I’d like to share some news from around the UW System. We’ll start right here at UW-Oshkosh. Last month, the campus celebrated the official groundbreaking for the nation’s first commercial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester.  In plain English, this state-of-the-art facility will turn about 8,000 tons of organic bio-waste, generated each year by the campus and community sources, into heat and electricity. In fact, the renewable energy facility is projected to produce up to 10 percent of the university’s needs.  As I noted at the UW-Oshkosh Foundation’s community breakfast earlier this morning, the project is a collaborative effort with the Foundation, which purchased the land. Additional support comes in the form of a $233,000 grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy, and a $500,000 grant from the federal government.  The project propels the university further toward its goal to become energy independent, and, at the same time, opens up invaluable opportunities for student-faculty research.  This is all part of why UW-Oshkosh is ranked among the “greenest” universities in the country, according to the Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges and Sierra Magazine’s Cool Schools list.  Congratulations to Chancellor Rick Wells, the Foundation, and the UW-Oshkosh campus.

UW-Extension reports that fall course registrations for the UW online degree in Sustainable Management are up 66% over the fall semester of last year.  Currently, there are 104 students enrolled in that program.  The vast majority of those enrolled – 97% — are adult returning students, for whom a traditional, on-campus program would not work. Seventy percent of registrations are from within the state – the rest are from 10 states and Germany and China!  The online Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management is offered through UW-Extension working with four UW campuses: UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout, and UW-Superior.  In response to a growing demand in this area, the four campuses also recently launched online certificates in Sustainable Management, and an online master’s degree in areas of sustainability is under development.

UW-Madison is putting a new spin on “happy news” … The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds – located in the Waisman Center – has received a $50,000 grant from the Dalai Lama’s personal trust to support its research on healthy qualities of mind, like kindness and compassion.  The Center uses state-of-the-art neuroscientific and biological tools to probe the alterations in the brain and the body during the expression of such positive qualities. According to Richard Davidson, the Center’s director and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison, this was a completely unexpected but very welcome gift.  The Dalai Lama has a longstanding interest in Davidson’s work on the neuroscience of emotion and has visited UW-Madison on several occasions.  Best of luck to Chancellor Martin and her colleagues on this really ground-breaking work.

Chancellor Van Galen and UW-River Falls colleagues officially opened the doors of their new Hudson Center last month.  The facility focuses on undergraduate courses for non-traditional and working adults seeking to complete a baccalaureate degree, as well as others who  are interested in enrolling in select graduate and certificate programs.  The center is located just a short distance south of Interstate 94 in the St. Croix valley, and provides a convenient location for local residents and the approximately 80,000 citizens of both Wisconsin and Minnesota who travel that highway through Hudson every day.  Educational offerings at the Hudson Center include a business administration bachelor’s degree completion program, an MBA program, and two master’s programs in secondary education. Additional undergraduate courses and certification programs will be offered eventually.  The Center is a really fine example of how we’re working to meet our “More Graduates for Wisconsin” goals in new ways by making higher education more accessible for those whose life obligations prevent them from enrolling full-time on campus. Congratulations to Chancellor Van Galen and the UW-River Falls community!

As you may have noticed, our campuses seem to get a lot of attention for putting up new buildings. Well, UW-Superior is also getting attention for taking down an old building. When UW-Superior dismantled its old Rothwell Student Center last summer after the completion of the new Yellowjacket Union, a great building, the goal set by the state of Wisconsin was to recycle at least 50 percent of the materials from the Rothwell Student Center. A report from the demolition contractor shows that approximately 5,860 tons of materials were recycled – or 81 percent of the building’s materials, which include concrete, brick, steel, and other metals. Tom Fennessey, who is director of facilities management at UW-Superior, reports that that amounts to 320 truckloads of materials that did not go into landfills in the state. “That’s good for the environment, and it’s good business,” says Tom. We think so, too! Kudos to interim Chancellor Christopher Markwood and the folks at UW-Superior!

The UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation has announced $475,000 in Catalyst Grants to fund eight research projects on a range of topics, from testing new drug therapies for cancer to developing innovative materials for energy. These grants are made possible by support from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation. The Catalyst Grant Program is designed to provide seed funding for promising research projects at UWM, particularly projects those that have strong potential for commercialization and impact on the local economy – which is certainly in line with our Research to Jobs focus.  Projects are selected based on their scientific excellence as judged by a panel of outside experts, as well as their commercial potential – including the potential for partnerships, intellectual property agreements, and start-up companies. The Bradley Foundation has been supporting the Catalyst Grants program since 2007, and Michael Grebe, its President and CEO, — and former President of this Board — says, (QUOTE), “We continue to be impressed by the creativity, depth, and scope of the research being done.”  Congratulations to Interim Chancellor Lovell, and his colleagues at UW-Milwaukee!

I am also pleased to report that the UW System is expanding its Prior Learning Assessment efforts, with the support of an $800,000, four-year grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education.  Prior Learning Assessment, which is already used in different forms across the UW System, measures the learning a student may have attained outside the classroom through things like corporate training, work experience, military service, civic activity, and independent study.  By providing college credit for demonstrated learning gained in such experiences, UW System hopes to enroll more adult students, including returning veterans and those who previously attended a UW institution but departed prior to earning a degree. The expanded initiative will also focus on the transferability of these Prior Learning Assessment credits across campuses. At least nine UW System institutions will eventually pilot the new standards.  Faculty members will lead the development of core academic principles and guidelines underlying the PLA process, to ensure that the highest academic standards are maintained. This initiative offers a significant opportunity for more Wisconsin residents to get on a pathway toward a college degree, by recognizing the value of their previous learning experiences. It also avoids the wasteful duplication of forcing students to take courses whose content they have already mastered.

Living in Wisconsin, we tend to take “fresh air” for granted. But when one UW campus announced efforts to keep the air even fresher, it generated a whole lot of publicity!  When UW-Stout proclaimed that as of Sept. 1, the campus was going tobacco free, the news spread far and wide. The smoke-free story was picked up by news outlets all across the state, and also earned several positive editorials, including one by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, which called it (QUOTE) “a bold move.” The UW-Stout tobacco-free initiative makes it the first comprehensive institution in the UW System to prohibit smoking and the use of all other tobacco products on campus. The policy includes all UW-Stout property, including parking lots and sidewalks. Chancellor Chuck Sorenson gives the students at UW-Stout much of the credit for making this happen … In April 2009, UW-Stout’s students overwhelmingly supported banning smoking from campus.  Then a year later, they voted again to extend that ban to all tobacco products.  Congratulations to Chancellor Sorenson and the UW-Stout campus, especially the students who pushed that initiative.

I’d like to call the Board’s attention to something else that’s green, the green brochure in your folders. That’s our new Growth Agenda brochure.  It includes all the updated numbers and lots of information about our More Grads and Research to Jobs initiatives. If at any time you’d like more copies of that, please let us know. I find that as I go around the state and talk with people, it’s very useful. It pulls together in a fairly short space, and in an easy way to read and look at, the message of the Growth Agenda.

Finally, a quick word about Election Day.  You’ll recall that our faculty colleagues from across the UW System have agreed on a common set of five “Shared Learning Goals,” one of which is to prepare each UW graduate with a sense of (QUOTE) “individual, social and environmental responsibility, including civic knowledge and engagement.” We want our students to be active, engaged, inquisitive citizens of our 21st-century democracy. That means simply that we want them to vote on Election Day. No matter which party or what candidate they might support, we hope that they will exercise their right to vote and make their voices heard.

Earlier this year, leaders from United Council of Students asked us support their non-partisan “Students Vote 2010” campaign, with a goal of increasing student registration and turnout. I think it’s a very encouraging sign when our student leaders take this kind of initiative to spread the word about civic participation and the responsibilities of citizenship and democracy. Good for them.

Election season is the fall season so I thought I’d take this seasonal opportunity to read you a poem, entitled simply Fall by Edward Hirsch …

That’s it for my report today …


Related: Read October 8 (day 2) news summary