High points from this past year

Photo: Bascom Hill

When I accepted the offer to come to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I knew that the chancellor’s job would not be dull.  My idea of a good job is one where I learn something new every day and I haven’t been disappointed.  I’ve loved being at UW, and particularly enjoy the size and scope of this university … and the level of energy generated every day with 43,000 students on campus, along with 22,000 faculty and staff.

I want to thank our students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends for being so welcoming to me over these past 10 months since my arrival in Madison. As we reach the end of this academic year, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the high points in 2013-14. I’m proud of all that we have accomplished this year.

No single list can capture the achievements of the past year — there are so many success stories across campus.  But here’s a start:

  • In the fall, we launched Discovery to Product, or D2P, a program to support entrepreneurship and encourage new startups among our faculty, staff and students.  I’ve been amazed and pleased by the interest in tech transfer and in entrepreneurship on campus. UW needs to be a major partner to the state and the region in moving innovative ideas into the marketplace.
  • The university received good news from legislative leaders in April when the HR Design personnel system was approved, giving us the flexibility to attract, develop and retain the best employees. The plan has been long in the works and was put together through an extended collaborative process across campus. The target date for full implementation of the policy is July 1, 2015. I should note that I’ve put a lot of time into becoming acquainted with our state political leadership and appreciate their willingness to let us move forward on this new plan.
  • I’ve also been pleased to collaborate with the shared governance system on campus and have enjoyed working with faculty, staff and students.  We haven’t always agreed, but I hope we’ve worked together respectfully and successfully.  Among the major reports this year were the recently released Diversity Framework; I hope we can use this framework to move forward on these issues in the coming year.  The Budget Model Review Committee also produced a very helpful report, and we’re working with a group of faculty, staff and students to specify a new budget model that should increase transparency in the distribution of funds to schools and colleges. 
  • I pledged to visit all 13 four-year campuses in the UW System this year; my final two visits will be in Superior and Whitewater in the next month. I’ve also had the pleasure to meet with hundreds of enthusiastic alumni across the state as well as across the country — that includes New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Boston, Palm Beach, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz. Everywhere I go, alums are loyal and enthusiastic, and one of my goals is to continue this outreach in as many places as I can.
  • Our first-ever MOOCs were a big hit this year. Since launching four pilot Massive Open Online Courses during the 2013-14 school year, more than 100,000 learners from around the world, including all 50 states and more than 155 countries, have participated in the courses. We’ll add to the list of UW MOOCs this fall.
  • Collectively, we toughed it out through one of the most bitter winters on record. In a rarity, classes were canceled one January morning due to dangerously cold temperatures.  But a Polar Vortex is no match for Badger spirit. Now that the Terrace chairs are finally out, you can tell your friends and relatives who live elsewhere that you survived the Winter of 2014.
  • As I wrote about recently, an extremely talented group of seniors placed us in very elite academic company.  The students at UW are both academically talented, and active outside the classroom.  I’m particularly impressed with the number of volunteer hours our students provide in the community.  In addition to great scholarship, our Badger Volunteers program is growing fast. In the 2012-2013 school year, 990 students worked with 71 community partners, donating nearly 17,000 hours. This year, to date, more than 1,200 Badger Volunteers are working with 85 community partners — and have already donated more than 18,000 hours.
  • We hired a new provost, Sarah Mangelsdorf, who will arrive in August from her job as dean of the liberal arts college at Northwestern.  She replaces Paul DeLuca, who is stepping down after five years.  Also in August, Marsha Mailick, director of the Waisman Center, will be appointed as an interim to succeed outgoing Vice Chancellor Martin Cadwallader. I want to thank Paul and Martin for their excellent service at UW and recognize all of the campus leaders that have taken on new roles.
  • Our student-athletes brought in many honors; I’m proud of their performance and the way they represent UW.  One of my favorite events of the year (until those last five seconds) was the trip to Dallas to watch the Badger men’s basketball team’s participation in the NCAA Final Four.
  • Lastly, I can’t wait to celebrate with our graduates Saturday at Camp Randall, with Commencement Speaker Gov. John Huntsman Jr. I’m counting on the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences to deliver beautiful weather.  We’re proud of every graduate and look forward to hearing how each of you use the talents and the skills you honed here at UW.  Every graduating student has a great story — here’s one about pianist Yeaji Kim.

It’s been an honor being the chancellor here at UW-Madison this year.  It’s a great job and every day has been interesting.

As this academic year draws to a close, I hope everyone has a safe and productive summer.