MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents honored today the recipients of the 2019 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards, which mark their 27th anniversary this year. The awards are the UW System’s highest recognition for members of its faculty and academic staff.

Photo of Dr. Rex Hanger

Dr. Hanger

Regent Janice Mueller, who chaired the selection committee, said the honorees are “a welcome reminder of what a treasure we have in our faculty and academic staff — those who bring that special dedication, creativity, and passion to their craft, and to whom we entrust the education and enlightenment of our citizens, helping students to achieve their fullest potential.”

The 2019 recipients are:

  • Rex Hanger, Professor, Department of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, UW‑Whitewater

“It’s an old truism that the best geologist is the one who’s seen the most rocks,” Hanger said. With that in mind, he has led countless UW-Whitewater students on field trips to different parts of the United States as well as abroad. Hanger made a point of thanking UW-Whitewater administrators for “helping me achieve the dream of creating a top-notch, experiential geology program.”

  • Photo of Dr. Gary Onan

    Dr. Onan

    Gary Onan, Chair and Professor of Animal and Food Science, UW-River Falls

While the life experience of students who enter the UW-River Falls Animal and Food Science program has evolved significantly over the years, Onan said there is one common thread: They all started caring for animals at very young ages. “I firmly believe that activity, more than many others, develops maturity in young people. It enhances a human desire for creativity, teaches people to be responsible, teaches them empathy, and teaches them to learn from their mistakes,” Onan said. The 4-H program also does that, he added, and he urged the UW System and its Board to work with legislative leaders to continue to support 4-H.

  • Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), UW-Eau Claire

“Our students are working with people with communication disorders across the lifespan, from the neonatal intensive care unit to elder years,” said department chair Vicki Samelson. “That means working with people who’ve had strokes, aphasia, people with traumatic brain injury, children and adults on the autism spectrum, children and adults with hearing impairments, voice disorders, fluency disorders, people who need the support of communication devices, and more.”

Photo of Dr. Vicki Samelson accepting the UW-Eau Claire's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders award on teh department's behalf

Dr. Samelson, CSD chair

Others on the selection committee were Regents Mike Jones, Jason Plante, and Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

Report of the Board President

In his regular report to the Board, Regent President John Robert Behling provided an update on two ongoing chancellor searches. First, at UW-Whitewater, he told Regents that the search-and-screen committee, under the leadership of chair Regent Tracey Klein, will be meeting that very afternoon to determine the semifinalist candidates from its national search who will be interviewed later this month.

The UW-Stout chancellor search is just getting underway. Regent Jason Plante will chair the committee, which also includes Regents Cris Peterson, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, Mark Tyler, and Behling. President Cross is expected to soon name five additional committee members – including two faculty members, one staff representative, one student and one community member. (See UW System release: UW-Stout Chancellor Search and Screen Committee named.)

Report of the System President

President Cross opened his report with an update on the 2019-21 biennial budget, noting that UW System is working closely with the Governor and legislative leaders as the budget moves into the Joint Finance Committee process. Regarding the capital budget request, he noted that legislators from both parties and the Governor’s office have indicated their understanding of the risks of not investing in the university’s infrastructure and the costs of further delaying critical renovation, remodeling, and replacement projects.

Cross also told Regents that two UW System campuses have been selected to host public listening sessions as part of the Joint Finance budget tour: UW-River Falls on April 15 and UW-Green Bay on April 24. “These are great opportunities to showcase our campuses and communicate directly with legislative leaders throughout the state,” Cross said.

On the federal front, Cross updated the Board on his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford, UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields, Regent Ryan Ring, as well as Associate Vice President Kris Andrews and David Specht-Boardman of the federal relations team. “Our purpose was to advocate for financial aid for our students and for Congress to lift the budget caps to allow needed investments in education and research funding,” Cross said.

Regarding President Trump’s March 21 executive order directing federal agencies, including the Department of Education, to verify that institutions receiving federal grants are in compliance with existing federal law on free speech, Cross pointed to Regent Policy Document 4-21, approved by the Board in October 2017. The UW System’s “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression” policy was in front of the issue, and he said it appears the University is well within the executive order’s guidelines.

Cross also provided brief updates on the recent meeting of the UW System Business Council, hosted by the Packers in Green Bay. “In this era of high demand for labor, our focus was on talent – and on solutions the university can provide to help companies attract, develop and retain a highly educated workforce,” Cross said. He said the Business Council expressed strong interest in partnering in those efforts.

Regarding the recent meeting of the Dairy Task Force, which was co-sponsored by UW System and DATCP, Cross said the group has brought forward more than 50 recommendations to help address challenges facing the dairy industry. “We look forward to working with legislators and Gov. Evers as the proposals move forward,” he said.

News Around the UW System

In news from UW-Stevens Point, as part of his undergraduate research, junior Tyler Hillery is helping Central Wisconsin employers create a hiring process that minimizes employee turnover and saves training dollars. Hillery and his faculty adviser Nikolaus Butz are applying a “Grit Scale” of personality traits, such as courage and endurance, to help local businesses retain employees. Hillery will present his research at UW System’s 16th annual “Research in the Rotunda” in April.

Resolution of appreciation

Photo of Regent Emeritus Bryan G. Steil accepting his resolution of appreciation

Regent Emeritus Steil

The Regents presented Regent Emeritus Bryan Steil with a Resolution of Appreciation for his service on the Board, from 2016-2018. Steil stepped down when he was elected to Congress, representing Wisconsin’s 1st District.

“I am very proud of our work as Regents to make sure education is affordable and accessible, and I am honored and confident that the Board will continue this,” Steil said.

Steil’s grandfather, George K. Steil Sr., served on the Board of Regents in the 1990s, including two years as Board president. Steil said he was given the opportunity to follow in those footsteps “because I really believe in the importance of education and what it can do to transform people’s lives.”

Stressing the importance of lifelong learning, Steil said, “It’s beyond a training for a specific skill. It’s the ability to learn and challenge our minds and be prepared for the jobs that will be coming to our state, to our country and to our region.”

In other business, the Board:

  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s proposed change to its mission statement;
  • Approved the collaborative, online Master of Science in Applied Biotechnology, with UW-Madison as the lead institution and academic partners UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW- Parkside, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Whitewater;
  • Approved the collaborative, online Master of Science in Information Technology Management, with UW-Oshkosh as lead campus and academic partners UW-La Crosse, UW- Parkside, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Superior;
  • Approved an updated salary range for Executive Salary Range 9, which applies only to the President of the UW System;
  • Approved UW System Collective Bargaining Agreement with The Building and Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin;
  • Approved UW-Madison Collective Bargaining Agreement with The Building and Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin;
  • Rescinded and removed two Regent Policy Documents related to University of Wisconsin Trust Funds (RPD 22-1 and RPD 22-3) and replaced them with a new policy related to institutional funds held by the UW System for charitable purposes;
  • Approved an agreement with A’viands, LLC to provide dining services at UW-Oshkosh;
  • Approved an agreement with Milwaukee Panther Sports Properties, a wholly-owned LLC of Learfield Communications, for athletics-related marketing and multi-media rights at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s five-year Master Services Agreement (MSA) with EyeKor, Inc.;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’ request for approval to increase the budget of the Rodli Hall Renovation Project by $800,000 Existing General Fund Supported Borrowing;
  • Approved UW-Parkside’s request to execute a 50-year land use agreement between the Board of Regents and Kenosha County to allow the construction of a multi-use recreational trail system and riverbank restoration project on the UW-Parkside campus;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct eight All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects at an estimated cost of $18.7 million. These projects include athletic facility renovations, roof replacements, and a fire alarm system upgrade at UW-Madison, a soccer field renovation at UW-Stout, and roofing replacement and lighting renovation for the Weidner Center at UW-Green Bay;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to execute the remainder of the design contract and construct the UW-managed Educational Sciences, Wisconsin Center for Education Research Renovation, Phase I Project; and
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to execute the remainder of the design contract and construct the UW-managed Medical Science Center, Chemistry Learning Center Remodel Project.


See photo gallery from the April 5, 2019, meeting.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet June 6-7, 2019, at UW-Milwaukee.

See the April 4, 2019, day 1 news summary