This week, I went to Dodgeville to meet with the leadership at Lands’ End, a company anchored in southwestern Wisconsin since the 1980s. We were given a great plant tour. If you haven’t seen it, you’d be impressed: The Lands’ End complex in Dodgeville is a major international operation.

But the best part of the visit was our meeting with a number of UW alums who work at Lands’ End, along with 17 UW-Madison students who are interning there this summer.

Lands’ End has long been a partner in helping us build our talent pipeline by creating scholarships and internships. This gives our students an excellent training ground with an international company right here in Wisconsin. And some of those interns get job offers. That’s why more than 150 UW alums currently work at Lands’ End.

One of the things that’s special about our partnership with Lands’ End is that it extends far beyond any individual school or college. Together we have built enduring collaborations through the UW E-Business Consortium and the Kohl’s Center for Retailing. Lands’ End also partners with a host of other on-campus programs in the School of Human Ecology, the Wisconsin School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science. And they support our athletic programs as well.

The new CEO of Lands’ End, Jerome Griffith, understands the value of innovation to his business. And he understands that UW-Madison can be an important partner. I’m sorry to say that he is a strong supporter of the Penn State football team, which is forgivable since he’s a Penn State alum. In fact, the president of Penn State called me when Griffith was selected for this job earlier this year, to tell me that he’ll be a great person to have in the Madison area. I’ve already invited him to see some Badger football this fall.

Our partnership with Lands’ End is just one example of the kind of innovative thinking that’s going to drive business development and keep both UW-Madison and our industry partners moving forward in the next decade. The legacy we are building together will mean a stronger, better future – for Lands’ End, for UW-Madison, and for the entire State of Wisconsin.