MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today honored the recipients of the 13th annual Regents’ Diversity Awards. These awards recognize individuals and programs that foster access and success for students who are members of historically underrepresented populations.

Regent Olivia Woodmansee, chair of the Diversity Awards selection committee, said the award recipients do more than just recognize what’s needed; they do something about it. “In each of their own ways, our award winners respect human differences, attend to the learning process, and effectively respond to students’ educational needs,” she said.

Other members of the selection committee included Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, Regent Héctor Colón, and Regent Robert Atwell.

This year’s winners include:

  • Individual: Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, Professor of History, UW-Eau Claire

In accepting the award, Ducksworth-Lawton told Regents that she hopes partnerships with the community will “help us be able to increase conversations about how the university fulfills the Wisconsin Idea of bringing expertise into the community to make it better.”

Ducksworth-Lawton has played a pivotal role at UW-Eau Claire in producing positive university change in equity and diversity. She served as one of the first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) fellows on campus and continues to work with the Office of Multicultural Affairs on training staff and students to be more attuned to EDI issues.

She also works with local government and community organizations, participating in regional and national conversations about race and social justice and its effects.

  • Program: Counseling Services, UW-Eau Claire

Dr. Riley McGrath, who leads Counseling Services, told Regents that when he first started in 2017, he was told that students of color on campus did not see that department as a place to go when in distress. “It was hard to hear, but we took it as a challenge,” McGrath said.

McGrath said he is proud of how the Counseling team took on that challenge and has improved student outcomes by collaborating with other student-supporting organizations, diversified its staff, created plans to increase cultural competence, and provided relevant training to the campus community. Since 2016, Counseling Services has seen a 45 percent increase in use of its services among students of color.

“It’s really hard for students to reach out and ask for help, especially students of color. The fact that they have embraced our office, I’m very proud of that,” McGrath said.

  • Program: Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP), UW-Madison

Dr. Gail Coover, WiscAMP’s executive director, saluted the hard work, dedication, and persistence of the many people involved in WiscAMP across 13 UW System campuses, Wisconsin’s private colleges, and Madison College.

“I know these issues are complex and require many approaches within the System,” she said. “The WiscAMP project would not be a success without the many campus initiatives and staff who work to have inclusive excellence in education.”

WiscAMP was established in 2004 with a grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of students graduating in a STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) who are from an ethnic or racial group that is minoritized in STEM.

The five-year growth rate in underrepresented minority STEM degrees averaged across participating institutions between 2014 and 2018 was 86 percent compared to 46 percent between 2009 and 2013.

UW System Teacher Workforce Initiative

Anny Morobel-Sosa, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, led a presentation and discussion of how the UW System could help address Wisconsin’s unmet workforce demand for highly-qualified teachers and school leaders, particularly in high-need districts such as rural Wisconsin, and in high-need fields including special education, bilingual education, and STEM fields.

“We have a challenge to address and a workforce problem to solve,” Morrobel-Sosa said.

UW System’s biennial budget request includes two proposed solutions: paid stipends for student teachers and expansion of the existing student loan forgiveness programs.

“We need to do everything we possibly can to encourage students to get into teaching,” said President Thompson, noting he’s the son of two educators. “There’s just not the kind of rewards in teaching now that there used to be.”

Speaking in support of the initiative, Regent Edmund Manydeeds stressed the need to bring back respect for teachers and recognize the effort and long hours that go into their work. “Unless we start respecting their efforts, supporting them, and give them the praise they so rightfully deserve, we will not have people getting into this profession,” Manydeeds said.

Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost pointed out that young people in urban areas aren’t seeing teachers who look like them, highlighting the need to bring more students of color into teaching. “The difference that makes is tremendous,” she said.

Regent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who is State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said it is vitally important that the teaching profession is elevated. “Educators are asked to do more and be more than ever before because of all the societal issues that come into the classroom,” she said. “Finding ways to compensate or eliminate some of their expenditures is one of the things that can add value.”

The UW is critical in its role of educating teachers in this state, added Regent Tracey Klein. “If we can get this initiative through the budget, it’s a step in the right direction” and can make a difference to Wisconsin communities.

Resolution of Appreciation for former colleague

The Board recognized Chancellor Bernie Patterson’s contributions and service at UW-Stevens Point, where he had served since 2010. Patterson retired in December 2020.

“Of my 43 years in higher education, serving our university and our students has been my greatest honor,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he wanted to charge Regents with the same charge he had given new graduates for more than a decade. He called on them “to reach out to those who are alone, speak for those who have no voice, stand up for those who cannot stand, and go and be servant leaders.”

Former Regent Mark Bradley, who presented the formal resolution of appreciation, told the Board that with Patterson, what you see in public is the real person. “He is wise, a good decision-maker, he takes the concerns of others seriously, and mostly, he’s a man of integrity,” Bradley said.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Recognized the passing of Dr. Willard Henken, age 93, the founding dean of UW Oshkosh’s Fond du Lac campus;
  • Approved various proposed nonresident undergraduate and graduate school tuition increases for UW-Milwaukee, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Stout, effective for the 2021-22 academic year. None of the requests impacts resident undergraduate students;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request to expand the purposes for which the College of Engineering & Applied Science (CEAS) differential tuition funds may be used;
  • Approved the semi-annual UW System Status Report on Large/Vital Information Technology Projects;
  • Approved a UW System report on the Strategic Plans for Major Information Technology Projects;
  • Approved a contractual agreement between UW-Madison and AbbVie Inc.;
  • Approved the rescission and replacement of three Regent Policy Documents (RPD) related to auxiliary funds with a new RPD titled “Internal Management Flexibility of Auxiliary Funds;”
  • Approved the extension of the temporary suspension of Regent Policy Document 7-3, that requires the submission of ACT/SAT test scores by freshman applicants. The policy action will give prospective freshman students one additional year to apply to UW System institutions without having to submit their ACT/SAT test scores;
  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s proposal to establish a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Community Health Education;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s proposal to establish a Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Remediation and Management;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s proposal to offer a Ph.D. in Information;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’ proposal to establish a Doctor of Education (EdD) program in Montessori Studies (Montessori EdD);
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s proposal to establish a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request to enter into a space rental agreement for the Flesch Family Welcome Center;
  • Approved UW System’s request to construct two 2019-21 Classroom Renovation/Instructional Technology Improvement Program projects at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Eau Claire;
  • Approved UW System’s request to construct two Minor Facilities Renewal projects at UW-Madison; and
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to complete the design and to construct the UW-Managed Engineering Hall Sprinkler Piping and Gas Distribution Piping Phase I project.

The next meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will be March 4, 2021, by videoconference.