Good News

I think it helps to keep a sense of perspective by recognizing that even as we are working through the Charting the Future initiative to meet the challenges for our System, others around the world are coming here to learn from us.

Peace Corps Calendar

This is the season for peace—In your packets today, along with your regular materials, you will find a copy of the 2004 International Calendar produced by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin/Madison. Proceeds from the sale of this calendar are used to fund a variety of projects, locally and overseas.

On the July page, you’ll find a beautiful portrait of a mother and child from the Northwest Province of Cameroon, taken in 1993 by Mary Crave. Then a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mary now works for UW-Extension’s Outreach and E-Learning division as an evaluation specialist, and helps to manage the institution’s cross-divisional Program Impacts initiative.

Mary is far from not the only Peace Corps volunteer among our UW System faculty and staff. Chancellor Kevin Reilly tells me that at least three dozen former Peace Corps members are now employed as UW-Extension county agents and campus-based specialists around the state. In addition, many others have also spent time overseas volunteering with other international service organizations, demonstrating that their commitment to outreach.

Our university also provides fertile grounds for recruiting new Peace Corps volunteers. Earlier this year, the Peace Corps announced that UW-Madison led the nation in 2002 with 123 new alumni volunteers, marking 17 consecutive years of leadership.

UW-Eau Claire Hosts Global Scholars

UW-Eau Claire is one of twelve universities in the U.S. hosting 100 faculty from newly independent states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia on our campuses to help them learn about Western-style higher education. Other participating hosts are Cornell University, Columbia, and Stanford. Visiting faculty to the UW System learn especially about our tradition of academic freedom that permits scholars to pursue research and writing which, though it may be unpopular or unconventional, often stimulates the next generation of scientific, medical, and humanistic contributions to society.

UW-Eau Claire’s visiting faculty this year are a history professor from Tbilisi State University in Georgia and an economics professor from Belarus. Fellows spend up to three semesters participating in departmental activities, teaching, and interacting with students and faculty. The Fellow from Belarus who was on the Eau Claire campus last year is, this year, completing an MBA at UW-Eau Claire via the Internet.

UW-Parkside Becomes “Foundations of Excellence” University

Educational innovation is occurring across the UW System. UW-Parkside has just been selected as one of 12 universities (the only one in Wisconsin) recognized nationally for its “First College Year” program which purpose is to improve retention and success of students. The Foundations of Excellence program also includes Brooklyn College of New York, Illinois State, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, and other public universities focused on undergraduate education.

These institutions will work together to develop a national model for successful first-year programs. The project is supported by AASCU, the Lumina Foundation, and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Regent Burmaster Gets National Leadership Post

Congratulations to Regent Burmaster who has just been elected to the national board of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The organization helps states and their education leaders find creative solutions to the complex issues facing education across the country.

Kiplinger rates two UW Schools on “Best Values” List

This month’s Kiplinger’s Magazine ranks UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse among the 100 “best values” in higher education. Like all such rankings, it reflects certain arbitrary choices of indicators and weightings, but it is useful to note what this publication defines as “quality” indicators:

  • Percent of freshmen scoring above 600 on both verbal and math SATs (or above 24 on the ACT)
  • Admission rates (the more selective, the “better”)
  • Student-faculty ratios (the lower, the better)
  • Percent of faculty with Ph.D.s
  • How much each institution spends per student on libraries and instruction
  • Four-year and six-year graduation rates

Kiplinger rates these factors against in-state costs of net financial aid to get their “best values.” In general, UW institutions tend to be somewhat less selective than the average of the top 100 and have higher student-faculty ratios—these factors count against us; but our institutions also tend to have higher graduation rates and lower costs (after aid) than the average—these factors count for us. Our investment per student in instruction and libraries is declining as our budgets are cut and we sustain our enrollments; these factors will weigh more heavily against us in next year’s rankings.

I would repeat that there is no single ranking that captures the range of quality indicators all could agree on, but it is helpful to note how others see us and where our institutions stand in the mix of all universities nationally. The Charting the Future Working Group on Quality is looking deeply at these issues and we can look forward to their recommendations later next year.

Brey is Carnegie Professor of the Year

It is a special pleasure to note that Geography Professor James Brey, at our UW-Fox Valley college, has been named the 2003 Carnegie Professor of the Year. Selected from 400 competitors nationwide, he received the award last month at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Professor Brey has long been an advocate of the learning community approach to science and has pioneered the creative use of technology in his classes. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society’s teacher enhancement program and uses GIS, AMS, and OnLine Weather Services which he helped create during a sabbatical leave as Scientist in Residence at the AMS. He has also been a teacher and academic administrator at the Kettle Morraine Correctional Institution. The Carnegie Professor of the Year awards are among the most prestigious in the nation—it is a wonderful recognition of the excellence of teaching and learning in the UW Colleges that Professor Brey has captured this award this year!

100th Anniversary of the State Lab of Hygiene

As the year 2003 draws to a close, I want to note that this is the 100th anniversary of the State Lab of Hygiene. The State Lab is a wonderful example of the Quiet Wisconsin Idea at work. Founded in 1903 by biology professor Edward Birge, the idea was to bring university-based science to the service of public health. The Lab’s original work focused on analysis of water supplies for typhoid, diphtheria, anthrax, TB, and rabies. Later in the 30’s and 40’s, the idea grew to encompass the notion that the Lab and UW-based scientists should be accessible to all practicing doctors and veterinarians in the state. Practice shifted to focus on occupation health programs and blood antibody testing. In the 50’s, the Lab moved from South Hall to Henry Mall and began to focus on diagnostic testing not available through private labs in the state; it began to do epidemiological studies and assemble computerized databanks on disease outbreaks in the population. In the 60’s and 70’s, the Lab’s assets were extended to help train medical students and the focus of testing was on rheumatic fever, prenatal testing for Rh factor-related problems, and to the testing for radiation exposures in populations near nuclear plants.

Today, of course, the latest focus has been on testing for biological pathogens such as anthrax, ricin, and related toxics. The State Lab of Hygiene continues to be a flexible, changing, and very valuable scientific resource for Wisconsin. We should be very proud and grateful for all they do in what I call the Quiet Wisconsin Idea.