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…

  • As we announced in a news release yesterday, two UW System institutions got the green light from their accrediting agency to offer self-paced, competency-based degrees as part of the new UW Flexible Option initiative. The Higher Learning Commission officially sanctioned three new baccalaureate programs and one certificate at UW-Milwaukee, as well as an Associate of Arts degree from UW Colleges. This is an important step in our progress toward offering new Flexible Option degrees, and it is a strong vote of confidence from our higher education colleagues. This approval follows intensive efforts by UW faculty and staff to launch this innovative learning platform in a manner that preserves high quality and academic rigor, and we appreciate their hard work.  While there is more work to be done, we are committed to enrolling our first students before the end of this year, demonstrating our commitment to serving working adults in every corner of the state and beyond. Congratulations to Chancellor Cross and Chancellor Lovell, and to all the people who have worked so hard to move the UW Flex Option from concept to reality.
  • UW-Stevens Point reports that the first International Aquaponics Conference, which the campus hosted last month, was a great success, with about 150 people from 10 countries attending. Chris Hartleb, co-director of the UW-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, describes aquaponics as the integration of aquaculture, or fish farming, and hydroponics, which is soilless plant culture. The fish waste naturally fertilizes the plants, and the plants clean the water so the fish thrive. A win-win, in other words.  The International Aquaponic Society, a UW-Stevens Point Foundation organization dedicated to aquaponics research and education, was also launched and held its first organizational meeting at the conference.  Congratulations to Chancellor Patterson and UW-Stevens Point.
  • UW-Madison shares the news that renowned bassist and professor of jazz Richard Davis has been honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts for 2014. This is considered the highest honor for a living jazz musician, and places him in some pretty elite company. Previous winners include Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Marsalis family. The Chicago-born musician, now 83, has taught at UW-Madison since 1977. A prolific sideman, he has performed and recorded in nearly every genre, and with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Paul Simon, Louie Armstrong, Stan Getz, and Leonard Bernstein. As was noted in a fall 2011 profile in On Wisconsin magazine, for Davis (QUOTE) “it’s not just about the music and being able to identify the artists and their styles. He wants his students to learn the why behind the music.” (END QUOTE)  Recognizing his lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz, Dr. Davis will receive a one-time award of $25,000. I should point out that Dr. Davis is also the founder of the Madison chapter of the Institute for the Healing of Racism. Congratulations to Dr. Davis, Interim Chancellor Ward, and the UW-Madison campus community.
  • UW-Eau Claire’s Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center recently received the Organization of the Year Award from the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. Fair Wisconsin is an organization whose mission is to educate the public about the harms of discrimination toward LGBT individuals and to build more inclusive communities and workplaces for members of the LGBT community in the state. Christopher Jorgenson, the Center’s coordinator, said receiving the Organization of the Year Award is important because it shows people that UW-Eau Claire is growing and becoming a safe place for the LGBTQ community and its allies. He added that the award is also validation that the work being done on the Eau Claire campus is supporting the vision of the UW System’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which is to “transform the UW System into a higher education community that represents, reflects, respects, and values diverse persons, voices, and perspectives of Wisconsin.” “We are living out that vision and transforming the initiative into actual work,” Jorgenson said. Congratulations to Chancellor Schmidt and the UW-Eau Claire campus.
  • The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center Network recently reported that it provided consulting to 2,257 clients in fiscal year 2012, resulting in over $87 million in capital infusion. As noted in its annual report, some of the year’s highlights include a nanotechnology development company in Madison beginning its commercialization phase, a medical education device manufacturer in Racine that recently went international with sales, and an American-made clothing producer and seller in Oshkosh that expanded into a larger facility. The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center Network is managed by the Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at UW-Extension. Hats off to Chancellor Cross and the UW-Extension community.
  • UW-Milwaukee has many claims to fame, but here’s one that isn’t widely known. Did you know that the American Geographical Society Library at UW-M’s Golda Meir Library is considered one of the best geography resources in the country? The collection, which was featured in a recent issue of On Milwaukee, contains more than a million items, ranging from maps and atlases to pamphlets, journals, globes, and photographs of all kinds. According to Curator Marcy Bidney, the library has about 500,000 maps, beginning with the earliest, a 1452 map by Italian cartographer Leardo. But the most celebrated map at the museum these days is a 17th-century pictorial history of a Mexican village, one of the few known documents containing text in the indigenous Zapotec (ZA-poe-TEK) language. The map had been considered lost for decades – but was rediscovered only recently when the museum’s previous curator was cleaning out his office!  Other treasures in the collection are hundreds of rare books, including a collection of late 18th and 19th-century travel writing by American Geographical Society members who kept journals of their many journeys to all corners of the Earth. Curator Bidney says that only about 30% of the collection is catalogued to date, so who knows what else they may find? The hunt should keep Chancellor Lovell busy for the rest of the summer!
  • UW-Oshkosh reports that the university, the UW-Oshkosh Foundation, and partner BIOFerm Energy Systems have just broken ground on their new 1.4-megawatt biodigester. The energy facility and learning laboratory will be located at Rosendale Dairy in Pickett, Wisconsin – the state’s largest dairy farm with approximately 8,000 cows. This large-scale facility, dependent on the livestock waste the farm generates, will produce seven times more energy than the existing UW-Oshkosh dry-fermentation facility, opened in 2011. It will produce enough electricity to power 1,200 homes! The partnership expands the University’s sustainability initiatives and, when completed, will cut virtually in half the University’s timeline for carbon neutrality. Through a collaboration with dairy owner Milk Source, Soil Net, Alliant Energy, Infinity Lawn and Garden, BIOFerm, and Viessmann, the University will expand student learning and community outreach through environmental and bio-solids research and renewable energy production. It’s an energy solution and a tremendous instrument for learning to propel Wisconsin agriculture and UW-Oshkosh’s future bio-solids and energy scientists. Congratulations to Chancellor Wells and the UW-Oshkosh campus community.
  • UW-Platteville’s Women in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science Mentor Center was recently recognized as one of the top mentoring programs for women in the country, according to a report released by NerdScholar. The report highlighted six nationwide programs that cultivate mentorship for women entering the STEM fields. UW-Platteville’s Women in EMS Mentor Center was created in 2003 to provide female EMS students with a consistent location for formal or informal meetings, a library of professional literature and resources, a place for daily study and tutoring, and a relaxed environment for socializing and networking.  Tammy Salmon-Stephens, director of the Women in EMS program at UW-Platteville, says the center creates an environment of women students wanting to help other women. “We have a pay-it-forward mentality,” she said. Kudos to Chancellor Shields and UW-Platteville.
  • In sporting news, UW-La Crosse’s men’s track and field team claimed the NCAA Division III outdoor championship this spring for the 12th time – which is more than any other school in the division’s history. Earlier in the year, the men’s team won the NCAA Division III indoor title as well – for the 16th time!  I guess you could say when it comes to track and field, the Eagles are running away with it!  In fact, the Eagles have now won 28 national track & field titles in school history. Congratulations to Head Coach Josh Buchholtz, Chancellor Gow, the Jogger, and the UW-La Crosse campus.
  • UW-Whitewater is proud to share the news that one of its student entrepreneurs has claimed 2nd place in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Mitchell Fiene (FEE-nee), a sophomore from Prairie du Sac, developed a quadcopter that is now generating a lot of buzz. His quadcopter is a four-rotor helicopter with a wingspan of two feet. It’s equipped with a video camera that can be controlled with a few touches on an iPad. Sounds pretty cool, right? But it’s not just a new toy. Instead, it offers a solution to the arduous farm practice of crop scouting. As Mitchell explained, people can spend hours in the fields detecting insect infestations or analyzing nutrient-deficient plants. It’s very costly and inefficient, he thought, and there had to be a better way. Enter the quadcopter. It’s designed to fly over farmland, sending back live pictures of crops, which can then be analyzed by agronomists. With 15 million acres of farmland in Wisconsin alone, there are a lot of potential customers, from crop consultants to family farms to corporations. Mitchell also says, by the way, that he has really benefited from UW-Whitewater’s professors and mentors with real business experience. “They’re there for you every step of the way,” he said. Congratulations to Mitchell, Chancellor Telfer, and the UW-Whitewater campus.
  • Finally, we all know that many of our students are fond of spending time with video games … Well, a team of UW-Stout game design and development students have turned that pastime into gold. Their creation – a video game called Flash Frozen – was recently declared national co-champion at the Entertainment Software Association’s E-3 Conference in Los Angeles, considered the premier world event in the video and computer game industry. More than 48,000 people from 102 countries attended the conference. Flash Frozen is a survival horror game, where players are trapped on an iceberg in a haunted, shipwrecked vessel. Players must escape the ship while surviving the harsh, frozen environment and its many dangers. Twelve students – eight artists and four programmers – were involved in creating the game as part of their senior 3D Game Design class. It should be noted that the game design and development program has only been in existence at UW-Stout for four years – but it’s clearly off to a remarkable start! And who said college isn’t fun and games … Congratulations to Chancellor Sorensen and the UW-Stout campus.

That concludes my report for today.

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