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

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

  • UW-Stout has announced that it will be collaborating with Thomson Reuters, the professional information and media company, to launch a new minor in Web technology. This minor is within the Information and Communication Technologies undergrad program in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It includes a course on search engine optimization that is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation in postsecondary education. Thomson Reuters is supporting the effort with a financial donation, as well as helping with curriculum development and providing instructors for the course. The donation, which is spread over five years, has led to the establishment of the Thomson Reuters Web Development Program Fund at the Stout University Foundation. Chancellor Chuck Sorensen says this is another fine example of how UW-Stout works with private industry to solve problems and help grow the economy. Congratulations to Chancellor Sorensen and the UW-Stout campus community.
  • Authorization of and appropriations for a national program that would provide capacity-building funds for non-land grant colleges of agriculture and natural resources have been a legislative priority for the UW System Office of Federal Relations, and our campuses at UW-River Falls, UW-Platteville, and UW-Stevens Point for several years.  The program was first authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.  Since that time, with the help of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and working with a coalition of members of Congress from across the country, approximately $4.5 million has been appropriated each of the past two years to fund research, education and outreach activities at non-land grants. The result? You might recall that last year UW-Platteville was awarded a three-year competitive grant for Upper Mississippi River Basin research on crop nutrient management.  And just this past month, UW-River Falls learned that two faculty members of the UW-River Falls Animal and Food Science Department – Justin Luther and Amy Radunz – have received a $733,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to fund a project called “Strategies to Improve Reproductive Performance in the U.S. Beef Cattle Industry.”  The grant, which is a collaborative effort between UW-River Falls, UW-Madison, and Biozyme, Inc., will be directed by UW-River Falls and give its students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on, practical experience with modern cattle reproductive management techniques. This capacity building program for non-land grant institutions is testimony to the growing recognition and importance of these institutions in educating and training students for today’s modern workforce.  Kudos to the leadership of UW System Federal Relations and our UW System campuses for developing partnerships across the country that have enhanced research support for non-land grants and for more undergraduate research experiences.
  • UW-Richland shares the news that it has welcomed 36 international students this fall from 14 different nations. Considering that Richland Center is a town of about 5,000 people – and the campus has about 500 students – this is pretty impressive. Congratulations to Dean Patrick Hagen and Chancellor Ray Cross.
  • Speaking of numbers … UW-Platteville is on a roll. The campus reports that it currently has about 1,500 students enrolled from Iowa and Illinois, through the Tri-State Initiative. That’s up from 163 students back in 2005, in the first year of the Initiative. The Tri-State Initiative, you may recall, offers students from Iowa and Illinois the opportunity to take advantage of an attractive tuition rate at UW-Platteville … they pay in-state tuition plus a $4,000 premium. As part of the TSI agreement, UW-Platteville keeps that $4,000 from each TSI student to invest in such things as more faculty and staff positions, and facilities. In 2013-14, 181 full-time positions are directly funded by TSI money. For students, the Tri-State initiative gives them access to program majors at UW-Platteville that match the economic needs of the area, and that means STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), as well as agriculture, biology, business, criminal justice, education, fine arts, and psychology. The bump in TSI numbers has also led to UW-Platteville’s enrollment now being the highest in its 147-year history, with 8,662 students enrolled this fall.  Congratulations to Chancellor Shields and the UW-Platteville campus community.
  • As we all know, internships, while often unpaid, offer students an important opportunity to work in their field of study while still in college. But for many students, who are already going to class, studying, and holding down a job, taking an unpaid internship may be out-of-reach. As a result, however, these students may be missing out on real-world experience that could make them more competitive in the job market after graduation. To address that challenge, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation has awarded more than $2.5 million in Career Ready Internship Initiative grants to 19 Wisconsin colleges and universities. I’m pleased to note that this includes six UW institutions (Green Bay, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, River Falls, Stevens Point, and Superior). The idea is that colleges will partner with businesses throughout the state to not only create new paid internships, but to convert existing unpaid internships into paid internships. The grant-funded internships will be made available to students who don’t receive enough financial aid to cover their college costs. The Great Lakes corporation expects that nearly 1,300 Wisconsin college students will benefit from these grants.
  • At previous meetings, this Board has had the opportunity to hear about the inaugural MOOC being offered by UW-La Crosse. Well, I am pleased to share the news that not long ago, UW-L’s MOOC won a national award for collaboration. The 2013 Desire2Excel award is given to individuals, groups, or organizations that display exemplary ingenuity, creativity, and collaboration in empowering students to achieve their academic goals.  The UW-L MOOC was also one of just 28 initiatives – out of 266 national and international submissions – to receive an MRI grant (MOOC Research Initiative) through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further evaluate MOOC’s and how they impact teaching, learning, and education in general. UW-L’s course, the first MOOC in the UW System, was designed to prepare students for college-level math and science courses so they can enter college and graduate in higher numbers, in less time and at lower costs. Various groups at UW-L and beyond collaborated to make this MOOC possible, including UW-L’s students, faculty, staff, the Information Technology Services Department, UW System, and D2L. UW-Milwaukee students and staff also joined in to help offer online tutoring throughout the course. Congratulations to Chancellor Gow and the UW-L campus community.
  • We also have news from UW-Cooperative Extension … Back in March, Cooperative Extension distributed Google Nexus 7 tablets to 725 faculty and staff members – almost three-quarters of its 1,000 employees. The idea wasn’t just to equip them with new technology, but to help its employees — who are located in all 72 of the state’s counties – to collaborate more effectively not only with each other but also with the communities they serve. By all reports, this has transformed Cooperative Extension’s work with farmers, families, schools, and governments, allowing them to share knowledge instantly and also cut travel costs. This project was highlighted in a recent article in EdTech magazine pdf , a copy of which is included in your folders.  EdTech described Cooperative Extension’s distribution of these tablets as “innovation in action.” Kudos to Chancellor Cross and Cooperative Extension!
  • From UW-Oshkosh … A collaborative project involving UW-O, Winnebago County, the city of Oshkosh, and that city’s industrial development agency just got a tremendous boost.  U.S. Rep. Tom Petri announced last month that the partners’ Aviation Business Accelerator project at Wittman Airport is the recipient of a $2-million federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant. The accelerator is a planned, 20,000-square foot building designed to house light manufacturing and office space, with tenants expected to benefit from mentoring, early-stage business funding, networking, and more. It’s the kind of economic development that UW-Oshkosh’s Aero-Innovate initiative has been directly involved in sparking, both in Oshkosh and the New North. The aviation business accelerator is also envisioned as a catalyst for aviation business at Wittman Airport, where the broader vision calls for development of an approximately $10-million, 80-acre aviation business park. The ultimate goal is to help new companies and entrepreneurs within a budding aviation business cluster grow northeast Wisconsin’s aviation economy and, of course, bring new jobs to the region.  Hats off to Chancellor Wells and the UW-O community.
  • A new student competition is being coordinated by UW-Madison, which aims to find ideas and solutions to address the challenges in 21st-century agriculture, such as food scarcity and availability, transportation, and sustainability. The competition, called “Agricultural Innovation Prize: Powered by 40 Chances,” calls for teams of undergraduate and graduate students across the country to submit their best proposals and business plans. Administered by UW students through the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the competition is being launched in tandem with the upcoming release of the book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” by Howard G. Buffett. The book documents new approaches for combating hunger and poverty in the most difficult places on Earth. Molly Jahn, a professor of genetics who is leading UW-Madison’s efforts on the student-driven prize, says: “This is the type of contest that spans entire universities, not just departments that have been historically identified as related to agriculture.” She adds that she is eager to see how a variety of fields, including mathematics, the social sciences, and the health sciences, can contribute to thinking about food systems in innovative ways. After finalists are selected, teams will be invited to the UW-Madison campus in April 2014 for the final stage of the competition to present their projects and be scored by a high-profile judging panel. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is funding the prize, which offers more than $200,000 of support, with the first-place proposal receiving $100,000. Congratulations to Chancellor Blank and the UW-Madison campus community.
  • What’s old is new again. UW-Stevens Point has revived the tradition of Convocation – an academic introduction for new students at the start of the academic year. Chancellor Bernie Patterson commissioned a replica of the cupola dome atop the Old Main administrative building to become part of two of the most important events on campus – convocation and commencement. Earlier this month, first-year students pledged a covenant with the university and sealed it by touching the cupola replica as they departed from Convocation. Faculty and staff renewed their commitment in a similar fashion. This year’s convocation theme for the Pointer community was “access to opportunity,” a look at academic and athletic opportunities afforded by Title IX, which prohibited discrimination in education programs based on gender. That theme has added resonance this year because UW-Stevens Point will have the honor of hosting the 2014 NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four in March. Congratulations to Chancellor Patterson and UW-Stevens Point.
  • Seven new research projects, focusing on everything from techniques to provide more accurate weather predictions to a computer game that treats a compulsive hair-pulling affliction, have received Catalyst Grant funding from the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation. The Catalyst Grant Program invests in promising early-stage research at UWM, fostering commercialization of new technology. Now in its sixth year, the Catalyst Grant Program has awarded nearly $3.4 million in seed funding for 58 projects to date. For the first time, three of the research projects – those related to advanced computational imaging – are being supported by GE Healthcare Catalyst Grants, totaling more than $184,000. This is part of a larger effort by GE Healthcare aimed at building a pipeline of Wisconsin-based medical imaging software developers and researchers to drive the next generation of healthcare technology globally. The other four projects are backed by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation. Totaling $181,000 this round, these grants support promising research and development in areas where UWM has the greatest potential to impact the regional economy through commercialization activities. Kudos to Chancellor Lovell and the UWM campus community.
  • UW-La Crosse reports that a new program starting on campus this fall will help freshmen build strong relationships with faculty, gain experience in their career fields, and earn money to pay for college. UW-L is launching the Eagle Apprenticeship program this fall with a pilot of four incoming freshmen. The program pairs the students with faculty mentors who provide them research or other apprenticeship experience for two to three hours each week over the course of two years. As freshmen, they will receive a $1,000 award for the year, and then as sophomores, they will receive $2,000. The program is expected to help UW-L attract and retain the best and brightest freshmen by offering financial assistance and mentoring their first year, according to Scott Cooper, the university’s director of undergraduate research. The program also builds on studies that suggest that a good predictor of student retention is developing a meaningful relationship with a faculty member outside of the classroom. The plan is to expand the program to 25 freshmen in fall 2014. Once the program is full strength in 2015, awards for students will total $75,000. Funds to support the program will be administered by UW-L’s Financial Aid Office and are targeted specifically at recruitment and retention. Congratulations to Chancellor Gow and the UW-La Crosse campus.
  • Finally, I’d like to extend congratulations to UW HELP, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Did you know that in an average year, UW HELP makes about 35,000 contacts? And did you know that UW HELP was the brainchild of Regent Mark Bradley. A few years back, in 1974, Mark and a graduate student buddy, Don Steele, conceived of the idea of the “Higher Education Location Program” – or HELP. (Never underestimate the power of a good acronym!) At that time, the University of Wisconsin was merging with the Wisconsin State Universities to form the UW System. Mark and Don had the foresight to see the challenge, as well as to form the solution: to create a service for the people of the state to ensure systemwide access to information to help navigate the new University of Wisconsin System. The technology of the day was the telephone, and probably rotary phones, something many students today might not even recognize. And campus information was stored on huge rolodex card carousels. Talk about antiquities! Coming back to the present, UW HELP has become an indispensable model program that serves not only the people of the State (and beyond), but also the UW System and all of its institutions. As you can well imagine, the tools used today and methods of delivery have changed tremendously over 40 years. One of the new media is video – an example of which, I’d like to share with you. This video, titled “Journey Through Financial Aid,” was produced by the media team at UW HELP and UW-Extension’s Continuing Education, Outreach, and E-Learning division. It recently earned the bronze medal in the 2013 marketing awards at the summer conference of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association. I’m told that two financial aid directors – Randy McCready at UW-Parkside and Paul Watson at UW-Stevens Point – provided great input and advice on the narrative for this video. Let’s watch …

That concludes my report for today.

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