Kevin P. Reilly, President
University of Wisconsin System

Let me begin my good news report by telling you that my first one month and eight days as president (who’s counting?) have been extraordinary. Even before I began, I’d determined that communication must be among the UW System’s top priorities. We must continue to communicate the importance of this university’s work, and to strengthen our relationships with the people and organizations that make our work possible.

And we must understand the many different and deep connections the people of Wisconsin have with the UW System. I’ve heard over and over since we last met that this university is vitally important to so many people. We have a responsibility to uphold our commitment to all of our constituents, to ensure we provide the tools they need to truly improve our quality of life, and to make sure we seize every opportunity to contribute in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

In the past month, I’ve met with small groups of UW System staff, many of whom are eager to better communicate with our stakeholders downtown, so that they can help our institutions focus on our core missions of teaching, research and public service.

I’ve met, at the invitation of Regent Burmaster, with administrators from Wisconsin’s K-12 schools, who rely on the UW System to provide them qualified teachers. They’re excited about working with this university to live up to the promise of “seamless” PK-16 education for all Wisconsin students.

With Regents Olivieri and Salas and Chancellor Santiago, I met with Latino leaders in Milwaukee, who are supportive of our work to maintain access for students of all backgrounds.

Last week, I met with this year’s group of UW System Student Ambassadors. I must tell you that they are a bright and enthusiastic bunch, and are very aware of the effects of budget cuts on their campuses. They are committed to ensuring that it does not happen again!

I also held a discussion with UW student journalists, who are asking the tough questions and informing their fellow students about tuition forecasts, and what it means to be a part of this great system.

With Regent Randall, I met with business, government and community leaders from Milwaukee’s Private Industry Council, who share our priorities in preparing youth and adult workers for higher education and the workforce.

I also met, along with Interim Chancellor Nylander, Chancellor Mash and Provost Sedlak, with those who are leading the technology revolution in the Chippewa Valley, where our universities play vital roles in creative partnerships that are transforming the area’s economy. Chancellor Wiley and I spoke to the Badger Action Network to promote their political advocacy on behalf of the university.

And I’ve reached out to our legislators, most of whom recognize the importance of the UW System for building a prosperous and healthy Wisconsin. They are acutely interested in our plans for efficiency, and we’ve had good discussions about what it will take for the UW System to remain a quality, accessible part of Wisconsin’s landscape. They want to hear your stories, and I encourage you all to tell them. Indeed, having UW-Madison professor Hector DeLuca testify earlier this week before the Joint Audit Committee about the economic value of his research had a profound impact on those legislators, as did the testimony of Chancellor Wells of UW-Oshkosh and the statement of Chancellor Shepard of UW-Green Bay. President Marcovich was collegial and convincing about this Board’s desire to work with the Legislature and the Governor on a brighter economic future for us all.

This hearkens back to what I said last month ? this university’s most extraordinary stories come from our students, faculty, researchers, staff and Regents. And clearly, the students, faculty and staff here at UW-Superior are no exception.

It is my pleasure to introduce to the Board Dr. Sreekanth (shree/-kanth) Malladi (Maladee/), one of the newer faculty members at UW-Superior. Dr. Malladi is an important member of a team of faculty hired to meet the goals of the Wisconsin Cyber Security Coalition. UW-Superior, along with UW-Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Stevens Point and Parkside, are working as a team to meet the growing demand for college graduates skilled in cybersecurity or, more formally put, information assurance.

UW-Superior received $387,000 of the $1.2 million coalition grant from the National Science Foundation, and it is sharing nearly $80,000 with the Lac Courte Oreilles (“La Koot Oraay”) Tribal and Community College to continue a partnership with them in information technology. The lead professor in this effort, Dr. Victor Piotrowski, is unable to join us today, but I want to recognize his expertise and leadership in involving UW-Superior in this coalition of real national interest.

UW-Superior has experienced success with students focusing on this field. Perhaps most notable are the students who have gone on to be part of the “Cyber Corp” computer security program at the University of Tulsa. Upon graduating with a master’s degree, these students spend at least two years working as a certified computer security expert for a government agency.

Please join me in applauding Dr. Malladi and UW-Superior for their efforts in computer and cyber security. [Applause] Thanks for being here.

The information technology partnership with Lac Courte Oreilles (“La Koot Oraay”) Tribal and Community College is just one of UW-Superior’s partnerships serving Wisconsin’s Native American community. The campus has also worked with UW-Extension in naming Tony Fairbanks the UW’s first American Indian youth development specialist. He will work from this campus to lead recruitment and support services for current and potential American Indian students and will work closely with 4-H and UW-Superior’s “First Nations Studies” Program.

UW-Superior also reports that it has made very good strides in the retention of students of color over the past decade. Since 1997, the retention rate of African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Hispanic Americans improved 31 percent on this campus. UW-Superior’s integrated approach to minority students is exemplified by its Multicultural Affairs Office, specialized staff and creation of a Multicultural Center. We’ve asked UW-Superior to invite a few of these students to share a few remarks with us today, but like the good students they are, they’re all in class. So I’ll ask Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Chip Beal, who I believe is with us, to stand. Thank you for your work, Mr. Beal. [applause]

As we enter the next phase of “Plan 2008: Educational Excellence Through Racial and Ethnic Diversity” the systemwide Office of Academic Diversity and Development (OADD) is helping our institutions meet their goals by focusing energy on a most critical area – retention! At the April Regents meeting, we learned that retention and graduation of students of color and economically disadvantaged students and closing the achievement gap for them remain problematic. As one way to improve in these areas, I am pleased to announce that the System Office of Academic Affairs will host a “Plan 2008 Best Practices Conference” in Oconomowoc on October 18 and 19. The conference will provide an opportunity for scholars, researchers, administration, faculty, and students to learn about best practices with demonstrated outcomes for retaining our students of color.

Many thanks to Cora Marrett, Marilyn Rhodes and their staff for developing this important conference. We look forward to hearing results following the event.

On a related note, UW-Stout has received a $1.75 million dollar federal grant for a new program to improve retention and graduation rates. The five-year “Strengthening Institutions Program Grant” will allow UW-Stout to strengthen advising and career-planning services, increase retention, and improve upon its already outstanding campus laptop learning environment. By stepping up retention and faculty advising efforts, the grant will allow UW-Stout to increase its number of graduates by retaining more students who start college at UW-Stout. That’s good news for the campus – and for Wisconsin’s workforce.

  • UW-Oshkosh is launching a project that could mean many more UW trained workers for Wisconsin’s economy. The “Oshkosh Graduation Project” will help students close to graduation to return to school and complete their college degrees. UW-River Falls has identified more than 700 students who would qualify for a similar program there, and UW-Eau Claire is considering a graduation project of its own. These efforts could add as many as 4,000 of our UW System graduates to the state’s workforce in just five years, which is very much in line with the goals of the Joint Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion. Many thanks and congratulations to Chancellor Wells and his staff for following up on this innovative idea.
  • The Friends of UW-Eau Claire have also shown overwhelming support for helping prepare students for the workforce. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to extend its “Fulfilling the Promise of Excellence” fundraising campaign through December 2007, and to increase the goal from $35 million to $50 million. Scheduled originally to end in June 2005, the campaign has already raised $38 million, surpassing the initial goal 15 months ahead of schedule! The campaign is notable in that the funds raised will be directly invested in UW-Eau Claire’s faculty, staff, students and programs, and the enthusiasm alumni and friends have shown speaks volumes about the impact that campus has had on people’s lives. Many congratulations to Chancellor Mash and UW-Eau Claire.

A couple of other quick notes to close:

  • Some good news from one of our UW Colleges on the research front – UW-Marinette physicist Paul Erdman was recently published as a lead author in the prestigious Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy & Radiative Transfer. UW-Marinette is prominently featured in his article, titled “Optical Absorption of Lithium Metal Vapor at High Temperatures.” Congratulations to Dr. Erdman, whose research is both an example of university scholarship, and an example for our students at the UW Colleges.
  • UW-River Falls honored our cherished friend and former Chancellor Ann Lydecker last month during the dedication of the campus’ new C.H.I.L.D. Center. “CHILD” stands for Creative Hours in Learning Development, a philosophy the center will use in caring for as many as 96 youngsters. Chancellor Lydecker worked to make the center a priority before her untimely death last year, and she helped to gain enough support from students and private donors to pay for the $1.1 million dollar facility without a single taxpayer dollar. Congratulations to UW-River Falls for making this vision a reality. [Applause]
  • And speaking of little ones, UW-Milwaukee’s Graduate School and Chemistry Department will host a “Symposium on Nanotechnology” next Friday. Those who study nanotechnology work to develop devices and systems on a molecular scale, which could mean exciting advances in fields like genetics, artificial intelligence and physics. Before coming to Milwaukee, Chancellor Carlos Santiago helped broaden similar research at the University at Albany, and we are delighted to have his expertise here in Wisconsin. We look forward to UWM’s continued work in this area.
  • UW-Parkside has broadened its horizons by signing an exchange agreement with the University of Calabria-Cosenza of southern Italy. The agreement is an important part of the university’s efforts to give students a chance to make global connections, and at the same time, honors southeastern Wisconsin’s Italian heritage. Interest seems high, as a new Parkside course in Beginning Italian immediately filled to capacity. Word has it that Chancellor Keating has been heard walking around campus saying “ciao” even when he’s not hungry!
  • I’d like to end today by drawing your attention to the release of a very telling report from the Wisconsin Technology Council. This document, titled “The Economic Value of Academic Research and Development in Wisconsin,” shows that R-and-D at Wisconsin universities and research institutions translated into $883 million and 31,000 jobs for the state last year alone. The report notes that even as the state’s economy has suffered, academic research and development have been going strong, growing by $47.5 million last year in the UW System alone! Most importantly, the report urges the governor and the Legislature to begin to restore the UW System budget. I think we’re being audiostreamed today, so in case anyone is listening, let me repeat that: Most importantly, the report urges the governor and the Legislature to begin to restore the UW System budget. The report’s author, Tom Still, who is the CEO of the Wisconsin Technology Council, made these very arguments to the Joint Audit Committee with us just the other day. I encourage you all to read the report, and I thank the Wisconsin Technology Council for paying such close attention to this critical part of what we do and for sharing its findings with the state.

And I thank you all, especially you Superior types, for the good work that you on our behalf each and very day. Mr. President, that concludes my report.