At this time, I’d like to share some news from around the UW System …

  • UW-Madison is celebrating a milestone this year with the graduation of its 400th fusion-related Ph.D. student. Dating back to the 1960s, UW-Madison’s fusion program – which studies the reaction when atomic nuclei collide, fuse, and release energy – is among the largest and most widely respected university programs in the United State. Fusion-related research at UW-Madison now spans three departments in two colleges, including more than 150 faculty, staff, and students, and covers a range of theoretical, experimental, and technological aspects of plasma science and fusion. Since the 1960s, fusion-related research in the UW-Madison departments of physics, electrical and computer engineering, and engineering physics has garnered more than $100 million in funding. In addition to campus-based research, UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students also play major roles in national and international experiments such as ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Hats off to Interim Chancellor Ward, and the UW-Madison campus.
  • UW-Superior is pleased to share the news that Dr. Richard Stewart, a transportation and logistics expert, has been named to the first Great lakes Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Stewart is chair of the Department of Business and Economics, and Director of the Transportation and Logistics Research Center at UW-Superior. Those of you who attended the Board meeting in Superior last spring may remember his presentation. Dr. Stewart will be one of 18 members on this new board, which will play a part in advising how the EPA spends some $300 million in restoring the Great Lakes for future generations. As Dr. Stewart explained, “I was born in and spent most of my life in Great Lakes states. The lakes are one of the most precious assets in the world. Keeping these inland seas fresh and clean and environmentally healthy is critical to our nation’s overall health and the health of the ecosystems that surround the Great Lakes.” Congratulations to Dr. Stewart, Chancellor Renée Wachter, and UW-Superior.
  • UW-Platteville has just recently received the results of a study it commissioned on the university’s economic impact to the region – and the news is pretty good. It is estimated that UW-Platteville had a $275-million economic impact in southwest Wisconsin in 2011-12, and a total impact of $394 million to the entire state. Households of UW-Platteville employees spend an estimated $62.1 million for goods and services in the area, while students spend $50.4 million and visitors $7.8 million. The university itself spent $3.1 million for supplies and capital equipment in the region, and another $800,000 for building construction. Congratulations to Chancellor Shields and the UW-Platteville campus community.
  • From UW-Parkside… Sandra Moats, an associate professor of history, is among a handful of scholars recently named to the inaugural class of fellows at the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Professor Moats, who will be living on the estate for five months, will have access to everything in the new presidential library. She notes that Washington’s original personal papers haven’t been as easily accessible to scholars as those of third president Thomas Jefferson, but the new library should help to change that. “We sort of take Washington for granted,” Moats told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent story. “(People) think of him as the marble man – a monument or a statue. But there was a reason he was cautious and controlled.” Dr. Moats plans to write a book about Washington’s role in American neutrality following the Revolutionary War, a time when the country was establishing its identity.  We’ll look forward to hearing more. Congratulations to Dr. Moats, Chancellor Debbie Ford, and UW-Parkside.
  • UW-Stevens Point reports that starting this fall, it will become the only university in the Midwest to offer an undergraduate wildland fire science program. But they aren’t waiting until then to get to work. Last month, teaming up with the DNR, about two dozen students at UW-Stevens Point were out learning how to use water pumps, locate hot spots, and put out brush fires as part of being certified as Basic Wildland Firefighters. With drought and dangerous wildfires an increasingly difficult challenge nationwide, the need is only going to grow, experts say. In the past year, 11 people died in wildfires nationwide, and last November alone, more than 9 million acres of forest, brush, and grassland were lost in fires.  This summer, some of these same UW-Stevens Point students could be part of crews trying to control wildfires out West. “If you see fires on the news, there’s a chance there’s a Pointer there with them,” said Associate Dean Paul Doruska (Doe-RUE-ska), from the College of Natural Resources, in a WSAW-TV news story last month.  Hats off to Chancellor Bernie Patterson and UW-Stevens Point.
  • UW-River Falls reports that its newly constructed Jesse H. Ames Suites exceeded even their own expectations when the living space was recently awarded the prestigious LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizing high performance and environmentally responsible projects. Construction of the facility – which had originally aimed for a Silver certification – includes more than 16% recycled materials, with a quarter of the materials used being regionally harvested, and 70% of the wood used being Forestry Stewardship Council certified. Renewable energy certificates, low-flow plumbing, and rooftop solar hot water panels result in a nearly 32% annual reduction in energy usage and 27% savings in energy costs. All that, and it gets high marks for friendly living space, too. Outdoor gathering spaces include a fire pit and barbecue grill, rain gardens, and a boardwalk that protects adjacent wetlands. Congratulations to Chancellor Dean Van Galen and the UW-River Falls campus community.
  • UW-Stout recently had the formal dedication of its new digital fabrication laboratory – better known as the “Fab Lab.” The lab offers users computer-controlled machines and equipment that employ many types of materials to create a wide range of products. They are then connected across the globe by a communications network that allows users to share files and other ideas for the products they want to make. UW-Stout’s Fab Lab – which is part of a multi-institution research project through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – was established by the Discovery Center, UW-Stout’s umbrella organization for applied research, outreach, and economic development, and with the assistance of a multi-year $520,000 Growth Agenda award from the UW System.  The idea behind the open Fab Lab environment is to remove barriers, such as access to equipment and technology, while serving as an incubator for applied research, innovation, job creation, and economic development. Manufacturers often report having a hard time finding students with the skills they need, but fab labs are expected to be an important part of developing that workforce. Congratulations to Chancellor Chuck Sorenson and UW-Stout.
  • UW-Milwaukee scientists are joining colleagues from five other U.S. institutions for a landmark study of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays – the world’s rarest and most energetic subatomic particles. Apparently, it is the first time the particles will be recorded from space as they collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Discovering the sources of the particles’ acceleration could offer insight into high-energy astrophysics and the origins of the universe, experts say. With a grant from NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration), the six teams will do the advance work necessary to launch a telescope that will be mounted on the International Space Station. That launch is scheduled for 2017. UWM’s role is to coordinate development of the common software framework that all the collaborators will use for analysis. The software for the mission’s analysis repository will be written by UWM senior scientist Thomas Paul. Very exciting stuff! Kudos to Chancellor Mike Lovell and the UW-Milwaukee campus.
  • UW-Eau Claire boasts a strong athletic tradition, but the university’s most successful team doesn’t conduct its business on the court, at the field, or in the pool. Instead, the “winningest” Blu-Gold team works its magic in business attire behind a podium. The UW-Eau Claire forensics team has now parlayed a winning formula and a tradition of excellence into 21 straight state championships and 22 individual national champions. In a competition with no division brackets to separate small and large schools, the UW-Eau Claire team consistently ranks among the top 10 in the nation.  Just recently, this year’s team – despite a high proportion of freshmen – won state individual titles in seven of 11 categories, and 16 members of the team have qualified about 60 speeches for three major national tournaments later this month.  At a time when surveys indicate many Americans consider public speaking their No. 1 fear, this is no mean feat! Congratulations to Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet, and the UW-Eau Claire campus community.
  • I also want to call your attention to the “WisconsinBiz” publication that is in your folders.  UW System is one of several key sponsors of this publication, and – as you’ll see – we figure prominently. If you turn to the tabbed pages (starting on page 66), you’ll find aneight-page color spread highlighting our Knowledge Powers Wisconsin campaign … with cogent facts and testimonials about the power that UW brings to the state’s economic engine. The magazine also has articles focusing on UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, as well as our new Flexible Option program.  As Dave Giroux explained in earlier presentations to this Board, the Knowledge Powers Wisconsin campaign is a rebranding of our strategic plan, focusing on building a stronger workforce, stronger businesses, and stronger communities. Clearly, we are a vital part of the state’s economic advantages, and it’s important we tell that story. “WisconsinBiz” is a part of the state’s economic development marketing plan, and will be distributed widely to CEOs and other businesspeople not only here in Wisconsin but also in neighboring states. Copies of the publication are also being sent to all campuses for distribution and display.
  • Also, just a reminder of UW System’s upcoming 10th annual Posters in the Rotundain the State Capitol on Wednesday, April 17. This event – which is really a celebration of undergraduate research – showcases the incredible work of more than 100 outstanding student researchers and their faculty advisors from across the UW System. It’s an important opportunity for students to share their research findings with legislators, UW alumni, and other supporters. If you have not attended this event before, we encourage you to check it out. I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

That concludes my report for today.

See February’s “News from Around the UW System”