Photo of UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blanks speaking during her presentation at the UW System Board of Regents meeting hosted at Union South at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on Feb. 6, 2020. (Photo by Bryce Richter/UW-Madison)

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank addresses the Board of Regents during its February 6, 2020, meeting, hosted by UW-Madison. (Photos by Bryce Richter/UW-Madison)

MADISON, Wis.—The persistent achievement gap between white students and students of color is a significant national issue but also one that is especially profound in some parts of Wisconsin. It’s a challenge the University of Wisconsin System must address, according to UW leadership.

“We need to constantly seek to find answers,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen at the Board meeting on Thursday. “As a public university and to uphold our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, the UW System must serve all students. It is both a moral and economic imperative.”

Several experts addressed the Board, articulating the compelling need to address the problem as well as presenting a number of practical, evidence-based solutions.

Photo of Timothy Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, during his presentation at the UW System Board of Regents meeting hosted at Union South at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 6, 2020. (Photo by Bryce Richter/UW-Madison)


Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, defined the real-life scope of the problem, using metropolitan Milwaukee to provide economic context. He said there is “tremendous leakage in the talent pipeline,” particularly among students of color. While the number of high school graduates has increased, fewer are enrolling in or getting through higher education. He told Regents that only 2 of 20 current high school freshmen overall will go on to graduate from college within six years. At the same time, he said, “we hear loud and clear from employers that they want a more diverse workforce.”

Timothy Renick, Senior Vice President for Student Success at Georgia State University, shared the experience of his institution in eliminating all achievement gaps based on students’ race, ethnicity, or income level. “We needed to change the institution at its very core, changing how we interact with every one of our undergraduates,” he said.

Renick told Regents that over the past decade, strategic use of data and more intentional use of advisors have led to more immediate interventions when students encounter hurdles, leading to significant increases in retention and decreases in time to degree. Further, the students who benefited the most were the students who needed it most.

Photo of Dr. Angela Byars-Winston



Dr. Angela Byars-Winston, a tenured faculty member in the Division of General Internal Medicine within UW-Madison’s Department of Medicine, director of research and evaluation in the UW Center for Women’s Health Research, associate director in the Collaborative Center for Health Equity, and faculty lead in the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research, presented some of her research findings on the benefits of mentorships.

Byars-Winston said it might be a reasonable assumption that an increasingly diverse population would translate into a more diverse workforce. Unfortunately, she said, that is not the case. “If we are not intentional about bringing a more diverse group in and keeping them in, particularly in STEMM fields, nothing will change.”

She said data shows successful and intentional mentoring can powerfully impact attracting and retaining talent; upskilling existing workers; improving career pathways; promoting apprenticeships and other work-based learning for students; promoting career awareness; and reaching disconnected groups. She noted that mentorship includes career support functions as well as psychosocial support.

Regent Eve Hall, who moderated a panel discussion, urged the Board to use the day’s discussion as a launching pad to another level of thinking. “The only way we’ll win the end game is through intentionality, collaboration and consistent conversations to do things differently,” Hall said.

UW System President Ray Cross said a big part of the problem is that higher education tends to have a compliance mentality when what’s really needed is to make cultural change. “At the very heart of this is identifying who needs help and when,” Cross said, adding that the more costly and more difficult part of the solution is building the support structure to make it happen.

Navigating the Changing World of Higher Ed

As part of the host campus presentation, Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the Regents how UW-Madison is responding to three important national trends that are challenging top research universities nationwide.

The first trend is a changing revenue picture. Blank told the Regents that state cuts to higher education combined with an on-going tuition freeze and a decline in the number of high school graduates in Wisconsin, have led the university to find new ways to raise funds. These include expanding out-of-state enrollment (while maintaining a strong commitment to in-state students), fundraising, and developing new online master’s degrees.

The second trend Blank discussed was increasing competition from peer institutions. She noted that a majority of the world’s top 100 universities are no longer in the U.S. In addition, many of UW-Madison’s U.S. competitors have been expanding their revenues faster than UW-Madison, forcing the university to focus more directly on how to stay competitive.

The keys to remaining a top university, Blank said, are attracting outstanding faculty, building great educational programs, and offering state-of-the-art facilities. She noted that UW-Madison has made important strides in all of these areas, but she said the university needs to address aging facilities such as the Mosse Humanities Building in order to compete for top students and faculty.

To support faculty recruitment and retention, Blank announced a new $70 million matching opportunity, made possible by the generosity of UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge. The match will be available to donors who would like to establish or enhance an endowed professorship or chair fund.

The third trend Blank discussed was changing public views of higher education. She quoted a Pew Research Center poll that indicates 38% of U.S. adults believe universities have a negative effect on the country – up from 26% in 2012. She said that one driver of these views is the college admissions scandal that broke in 2019.  Blank underscored that UW-Madison has the same admissions process for everyone, and that each student is admitted solely on the basis of their own record. She told the Regents that UW-Madison is working hard to connect with the people of the state to share the stories of the value the university brings to Wisconsin.

Business and Finance Committee

The Business and Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve changes to nonresident and graduate student tuition rates at six institutions (UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Whitewater). For the most part, the changes seek increases of between one and five percent, with exceptions for specific graduate programs at UW-Milwaukee and UW-River Falls.

The Committee also approved a proposed change in the credit plateau for the academic year from eight to 10 credits and four to seven credits in summer for UW-Milwaukee Master’s in Occupational Therapy and Communication Sciences and Disorders programs beginning in Fall 2021, respectively.

In other business, the Business and Finance Committee:

  • Approved guidelines for the first-time administration of the Wisconsin Merit Scholarship program. This will be the first year the scholarship is awarded under the recommended guidelines due to availability of funding generated from interest income of the Normal School Fund;
  • Approved a UW-Madison Sponsored Research Agreement with GlaxoSmithKline LLC to provide early-stage evaluation of a new drug treatment for multiple myeloma. This agreement is essentially the same as two other agreements recently approved (December 2019), DREAMM4 and DREAMM5. All are parallel studies testing the same drug, using it in combination with other approved medicines. GlaxoSmithKline shall pay the University $1.3 million for providing the requested research;
  • Approved a UW-Madison Fee for Service Agreement with International Business Sales and Services Corporation (IBSS) for Phase II of an existing agreement to transition the Space Science and Engineering Center research previously developed software into operational support for the National Weather Service. IBSS Corporation shall pay the University $287,617 for the initial term and an estimated total of $2.05 million if all option periods are exercised;
  • Approved a UW-Madison service agreement with Madison Gas and Electric Company (MGE). UW-Madison wishes to participate in the development of the O’Brien Solar Fields Project located in Fitchburg, Wis., by entering into a Renewable Energy Rider Service Agreement with its utility provider, MGE. Under this Agreement, UW-Madison subscribes to 10,000 kW of the O’Brien Solar Fields Project’s capacity and obligates itself to purchase the associated energy for a period of 30 years. The cost of the energy itself is locked in for the 30-year term, at $0.058/kWh, after an upfront payment by UW-Madison of $1.5 million;
  • Approved two separate UW-Madison Fee for Service Agreements with Genentech Inc., a subsidiary of F. Hoffman La Roche. The UW Fundus Photograph Reading Center will evaluate images of eyes (retinal images) and provide related services to assist Genentech in assessing the results of this clinical trial (PAVILION). The estimated dollar value over the duration of the agreement is $1,574,997. This project will run concurrent with another agreement with Genentech, called PAGODA. This second study is looking at a novel method for delivering a reformulated, previously FDA-approved drug for treating diabetic retinopathy to the eye. This agreement is an amendment to a previously existing agreement. The estimated dollar value of the amendment is $3,174,527;
  • Approved the removal of Regent Policy Document (RPD) 30-1, “Student Publications,” because the policy is obsolete. Removing this statement from the Regent Policy Documents does not alter Resolution 1015, that is codified in this policy and allows for the provision of space and subscriptions for campus publications to be determined in accordance with individual campus policies and procedures, nor change the practice of allowing each campus to determine whether to subsidize campus newspapers;
  • Approved a resolution amending RPD 30-2, “Student Newspaper Disclaimer,” and renaming the policy “Student Press Publication Disclaimer.” This RPD requires student newspapers subsidized by funds or facilities of the UW System or its institutions to carry a disclaimer stating that the newspaper is written and edited by students, and they are solely responsible for its content;
  • Approved a proposal to revise a recently approved Regent Policy Document entitled “Contracts with Research Companies,” with an additional amendment proposed by UW-Madison. The requested amendment clarifies that the prohibition on a university employee’s involvement in their institution’s employment of an individual with financial interest in a research company only applies if the employee knows the individual has a significant financial interest in the research company;
  • Heard an update from Senior Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Shenita Brokenburr on the current progress and next steps for UW System’s Title and Total Compensation Project. The update included findings from a benefits value analysis and employee preferences survey conducted by Mercer Consulting;
  • Heard a presentation by UW-Madison Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance David Murphy on how the work of the finance and administration division helps to ensure that the Wisconsin Idea can thrive and prosper amidst the growing demands on the academic enterprise from students, faculty, and external constituents;
  • Heard a report from Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steven Hopper on the status of 19 large IT projects underway in the UW System. He also updated Regents on strategic plans for major information technology projects for 2020-21;
  • Heard a semi-annual summary report of gift, grant, and contract awards for the period July 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Total gifts, grants, and contracts for this period were approximately $885 million; this is a 6.1% increase of $50.7 million from the prior year. Federal awards increased $6.3 million (1.1%), while non-federal awards increased by $44.5 million (15.4%); and
  • Heard reports from Vice President for Administration Rob Cramer and Vice President for Finance Sean Nelson.

Education Committee

Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Anny Morrobel-Sosa led a discussion of remedial mathematics education within the UW System, as well as the college and career readiness of students within Wisconsin public schools.

Among incoming freshmen in 2018, 19% required remedial math courses and 6% required remedial English. It was stressed that remediation also is an equity issue. Of the students requiring remedial math, for example, 31% are from underrepresented minority populations, 27% lower income, 25% first generation, and 29% are non-traditional students.

Primary goals of the UW System’s Math Initiative going forward include ensuring transferability and applicability of gateway math courses, reducing the need for developmental math courses, and improving the success of students in developmental and gateway math.

Jennifer Kammerud, a senior policy analyst with Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, provided Regents with an overview of the K-12 population, noting growing percentages of students come from economically disadvantaged families which tends to impact achievement.  Sheila Briggs, assistant state superintendent, spoke about DPI’s academic and career planning with students starting as early as Grade 6 to help ensure effective transitions into higher education.

Regent Tracy Klein, chair of the Education Committee, offered a resolution requesting that UW System explore funding opportunities and solutions in support of UW System remedial education programs and the task force for advancing teachers and school leaders for Wisconsin. The resolution was approved by the Committee.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Approved a request from UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Parkside, UW-Platteville (lead), UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Superior, with administrative and financial support from UW Extended Campus, to establish a Collaborative Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Master of Science in Clinical and Health Informatics. The program is structured to serve working professionals in the healthcare industry through a fully online curriculum;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business: Supply Chain Management. This degree program will replace an existing certificate in Supply Chain Management and will meet the substantial student interest for a major in this area;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for a Bachelor of Science degree in Data Science, in response to industry’s continued and increasing need for employees with data science backgrounds;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, responding to high student demand as well as regional and national employer demand for cybersecurity talents for protecting both business and government from cybersecurity attacks;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s Master of Science in Instructional Design and Learning Technology, a growing field that requires leaders who understand the foundations of learning design, as well as how to produce engaging learning experiences, assess outcomes, and work with emerging learning technologies. This online program is geared toward working professionals;
  • Approved the rescission of RPD 4-2, “Inter-institutional Cooperative Agreements between UW Institutions and Private Colleges,” because the policy is of limited scope. The proposal requires the UW System President to establish new procedures for monitoring agreements between UW institutions and private colleges;
  • Approved the rescission of RPD 4-5, “Principles on Accreditation of Academic Programs,” and RPD 5-1, “Academic Quality Program Assessment,” because the policies are obsolete. The Committee also approved a New RPD titled: “Accreditation and Assessment of Student Learning,” which integrates updated provisions related to accreditation and assessment of learning into a single policy;
  • Approved changes to RPD 4-19, “Naming of University Academic Units,” to establish standards for naming academic units for corporations or other legal entities;
  • Received an update from UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone and Provost Johannes Britz on the status of planning for the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin; and
  • Heard a UW-Madison presentation led by Provost Karl Scholz on how a large campus such as UW-Madison can help students feel included through its array of educational opportunities.

Audit Committee

UW System’s Director of Compliance and Integrity Katie Ignatowski and Public Records Coordinator Katie Patten briefed members of the Audit Committee about improvements in public records responsiveness and tracking, as part of ongoing efforts to improve public accountability and public records access.

In other business, the Audit Committee:

  • Received an update from Ignatowski and Title IX and Clery Administrator Sarah Harebo on the development of Title IX case management guidelines and potential case management solutions;
  • Heard a report from Chief Audit Executive Lori Stortz on fiscal 2020 Audit Plan progress and a summary of recently issued audits;
  • Received the annual update on Campus Response and Continuity of Operation Planning from UW-Madison Police Chief Kristen Roman and Associate Vice President Ruth Anderson; and
  • Received an update from Anderson and Associate Vice President Katherine Mayer on Vendor Management Planning in response to a Plante Moran audit.

Capital Planning and Budget Committee

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee approved UW-Madison’s request for a $25.6 million increase to the budget for the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant Addition project, which constructs a three-story addition and remodels portions of Babcock Hall to house the Center for Dairy Research.

Since not all the specialized equipment and design elements were known before the project began construction, construction contract documents and the budget require updates for the finalized customized equipment and associated systems. The budget increase will allow the project team to finish construction of the specialized equipment space and replenish the contingency to accommodate any future unforeseen conditions when the renovation of the dairy plant commences later in the year. The issue will come before the full Board for a vote on Friday.

In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval of a $6.6 million increase to the budget for the Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory project that constructs a new facility to serve academic and research needs as well as provide a site for training food inspectors. During the site excavation stage, a large amount of below-grade contaminated soils was discovered that was unknown at time of bidding. This soil had to be removed to certified landfills and replaced with new structural soil. Also, while meat science industry buildings are typically built to accommodate one animal type only (such as poultry or beef), this facility is built to accommodate multiple types. This requires custom-designed and fabricated equipment, and it has necessitated modifications to the original design of the facility and changes to the building and its utility systems.
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to construct the $78.8 million Sellery Hall Addition and Renovation project to provide programmatic and infrastructure upgrades to improve functionality, efficiency, and building code compliance;
  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s request to sell a parcel of land with a 1970s-era house that previously served as the Chancellor’s residence. Since the property needs extensive housing and site improvements, and there are other options available on campus for entertaining, the university has decided the property is no longer needed. Per the agreement when the house was originally donated to the university, the revenue generated from the sale will be used to fund the creation of a student meeting activity space;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to enter into a lease of space for the Administrative Transformation Program, a multi-year, collaborative effort of UW System Administration and UW-Madison to streamline administrative processes. As the planning and implementation phases launch, the program is expected to reach roughly 150 staff within the next 18 months. Currently, there is no contiguous office space large enough on the UW-Madison campus to meet this need;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for approval to name its new residence hall, “Ma’ iingan Hall,” which is Ojibwe for “” The name was chosen as a tribute to the diverse Native peoples who lived on the lands where UW-Whitewater now exists;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to construct a 2017-19 Classroom Renovation/Instructional Technology Improvement Program project at UW-Parkside. The project will remodel an existing instructional lab in Greenquist Hall that is underutilized to support modern teaching pedagogy and provide a state-of-the-art active learning classroom;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to construct two All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects for a total cost of $1.5 million, consisting of a Purin Hall infrastructure repair project at UW-Milwaukee and an Esker Hall roof replacement project at UW-Whitewater;
  • Approved UW System’s request to modify Regent Policy Document 19-14, “Naming of University Facilities and Lands,” to establish standards, criteria, and procedures for naming UW buildings, facilities, and land for corporations or other legal entities;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to complete the design and construct the UW-managed Zoology 1st Floor Wang Lab Renovation project at a cost of $1.1 million Gift Funds;
  • Heard a presentation by Laurent Heller, UW-Madison’s Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, providing an overview of the university’s capital project program, including the types of projects, funding sources, approval methods, and delivery methods used; and
  • Heard a report from Senior Associate Vice President Alex Roe, who provided Regents with an update on recent State Building Commission actions, the 2021-23 Capital Budget, and the 2021-27 Capital Plan Update.

Research, Economic Development & Innovation Committee

Missy Hughes, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s new Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, provided the REDI Committee with an overview of current and planned programs and outcomes of state-led business and community development efforts and university collaborations.

In other business, the REDI committee:

  • Heard a presentation from Sue Babcock, Faculty Director of UW-Madison’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) residential learning community. She discussed the benefits and opportunities the program offers to women interested in STEM fields; and
  • Heard a presentation from Idella Yamben, New Idea Concierge for the Ideadvance startup initiative, who outlined the evolving mission of the program and highlighted some of the noteworthy economic impacts gained from its disciplined, success-proven curriculum.

Photo Credit: Bryce Richter/UW-Madison

The UW System Board of Regents meeting will continue on Friday, February 7, 2020, at 9 a.m. in Union South, UW-Madison.