MADISON – In a time of uncertain budget prospects, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reiterated the university’s intent to stand by the goals spelled out in the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin.

“We are convinced that this is the right path for our State, and we will continue working closely with the Governor and the Legislature, encouraging them to provide us with the level of investment that will let us keep at least part of the Growth Agenda alive as we struggle through this recession,” Reilly said.

“Even in such times – or maybe particularly in such times – we still firmly believe in the need to grow the number of college graduates,” he added.  “Actions that go in the opposite direction are short-sighted, short-term fixes that will prove counterproductive in the long term.  We certainly don’t want to have to go there in Wisconsin.”

Reilly announced that he is appointing a new Research to Jobs Task Force, which will be charged with studying the UW research, patent, and commercialization process.  The group, to be chaired by WARF Managing Director Carl Gulbrandsen, will research and identify the existing or potential barriers to this process, and identify methods of cooperation and incentives that could be implemented.

The task force will also make recommendations for establishing benchmarks and outcomes to facilitate getting the research that is taking place at UW institutions to the private sector more expeditiously.
“We want to identify ways in which the UW System can play a leading role in supporting industrial innovation, accelerating the growth of Wisconsin companies, and fostering knowledge-based, high-paying jobs that will sustain Wisconsin’s economy,” Reilly said.

The task force is expected to make its first report back to Reilly sometime this summer.

Reilly also reported to the full Board that the deep cuts in the value of UW’s endowments due to the ongoing economic crisis are beginning to have tangible repercussions.  He told the Regents that as a direct result of this downturn, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee directed UW’s trust fund officers to suspend distributions from more than 30 endowments held in trust by the Board. These actions do not affect any accounts managed by individual campus foundations.

“Rather than further erode the principal, we are taking the prudent steps to preserve these funds for the long term,” Reilly said. “For now this equates to more than $700,000 in reduced payments to various scholarships, research projects, and other initiatives at our institutions.”

The reality driving such action contravenes public perception that universities across the nation can “live off their investments” until the economy bounces back, Reilly pointed out.  “UW System – like everyone with a savings account or mutual fund – is feeling the effects of a bear market in its endowments.”

Reilly also reminded Board members of the need to continue to reinforce the message to families and students around the state that they are still wanted on UW campuses, despite the troubling economic climate, and that UW, working with State and Federal leaders, will help families finance their college aspirations.

“We cannot afford to price people out of college, nor can we afford to undermine the quality or quantity of educational opportunity, not at this point in history,” Reilly said.
Injecting a note of optimism into budget discussions, Reilly pointed out that on the federal front, both the House and Senate versions of the proposed Federal Economic Recovery Act contain significant support for higher education.

“There is a lot we don’t know at this point,” Reilly said. “Each of our institutions has been planning for the worst – and hoping for the best.”

KnowHow2GOWisconsin video contest winners announced

The six winners of the first-ever KnowHow2GOWisconsin/EdVest student video contest came before the Board Friday for the first public showings of their winning videos.  Each received an EdVest scholarship.

Alexander Siy, an eighth-grader from Brookfield, presented his winning video, which included an original song composed and performed by Siy.  Second-place winners Micole Gauvin and Megan Gauvin, of Beloit, and third-place winners Shyla Cummings, Leah Harvey, and Emma Harvey, all from Endeavor, also presented their videos.

More than 70 students from 22 cities around the state submitted videos for the contest, which was launched in October in honor of Higher Education Day.  The judging committee included Gary Mills, an executive producer at Wisconsin Public Television, as well as KnowHow2GOWisconsin’s Molly Dillman, and Megan Perkins from the Office of the State Treasurer.

“The path to college can be intimidating, especially for young people who are first-generation students or who come from low-income families.  KnowHow2GOWisconsin, with its positive messages of college preparedness and its robust resources, is a program that all students can look to to guide them through their journey to college,” Reilly said.

The KnowHow2GOWisconsin partners include the UW System, Wisconsin Technical College System, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the Department of Public Instruction, and Great Lakes Higher Education Corp.

State Treasurer Dawn Sass presented each of the student winners with their EdVest scholarships.  The first-place winner received $1,000; the others received $500 each.

Tom Still discusses Wisconsin Technology Council report

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, came before the Board to further discuss a recent WTC report highlighting the major role played by academic research and development in the state’s economy.

Referring to that report, Still pointed out that academic research and development is a $1.1 billion industry in Wisconsin, creating 36 direct and indirect jobs for every $1 million in R&D spending.

“We talk about human capital driving the innovation economy. That’s where the University System has a unique role and unique edge,” Still said. “Academic research and development is part of our fabric, an important part of what we are as a state.”

Still urged the Board to think about how to retain market share in research and development, and also about capturing more. “That’s where this state is poised to go,” he said.

He also urged Regents to look beyond UW-Madison, calling what’s happening elsewhere “one of the more untold stories.”

“We know UW-Madison is a national, even world leader in research and development – but there are pockets of research that are emerging around the state that we think are very important,” Still said. While UW-Milwaukee currently is responsible for much of the work done outside Madison, “there are other centers of excellence emerging at 11 other campuses doing work in life sciences, materials sciences, nanotechnology, and biofuels,” he said.

Still also suggested considering way to provide “release time” for professors at other institutions around the state to follow up on their innovative ideas.  “If that’s unleashed, I think there could be real economic impact in the communities where they live and work,” Still said.

Regent Mike Spector suggested to the Board that the Regents could play a more active role in generating public support by more directly communicating findings like the WTC report to local organizations.  “It’s a story that gets lost with so much else in the news,” he said. “I think Rotary clubs and other organizations would be very interested to hear about this.”

View presentation on Economic Development of Research and Development in Wisconsin pdf

Regent President Mark Bradley’s report

As part of his regular report, Regents President Mark Bradley updated Board members on the ongoing communications that UW System has had with the Governor and the Legislature. He pointed out that President Reilly also made a presentation before the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Board of Directors last month.

Bradley also noted that Representative Kim Hixson, the new chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges & Universities, will schedule an information hearing on Feb. 18 to showcase the UW System’s significant contributions to Wisconsin’s economy.

Bradley informed the Board that its minutes – dating back to 1921 – will now be more accessible than ever, thanks to the recent launch of the Board of Regents Digital Collection. That collection includes more than 56,000 pages of digitized meeting minutes, materials, and photos from 70 years’ worth of Board meetings, each page searchable by keyword. It can now be accessed through a link on the Board of Regents website.

Bradley also noted the passing of two former Board members: Bertram M. McNamara of Milwaukee, and Alfred De Simone of Kenosha.  He extended condolences to their families on behalf of the Board and commended both men for their service to UW and the state.

In other business

After hearing reports from the Education Committee; Business, Finance and Audit Committee; and the Capital Planning and Budget Committee, Regents adopted other resolutions including:

  • Authorized UW-Madison to implement the B.S. in Personal Finance;
  • Authorized UW-Milwaukee to implement the B.S. in Athletic Training; and
  • Authorized UW-Oshkosh to implement the B.A./B.S. in Women’s Studies.
  • Approved a resolution establishing a ceiling on increases to individual differential tuition rates in four Colleges and Schools at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved a resolution establishing an annual 3% increase in the institution’s differential tuition which supports the UW-Oshkosh Personal Development Compact;
  • Approved continuation of and an increase to UW-Platteville’s Regional Enrollment Differential Tuition program, commonly referred to as the Tri-State Initiative;
  • Approved UW-Extension’s request for authority to increase the project scope and budget and construct the Lowell Hall Guestroom Remodeling project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget for and construct the Union South Replacement project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the Lakeshore Utility Improvements – Phase I project, which will support and expand utility infrastructure along the campus lakeshore;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to seek a statutory waiver to allow acceptance of a single prime contractor bid for the Chazen Museum of Art Addition project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to accept a parcel of land located at 1314 West Johnson Street in Madison from WARF Properties, LLC.;
  • Approved UW-Parkside’s request for authority to increase the scope and budget and construct the Communication Arts Remodeling and Addition project;
  • Approved UW System Administration’s request for authority to construct nine maintenance and repair projects through the All Agency program at four different institutions.

The Regents then went into closed session.


Photo Credit: Jim Gill

The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting March 5, 2009, in Madison

Related: Read February 5 (day 1) news summary