UW System offers veterans unique benefits and servicesImage Honoring All Who Have Served Veterans Day 2018

In honor of Veterans Day, I’d like to personally thank all of the men and women of Wisconsin who have served our great country in the U.S. Armed Forces. As a veteran myself, I understand the personal sacrifice you make to protect our country and our freedoms, and I appreciate as well the sacrifices made by your families.

It’s one of the reasons I’m happy to remind you that the University of Wisconsin System offers military veterans the best services in the country.

The Wisconsin G.I. Bill provides the equivalent of four years of full-time tuition to military veterans and their immediate family members. The bill can be used for undergraduate or graduate education for full-time, part-time or Flexible Option students. In fiscal year 2018, 3,645 eligible veterans and 1,846 eligible family members took advantage of $24.3 million in UW System-funded tuition, fee and related benefits. Veterans are given priority registration at all UW System institutions.

Learn more about the Wisconsin G.I. Bill at wisconsin.edu/veterans/benefits/

In addition, all 13 four-year institutions have achieved UW VETS Certification, our own program to help veterans choose a university.

Certification criteria includes:

  • Training faculty and staff on issues veterans may face in transitioning to college.
  • Conducting regular surveys of veterans.
  • Ensuring campus leadership is aware of the needs and concerns of veterans through a campus steering committee.
  • Providing student veteran-focused orientation programming.
  • Identifying internal and external academic, financial and social counseling for veterans.
  • Providing a dedicated space on campus for veterans to meet.

Now that two-year UW campuses are attached to four-year campuses through restructuring, veterans at the two-year campuses are beginning to be able to take advantage of these services.

For more information about how veterans can take advantage of these services, visit our Veterans web page, wisconsin.edu/veterans/ or contact a veterans adviser at one of our institutions, found through this website: uwhelp.wisconsin.edu/campus-contacts/.

In addition, veterans can learn more about the wide range of benefits Wisconsin has to offer at inwisconsin/veteran.

I am happy to report that the University of Wisconsin System’s plan to restructure UW Colleges and UW-Extension has been officially approved by the Higher Learning Commission!

Our primary concern is ensuring the UW System is in a position to provide greater access, affordability, and opportunity for our students and the state of Wisconsin. To help meet Wisconsin’s growing needs, it is imperative we take action now and be increasingly bold in our efforts to get more students into and through the educational pipeline. We appreciate the collaborative efforts and support from local governments in this restructure.

I encourage you to watch the video below to hear from our Chancellors just how important this effort is for the UW System.

Check out our news release or learn more about this initiative on the UW Restructuring website.

Young professionals are a vital component to our Wisconsin workforce and economy.

This week, the UW System joins the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the rest of Wisconsin in celebrating Young Professionals Week (YP Week). YPWeek is dedicated to recognizing the contributions young professionals bring to our great state. Many of these young professionals developed their skills and knowledge at a UW System campus.

 The UW System remains focused on creating the best educational experience possible to provide students with the skills they need to have an immediate impact as young professionals in our current – and future – economy.

To that end, one of the goals of UW System’s 2020FWD strategic framework is to provide every student with the opportunity to experience at least two high-impact learning practices, including internships and undergraduate research.

  • Learn more about how the UW is shaping young professionals across Wisconsin.
  • Visit ypweek.com to learn more about YP Week

Throughout the month of February, UW campuses recognized the significant contributions African Americans make to our culture in honor of Black History Month. Here is a sampling of events:

  • UW-Superior: The Black Student Union at UW-Superior offered its popular Soul Food dinner and program in the Yellowjacket Union. Music, food, and fun brought the campus and greater Superior community together. New York poet Frankie Soto hosted the event and performed some spoken word poetry. Named the 2016 Multicultural Spoken Word Poet of the Year at the National Poetry Awards, Soto appears at college campuses throughout the country.
  • UW-Parkside: A Martin Luther King Jr. celebration took place in Bedford Concert Hall. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs joined with the UW-Parkside music department to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. The event featured the musical works of UW-Parkside student Max Feiler and alumnus Curtis Crump Jr. and an original poem by student Symone Leonard.
  • UW-Platteville: The Black Student Union at UW-Platteville hosted the 13th annual Ebony Weekend Conference. Created to celebrate generations in the Black community, the conference included workshops, entertainment, social interaction, inspiring lectures, and substantial dialogue. The theme for this year’s event was “Building a Culture and Shedding the Label.”

These are just a few of the many Black History Month celebrations held across the UW System last month.

Thank you to the students, staff, faculty, campus leaders, and community members who helped arrange the speakers and events.

An old adage states, “There is no substitute for experience.”

The knowledge gained in lecture halls, classroom discussions, study groups, and exams are critical to the university experience. Our world-class faculty and staff give students a unique understanding in their chosen field of study, guiding them as they move from college toward their chosen career.

Classroom learning, however, is only part of the equation. As I travel around the state speaking to employers, their consistent message is they want and need employees who think critically, operate creatively, work collaboratively, and possess an ability to adapt to change.

These skills can be obtained through internships or other work-related experience. Internships build good work habits, teach responsibility, and broaden a student’s experience in a professional setting. They also expand professional networks and increase the likelihood of an employer hiring that student after graduation.

Eighty-five percent of UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin. We know every time a student gets an internship with a Wisconsin employer, the likelihood of them staying here is increased, benefiting the economy and keeping our state a great place to live.

One of the goals of UW System’s 2020FWD strategic framework is to provide every student with the opportunity to experience at least two high-impact learning practices, including internships and undergraduate research. Exciting new tools like the Career Connect website and a partnership with the Department of Workforce Development are helping us connect students with employers more quickly than ever before.

Wisconsin’s economic success will be determined by our ability to prepare students for the workforce of the future and providing them with opportunities to keep them here in Wisconsin.

I recently had the honor of meeting students in grades 9-11 who were visiting UW-Platteville for its inaugural STEM Discovery Camp. This outreach program serves a diverse group of learners, including low-income families. Students explore STEM-related fields and are introduced to a curriculum based in science, technology, engineering, and math. The camp’s goal is to interest these high schoolers in STEM fields and lay the foundation for the skills and knowledge vital in today’s economy.

Throughout the week, students participated in exciting, hands-on opportunities such as 3D printing, metal casting, fingerprinting technology, and much more. The enthusiasm I observed while watching students create solar ovens and build engines was palpable. Camps like this one can play a transformative role in influencing career trajectories. These students are now more likely to take a path toward college, and have a better understanding of what opportunities lie beyond a higher education degree.

Jobs in STEM fields are among the fastest growing in the U.S. economy. Many require a bachelor’s or more advanced degree. Pre-college experiences like UW-Platteville’s STEM Discovery Camp prepare students to enter the educational pipeline with tangible skills that will guide them as they move through college and into the workforce. It is estimated that 30-50% of jobs in 2030 do not yet exist, which makes outreach programs like this even more critical.

Our goal is to expand programs like this throughout the UW System to give young learners the opportunity for the same dynamic experiences I witnessed at UW-Platteville. The UW System, with the leadership of Chancellor Dennis Shields, was proud to support this camp. We look forward to further bolstering accessible, diverse educational experiences that will translate to a stronger workforce.

UW System’s 2020FWD strategic framework emphasizes more engaging educational experiences so all learners can compete and succeed in a global environment. We are committed to readying students to meet the needs of a dynamic, changing world. Programs like UW-Platteville’s STEM Discovery Camp help put greater emphasis on creativity, innovation, and critical thinking to ensure we have young people ready to take advantage of these jobs of the future.

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The UW System was proud to host its first Wisconsin Idea Summit last week. These summits are part of our 2020FWD strategic framework and are intended to identify the most pressing challenges and opportunities in the state.

President Cross addresses the crowd at the Dairy Summit.

Wisconsin’s reputation as “America’s Dairyland” made it an easy decision to focus our first summit on the dairy industry. This is an industry woven into our state’s DNA, and its economic impact cannot be overstated.

The Dairy Summit convened top researchers, industry leaders, and policy makers. Speakers and panelists gave unique perspectives on where the industry stands now and, more importantly, they spoke about how we should prepare for the future – 15 years from now, 20 years from now, and beyond. Each session was informative and illuminating.

Major issues face the dairy industry in our increasingly globalized world, including:

  • Trade factors
  • Production factors
  • Alterations in pricing structures
  • Changes in consumer tastes

Despite all these challenges, Wisconsin can and must be the standard-bearer for all things dairy. Thanks to innovations made possible by UW System research, we have seen advances over the course of the past 20 years in milk quality, feed quality, herd management, cow care, and more.

Building on these advances, I want us to look at the top categories and metrics in the dairy industry, and aim to be the best in all of them. We may not be number one in everything, but we can compete in every single category. If we make the right decisions today, we have the opportunity to be the “World’s Dairyland.”

Attendees at the summit were asked to identify what they see as the key priorities for the dairy industry. What do we have to do as a state to ensure we are authentically listening to consumers so our dairy products have the highest value?

Through collaboration between industry officials, farmers, processors, policy makers, researchers, and consumers, we can optimize the endless opportunities with dairy in Wisconsin and face any challenges head-on.

Congratulations to the entire Class of 2017! A college degree is a significant milestone.

Graduation is about celebrating your future. This is an achievement to look back on and cherish in the years to come. You have taken the challenging path of higher education and succeeded. After years of hard work and long hours of study, you are earning a prestigious degree and beginning the next stage of your life. Perhaps even more than you know, you are prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Many people helped you along your journey, providing support in ways both big and small. From your family and friends to teachers and people in your community, please make sure you take time to thank all the people who helped you reach this big day.

The vast majority of you will stay right here in Wisconsin to live, work, and raise your families. But whether you stay in the Midwest or venture out across the globe, you now hold a place in the wonderful and dynamic community of UW alumni.

You carry on the tradition of excellence expected of UW System graduates. You are the next generation of visionaries, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Your actions will demonstrate the university’s value and help make the world a better place.  Your lives – all our lives – will be the richer.

I know the Class of 2017 has the potential, the passion, and the power to change our world. I look forward to seeing what your future holds.

The University of Wisconsin System plays an important role in preparing the future workforce and strengthening Wisconsin’s economy.  During our listening sessions for the 2020FWD strategic framework, we heard about the importance of collaboration between businesses and the university. Recently, I formed the UW System Business Council to enhance our partnerships with businesses and communities as we build a vibrant and promising future for our state.

The Council includes key industry leaders with varied backgrounds, experiences, and business perspectives. The group will meet several times a year to discuss long-term strategic issues and advise the UW System about how the university can continue to meet the needs of Wisconsin.

Our university system is in a unique position to make a difference and improve the lives of our citizens. The UW System is partnering with the private sector to address major questions employers and students face in today’s competitive environment:

  • What skills will businesses be looking for 10 years from now?
  • What challenges do they anticipate?
  • What classes will help students acquire needed skills to meet these challenges?

I look forward to working with the Business Council members to tackle these strategic issues. I am confident putting industry leaders in the same room will lead to productive discussions, creative solutions, and help the UW System better align with business and community needs.


February is Black History Month, and on behalf of the University of Wisconsin System, I would like to help kick off the annual celebration. This is an important opportunity for us to honor and recognize the significant contributions of African Americans to our state and nation.

In January, I wrote about honoring Dr. King’s legacy in our words and actions. Black History Month provides a perfect opportunity to do just that. The UW System proudly participates in this national celebration with a variety of events around the state, including guest speakers, panel discussions, and much more. You will find inspiring, thought-provoking programs at a UW System campus near you.  I encourage you participate in these events, such as several examples noted below:

  • February 4: Jamilah Lemieux will be the keynote speaker at UW-La Crosse’s Reflections of Ebony event.  Lemieux is Vice President of News and Men’s Programming for Interactive One, which is a digital new platform targeting millennials and African Americans. She is a strong champion of diversity and inclusion to achieve racial equality in our nation.
  • February 7: UW-Milwaukee is hosting a panel discussion regarding an important strategic diversity and inclusion initiative of strengthening the relationships between African-American students and faculty. This initiative can help improve our campus climate by helping create a positive academic environment on campus for African-American students and other students of various backgrounds to increase educational excellence.
  • February 28: UW-Madison in dedicating its new Black Cultural Center as it honors the past, present and future positive contributions of African Americans to the academic excellence of its campus.

This month is not only a celebratory occasion, but also an opportunity to highlight the many strategic diversity and inclusivity initiatives that are helping our students, faculty, staff, and community members create a positive academic environment and be successful participants in an increasingly interconnected world.

During our 2020FWD listening sessions, business and community leaders strongly emphasized that they want and need employees who can work as part of teams with people from different cultures, backgrounds, geographic areas, and political philosophies. Strengthening diversity and inclusion advances our nation’s history of social justice and also builds the skills necessary for success as global citizens.

I am thankful for all of the UW System students, faculty, staff, and community members who help plan, lead, or participate in Black History Month events. This month, and beyond, educational opportunities like these enable us all to learn more about the sacrifices, successes, and innovations of African Americans, and to deepen our appreciation of diversity and inclusion.