I want to take a moment to reflect on past year and some successes here at UW that are worth savoring.

Let’s start with a few items on the education and research front side that I am delighted about:

  • Applications for next fall’s freshman class are now coming in, and we’re expecting another record-breaking year. This is part of a long-term trend: applications for admission have doubled in the last 20 years. That reflects our deep investment in great teaching. I am very proud that U.S. News and World Report now ranks UW-Madison in the top 10 public universities in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching.
  • Our undergraduate retention rate (freshmen returning for sophomore year) remains high at 95 percent, one of the best retention rates among public universities. Helping students earn a degree in less time means that they can start their post-college lives with less debt. Over half of our undergraduates leave UW-Madison debt-free.
  • Our total research expenditures grew by $88 million in the 2016 fiscal year, good enough to maintain our sixth place in the National Science Foundation’s rankings of nearly 900 institutions.
  • We welcomed 105 outstanding new faculty this year.
  • Several exciting new facilities for research and education moved forward, including the Meat Science Building, the Hamel Family Music Performance Center, the Crop Innovation Center, and the Center for Dairy Research. And we celebrated our newly renovated Memorial Union and opened our wonderful new Alumni Park.
  • We’ve created 1,000 new scholarships for undergrad & graduate students, and student athletes over in the last four years and are extremely excited for our latest gift from John and Tashia Morgridge, which will add to our need-based aid funds.

Our athletic honors deserve recognition as well. Headed into the Orange Bowl, we’re rightly focused on the success of a Badger football team that will go down in history as one of our winningest teams.

But it’s not just their win record that distinguishes our football teams. The Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of top football programs earlier this year singled out UW as the #1 most admirable football program in the country for our overall performance, both on the field of play and as an academic institution.

This year, we joined Duke, Northwestern and Stanford as the only FBS football programs to earn academic recognition awards in each of the last five years.

It’s been an amazingly successful time for Badger athletics across many sports – we are the only program in NCAA history to play for 15 straight years in both a football bowl game and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

This fall, the men’s and women’s soccer, cross-country and women’s volleyball teams each excelled in their respective postseasons. And the men’s and women’s hockey teams are thriving, with the New York Times recently noting that “the soul” of U.S. hockey resides in Madison.

Much credit goes to Athletics Director Barry Alvarez and our many great coaches for their leadership for maintaining standards both on and off the field: 56 of our student-athletes from 19 different sports have been named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars.

I’m quite proud of our scholars and our student-athletes. The point is this: Although we, and all other institutions, continue to face challenges, we’re blessed with a wonderful and thriving community.

As 2017 draws to a close, thank you to all our faculty, staff, students and supporters who make UW-Madison a world-class institution. I look forward to an even better year in 2018!