Report by President Kevin P. Reilly to the Board of Regents

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

  • First, from UW-La Crosse … History Professor Victor Macías-González recently received the Wisconsin Professor of the Year Award in Washington, D.C. The award, sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is part of the U.S. Professor of the Year Program, which salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country. Professor Macías-González has quite a story. He came to the U.S. from Mexico in the fourth grade, knowing little or no English. A mark of things to come, however, he was soon on the 4th grade honor roll, in the 6th-grade Gifted and Talented Program, and the second-place winner of the 8th-grade spelling bee. He attributes his academic success to the support he had early on from parents, teachers, and mentors. It also showed him the difference a teacher can make. Drawing on his own experiences, Professor Macías-González has taken special interest in working with under-represented and first-generation students. That led him to join Barbara Stewart, UW-L Associate Dean for Campus Climate and Diversity, to design the Eagle Mentoring Program in 2008, a retention initiative for under-represented, underprivileged, second-year students. He is a professor of Latin American History, and Women’s Gender Studies.
    Congratulations to Professor Macías-González, Chancellor Gow, and the UW-L campus community…
  • Students at UW-Whitewater have combined their skills in geography, information technology, and website design to create an important online map of state economic development projects. The interactive map was produced for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation by Pangea Studios, the university’s nonprofit center that provides mapping services for clients. UW-Whitewater worked in collaboration with the State Cartographer’s Office and the Cartography Lab at UW-Madison on the design for the map. Then, three UW-Whitewater students and one recent graduate worked all summer to make it a reality. The map is intended to offer a clear public view of WEDC’s investments across the state. Users can find information on award amounts, types of industry, projected jobs, and summaries for counties and regions. Pangea’s work not only helps students develop skills for their careers but also fosters economic growth, according to Eric Compas, the director of Pangea Studios and an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Geology. He calls it “one of the biggest things that we’ve done.” Hats off to Chancellor Telfer and the UW-Whitewater campus.
  • We have news from UW-StoutTim Nelson… a four-time national champion in track and cross country, has been selected to receive the 2014 NCAA Today’s Top 10 Award, recognizing student-athletes for their success in athletics, in the classroom, and in the community. Just 10 athletes nationwide from all levels of NCAA athletics receive the award each year. Tim is just the fifth student in the history of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association to receive the award. And boy, did he earn it. We don’t have nearly enough time to hear all the accolades this young man has collected … but here are a couple highlights. He is a seven-time U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American … He was named WIAC Athlete of the Year in 2011 and 2013, and won five WIAC championships. He is an eight-time recipient of the UW-Stout Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence and a four-time member of the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll. He received the UW-Stout Outstanding Student Leadership Award, before graduating this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a grade point of 3.70. As if that’s not enough, he was commissioned last summer as a second lieutenant in the Army and just last month, he started officer training school in Fort Benning, Georgia. As Athletic Director Duey Naatz put it, “Tim exemplifies what Division III athletics is about, being a solid competitor, while keeping in perspective the importance of the team, the university, and the community, and doing it with dignity and grace.” Congratulations, Tim, and the UW-Stout campus.
  • We also have news of an exemplary student athlete from UW-La Crosse … U.S. Army First Lieutenant and former UW-La Crosse football player Jason Church has been named the recipient of the 2014 National College Athletic Association Inspiration Award. The award recognizes a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, used perseverance, dedication, and determination to overcome the event, and now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others. Jason Church, a 2011 graduate of UW-L, was a member of the Eagles’ football squad and a cadet in the ROTC. In May 2012, he joined his Striker Battalion in Afghanistan. Several months later, he was on a dismounted patrol in an abandoned village when an IED explosion caused him severe injury, leaving him without either leg below the knee. Lt. Church was evacuated, and three days later, he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. He has since undergone more than 20 surgeries, but he nonetheless has continued to travel around the country speaking about standing up to adversity. Lt. Church was awarded a Purple Heart and elected to receive it during halftime of UW-L’s football game against UW-Whitewater in November of 2012, at Roger Harring Stadium at the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. Lt. Church’s father, Colonel David Church, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 29 years, presented the Purple Heart to his son. Jason said he wanted to receive his Purple Heart there on campus as a testament to the impact UW-L and the La Crosse community have had on his life. Jason is still undergoing treatment at Walter Reed, but his future plans include graduate school to continue his education. Congratulations to Lt. Jason Church on his award, and the UW-L community.
  • According to statistics just released by the National Science Foundation, despite flat research expenditures nationwide, UW-Madison research enterprise grew by a bit more than 5 percent in 2012 and inched up to No. 3 in the national rankings. UW-Madison now ranks just behind Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan for sheer volume of research. In fiscal year 2012, research expenditures at UW-Madison neared the $1.2 billion mark, showing growth of 5.2 percent over fiscal year 2011, when UW-Madison spent $1.1 billion and weighed in at number four nationally. While the new statistics show UW-Madison performing well, university officials have cautioned that future reports may reflect reduced growth in federal expenditures for research, an increasingly competitive environment for grants, and the effects of sequestration and the government shutdown of 2013. Already, federal awards to UW-Madison researchers – a leading indicator of future research spending – have declined by 10 percent since the end of fiscal 2012. In anticipation of a decline in research expenditures due to budget cuts and sequestration, the university has set aside bridge funds for research projects and centers affected by the across-the-board cuts to current research. By helping to offset declines from sequestration, the university hopes to position itself for the new funding environment and maintain its competitiveness. UW-Madison has consistently ranked in the top five of all American universities, public and private, for research volume for more than two decades. Congratulations to Chancellor Blank and the UW-Madison campus.
  • And here’s a different twist on the Wisconsin Idea in action. UW-Milwaukee has developed a new wrench aimed at preventing serious and costly injuries among gas-meter technicians. It turns out, the adjustable pipe wrenches that technicians typically use when replacing gas meters sometimes slip when a lot of force is applied, which can produce serious shoulder injuries resulting in up to $100,000 in medical bills and lost work days. UWM researcher Naira Campbell, who lost her brother in a work-related accident and has since devoted her career to workplace issues, teamed up with another faculty member, Benjamin Church, and a student research team led by Patrick Dix, a graduate student in industrial engineering, to change that. Their new non-slip wrench has generated considerable interest in the industry, and the UWM Research Foundation has entered into a license agreement with Kenosha-based toolmaker Snap-on Inc. to commercialize and manufacture the specialty tool. Kudos to Chancellor Lovell and the UWM campus community.
  • Finally, UW-Oshkosh reports a new and unconventional collaboration between its College of Nursing students and … some local horses!  Nursing students in the College’s community clinical experience have been spending mornings at Beaming, Inc., a non-profit equine therapy ranch in the Oshkosh area. At the ranch, future RNs meet up with students from the Neenah Joint School District who have cognitive and developmental delays, and serve as “side-walkers,” helping to lead the children on horseback. Clearly, this is far from the hospitals, clinics, and exam rooms where most future nurses will practice – and that’s exactly the point. The program is designed to pull nursing students out of their element, helping them to hone their assessment skills on a population of children who are sometimes more challenging to evaluate. The horses can play a huge role in forming a vital relationship between the student nurses and the children. As one UWO student put it, “Last week, both of the kids I was assigned to clicked. It worked. We got through. It was very rewarding.” We often talk about finding new ways to teach. Sometimes that means going the high-tech route … and sometimes not! Hats off to Chancellor Wells and the UW-Oshkosh campus for finding a different angle on innovative learning.

That concludes my report.

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