football team’s achievement of the highest Academic Progress Rate in the country—the NCAA’s key measure of team academic success.
  • 16 of 23 Badger athletic teams went on to post-season play, including the men’s basketball team, which played in its first NCAA title game in nearly 75 years.
  • Three coaches were named Big Ten Coaches of the Year in their respective sports.
  • Five Badger athletics programs finished in top 20 nationally in attendance.
  • Several student-athlete academic achievements, including an average cumulative GPA of 3.02 across 84 diverse areas of study. Fifty percent of athletes carried a 3.0 GPA or above; 275 made their respective colleges’ Dean’s lists; and more than 150 earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.

Capital Planning and Budget Committee

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the $6.7-million Near West Playfields Upgrade Project, which will upgrade the outdoor playfields located west of the Natatorium on Observatory Drive. The upgrades accommodate five flag football fields, a championship soccer field, lacrosse field, softball field, and baseball field. The project also provides lighting and stormwater runoff improvements.

In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to: demolish the Seed Building, increase the Meat Science Laboratory project budget by $2.9 million Gift Funds; and construct the $45.7 million project.
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval of eight All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects totaling approximately $9.1 million at six campuses: UW-Green Bay, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-River Falls, UW-Whitewater, and UW-Richland. These projects address all aspects of the all agency program including: facility maintenance and repair, utility repair and renovation, and energy conservation.

Associate Vice President’s Report: Associate Vice President Alex Roe reported on recent State Building Commission actions and updated the committee on the 2017-2019 Capital Budget Schedule.

Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee

After the bestowing of the annual Regent Scholar grant awards, UW System President Ray Cross reported there is significant enthusiasm for the UW System’s proposed Wisconsin Business Experience, which aims to connect every junior or senior UW student with a Wisconsin business as part of their university experience. He said several key partnerships are starting to take shape, with backing from the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, the Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and others.

Cross also reported that the UW System continues to look into opportunities for three-year degree programs. The concept was raised recently by Gov. Walker.

In other business, the REDI Committee:

  • Heard a panel discussion led by UW-Madison Interim Vice Chancellor for University Relations Charles Hoslet. The discussion focused on efforts at UW-Madison to help students identify and connect with companies and organizations that have job openings, as well as efforts that help Wisconsin employers connect with UW-Madison students. Panelists included: Susan LaBelle (Managing Director of the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations), Jamie Marsh-Finco (Director of Career Services at the Wisconsin School of Business) and Professor Jon Eckhardt (Executive Director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship).

Business and Finance Committee

UW System Annual Financial Report: Interim Vice President for Finance Julie Gordon presented summary information from the UW System’s 2015 Annual Financial Report. This published report is prepared using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and includes an unqualified audit opinion from the Legislative Audit Bureau along with standard higher education financial statements.

The report showed that the UW System’s unrestricted net position decreased by $113.6 million, after falling an additional $133 million in 2013-2014. Gordon noted that new accounting standards, which required the first-ever recognition of a $330.2 million restricted asset related to the UW System’s pension plan obligations, accounted for the majority of the increase in net position.

In other business, the Business and Finance Committee:

  • Approved UW-Madison’s Master Clinical Studies Agreement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP.
  • Approved UW-Madison’s Master Clinical Studies Agreement with Pharmatech, Inc.
  • Approved a new Regent policy on information technology security in the UW System, which will provide the framework for the development of a comprehensive UW System information security program. UW System Interim Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer David Stack led a discussion on general background and current practices regarding information technology security activities in the UW System.
  • Heard a presentation by Darrell Bazzell, UW-Madison Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance on “HR Design: A World-Class Workforce for a World-Class University,” providing information on the institution’s newly developed Human Resource system.
  • Received a quarterly report of gifts, grants and contracts for the period July 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2015, which showed total awards for the period were approximately $771.1 million, a decrease of $11.1 million compared to the prior year. Federal awards increased $6.3 million while non-federal awards decreased by $17.4 million.
  • Heard a high-level summary report comparing budgeted to actual revenues and expenditures through the second quarter of the fiscal year. The report also pointed to a dashboard-type tool to monitor financial activity within the UW System.
  • Received an overview regarding UW System Strategic Plans for IT projects, as well as a status report of four large IT projects underway in the UW System, including UW Colleges and Extension’s Campus Network Infrastructure Project (CNIP), the UW System’s Oracle/PeopleSoft Human Capital Management Application Upgrade, UW-Stevens Point’s Implementation of Oracle/PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, and the Replacement of the UW System Interactive Reporting Tool.

Report of the Vice Presidents:  Vice President for Administration David Miller and interim Vice President for Finance Julie Gordon provided brief updates on areas of activity of interest to the committee.

Education Committee

Stephen Kolison, UW System’s Associate Vice President of Academic Programs and Educational Innovation, presented the 2014-15 Annual Program Planning Report to the Education Committee.

Kolison reported to the Board on actions related to the establishment, suspension, or elimination of programs, providing a broad picture of UW System’s program array for planning and accountability. This year’s report focuses on the process by which programs are established within the UW System.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for three-year renewals of charter contracts for two existing UWM-chartered schools: Capitol West Academy and the School for Early Development and Achievement.
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for five-year charters for three new proposed Milwaukee charter schools: United Community Center Acosta Middle School, a college preparatory charter school with a technology and trades-focus serving primarily students from Latino/a communities; Penfield Montessori Academy, initially to be located within the Penfield Children’s Center facility in Milwaukee and using a full-inclusion education model where children with and without disabilities learn and grow together; and Stellar Collegiate Charter School, serving students in grades K4 and K5, predominantly on Milwaukee’s Near South Side.
  • Heard a presentation by UW-Madison on “Educational Updates,” with discussion about some of UW-Madison’s recent enrollment and graduation trends, including student diversity, and the university’s efforts to recruit high-ability Wisconsin residents.
  • Vice President’s Report: David J. Ward, interim Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, presented new data regarding UW System’s remedial/developmental education. He also updated the committee on transition plans for incoming Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Dr. James Henderson, who will start on March 15, 2016. See UW System’s Jan. 4 news release.

UW-Madison contributed to this summary.


The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting
will resume on Friday, Feb. 5, at UW-Madison.