This morning, I am pleased to welcome 22 members of the University of Wisconsin-Extension Administrative Leadership Program—EALP. This program is designed for faculty and academic staff with extension appointments throughout our 15 institutions to help cultivate the creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and long-range vision that will characterize our next generation of university leaders.

Many participants sat in on yesterday’s Charting the Course workgroup sessions and we welcome their input on this study which is very much in line with their leadership training and talents. Part of their charge is to learn about the governance of the UW System so we appreciate their attendance over these two days of meetings and we look forward to answering their questions and doing whatever we can to encourage their development as the next generation of outreach leaders for the UW System. Please stand and be recognized for your contributions to the UW System. Thank you.

Leadership, in fact, is very much at the forefront of the issues that have engaged this board during the past few months.

One visible manifestation of that leadership was the fourth annual Wisconsin Economic Summit that we hosted in Milwaukee. I appreciate the participation of our regents and chancellors and I especially want to congratulate Regent Emeritus Jay Smith, UW System President Katharine Lyall and her staff, especially our summit coordinator Laurie Dies, Dick Wegner, Jennifer Alexander and our sponsors and partners for hosting an outstanding meeting.

I was pleased to see several fellow Regents—Roger Axtell, Libby Burmaster, Danae Davis, Gerard Randall and David Walsh—were among the more than 800 people who participated in this year’s Economic Summit. And thanks to the work of Summit cosponsor Fred Kasten, Chair of the Board of R. W. Baird, we had a greater number of Wisconsin CEOs and business leaders participating this year, joining representatives of government, labor and education.

Let me mention, briefly, some of the important things I heard at Wisconsin Economic Summit IV:

  • I heard Governor Doyle refer to the UW System as “one of the jewels of our crown” and as the producer of two of the state’s top commodities—knowledge and graduates—commodities that Wisconsin needs in abundance in order to remain competitive.
  • I heard Jeff Bleustein, CEO of Harley Davidson, say that there was “a lot of reason for optimism” for out-of-state firms to set up business in Wisconsin
  • I heard Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer say that reforming state regulations is one thing the Legislature can do to encourage companies to create jobs in Wisconsin
  • I heard Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, speak on behalf of a Regional Economic Development workgroup in stating that “regionalism can be a powerful engine for economic growth in Wisconsin.”
  • I heard a panel of health care experts warn us that, if ignored, “health care costs will severely hamper our ability to care for our citizens, grow our economy and improve the quality of health care.”
  • I heard Lt. Governor Barbra Lawton stress that, in addition to creating jobs, economic development is about building a quality of life that includes vibrant educational systems, arts and cultural opportunities, diversity and increased leadership roles for women.
  • I heard Gale Davy, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association for Biomedical research and Education say that Wisconsin’s 248 bioscience companies generated nearly $5 billion in sales in 2002
  • And I heard John Morgridge, chair of the Board of Cisco Systems, tell us that “workforce training is vital and that it is not a ‘one-time job or degree’ but that it requires a lifetime of education and training, because change is a given.”

So, as you can see, we heard—and learned—a lot at this year’s Economic Summit and I can attest to its value, relevance and benefit.

I also want to salute the leadership of our chancellors and deans who continue to speak out around the state, calling for public support of higher education. In your packets this morning, you will find a fine article from the November issue of Madison Magazine, written by Chancellor John Wiley, and an editorial by UW Marathon County Dean Jim Veninga from the November 2 Wausau Daily Herald.

Jim writes, quote “It’s time to raise the flag for the UW and what it contributes to the state. It’s time to move forward, to think about where the UW ought to be in 10, 20 years from now, helping to build tomorrow’s Wisconsin.”

“The UW is recognized as one of the finest higher education systems in the world. Action now will determine whether that reputation will be maintained.” Chancellor Wiley sends the same message in his article.

This question is at the heart of our study to Chart a New Course for the UW System.

I urge each of our study chairs to work with their committees to bring forward draft recommendations and action items for our December meeting. How should we best deal with the challenges that John and Jim talk about in their articles?

  • Providing adequate financial aid for our low income students
  • Keeping public higher education in this state affordable for all citizens without compromising our commitment to quality
  • Streamlining our administrative structures and processes so that more funding can go straight to the classroom
  • Rebuilding our faculty, not only to provide more quality to our student experience, but also to grow the brainpower needed to address local, regional and state problems.
  • Reinvigorating the Wisconsin Idea with new partnerships, more federal support and a renewed commitment to the citizens of Wisconsin

These are the issues that will call on our creativity, energies, time and commitment over the coming months.

I reluctantly agree with President Lyall when she characterizes the last two months of virtually nonstop coverage of executive salary pay ranges- —remember no raises were given—- as a distraction.

I say reluctantly because I do believe that it is the responsibility of this board to secure the best faculty, staff and leadership for this university system and above all, to see that all of our employees from our lowest to highest paid are treated fairly.

However, I agree that we must move on. The public and the press must move on. The real story has been lost in the shuffle. The real story is how our 15 institutions are dealing with the largest cuts in the history of the UW System; and how we can manage to cushion the impacts on students as much as possible.

That is the real story and the one that, if not the public, then certainly our board must attend to. I hope in that spirit, we can move forward collaboratively, openly, generously and with only one agenda amongst us—how to best serve the people of this state by being responsible stewards of its public university system.