Top priority: building relationships

I’m just finishing my first week of work here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As one way of communicating with the university community, I’m hoping to share some of my thoughts and experiences a few times each month through a blog.

Let me again state how honored I am to serve as chancellor. Even in this first week, it’s clear that students, faculty, staff and alumni take great pride in this university. I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this institution and to work with all of you. I hope that I will meet and exceed the expectations of those of you who have loved this place for many years.

Building relationships is my top priority in the next few months. That includes meeting as many faculty, staff and students as possible; starting to build relationships with leaders in the community and the state; and finding ways to connect with the many UW alumni around the globe.

My first week on campus has been an immersion in the administration and operations of this large institution. I’ve been meeting with deans and the senior executive team and have been impressed by their enthusiasm for their work and by the many ideas they have to make this place even better.

As some of you may know, I have faculty appointments in the Department of Economics and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. I had the pleasure of attending a reception held by my La Follette colleagues, on a hillside overlooking Lake Mendota. It was an opportunity to catch up with some old friends, and to meet some new ones. As I told my La Follette colleagues, I plan to teach a class at some point, but it won’t be this fall.

As the Wisconsin Idea promises, this great university benefits every corner of the state, and I want to make sure that people around the state have heard that message.

In the coming months, I have meetings planned with top state and local government officials, and I plan to visit each of the UW System’s four-year campuses over the course of the next several months. In August, I will spend two days in Milwaukee, meeting with UW–Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell, legislators, and civic and business leaders.

As I launch my work here, I am thinking hard about where UW–Madison needs to be heading. The reputation of this university, both nationally and internationally, is very strong, but there are areas where we can do better. There are probably things we’re currently doing that we should do differently, and there are things we’re not doing that we need to take on. I want to hear from you about where you think there are opportunities to improve the operations, programs and reputation of UW–Madison. And if you have stories about how UW–Madison has helped people in the state through its programs and outreach, I want to hear them. Please email me at

On a more personal note, my husband, Hanns, and my daughter, Emily, were here for a week as we were moving in. We took the opportunity to drive up to the Wisconsin Dells. We took a boat ride, ate fudge and marveled at the beautiful river scenery and the tourism development nearby. It was the first of many trips out of Madison to see the state.

I have been struck all week by the warm welcome I have received from students, alumni, faculty and staff. Thank you for making me feel at home so quickly. On Wisconsin!