Photo of recipients of the Board of Regents 2023 Diversity Awards posing with their plaques at Union South at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on Feb. 10, 2023. From left, Lori Kido Lopez, UW-Madison; Rickie-Ann Legleitner, UW-Stout; and the UW-River Falls Upward Bound program, award accepted on the program's behalf by Director Bee Vang. (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Board of Regents 2023 Diversity Award recipients: (from left) Lori Kido Lopez, UW-Madison; Rickie-Ann Legleitner, UW-Stout; and the UW-River Falls’ Upward Bound program, award accepted by Director Bee Vang. (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today honored the recipients of the 15th annual Regents Diversity Awards. These awards recognize individuals and programs that foster access and success for students who are members of historically underrepresented populations. Each recipient is awarded $7,500 to support professional development or continue the program being honored.

“We are proud to recognize these people and programs for their profound impact in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Regent Héctor Colón, chair of the Diversity Awards selection committee. He added that students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds benefit from the award winners’ dedication to building partnerships and expanding opportunity.

Other members of the selection committee included Regents Angela Adams, Ashok Rai, and Brianna Tucker.

This year’s winners include:

  • Individual: Rickie-Ann Legleitner, Associate Professor of English; Adviser for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Inclusive Excellence Action Plan Coordinator; and Interim Executive Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, UW-Stout

Rickie-Ann Legleitner told Regents that for years, she put her energies into overachieving to mask her identity as a queer woman and her history of depression and anxiety. “This motivation to make up for what was lacking, combined with my own intellectual curiosity, helped propel me forward into college and graduate school. Throughout this journey, I rarely encountered anyone like me,” she said.

She said she finally made the decision “to become the person I never had been” and open up to her students and others. “I have never regretted that risk in showing vulnerability to better support my students who may have felt like I did in my twenties.”

Legleitner, a teacher, scholar and LGBTQ+ advocate, collaborated with university leadership to create the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) unit and EDI office at UW-Stout.

“We have to reexamine our hiring and admissions policies to see how we can effectively recruit, support, and retain those who are historically underserved. It can’t be just check a box. We cannot treat it like a trend,” she said.

  • Individual: Lori Kido Lopez, Professor of Communication Arts and Director of Asian American Studies Program, UW-Madison

“When students are doing readings by scholars of color, asking how histories of racism are connected to our contemporary reality, or having challenging conversations with other students, they are better equipped to understand their place in society,” Lori Kido Lopez told Regents.

Lopez, who is director of the Asian-American Society that is celebrating its 35th year on the UW-Madison campus, said it’s a recognition of the important place of Asian-Americans on campus.

“It reminds students of Asian descent that they belong on this campus and their history and cultures are valued,” she said. “In a moment when Asians and Asian-Americans (around the country) are facing violence of all kinds, it’s so important to help recognize them and provide support.”

  • Program: Upward Bound, UW-River Falls

“Investment in youth programs like this is essential for bridging achievement gaps,” said Upward Bound director Bee Vang. “In our program, we hold space for students to develop positive self-concepts in their communities.

The Upward Bound program, which started at UW-River Falls in 1999, is focused on preparing diverse populations of high school students to become college ready. In recent years, more than 90 percent of participants are from both first-generation college student and low-income backgrounds.

“We always encourage students to try something new,” Vang said. “Gradually, the unfamiliar becomes familiar. Instead of saying ‘Can I do this?’, it’s ‘How can I do this?’ We get them to reimagine their life and dreams and create their own futures.

“We encourage them to make new friends, connect to the community, self-advocate, and walk on a college campus.”

Educator Shout-Outs

To help demonstrate the value of what the UW does, both for individuals and the state, UW System President Jay Rothman told Regents that nobody could better tell that story than students themselves.

To capture those stories, Rothman said a UW System video team visited all 13 universities to conduct impromptu interviews with students about how a particular faculty or staff member stood out to them. In all, about 200 students were interviewed – and their responses were collected in a video montage of educator shout-outs.

“You’ll hear repeatedly students talking about the commitment and compassion of their professors and others and how it makes a difference,” Rothman said. “You’ll also hear how these educators make a subject matter unexpectedly humorous or understandable or relatable to the real world. You’ll hear about the men and women who give unstintingly of their time and experience to help their students succeed, both inside the classroom and out.”

Starting next week, UW System will be sharing at least one individual student story per day – and about 200 stories overall – on its social media channels under #UWShoutOut.

Rothman emphasized that to maintain or build on UW System’s reputation for excellence, it needs to recruit and retain the best educators and researchers out there.

“Our students and our state are counting on us,” he said. “To that end, a major platform of our strategic plan is to promote excellence in teaching – and that includes increasing overall compensation for System universities to be competitive with peers by enhancing benefits and offering salary increases.”

UW-Madison spotlights student leader

Photo of UW-Madison student leader, Ndemazea Fonkem

Ndemazea Fonkem, Student Spotlight Speaker and UW–Madison undergraduate student, speaks during the UW Board of Regents meeting hosted at Union South at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on Feb. 10, 2023. (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Ndemazea Fonkem, a junior and chair of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), spoke to Regents as part of the host campus Student Spotlight feature.

“It’s the project of every young person to find a place where they belong,” Fonkem said. “It’s both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult to complete this project on a college campus.”

Fonkem, who is attending UW-Madison with a Bucky’s Tuition Promise scholarship, told Regents her family emigrated to the United States from Cameroon. “They weren’t running from anything but seeking something – a world where they could give their children the greatest education possible. They wanted to create a new life for the family, one with justice, fairness, equity, and mutual care.”

Early in her time on the Madison campus, she said she rarely if ever went to the dining hall because she didn’t see many other students of color. But gradually she started getting involved in student government and going to Memorial Union to attend music concerts and she realized “my identity is much more than what I look like.”

UW-Madison panel explores university-business partnerships

Photo of Dan Kelly, chief underwriting officer for American Family Insurance, second from right, speaking to the Board of Regents as part of a UW-Madison panel exploring university-business partnerships (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Second from right, Dan Kelly, chief underwriting officer for American Family Insurance (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Panelists from organizations that have worked with UW-Madison, as well as a UW-Madison faculty member, came together to discuss their experiences with university-business partnerships.

Dan Kelly, American Family Insurance’s chief underwriting officer, said the company has a relationship with UW-Madison that dates back to its founding in the 1920s. More recently, the company partnered with the university through the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute, to support important data science research and research teams in departments across the campus.

“It really has to be a balanced equation (for the partnerships to flourish),” said Tom Westrick, president and CEO of Patient Care Solutions/GE Healthcare. “There has to be a clear return for the university as well as our company. When you find those relationships, those pockets where the equation is very balanced, it’s a complete win-win and you know it’s going to grow based on the mutual need of both parties.”

George Willis Huber, UW-Madison’s Richard Antoine Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-founder of Anellotech and Pyran, said the university’s pool of expertise is a vital part of business success. Describing an example from his own business, he told Regents that the university is developing the technology to recycle the flexible packaging that Wisconsin businesses use. “This is a pioneer process. Nobody has done it before,” he said. “But with the wide range of expertise we have at the university, we can always go to someone in mechanical engineering or chemistry to help find solutions.”

Photo of Lisa Johnson (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin, told Regents it’s vitally important that Wisconsin’s legislators back university and industry collaborations. “We’re reliant on the university to support our industry’s R&D (research and development),” she said. “And it’s also about the talent coming out of the university system. It’s faculty researchers educating and inspiring our future scientists, engineers, and business people.”

To remain competitive with other states, Johnson said Wisconsin needs to do a much better job of marketing itself as a viable center for R&D, entrepreneurial activity, and growing businesses. “Let’s start getting aggressive,” she urged. “We need to get out there and start telling the nation what’s going on in this state.”

The panel was moderated by Glenda Gillaspy, Dean of UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved a resolution of appreciation for UW-Madison hosting the February 2023 Board of Regents meeting;
  • Approved three separate agreements on behalf of UW-Superior and its Lake Superior Research Institute, which was awarded federal funding for the evaluation of ballast water treatment technologies;
  • Approved the UW System Status Report on Large or High-Risk Information Technology Projects, which details the status of 10 major IT projects within the system;
  • Approved the annual report on the Strategic Plans for Major IT Projects, which provides an inventory of all ongoing and new projects, both enterprise-wide and institution-specific, and includes information on each project’s business need, impact, staffing requirements, and budget. Both reports will be submitted to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology, pursuant to state statute;
  • Approved an amendment to UW System’s agreement with Huron Consulting Group to assist with implementation of Workday software related to the Administrative Transformation Program;
  • Approved an amendment to UW-Madison’s agreement with Huron Consulting Services, also related to ATP;
  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s request for a Master of Science in Biodiversity Conservation and Management;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Science-Education in Elementary Education and Special Education;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Bachelor of Architecture in Architecture;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’ request for a Master of Science in Business Analytics;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget of the UW Managed Primate Center Backup Generator;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for authority to sell a Single-Family Residence, exclusive of the land, located next to an existing parking lot which they plan to expand;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to revise and use Evaluation Criteria for Major Capital Project Requests; and
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to amend RPD 13-5 “Capital Projects Solely Managed by the UW System: Approval and Signature Authority” to clarify approval and signature authority and related responsibilities.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on March 30-31, 2023, at UW-Stout.