Thank you, Chancellor Shepard, for that marvelous introduction, and for your forward-looking address.  I am absolutely delighted to be joining you on this special day – the dedication ceremony (for the new Lab Sciences facility) was wonderful and dry!

Let me also add my congratulations to the faculty and staff award winners on this campus who excel in such important areas as academic support, classified-staff service, community outreach, institutional development, faculty scholarship, and teaching:

  • David Dettman
  • Dennis Nellis
  • Jan Thornton ( whom I know very well from our many years of collaboration in continuing education/outreach)
  • Cristina Ortiz
  • Cheryl Grosso
  • Regan Gurung

People tell me that, as president, I will represent the UW System.  That’s only partly true.  YOU represent the UW System … and no one does it more enthusiastically – and effectively – than all of you.

It is also an honor to be here on a day when we welcome our newest colleagues. Glancing at today’s program booklet (which includes a brief bio of each new hire), I am impressed by the quality of the credentials, the quality of the individuals. The UW System hires good people! (And I’m not just saying that because I start my new job next Wednesday!)

This visit to UWGB is only my second campus visit since being appointed President, so you should feel either honored or put upon, depending on your inclinations. Speaking of your feeling put upon, let me begin my brief remarks today by saying a few things about my own academic background.

To tell the truth, I’m a “dirty BAMAPHD,” as one character says to another in Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  (GREAT TITLE!)  That “BAMAPHD,” of course, is B.A.->M.A.->Ph.D., in my case all in English.  My special area of teaching and scholarly interest is Irish literature and culture, especially biography and autobiography written about and by Irish writers.

It’s a wonderfully, well … vicious field of inquiry.  The great Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift recognized this when he said:  “The Irish are a fair people …  They never speak well of one another.”  It’s a field of inquiry, therefore, that is quite solid preparation for high administrative posts in the academy!

Let me say that coming before a large, august assembly of faculty and staff such as this at the start of one’s Presidency is daunting.  I am ever mindful of what the former President of Harvard University, Derek Bok, said when asked what kind of job the faculty and staff on that campus thought he was doing.  “Half of them think they could do a better job than I … the other half think anybody could do a better job than I!”

Nonetheless, I will assume a honeymoon period with all of you until further notice, which notice I fully expect will be on my desk when I arrive back in Madison this afternoon.

As a chancellor in the UW System, I know something about UWGB.  What I know is impressive – especially the history, and the special mission, of this institution:

  • Its interdisciplinary approach
  • The emphasis on problem solving, hands-on learning
  • The commitment to serving the community.

And it has been a real pleasure to get to know Bruce Shepard since he had the good sense to abandon Oregon!  I’ve also gotten to know Cyndie Shepard, Bruce’s spouse a bit, and I know how great an advocate she is for pre-college programs… and for growing the pipeline, reaching out to diverse populations.  I’m very impressed with the Phuture Phoenix Program and the idea that, over the next few years, you’re aiming to get as many as 20,000 grade-school children (low-income, or those whose parents have no college experience) to visit this campus… and start seeing higher education as the path to a brighter future not only for themselves, but for the broader community.

But back to Bruce …  If I had to estimate the number of times I’ve heard him say “Connecting Learning to Life” … well, it has to be right up there with the number of times he’s heard me refer to “The Wisconsin Idea.”

We tend to repeat ourselves. But that’s because we have good messages.  And your “Connecting” complements “The Wisconsin Idea.”

I’m well aware of UW-Green Bay’s serve-the-community initiatives, in fact I supported your performance on some of these as UW-Extension provost and chancellor! Indeed, you’re dong a number of outstanding things, including:

  • Locating the Paper Technology Transfer Center at a downtown site
  • Establishing a new downtown center for continuing education
  • Adding important new masters’ degrees in management and in social work
  • Building a new certificate program in continuing education for business
  • And, of course, your greatest and on-going contribution — realized in majors and academic programs across the curriculum — of helping to develop this region’s next generation of leaders and problem-solvers.

I haven’t started my new role yet, and already Bruce Shepard has been asking me questions … namely, “How can UWGB help you, President Reilly, to help the state of Wisconsin?” My answer, basically, is “Keep doing what you’re doing.” The “Connecting learning to life” orientation is something that resonates very well.

Let me also reiterate a few things that I told the Board of Regents last month when they selected me to succeed Katharine Lyall. Of course, I began by telling them how genuinely honored I feel to have been asked to serve as president of a public university system with one of the richest traditions in American higher education. I firmly believe that our job as a public university is to be Wisconsin’s premier developer of advanced human potential, of the jobs that employ that potential, and of the flourishing communities that sustain it. Let me repeat that . . .  One of my primary responsibilities as president will be to communicate the importance of that work, and to build lasting relationships with the people and organizations that make it possible.

But I can’t do this alone – I’ll need your help and support – and your voices – as we articulate our value, our role, and our impact in educating students and stimulating economic prosperity in Wisconsin.

In talking with the Regents, I addressed issues of affordability, access, economic development and quality. I am pleased to report that just last week, the Regents voted unanimously to forward a budget request to the Governor and the Legislature that asks for much-needed reinvestments in the UW System, its students, its faculty, and its staff.

For me, the Regents’ vote is a vote about hope and about optimism for the future.  It is also a budget request that is very much focused on student access and Wisconsin success.

  • It is a student access budget because it contains financial aid that will help young people from lower- and middle-income families enroll in our universities, where they will expand their knowledge and prepare themselves for lifelong success. We know that talent, creativity and drive are not the exclusive purview of wealthy families. We must keep higher education affordable for all Wisconsin students.
  • The budget is a student access budget because it will enable working adults to have access to educational opportunities throughout their careers. Today’s business climate demands flexibility and responsiveness, and we have much to gain by further developing our In-state pool of experienced and talented workers.
  • It is a student access budget because it will ensure that students have access to education and research of the highest quality. To keep our brightest minds in the classrooms and laboratories, to preserve the high academic standards that are synonymous with the “UW” name, we must provide nationally competitive compensation packages for our faculty, staff, and administrators. The Regents heard that message at their meeting last week directly from some of our own faculty and staff. Thanks to their testimony, and that of others, the Regents took that message to heart and showed their support for providing compensation that will help us keep the quality faculty and staff we already have, and attract the next generation of quality educators.
  • Finally, this is a Wisconsin success budget. It supports our efforts to increase the number of state residents with baccalaureate degrees.  We know that the higher the proportion of baccalaureate degree holders in a state’s population, the higher the state’s average per capita income.   Our efforts to address affordability and access will raise Wisconsin’s per-capita income, grow our tax base, and stimulate economic prosperity. As I told the Regents, when it comes to success, the state and the university are joined at the hip. The state needs a strong university to spur economic development, and the university needs a strong state economy to reinvest in our teaching, research, and public service.

As I begin my term as president, I am optimistic and hopeful – and you should be too. That’s because, as Bruce Shepard and the leaders of your community boards have articulated, UWGB has a strong desire to grow. At 5,000 students and 4-thousand-some FTE, you’re just not large enough to meet the regional demands of today … much less tomorrow … when the needs will be only more critical.  To grow in the way you want – with quality – you’ll need new resources.  Together, we’ll figure out how to get them.

So, we do have a lot of work ahead of us, and we all need to work together. You are modeling the right behavior here with programs

like the NEW ERA partnership – a collaboration with UW-Oshkosh, the UW Colleges, NWTC and private colleges on a regional approach to larger issues.

That’s terrific … and it’s the way, frankly, that we’re going to have to get things done in the future.

We must also work with the Governor, the Legislature, and all the state’s citizens – especially all of our UW students, alumni, and stakeholders – to keep the future of the university bright, and to extend that light to every corner of this state.

Let me close, therefore, by saying I look forward to hearing from you about your ideas on where this great university system should go, and how we should get there. In any case, I am confident that the journey will be a rewarding and exciting one for all of us.

Have a bracing academic year.  Never forget that the work we do as Wisconsin’s premier developer of advanced human potential is noble work, and very much worth doing.

Thanks for listening. And if I haven’t put you to sleep – and Bruce isn’t going to give me the bum’s rush – I hope you will go ahead now and ask me a question or two and/or give me some advice.  So the formal talk is done.

Any questions or comments?