Report by Interim President Richard J. Telfer to the Board of Regents

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

  • First, hot off the press … On Tuesday, Microsoft named University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee grad Satya Nadella as its next CEO, only the company’s third leader in its 38-year history. Nadella is a 22-year veteran of Microsoft who has been overseeing various aspects of the company’s corporate software business since 1992. Over the past several years, Nadella’s cloud and enterprise division has been one of Microsoft’s best-performing units. Nadella graduated from UWM in 1990 with a master’s degree in computer science. He came to UWM with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Manipal University in his native India. UWM has produced its share of CEOs for local companies over the years, including Harley-Davidson, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, Rockwell, We Energies and others — but never for one of the biggest companies in the world, according to UWM chancellor Michael Lovell. In what now looks like a stroke of prescience, UWM presented Nadella with its Chancellor’s Innovator Award just last year. Congratulations to Chancellor Lovell and UWM.
  • UW-Platteville reports that its The Sky’s the Limit program has received the Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award from the Wisconsin chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, an international organization focused on building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women. UW-Platteville’s outreach program, which was launched back in 2005 and expanded in 2010, is designed to introduce young women to careers in the STEM fields. It offers weekend events for girls in grades seven through 12, centered around age-appropriate, hands-on projects that encourage them to learn more about careers in STEM fields, while interacting with college students and professionals. The Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award is presented to an organization that has exhibited outstanding efforts in developing opportunities for women and minorities, while also promoting diversity and cultural awareness within their organization. Congratulations to Chancellor Shields and the UW-Platteville campus.
  • UW-Madison researchers pioneered the use of high-density electro-encephalograph (HD-EEG) technology to study sleep patterns and the effects of meditation. Now, that same technology is being evaluated to see how it might benefit people with epilepsy. Dr. Giulio Tononi (JOO-lee-oh Toh-NO-nee), a UW-Madison neuroscientist and psychiatrist, is leading efforts to develop proprietary software that can help interpret the massive amounts of data generated by HD-EEG sleep studies. To get some perspective on just how massive this data is, consider that the typical EEG devices used in hospitals gather information about brain activity using 19 electrodes placed on the scalp. By comparison, HD-EEGs use up to 256 electrodes. Dr. Tononi believes the HD-EEG techniques used for sleep study also might yield important breakthroughs for epilepsy patients, and his lab will receive $100,000 from a local grassroots organization that some of you may be familiar with, Lily’s Fund for Epilepsy Research, to support those studies. Dave Giroux and his wife are among the co-founders of Lily’s Fund. Congratulations to Dr. Tononi, Chancellor Blank, and UW-Madison.
  • UW-Extension shares the news that David Schejbal, Dean of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning, has been named president-elect of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. This is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education. It serves 365 institutions, including most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. Congratulations to Dean Schejbal and the UW-Extension community.
  • Chris Yingchun Yuan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UW-Milwaukee, has received a prestigious Early CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to examine the environmental impact of next-generation electric car batteries. These lithium-ion batteries will allow electric vehicles to drive much farther on a single change, but they do raise some environmental and health concerns. Dr. Yuan will use the $400,000 grant on a five-year project to develop mathematical models and computation tools that will lead to greener and more environmentally benign lithium-ion batteries. He is collaborating with Johnson Controls as well as General Motors and PE International on the research, which also has the goal of developing batteries at lower cost. CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious grants for younger researchers. They support the career development of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of this century. Last year, four UWM faculty members were awarded CAREER grants.Congratulations to Dr. Yuan, Chancellor Lovell, and UWM.
  • UW-Superior is pleased to share the news that its online degree program ranks among the best in the country, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Education Program Rankings. UW-Superior is ranked ninth overall for its online bachelor’s programs and is the top-ranked campus in the UW System for online degrees. The university’s 35-year-old distance learning program is one of the oldest in the state, and was the first to offer self-paced independent learning leading to a degree. The program went online in 1999. The U.S. News rankings considered student engagement, faculty credentials and training, peer reputation, and student services and technology. Currently, 551 – or 19 percent – of UW-Superior students are seeking online degrees. More than 75 percent of these students are women, and most are between the ages of 25 and 49. Nine out of 10 have some prior college education, and 60 percent are employed full-time. Hats off to Chancellor Wachter and the UW-Superior campus community.
  • UW-La Crosse continues to be recognized for its international efforts. The latest Open Doors Report ranks UW-L 30th in the country for its 435 students studying abroad in 2012-13 – highest of all UW System master’s level institutions. The university’s 17 percent participation rate for undergraduates studying abroad also tops the national average of 14 percent. Meanwhile, back on campus, UW-L has the fourth largest international student population of all colleges and universities in Wisconsin with 370 international students from more than 40 countries. Only UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University serve more international students. At a time when the careers of so many of our students will be global ones, where they will need to function effectively in multi-national teams, I think we all recognize how important it is that they are able to understand the cultural and historical differences that divide us, as well as the common values and humanity that unite us. Congratulations to Chancellor Gow and the UW-La Crosse campus.
  • A friendship that began more than 70 years ago between a 20th-century American poet and a quiet country boy from Wisconsin will live on in McIntyre Library’s Special Collections and Archives department at UW-Eau Claire with the recent acquisition of a rare and extensive collection of Robert Frost materials. The collection — acquired by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation from Joan Christopherson Schmidt of Milwaukee – is believed to be one of the most extensive Frost collections maintained outside of academia. It contains 44 Frost books, most of which are first- or rare limited editions, including many that have been signed and inscribed by the poet. The collection also includes manuscript materials containing handwritten poetry, Christmas cards and pamphlets, as well as dozens of books about Frost. Mrs. Schmidt, affectionately known as Miss Chris, is the wife of the late Frederick Schmidt (Fritz), a man who cultivated a lifelong friendship with Frost while a student at Dartmouth College in 1942. Mrs. Schmidt said she is pleased the Frost collection that meant so much to her and her husband now has a home at UW-Eau Claire surrounded by the nature they both loved. Congratulations to Chancellor Schmidt – who I don’t believe is related? – and the UW-Eau Claire community.
  • In closing, I do not have a poem to share – but I do have some news from my home campus. Since we last met, the UW-Whitewater football team claimed its fifth Division III national championship and fourth in the past five years with a dominating 52-14 victory over top-ranked Mount Union at the 41st Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Virginia. Warhawk quarterback Matt Behrendt finished with a school-record 40 touchdown passes for the season, throwing just one interception in 460 passes.  And with two TD catches in the championship game, wide receiver Jake Kumerow  also set a school mark with 19 scores through the air. All in all, a very impressive performance. Congratulations to Coach Lance Leipold, the entire Warhawk football organization, and the UW-Whitewater campus.
  • That concludes my report.

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