SUPERIOR, Wis. – Traditional introductory math courses present one of the most significant barriers to degree completion for students in virtually all fields of study, but the University of Wisconsin System is working to change that.

The UW System Math Initiative, which began in March 2017, is designed to help students receive relevant mathematics education that aligns to their program of study, saves resources, supports retention, and ultimately reduces time to degree.

Photo of Alice Pulvermacher and Carleen Vande Zande

UW System Math Initiative Project Director Alice Pulvermacher (left) and Associate Vice President of Academic Programs and Education Innovation Carleen Vande Zande.

“Many incoming students are not quite ready to be successful in introductory college math – what we call ‘gateway math,’” Project Director Alice Pulvermacher told the Board of Regents Friday. “But if they end up in lengthy developmental math sequences, that can delay or derail their overall academic progress.”

Math Initiative goals focus on:

  • Reducing the need for developmental math courses
  • Improving success of students in developmental (remedial) and gateway math
  • Ensuring transfer of gateway math.

Systemwide agreement on learning outcomes for the most common gateway math courses— College Algebra, Statistics, and Quantitative Reasoning—ensures equity, consistency, and transfer across UW System. That progress sets the stage for collaborating with Wisconsin high schools and technical colleges focused on preparing students to take gateway math courses that will successfully transfer to UW schools.

“It is important for the UW System to be partners with other educational systems and agencies that focus on common goals such as student success and transitions among academic outcomes,” said Carleen Vande Zande, associate vice president of Academic Programs and Education Innovation in UW System’s Office of Academic & Student Affairs. “The System has taken steps to engage with others who would be natural partners in carrying forward the new understandings and expectations we have about math preparation of Wisconsin students.”

The Math Initiative is funded through a three-year, $2.3 million grant from Ascendium Education Group.

The Literacy Link can influence young lives

The Literacy Link, a UW-Madison Division of Extension program that teams with county-based partners to foster positive literacy-focused interactions between young children and their justice-involved parents or caregivers, has the potential to profoundly change lives, according to program Director Mary Huser.

The Literacy Link, a UW System-funded pilot project, is showing great promise as an approach that builds the reading, speaking, and listening abilities of young children in families throughout the criminal justice system, Huser said. Through a variety of literacy-based experiences, positive relationships are strengthened between the children and their caregivers, which is critical to help children manage stress or trauma.

“Bringing more literacy and language-rich resources into these children’s lives is critical to their long-term well-being,” said Huser. “Literacy Link is creating and maintaining connections between children and their justice-involved parents – and also helping parents become more confident and skilled.”

The Literacy Link has provided more than 1,900 new, high-quality books for children, more than 280 parents with reading workshops, and more than 1,000 literacy-focused video visits, recorded book readings, and child-friendly face-to-face visits.

The project was initially funded with $200,000 through the UW System’s Office of the President in July 2017 and has used UW resources to provide educational outreach, support services, evaluation, curriculum, and books. The pilot counties for the program are Ashland, Bayfield, Dane, Dunn, Racine, Pepin, and Buffalo. Recently, a second round of funding was approved, which will allow the program to expand.

Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka has seen first-hand the impact the program has on both children and parents. “We know from the research that these positive influences from parents – even parents who’ve committed a crime – can have a positive influence. I think it’s indisputable that there’s long-term benefit.”

“What you’re doing is a moment of grace,” said Regent Tracey Klein.

Regent President’s Report

Regent President Andrew S. Petersen updated Regents on the UW System’s current chancellor searches. He said the UW-Stout search, led by Chair Regent Jason Plante, will be interviewing semifinalist candidates in the next few weeks is on target to name a new UW-Stout chancellor by December. The UW-Green Bay search and screen committee, to be chaired by Regent Bob Atwell, was named last month and the search process is now underway.

Petersen also updated Regents on the All In Wisconsin tour, launched at UW-Parkside in early September with subsequent stops at UW-River Falls, UW-La Crosse and UW-Superior. “The idea behind the tour is to highlight how our UW institutions are making a real difference for communities, businesses, and people all across the state,” Petersen said.

He noted that response to the tour has been very favorable. A key element of the tour is listening, Petersen added. “(Our stakeholders) have provided not only large amounts of feedback but also high-quality items that we can act on.”

The tour continues later this month with visits to UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point, with other campuses to follow.

System President’s Report

UW System President Ray Cross updated the Board on the state budget, noting that Joint Committee on Finance last week approved the $45 million in funding for the biennium to be allocated through the Outcomes-Based Funding model. To distribute that $45 million, JFC approved a distribution of $22.5 million in each year of the biennium, with $22.5 million in ongoing base funding.

Cross told Regents that the Joint Finance Committee also approved the $8.8 million in funding for the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Cross said this leaves the final allocation of the compensation plan as the only outstanding item left to enact from the 2019-21 budget.

As part of his News Around the System report, Cross told Regents that students at UW-Platteville are gaining access to fresh lettuce grown on campus year-round through a new hydroponics student-managed business. The 1,500-square-foot hydroponics space, built and operated solely by students, will supply nearly all lettuce used by UW-Platteville Dining Services.

Photo of Hannah Kolanczyk, a UW-Superior junior double-majoring in biology and chemistry, who was featured in the October 2019 Student Spotlight.

Hannah Kolanczyk

For his Student Spotlight, Cross presented Hannah Kolanczyk, a junior at UW-Superior who is double-majoring in Biology and Chemistry. She is also a Swenson Scholar, which is the most prestigious scholarship program offered through the UW-Superior Foundation.

Kolanczyk said she always knew she was interested in science but she “never realized how much of a passion I had for it” until taking classes at UW-Superior. Now, she said, “I know I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do.”

She said she is extremely grateful for her Swenson scholarship. “Instead of stressing out working so many jobs to afford tuition, I can focus on my academics,” she said.

Kolanczyk plans to do graduate work focused on wildlife biology and microbiology.

In other business, the Board of Regents:

  • Approved a resolution of appreciation for UW-Superior hosting the October 2019 meeting;
  • Approved a change to their regular meeting schedule, allowing the Board of Regents office to host the April 2020 meeting instead of UW-Green Bay;
  • Approved election of Chuck Saunders as the new Assistant Trust Officer for the Board of Regents;
  • Approved an Administrative Code Scope Statement for Proposed Changes to Chapter UWS 17;
  • Approved a Notice of Preliminary Hearing on an Administrative Code Scope Statement for Chapter UWS 18;
  • Approved a report on the 2018-19 year-end program revenue balances as categorized by each institution and the System as a whole;
  • Approved the expenditure of the principal of the bequest from the Kenneth A. and Dona M. Griesemer trust fund for the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Approved eight contractual agreements involving UW-Madison:
    • Monsanto Company
    • Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp.
    • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
    • General Motors
    • Phillips Healthcare
    • Caterpillar
    • Plumrose USA Inc.
    • Phoenix Nest
  • Approved changes to four Regent Policy Documents:
    • RPD 4-3, “Criteria for the Use of Animals in Research”
    • RPD 4-6, “Granting of Degrees, Honors and Awards”
    • RPD 4-7, “Add/Drop Policy for Courses”
    • RPD 24-4, “Policy on the Role of Resident Assistants in Residence Halls”
  • Approved the reappointments of two council members to the Natural Areas Preservation Council for three-year terms: Dr. Sharon Dunwoody and Dr. Kenneth Rhoads Bradbury;
  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Data Science;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Analytics;
  • Approved UW-Parkside’s request to execute a 30-year ground lease with We Energies to host a solar photovoltaic array along the eastern edge of the main campus;
  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request to sell two parcels of improved land, each with a house originally constructed in the early 1900s. The university no longer has any use for these properties and has received an offer to purchase;
  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request to enter into a facility use agreement to develop a shared tennis facility with the City of La Crosse and the Coulee Region Tennis Association;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request to construct the Governors Hall Addition and Renovation project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to construct the Camp Randall Stadium Renovation/Field House Repairs project;
  • Approved UW System’s request to construct the UW-Whitewater Heating Plant Boilers Fuels Retrofit project;
  • Approved UW System’s request to construct two 2017-19 Classroom Renovation/Instructional Technology Improvement Program projects. The first will construct a 50-seat active learning classroom in Mitchell Hall at UW-Milwaukee, and the second will renovate space for an expanded mechatronics laboratory in Russell Hall at UW-Platteville;
  • Approved UW System’s request to construct All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects, including multi-building elevator renovations at UW-Whitewater, a steam pit and utility line replacement at UW-Oshkosh, an increase to match current design estimates for a fuel reliability project at UW-Stout, and replacement of the campus fiber optic backbone at UW-Superior; and
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to complete the design, increase the budget by $1.1 million Gift Funds, and construct phase II of the UW-managed Educational Sciences, Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) Renovation project.

The next meeting of the UW System Board of Regents will be Nov. 7, 2019, in Madison.