State of the University address

As prepared for delivery to the UW-Madison Faculty Senate, 3:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 7, Bascom Hall.

Welcome. I want to thank all of the Senators and alternates for your service and dedication to shared governance.

I’d especially like to welcome:

  • New UC chair Terry Warfield (Wisconsin School of Business)
  • Jane Richard, serving as Interim Secretary of the Faculty

New UC members:

  • Erica Halverson (School of Education)
  • Eric Sandgren (School of Veterinary Medicine)

I know we have a number of new Senators – how many of you are new?  Thank you for serving.

New leadership:

  • Provost Karl Scholz
  • Interim VCRGE Steve Ackerman
  • Wisconsin School of Business Dean Vallabh Sambamurthy
  • Interim L&S Dean Eric Wilcots
  • Dean of Students Christina Olstad

We also have several major searches in the works – thank you to those of you who are taking part in these:

  • VCRGE search, headed by Bill Murphy from the College of Engineering
  • Dean of the Division of Extension, headed by Jed Colquhoun
  • Dean of Letters & Science search later this semester.
  • Search for a new Secretary of the Faculty, headed by Terry Warfield.
  • And it was just announced on Friday that the Dean of the Law School, Margaret Raymond will be stepping down at the end of this academic year. I want to publicly thank Margaret for her years of service as dean; this may well produce a third dean search this year.
  1. News from Campus

The new academic year has started off very well – let me share just a few pieces of good news.

Top faculty awards

First, a couple of weeks ago we got word that two of our faculty were selected for 2019 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as Genius Grants. These are given to individuals who show exceptional creativity, and whose work is likely to have a profound impact. They are:

  • Professor Lynda Barry from the Art Department. Lynda is an award-winning cartoonist and author who teaches art classes for STEM students.
  • Associate Professor Andrea Dutton from the Geoscience Department.
  • Andrea is one of our newest hires. We recruited her through the TOP program that provides central-campus funds to departments to go after people who are not well-represented in their discipline.
  • Andrea is a great example of what we’re hoping to achieve in this program. Geoscience is heavily dominated by male scholars – both here and around the country. Our Geoscience Department had just one female faculty member a year ago … after some really targeted recruitment, they are now up to three (out of 22 professors).

Delighted to see the results of this first year of TOP, and very proud to have two MacArthur recipients in one year. Another testament to UW-Madison faculty quality.

Of course, we have quite a few other ‘geniuses’ on our faculty. Next week at my house we’ll celebrate 78 faculty members who won prestigious national and international awards this year.

Excellent freshman class

Set a new record for freshman applicants – nearly 44,000 from every U.S. state and 125 countries outside U.S. Up 3% — all out of-state

  • Enrolling students from:
    • 71 counties (missing Menomonie)
    • 46 states (missing Hawaii, Louisiana, South Dakota, West Virginia)
    • 46 countries outside of the U.S.

New freshman class is just over 7,500 students – largest ever – and includes 3,797 Wisconsin residents. Close to 900 transfer students. A bit of an enrollment surprise … both good news and bad news.

  • Unexpectedly high yield among our non-resident admitted students. We’d intended to add about 250 non-resident freshmen – instead adding more than twice as many.
  • Speaks to our national reputation as an excellent school and good value. But also creates some challenges – we’ve worked to make sure we have housing and advising available to the larger class.

Misleading headline in Wisconsin State Journal a couple of weeks ago left impression we were reducing Wisconsin students in our freshman class. The opposite is true. This is the second-largest cohort of in-state students in last 10 years. Admitted 68% of Wisconsin applicants.

Hard to push further on our in-state admissions, given the shrinking number of HS graduates in Wisconsin. We should be proud we have maintained and even increased our applications and admissions of WI students. But as we tap into our very deep and growing pool of out-of-state students, that reduces the share in-state.

Furthermore, the modest increase in out-of-state students that we’ve made is to the advantage of our WI students and to the state. We are using some of those funds to provide free tuition and fees for 20% of the class – all WI students – through Bucky’s Tuition Promise and Badger Promise.

I’d also note that we are the only institution in the state that brings 3,500 highly talented young adults into a state that is short of this talent, giving a chance for WI-based firms to recruit and retain them in the state.

  • Share of underrepresented students of color remains constant at just under 11%, but numbers are growing. Five years ago, just over 600 in freshman class; today more than 800. All students of color (including those who are not from targeted minority groups) make up 20% of the class.
  • Quality of our freshmen – as measured by ACT and SAT scores – has also increased. We have successfully translated an increase in quantity among our applicants into an increase in quality among our incoming freshmen.

Large number of new faculty

Our new faculty hires are also very strong.

  • We welcomed 147 new faculty in 2018-19 … largest number since we started keeping track in 2004-05.
  • This faculty expansion is long overdue, particularly in departments dealing with more students selecting their classes. With next round of cluster hiring, and other new dollars available to schools/colleges, I hope we can continue to grow the faculty.
  • Good news to report about recent faculty retention efforts. There were 46 retention cases reported for 2018-19, continuing our downward trend.

Successful transition for Coop Extension

Successfully transitioned Cooperative Extension and Public Media back to UW-Madison. Officially became one organization on July 1.

Next job is to really integrate the University and Extension. That means getting to know each other and starting to work together.

  • I know this is the first Faculty Senate meeting with our new Division of Extension senators – welcome.

First STARS rating

We’ve taken an important step that will help us to organize and track our efforts to make this campus greener and more sustainable.

Earlier this afternoon we announced our first-ever STARS rating.  STARS stands for Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System. National program that rates colleges and universities on a number of different measures related to environmental sustainability.

STARS rating tells us where we’re doing well and where we need to improve, and how we’re stacking up against our peers.

It’s also helpful for recruitment.

To get a rating, you have to submit a very long and detailed report.

We received a ‘silver’ (that’s third place – behind platinum and gold – it’s typical for a first-year rating).

Next step is working on things we need to improve. We’re convening two new groups to work on different pieces of this.

Heritage marker

We also acknowledged some difficult parts of our history this past summer. UW sits on the ancestral homeland of the Ho Chunk people. They were here for 13,000 years before they were forcibly removed.

Took first step to begin telling that story in June, when we joined with Ho Chunk leaders to put up a heritage marker on Bascom Hill.

Will travel campus for first year, since we’re digging up Bascom Hill to replace steam pipes.

No plaque or monument can adequately convey this history, but we’re hoping this will help start conversations that can increase our awareness of, and our connections with, the Native American community in this state.

Homecoming video:

It’s the start of Homecoming week and I want to directly address the recent issue of the student video and our larger efforts to make our current campus a welcoming and inclusive place. It’s clear that nobody was paying attention to diversity issues when this Homecoming video was produced, presenting a limited view of campus that excluded many students. That’s not acceptable. The Alumni Association, which oversees homecoming and the student homecoming committee, has already announced a number of steps they will take to prevent this happening in the future. I share in apologizing for the hurt that has been caused.

The reaction wasn’t just about a video, but more broadly, the feeling of exclusion our communities of color feel on a regular basis. Each time an event happens like this, it further demonstrates that the day-to-day campus experience for many students of color is not what we want it to be.

We all have a responsibility to help improve this and I’m asking you as senators and colleagues across campus to be leaders in these efforts, especially for ways to improve inclusion in academic settings.

New Music Center

Final piece of big news since we last met is the opening of the Hamel Music Center and Mead Witter School of Music.

Soft opening a week ago, official opening Oct. 25.

Music School is excited to build new collaborations across campus – and really excited to see the impact on education, and on ability to recruit.

  1. Budget

Will tell you some of the other things we’ll be focused on in the coming year – but no beginning-of-year presentation is complete without a discussion of the budget.

Gov. Evers signed new state budget into law on July 3. Contains good and not-so-good news for us.

On the not-so-good side, the new state budget includes very few new dollars in educational and programmatic support. Approved $45 million to the System over the next two years. These new dollars do not even keep pace with inflation.

Furthermore, in-state tuition is frozen for another two years.

In better news – 2% raises in January 2020 and January 2021 for all UW System employees. Increase is funded 70% by the state – the rest comes from us.

And budget also gives us approval to move forward on several major facilities projects. Most important is the expansion and renovation at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Also got funding for much-needed building maintenance and renovation.

  • Investment Priorities

Because of our own efforts to be entrepreneurial and generate new investment dollars, we have some investment funds to spend. Much of this is going back to schools and colleges.

Raising money isn’t the point. Point is that the money can be invested in UW to make it better. Our entrepreneurial efforts have given us some dollars to invest, and we’ve established 4 top priorities:

  1. Maintain and grow faculty strength
  2. Cultivate educational excellence
  3. Expand & improve student access
  4. Expand and improve research

I’m going to talk very briefly about each.

#1:  Maintain & grow faculty strength

Faculty quality is the bedrock of this institution. Need to continue to make significant investments in faculty if we’re going to remain a top school.

  1. Compensation
  • Since 2015, central campus has invested more than $59 million in merit and equity-based raises and one-time bonuses for both faculty and staff.
  • Schools and colleges leveraged those investments with additional dollars — $15 million in 2018-19.
  • This year again allocating compensation funds to all departments for merit and equity increases and one-time bonuses for faculty and staff.
  • Same as last year: $3.5 million for faculty, $4 million for staff, and $4 million for bonuses
  • Result over past four years has been to raise us from bottom of the comparison group to the next-to-the-bottom — #11 rather than #12. We want to do better than that.
  • In June, announced additional $9 million for targeted faculty increases. Aimed at highly productive faculty in highly ranked departments whose departmental salaries are substantially below peer median.
  1. Cluster Hire Program
  • A way to be strategic about hiring in areas of research where a group hire of new faculty can help us move forward.
  • In first 15 months, approved hiring for 16 new research clusters. Another round underway now (closing Oct 18).
  • Authorized 30 hires, have 16 accepted offers and a number of others pending.
  1. TOP program

 Third focus area is TOP program, mentioned earlier. TOP stands for targets-of-opportunity program.

  • Created TOP a year ago to give departments new tools to go after people from groups not well-represented within discipline. Want to diversify in every possible way – not just racial diversity.
  • Goal is recruitment but also building a stronger bridge to tenure. Losing too many faculty from underrepresented groups before they reach that point.
  • In first year, authorized 42 hires, had 15 accepted offers. Seven more hires pending.
  • You all know that competing for these faculty is hard. One recent TOP hire – an expert in biostatistics – had excellent offers from 3 other major universities.

#2:  Cultivate educational excellence

Moving in the right direction:

  • 4-year graduation rates up substantially this year – 69.3% of our undergrads graduate in 4 years. Among top 10 publics in 6-year grad rates.
  • Time-to-degree down (3.96 years on average – 15 days less than 4 years)
  • This is driving down student loan debt – more than half (54%) now graduate without any student loans. Default rates have dropped again – now 1.3% v. national 10%.
  • Many of our top students tell us they chose UW-Madison in part because they knew they could graduate without debt.
  • Retention of freshmen into sophomore year continues at all-time high.
  • Improving outcomes while increasing our numbers doesn’t happen without a level of commitment from all of our faculty – thank you.

But higher education is changing, and we need to change with it. That means more flexibility for residential students, and better access for non-traditional students.

Working on a number of innovations including online degrees focusing on non-traditional students who have some college credits and now at a point in their career where they need to finish but can’t move to Madison to do it.

Preparing to launch first fully online degree in fall 2020. Personal Finance degree based in School of Human Ecology.

School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences

We’ve also opened a new School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences within L&S.

  • Will house the departments of Computer Science, Statistics, and the i-School and help expand research and educational offerings. Designed to strengthen our competitive reputation at a national level, to help bring in the best students and faculty.

Creating new programs is exciting, but we’re mindful of need to continue working on fundamentals – making sure all students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and get the support they need to be successful.

  • Continuing work on improving campus climate
  • Expanding access to mental health services – UHS added 10 new positions this fall … extended evening hours … and now have four staff providing services in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

#3: Expand & improve student access

  • Launched Bucky’s Tuition Promise one year ago. Our pledge: We will cover four years of tuition and fees for any incoming freshman from WI whose family’s adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less – roughly the median family income in this state.
  • Students from low-income families may get more aid than this, but we want a simple message about the minimal level of financial aid they can expect.
  • Just welcomed second cohort of Bucky’s Tuition Promise students –– 825 students from 63 Wisconsin counties.
  • Also – Badger Promise – just welcomed third cohort. Guarantees free tuition for first-generation transfer students who come to UW-Madison after they complete a degree at a two-year Wisconsin school.
  • 20% of our incoming freshmen have free tuition due to BTP or Badger Promise.

#4: Expand & improve research

Final priority is to expand and improve research. Working on three fronts.

1. Better support for grad students Stipends up 42% in last 6 years for TA, 22% for RA

• UW has moved from one of lowest among peers to above median in TA salaries among public peers

2. Research partnerships with industry where appropriate for the university.

• Example: American Family Insurance Data Science Institute – opened July 1. New campus-wide research center, reporting to the VCRGE’s office, designed to bring together faculty from across campus to collaborate on research and create new opportunities for our students – and be a resource for faculty working with complex data sets.

• Director is Brian Yandell, professor in both Statistics and Horticulture

3. Launched a constellation of programs – largest is UW2020 – that invest in developing high-risk, high-potential research projects to the point where they will be able to compete for federal grants.

• We’ve invested $37.5m in 85 different projects involving hundreds of faculty, staff and students.

• That $37.5m has already generated $85m in extramural funding. Ultimately expect a very substantial return on this research investment.

• At a time when federal research dollars are largely flat, this is critically important to keep research enterprise growing

  1. Conclusion: UW Changes Lives

Let me end with a brief story. Some of you have heard about our “UW Changes Lives” campaign – a statewide initiative to build support for this university by helping people understand the impact we have.

It’s easy to lose sight of that impact in our daily work – but the students have a way of bringing us back to why we’re here.

We heard recently from Alan Chen. Some of you may remember Alan. He graduated in 2015. Alan came to the U.S. from China at age 7, not speaking a word of English. The family settled in Minocqua and opened a restaurant where they worked every day of the year except Christmas Eve.

On a 7th grade field trip to this campus, Alan made the decision that he would someday come here.

He was an outstanding student at UW … a mentor to other students … and a community volunteer. While an undegraduate, he made his next decision –  he wanted to go to medical school.

Alan is now a fourth-year medical student at UW.  He’s focusing on emergency medicine and plans to work here in Wisconsin after residency.

He’s a reminder of how the work we do is changing the lives of our students. And through our research and outreach, we change many more lives.

This is a great university. But we can be even better. Making progress on any front – faculty excellence, educational excellence, accessibility, and research growth – won’t be quick or easy. But the result will be to strengthen our reputation, enhance our quality, and expand our ability to continue changing lives.

Thank you and I’ll be happy to take a few questions.