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

  • On the UW-Madison campus, the Chazen Museum of Art expansion has received several major recognitions in recent months. The honors include In Business magazine’s Project of the Year Commercial Design Award, which cited the building’s aesthetics for patrons of the arts, its contribution to the East Campus Mall, and its compatibility with the original Harry Weese-designed museum building named for Conrad Elvehjem. Other honors for the Chazen include the American Institute of Architects’ 2012 Honor Award for overall design excellence, the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation’s award for a design that maintains the historic character of a property and rehabilitates it for contemporary use, and a Top Project of 2011 designation by the construction trade’s Daily Reporter.
  • At our last meeting, held on the UW-Superior campus, we heard several inspiring success stories regarding the economic potential of research and development conducted by UW institutions. Well, I get to offer an update on one of those stories. You may recall UW-Stout research specialist Kenneth Smith, who demonstrated for us a hydrogen fuel cell that was created and developed by his company, Cool Science, LLC. I am pleased to share the news that Mr. Smith, an associate with the UW-Stout Discovery Center, has been named the WiSys Innovation Scholar for 2012. This award honors discoveries made by UW System faculty, staff or students that benefit society. Mr. Smith developed what’s known as a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell, or PEM fuel cell. These cells transform the chemical energy liberated during the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy – which makes them an attractive clean energy option. The work done by Mr. Smith and his UW-Stout team make that cell even more efficient and less costly. Congratulations to Kenneth Smith, Chancellor Sorenson, and the UW-Stout community.
  • Student entrepreneurs at UW-Whitewater have invented a product they say could revolutionize the retail industry. Turns out they’re not the only ones who think their idea is intriguing. Judges at the 2012 BizStarts Collegiate Business Plan Competition were so impressed that they recently awarded UW-Whitewater seniors Joe Scanlin and Ryan Boyd – and their company Scanalytics – their first-place award and $5,000. Joe and Ryan’s winning invention is a pressure-sensitive mat that is connected to software to measure customers’ attention. If someone’s in a computer store, for example, the invention will measure how long a potential customer stands in front of a particular computer model. Much of Joe and Ryan’s research took place at the Innovation Center at Whitewater University Technology Park, a business incubator on the city’s east side, where students are given office space and access to faculty mentors. There’s no magical gap between learning at the university and working in the real world, according to Jeff Vanevenhoven, co-director of UW-Whitewater’s Launch Pad program. He noted that students are running real companies and dealing with all the issues entrepreneurs face. Congratulations to the two student entrepreneurs, Chancellor Telfer, and the UW-Whitewater campus.
  • UW-River Falls recently announced the launch of its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, called “Rising to Distinction.” The campaign seeks to raise $20 million by June 30, 2016, for a variety of initiatives including student financial aid, faculty support, student learning opportunities, and facilities. Things are apparently off to a great start. The fundraising efforts got a big boost recently with a $1-million gift from Dr. John Bryant Wyman to establish the Walker D. and Helen Bryant Wyman Endowed Visiting Professorships in history and art. Walker Wyman was a noted author, folklorist and UWRF history professor for 46 years, retiring in 1978. His son – the donor – teaches medical students and patient care in the field of gastroenterology at UW-Madison. Chancellor Van Galen says the gift is important and historic in a number of ways. As an endowment gift, it will live on in perpetuity and impact student learning in the art and history programs for years to come. He adds that the magnitude of the gift also makes a statement that UW-River Falls is “an outstanding university that is worthy of support.” Congratulations to the UW-River Falls campus community…
  • More than 300 students, faculty mentors, and others from around the UW System participated in the 12th Annual Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity hosted by UW-Parkside. This symposium is another opportunity for undergraduate students in all disciplines, from all UW institutions, to present their scholarly work and creative activity on a wide variety of topics, from artistic expressions to hard-core scientific research. How these endeavors are showcased is often as diverse as the subject matter, with everything from oral presentations to poster displays to dance performances. Not unlike the Posters in the Rotunda event held at the Capitol earlier in the spring, the symposium allows participants to interact with students, faculty, and staff from institutions other than their own from around the UW System. It’s always an impressive display. Hats off to Chancellor Ford and the UW-Parkside community for helping to make the event such a success.
  • I’m pleased to share the news that both UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stout’s diverse support programs for our state’s K-12 school systems made the front-page, feature spot in the Wisconsin Association of School Board’s May edition of “School News” magazine. UW-Oshkosh alone boasts more than 60 active collaborations with K-12 districts in the state, an array of supportive programs, from academically rigorous pre-college credit courses for high school students to efficient training and development opportunities for rural teachers. We’ve included a copy of the School News story in your packets… It’s a great demonstration of the deep connection all our UW System institutions have with Wisconsin school districts.
  • Every year since 1963, the President has proclaimed National Small Business Week to recognize the contributions of small businesses to the economic well-being of America. Every year, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes this special impact made by outstanding small business owners and by champions of America’s entrepreneurs. This year, the SBA has selected the UW-La Crosse Small Business Development Center as the Midwest regional recipient of its Small Business Development Center Service Excellence Award. Working in partnership with the SBA and UW-Extension, the Center at UW-La Crosse provides business advising services, business education programs, and information resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the 7 Rivers Region. It provides one-on-one advising for owners, managers, and prospective entrepreneurs and offers access to world-class information resources. That’s yet another example of putting the Wisconsin Idea into action. Congratulations to Chancellor Gow and UW-La Crosse for this honor.
  • From UW-Stevens Point, we’ve got a fish story. No, really! Last week, fish farmers from all over gathered in northern Wisconsin for a hands-on workshop called “Aquaculture Unplugged.” Fish farmers shared best practices and gained insight on various aspects of fish rearing, including both pond and indoor culture, from experts at the UW-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility. There, they used the facility’s ongoing projects, including hybrid walleye, yellow perch, and arctic char, to learn practical skills and knowledge that can be taken back to farms and put to use. It’s part of the facility’s mission to promote and advance the development of commercial aquaculture in a northern climate. UW-Stevens Point, by the way, is the only university in the state to offer an undergraduate minor in aquaculture.
  • As recently reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Morgridge Institute for Research (which, you’ll recall, is the private half of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus) have reached a multi-million-dollar agreement to help open a medical isotope plant in Janesville. According to Morgridge’s director, this development has the potential to spark a manufacturing cluster that could ultimately bring as many as 1,000 jobs to Rock County. Half of the funding for the $20.6-million cost-sharing agreement will be provided by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the other half from the institute, UW-Madison, and Shine Medical Technologies. Rock County, which has gone through some difficult times with the closing of the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, should be able to take advantage of its proximity to UW’s physics expertise, making this a promising enterprise all-around.
  • Four of the most significant awards in chemistry were recently awarded to UW-Madison professors at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego. Bringing home awards were James Dumesic, Robert Hamers, Hans Reich, and James Skinner. Madison’s Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri – who happens to be president of the American Chemical Society – had this to say about his colleagues’ success. “These are the most respected awards in the chemical sciences, and they are a tribute to the creativity and scholarly work of the faculty at UW-Madison. This university is rich in talent, and we have had many awardees in the past. But four, that’s like a grand slam!” Bassam also shares the news that Dr. Skinner was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, which is a very big deal. Congratulations to the award winners, Chancellor Ward, and the UW-Madison campus community.
  • Finally, five UW institutions have been named among the most environmentally responsible colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. The 2012 edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges” recognizes institutions that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation. This year’s list includes repeat honorees UW-Eau Claire, UW-Milwaukee, and UW-Stevens Point, as well as newcomers UW-Green Bay and UW-Madison. Dr. James Boulter, interim director of UW-Eau Claire’s Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies, captures what it means for his campus. “The entire campus has made great strides to rethink how we operate and – more importantly – how we teach and learn environmental consciousness and sustainable living. It’s a testament to what can be accomplished when we begin to collaborate and strive to cross disciplinary and organizational divides. It’s very exciting to watch.” To all our “green” campuses, well done!

That concludes my report for today.