Thoughts from summer

Summer started on Memorial Day weekend for me. My husband and I ducked out of work a little early that Friday and drove along Highway 14 all the way to La Crosse. We detoured through some Amish countryside near Cashton and walked around the downtown of Viroqua.

We stayed overnight in La Crosse in an old candy factory, converted into a very modern hotel. On Saturday, we spent the day following the Mississippi. We ambled south along the river, reading all the historical signs. (Did you know that Gov. Patrick Lucey grew up in Ferryville, on the river?)

At Prairie du Chien, we toured Villa Louis, walked around the Fort Crawford Museum and then headed out to Wyalusing State Park for great views and hiking. We headed back to town, driving Highway 18 across the state to Madison, with a mandatory stop at the Rural Route 1 Popcorn store in Montfort. The trip let us see a bit of the state we haven’t visited before, and the Mississippi views were breathtaking.

Our trip also reminded me that Badgers are everywhere. At lunch in Prairie du Chien, the couple sitting by their bikes and looking at a map introduced themselves because she works at UW in our SOAR program.

And along the trail at Wyalusing, we turned a corner to see two young men heading toward us from the other direction. One of them looked up and shouted, “Hi, Chancellor Blank!” Turns out he works for the UW Police Department.

More recently this summer, I’ve been watching as much of the two political conventions as possible in the evening. I’m a political junkie and love listening to the political oratory of convention speeches.

I’m very disappointed the conventions have moved their balloting into late afternoon and outside prime time. I’ve missed listening to each state delegation cast its votes.

Of course, after the conventions end, there are two full weeks of Olympics. Thank goodness it’s summertime and my evenings aren’t filled with other events, or I’d miss all of this!

Meanwhile, the work on campus continues. Have you noticed more students around campus this summer? We have greatly expanded our summer course offerings, trying to be more strategic about offering classes that are in high demand and that meet important course requirements. Our enrollments are up significantly. I hope this will allow more students to finish and get their degrees on schedule … and it helps increase our tuition revenue at the same time.

Summer is the time when many faculty get to focus full time on their research. A few high-profile research stories that have hit the news:

  • Our researchers are among those trying to understand more about the Zika virus. A UW study showed that one infection with Zika virus protects against future infection, information that will almost certainly help inform development of a vaccine. Our researchers have also discovered a bacterium that blocks the virus in mosquitoes.
  • Working with colleagues from Purdue University, UW scientists have solved the structure of the cold virus linked to childhood asthma. The findings provide the foundation for future antiviral drug and vaccine development against rhinovirus C.

With the Olympics coming up, a number of UW athletes — both current and recent, are competing in the games for the U.S. UW alum Gwen Jorgensen is the favorite to win the gold medal in women’s triathlon, while Kelsey Card of the track and field team will be the first UW athlete to compete in the discus, among many other athletes and coaches. You can track them all at

And two news stories that I’m particularly fond of:

  • UW was again identified in Money Magazine as one of the top 10 universities in the nation for producing Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • UW again made the list of the top 25 universities in the world by the Center for World University Rankings.

Like all of you, I’ve also been listening to a lot of distressing news throughout the summer, from the shootings in Orlando, to the killing of more young black men, to the killing of police, to multiple violent attacks around the world.

It’s been a difficult summer and you’ll hear more from me when the semester starts about how we might come together to reflect on some of these issues and how they impact each of us and our campus.

Meanwhile, I hope all of you will take a little time off, to enjoy summer in Wisconsin and to get a break from the important work that you do for UW.