Hard to believe we’ve reached the end of another academic year. Commencement was an amazing event. JJ Watt gave one of the best commencement addresses I’ve heard, full of useful and inspirational messages for our graduates.
We conferred 7,881 degrees to bachelor’s, master’s, and law candidates, quite possibly the largest class in our history. Of course, the success of students is due to their hard work and talent, but also the hard work and talent of our faculty and staff.
As a small sample of the quality and excellent of our faculty, here are just a few of the national awards and recognitions that they have accrued in the past month:
• Robert Fettiplace, a professor of neuroscience, has been named a 2019 Passano Fellow for research into the mechanics of hearing; he was also awarded the Kavli Prize in 2018;
• Young Mie Kim, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been named a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow for her research on how targeted ads influence elections;
• Professor of Astronomy Snezana Stanimirovic has received a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship – she studies how molecules form into gas clouds in interstellar space;
• Two of our professors — Chang-Beom Eom in materials science and engineering and Donata Oertel in neuroscience – have been elected as fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science;
• John Valley, a professor of geoscience, and William Engels, a professor of genetics, have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences;
As we all know, the end of the spring semester does not mean the campus goes dormant until fall. Right around the corner is our Summer Term. We’ve gone through much effort to expand offerings and make the classes more accessible to a wide range of students, and I’m hearing that enrollment will be up over last year. Scholarship funding for the summer term has been increased to $1 million, making it financially accessible to as many students as possible. We’ve also increased the number of online courses available this summer, to a total of 272.
The pilot online program Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch will ensure that incoming freshmen who choose to participate can make a smooth transition to campus. Beginning in June, these students can earn credit toward their degrees, meet other students, and learn about campus resources before the start of fall semester. Students work with an academic advisor to choose among five popular courses in art, communication arts, gender and women’s studies, journalism, and psychology. They also enroll in a one-credit online course on academic learning techniques and the one-credit online Wisconsin Experience Seminar. In August, they can move into their residence halls a few days early and participate in programs with their fellow summer learners. Scholarships are available for the program.
Finally, the summer will be a time of many transitions. Christina Olstad will join us in July as dean of students. Christina comes to us from Towson University in Maryland, and brings nearly two decades of experience in higher education administration, housing and residence life, crisis response and staff development.
And we will say goodbye to Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf after five years at UW-Madison, as she leaves to become president at the University of Rochester in New York. Sarah has been a dedicated advocate for faculty and staff development. Quite simply, she has left this institution better than she has found it.
While I’m very sorry to see her depart, Jim Henderson, a recently retired UW System vice president will join us as interim provost for two months. Our new Provost, current L&S Dean John Karl Scholz, will begin work in early August.
As L&S dean, Karl demonstrated the ability to lead in challenging times and build relationships across campus. He has been a tireless champion for the value of higher education. I know he will do an outstanding job as provost. We’re very lucky to have Eric Wilcots (currently serving as Deputy Dean and Associate Dean for Research Services in L&S) step in as interim dean. We will launch a dean’s search in L&S this fall.
If you’ll be here on campus this summer, I encourage you to get outside and enjoy the best time of year in Madison. I love an evening at the Union Terrace, taking in the beauty of the Allen Centennial Garden or strolling on the Lakeshore Path.
Here’s wishing you a productive and restful summer.