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

  • Last month, UW System announced that UW-La Crosse will lead the development of a new “massive open online course” – or MOOC – at the developmental math level, with a $50,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. About one-in-five new freshmen in the UW System need some remedial math education when they enter college, and this new free online course is designed to help them gain the necessary skills. I’m pleased to report that the course is apparently resonating with a lot of people. In the three weeks since the announcement, more than 320 students have already registered – representing more than half the states and five foreign countries. The ages range from an 11-year-old (a gifted student looking to get even further ahead) to a few in their 80’s, including a Korean War vet who is currently a bus driver and wants to gain better math skills. Math Professor Bob Hoar, who will lead the project, says outreach to Wisconsin and high school students about the course will begin soon.
  • I am pleased to share the news that two more UW System projects have been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certifications by the U.S. Green Building Council. The most recent additions include Sage Hall at UW-Oshkosh, a new academic building which earned 10 out of 10 possible energy optimization credits, representing a 38% reduction in energy usage over commercial code – for annual cost savings of more than $92,000. The other building receiving a Gold LEED certification is The Suites@201 residence hall at UW-Stevens Point, the first new residence hall constructed there in over 50 years. It also achieved a 30% reduction in energy compared to commercial code. Overall, this brings to 10 the number of buildings around the System to have received a LEED certification to date, and there are 10 others seeking such approval within the next two years.
  • From UW-River Falls … for the second straight year, the Center for Dairy Farm Safety has been awarded a $127,000 OSHA grant through the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. … During first year of the grant, a comprehensive dairy farm safety training program was designed, and is currently being offered to dairy producers throughout Wisconsin. The second year of the program will build on those foundational elements by designing safety training materials to be used by dairy producers for their employees. The target audience is young workers, minority workers, and workers with limited English proficiency or literacy. Training topics will include animal handling, hazard communications, personal protection equipment, and risk assessment. “The opportunity to impact dairy safety is such an honor for this important industry in our state,” said Connie Smith, director of risk management at UWRF and the Center’s program director. “WE want to be sensitive to what this industry needs and keep current on trends in dairy safety so we can be a valuable resource for producers.”
  • UW-Green Bay Professor Gregory Aldrete has been named the 2012 Wisconsin Professor of the Year, an honor bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Dr. Aldrete, the university’s Frankenthal Professor of History and Humanistic Studies, joined the faculty in 1995. He is an award-winning teacher, scholar, and author, whose areas of research interest include the social and economic history of the Roman Empire, rhetoric and oratory, military history, and urban problems in the ancient world. Dr. Aldrete, who exemplifies UWGB’s 360° of Learning perspective, is well-known on campus for the hands-on ways he makes history come to life. One might find him in the classroom, wearing a toga and speaking Latin, or outside on campus leading a group of students through battle formation exercises with hand-made shields. He is perhaps best known for his Linothorax Project, which involves recreating an ancient linen armor from scratch, and then shooting arrows – at brave student volunteers, no less – to test its durability. The six-year project has led to awards, national and international TV coverage, and a forthcoming book. Congratulations to Professor Aldrete, as well as Chancellor Tom Harden and the UWGB campus community.
  • UW-Stout was recently honored by the state of Wisconsin for its efforts to blend diversity-based concepts into its curriculum in an attempt to increase the retention rate of a diverse student population. In a ceremony at the State Capitol, UW-Stout received the Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award, sponsored by the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action. The project is administered by the UW-Stout Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center under Director Renee Howarton. I should note that this is the second year in a row UW-Stout has been honored for its efforts to help retain racial and ethnic minority students in school.  Congratulations to Chancellor Sorenson and the UW-Stout campus community.
  • UW System, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and La Crosse County were honored last month by the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired for helping to pass Act 124, otherwise known as the E-Text Bill. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Representatives Joe Knilans and Donna Seidel along with Senator Bob Wirch, will help make instructional materials more accessible to blind and visually impaired students. Grant Huber of Communications and External Relations and Sal Carranza of Academic and Student Affairs accepted the Legislative Partners Award on behalf of UW System. Our congratulations to all.
  • UW-La Crosse reports that its Physics Department will be awarded the American Physical Society’s 2013 Improving Undergraduate Physics Education Award at its April meeting. UW-L is one of only four universities nationwide to be recognized with this honor, with the others being Colorado School of Mines, Kettering University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The Society said it was impressed with UW-L’s revised physics curriculum using research-supported methods at all levels. Improvements to UW-L’s physics program have resulted in a significant increase in the number of physics majors, bringing the undergraduate program from the brink of elimination to one of the largest physics departments in Wisconsin. Congratulations to Chancellor Joe Gow and the UW-La Crosse campus.
  • From UW-Whitewater, we have a fine example of what can happen when ingenuity and perseverance cross paths with a problem needing a solution. Andrew Hoeft, a senior entrepreneurship major from Onalaska, apparently identified a need while working at a grocery store and turned it into an innovation that could change the industry. Or at least that’s the opinion of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, which recently presented Andrew with its first-ever Disruptive Student Innovator of the Year award at its national conference in Chicago. Frustrated with the inefficient and costly process of manually checking grocery store shelves for expired products, Andrew wanted to find a better way to do the job. His answer is something called “Date Check Pro,” an expiration date management software that is the first-of-its-kind on the market. Its benefits include reduced labor time, fewer expired products on the shelves, and increased customer satisfaction. For the past 11 months, Andrew has developed his product at the Innovation Center, a business incubator on Whitewater’s east side. Now, he’s off and running. With 28 grocery stores already using the software, Andrew is already scouting for larger headquarters in downtown Whitewater. He has three people on the payroll, and he plans to double that by this summer.
  • The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center network, a program of the UW-Extension Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, has some impressive numbers to share from its most recent annual impact report. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, they report that the Small Business Development Center provided no-cost consulting to 2,239 small business owners and entrepreneurs, delivering over 8,500 counseling sessions. Through this assistance, its consultants supported 258 business starts and over $105.5 million in capital formation for small businesses in Wisconsin. In addition to one-on-one consulting, the Center also delivered over 50,000 hours of training to 4,567 program attendees statewide. Congratulations to Chancellor Cross and the UW-Extension community.
  • In sporting news … UW-Stevens Point is pleased to share the news that the NCAA recently announced the Stevens Point campus will host the 2014 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship, with both the national semifinals and national championship games to be played in Quandt Fieldhouse. According to Director of Athletics Daron Montgomery, this event will bring the university a tremendous level of regional and national exposure – and should be a great boon to the local economy.  “Hosting these championship games will be an opportunity for our entire university and community to roll out the red carpet to welcome dozens of student-athletes, four participating institutions, and hundreds of fans and visitors to Stevens Point,” Montgomery said. UW-Stevens Point has previously hosted sectional tournaments for both men’s and women’s basketball … but it’s the first time hosting the national championship final for the sport. Congratulations to Chancellor Patterson … and the Pointer community.
  • The Wisconsin Badgers have claimed some headlines recently with their third straight trip to the Rose Bowl, but not to be overlooked are the UW-Oshkosh Titans. The undefeated Titans have enjoyed the best season in the University’s football history, and with their come-from-behind 31-24 overtime victory over Linfield College this past Saturday, they are now headed to the Division III Final Four. The Titans – riding a 15-game winning streak, the longest in the nation – will take on St. Thomas (Minn.) next Saturday in Minneapolis, for the right to go to the championship final. Congratulations – and good luck – to Head Coach Pat Cerroni, Chancellor Wells, and the UWO community.
  • Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio have launched a new initiative with the goal of inspiring Wisconsin residents to collect photos of every Wisconsin service person who was killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War – and there are 1,244 of them. Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos welcomed Jan Scruggs, founder of the National Vietnam War Memorial and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, to Wisconsin last month for a special media announcement at the Capitol. The event also included Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and one of our own, Regent Michael Falbo … The photos collected will become part of the lasting tribute in the Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C., and in an online memorial. A very worthy project.
  • Beginning this semester, UW-Milwaukee’s Student Startup Challenge is awarding three teams of UWM students and recent alumni $10,000 each to spend the next year building prototypes and participating in workshops on business plans and marketing. The idea behind the Challenge is to transform the campus into one with an entrepreneurial culture, and give students the opportunity to apply their education. A combined effort of the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the Peck School of the Arts, and the UWM Research Foundation, the first competition attracted 77 UWM students on 46 teams, who submitted 61 product ideas. Kudos to Chancellor Lovell and the UWM campus.
  • Finally, when Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast not long ago, you might be surprised to learn that UW-Madison was, in a sense, right in the middle of things.  Aided by the good work of about 20 scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies on the UW-Madison campus, storm trackers were able to provide on-target forecasts that were vital for emergency planning and mitigating losses. As reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, “Their behind-the-scenes work – providing startling satellite images as well as detailed analysis of what those images were telling us – helped the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service provide forecasts that proved remarkably accurate.” Senior researcher Derrick Herndon put it like this: “A lot of what we want to know about hurricanes takes place over oceans, where we could only get observations if a ship happens to be passing by. So we have to use satellites – and that’s what this center is all about.” The State Journal story concluded, “This is science that obviously makes a difference.” Hats off to Chancellor Ward, and the UW-Madison campus community.

That concludes my report for today.

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