Blog – Office of the Chancellor Fri, 10 Nov 2017 20:13:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Remembering and Honoring UW’s Veterans Fri, 10 Nov 2017 20:13:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> In recognition of Veterans Day on November 11, I want to recognize the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are part of University of Wisconsin–Madison’s heritage and its future.

When you are at a game in Camp Randall, think about how it was once a training ground for soldiers during the U.S. Civil War.

When you stop by the Red Gym, imagine campus when the building was the Armory, home to military training at UW. For some period, as a land-grant institution we were required to offer courses on military tactics.

When you visit the newly renovated Memorial Union, reflect on its dedication to those who fought in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. Pause to read some of the names on the Gold Star Honor Roll, a wooden plaque inscribed with the names of those who died in active duty during those wars.

On Saturday, an interactive, electronic kiosk will be unveiled at a ceremony in the Memorial Union’s Memorial Hall commemorating the names of UW-Madison students who died while serving in the armed forces. The new memorial will include soldiers’ names ranging from the Civil War to more recent conflicts.

When you study in the Memorial Library, consider that it honors those who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Today, as you go to class, study, or work on campus, you are likely to interact with a veteran, reservist, or member of the National Guard. Thousands of Badgers — students, staff, faculty, alumni — have served abroad or in domestic duty, such as recent disaster relief. This is a large and diverse group of individuals, whose life experiences and skills enhance our campus in countless ways and embody the Wisconsin tradition of public service.

Please join me in recognizing the service and sacrifices of our present and past Badgers in the Armed Forces on Veterans Day.

Message to UW Cooperative Extension faculty and staff Thu, 09 Nov 2017 22:28:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Today, the UW System Board of Regents approved a plan to restructure UW Colleges and UW Cooperative Extension. As part of the plan, UW Cooperative Extension will be integrated into UW-Madison.

Chancellor Blank sent the following email to UW Cooperative Extension faculty and staff this afternoon. For further updates on the transition, go to the UW Colleges and UW-Extension Restructuring page.

Dear UW Cooperative Extension Faculty and Staff,

As you know, the Board of Regents has voted to make UW Cooperative Extension part of UW-Madison as of July 1, 2018. Now that this proposal has been adopted, we are looking forward to bringing Cooperative Extension’s organizational home back to UW-Madison where it was for many years.

I strongly believe that this move can improve the work of both of our institutions, and strengthen the ability of Cooperative Extension to serve communities across Wisconsin.

As the child of two extension agents, I grew up knowing the value of Cooperative Extension services. (My mother still complains that Cooperative Extension eliminated Home Agents, which was her career for 15 years.) UW-Madison is home to the Wisconsin Idea, and for many years the presence of Cooperative Extension’s headquarters on our campus was an important manifestation of that commitment. It is a commitment that both organizations share. The Wisconsin Idea is never more visible than when a Wisconsin resident picks up the phone with a question, calls their local extension agent, and gets answers based on research done at UW-Madison and other UW System campuses.

There are many details yet to be resolved, and we know you will have many questions, so let me be clear: The active participation of UW Cooperative Extension faculty and staff will be a necessary part of the decision-making during this transition. Your expertise will be indispensable as we work to build new relationships with faculty, staff, governance groups, county and tribal government partners, and other stakeholders throughout the integration process. Further, I understand this comes at a time when Cooperative Extension is implementing the new nEXT Generation model and we will work to ensure both of these processes are as seamless as possible.

As UW System shifts into the implementation phase of this reorganization, we will be able to learn more about their timeline and expectations. You can check UW System’s restructuring website for updates on their implementation process.

UW-Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf will send an email to all UW Cooperative Extension faculty and staff in the near future outlining our timeline for the integration process and detailing the next steps. This will also include an opportunity for UW-Extension employees to submit suggestions and questions about the transition process.

There are many details to be resolved in the coming months and I look forward to working with you and the UW Cooperative Extension leadership as we move forward.

Rebecca Blank
Chancellor, UW-Madison

Climate Survey results show some good news, but also indicate some serious concerns Fri, 03 Nov 2017 02:25:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  A recent campus-wide survey of students found that most view our climate positively, consider diversity important and are trying to create a more welcoming environment for other students.  There are significant differences, however, between different groups of students in their responses.

The survey is the first of its kind for UW-Madison, and more than 8,000 students participated. The survey was conducted in order to better understand differences in perception and experience among students along lines of race and ethnicity, gender identity, and religious and political affiliation.

Students from historically underrepresented and disadvantaged groups report experiencing a less favorable campus climate than majority students. Students of color, students with a disability, LGBQ and transgender/non-binary students feel less safe and less welcome on campus.

There are few differences reported in safety or welcome among other religious groups (Christian, Jewish or Hindu) or among students with different political perspectives. And while students generally perceive that conservative students are not treated respectfully on campus, in fact 85% of students with right-leaning or conservative views said they personally feel respected and welcome.

Most concerning in the results, 11 percent of students reported being the target of hostile, harassing or intimidating behavior while at UW–Madison. That result is deeply troubling. We want everyone to be treated with respect on campus.

While this survey was conducted at UW-Madison only, other schools have conducted similar surveys of on-campus perceptions. The recent National Survey of Student Engagement (a survey of freshmen and seniors from across the country) shows UW-Madison students rate their experience at this university more highly than do students at peer institutions, but the gap between white students and students of color is larger. This is not because students of color rate their experience at UW-Madison lower than do similar students at other schools, but because white students rate their UW-Madison experience much higher than at similar schools.

A committee of faculty, staff and students reviewed and summarized the results of this report and made some recommendations. Its report can be found here. Among the areas the committee highlighted for particular focus:

  • Promoting instructional best practices that ensure an inclusive learning environment;
  • Boosting recruitment of underrepresented students, faculty and staff and making sure we retain them; and
  • Increasing the capacity of students, faculty and staff to intervene in response to hostile, harassing and intimidating behavior.

These and other recommendations from the Campus Climate Survey Task Force expand on our Diversity Framework and its 2015 implementation plan, called R.E.E.L. Change.

Members of the campus community will have opportunities in the months ahead to join the conversation on campus climate, beginning with the annual Diversity Forum on Nov. 7 at Union South. The forum will feature nationally known keynote speakers, breakout sessions and a town hall meeting.

On Dec. 4, we will review the survey results and gather feedback from students and staff during two evening sessions. The first is at 6:30 the Multicultural Student Center. The second session, intended especially for staff who work second and third shifts, begins at 11:30 p.m. at Gordon Dining and Event Center.

There will be other opportunities to engage about the findings and our future path. We also commit to repeating the survey in four years to track our progress.

Thank you to all who participated in the survey. We will use this data to make our campus a better place.

For more information on the survey, its findings and recommendations, visit the Campus Climate Survey webpage.

Educational outcomes at UW-Madison get even better Mon, 23 Oct 2017 21:56:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> One of our top goals is to make sure that our undergraduates successfully finish their degrees, and do so in a timely fashion. Those who take more than four years to complete often take on additional student debt. Nationally, students who start a degree but never finish are a primary reason why student loan defaults are so high — students end up with the debt but without any credential.

UW-Madison students continue to improve on these measures.

Our May 2017 graduation rate is 62 percent for students who entered as freshmen in 2013. That may not seem as high as it should be, and we continue to work on further progress, but realize that most students finish in just over eight semesters.

The average time to graduation is 4.03 elapsed calendar years, a number that has fallen significantly in recent years. That’s basically eight semesters plus one final summer.

The six-year graduation rate of 87 percent for students entering in Fall 2011 is up from 85 percent reported last year and compares well with our peer schools. (If we counted graduation among all students entering UW-Madison in fall 2011, regardless of whether they graduated here or elsewhere, our six-year graduation rate is over 90 percent.)

This is the number most schools report and it’s the highest graduation rate on record at UW-Madison.

In other good news, our undergraduate retention rate (freshmen returning for sophomore year) remains high at 95 percent, one of the best retention rates among public universities.

The freshman-sophomore retention rate for targeted minority students of 94 percent is a bit lower than the 96 percent we saw last year, but basically the same as among non-minority students.

The six-year graduation rate for targeted minority students is up five percentage points over last year, to 80 percent. Time to degree for targeted minority students is 4.29 elapsed years, and has fallen significantly in recent years.

Helping students earn a degree in less time means that they can start their post-college lives with less debt. I am proud of the fact that more than half of our undergraduates graduate without student debt — compared to less than one-third of undergraduates nationally. Also, our grads have a loan default rate that is significantly below the national average (the three-year default rate on federal Stafford loans is 1.2 percent for UW–Madison students, 11.3 percent nationally).

I’m particularly proud that we’ve made significant improvements in graduation and retention rates, and greatly lowered the gap between minority and non-minority students at a time when we were struggling with budget cuts. These numbers are a testament to the focused and effective efforts of our faculty, student services and advising staff members, as well as our housing and facilities staff and many others. Thanks to everyone who helps make this a great place to live and learn.

Our commitment to educating Wisconsin’s top students Wed, 04 Oct 2017 21:12:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Our state has been investing in the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison since it was created as a public state university when the state of Wisconsin was formed in 1848. Over the years, this investment has resulted in a world-class university for Wisconsin citizens that is now an engine of economic growth and a talent pipeline for businesses throughout the state. We take our role as the flagship public campus for Wisconsin very seriously.

An important part of our commitment is to the young adults in this state. We want a significant share of Wisconsin’s top high school students to come and study at UW- Madison, so I want to be clear about how strong our commitment is to the top students in Wisconsin.

We enrolled the largest incoming freshman class in the university’s history this fall and 3,746 of them are Wisconsin residents, up from 3,671 last year. They hail from every corner of the state and will be able to gain a wide variety of experiences both in and out of the classroom as they prepare for a career. In fact, Money Magazine recently ranked UW–Madison career services as among the top five in nation.

We have made a commitment to the Board of Regents that we will have no fewer than 3,600 Wisconsin residents in every freshman class. This is higher than our average number of Wisconsin freshman in the previous 10 years. High school graduates are projected to decline in the state over time, which means we will admit a growing share of Wisconsin’s high school students to UW-Madison.

In this past year, we admitted 72 percent of the Wisconsin students who applied to UW- Madison as freshmen. That’s a very high admission rate to a top-rated and selective school and is far above the admission rate for non-residents, which was 48 percent.

One of my top goals is to make sure every qualified student who we admit can afford to come here, and that means expanding support for low and middle-income students. We are making progress on this front. For instance, through the All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, we have now raised enough money to fund approximately 1,000 new scholarships for undergrad and graduate students.

We’re also putting more of our own institutional dollars into need-based fellowships. Ten years ago, we provided $13 million in need-based grants and scholarships with UW funds. Last year, we provided $58 million.

I’m particularly happy that we have just launched a new program called Badger Promise that guarantees free tuition for first-generation college students who are Wisconsin residents transferring from a two-year UW school or a Wisconsin technical college under our transfer agreements. Every first-generation transfer student who meets the requirements is eligible for two semesters of free tuition, and those who qualify for the Pell grant will receive four semesters of free tuition. First-generation students are particularly likely to start at two-year colleges, in part because they are far more likely to come from lower-income families. Badger Promise allows those who demonstrate their ability to transfer to UW-Madison to come here and complete a degree from the flagship university at a much-reduced cost.

Our Office of Admissions is involved in these efforts. We are doing expanded outreach to Wisconsin high school students with high test scores, who may be considering colleges outside the state. We are developing a high-touch program that communicates the many ways in which UW-Madison provides a first-rate education. If these students stay in-state for college, they are more likely to remain in the state after graduation.

We are also working to deepen our connections with the Wisconsin business community, so they partner with us when seeking summer interns and when hiring employees. But our connections with these businesses goes beyond just a talent pipeline. For instance, we have been a partner with Greenheck Fan in Schofield, Wisconsin. They have been named Wisconsin manufacturer of the year three times, thanks in part to UW-Madison business resources helping refine and improve Greenheck’s processes. You can read more about that partnership here.

These relationships work with companies big and small. With Foxconn’s impending arrival in the state, we look forward to playing a role in both learning about and improving their advanced manufacturing processes, and supplying the trained engineers that will be needed for their workforce.

We owe a lot to the citizens of this state, and I believe that we are serving them effectively, particularly through our commitment to providing an excellent education to the state’s top high school graduates.

Our friends at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) thought it would be a good time to say “thank you” to the citizens of the state. They have put up billboards around the state thanking each county for their contribution to UW.

We also thought a scoop of Babcock Ice Cream might be popular. WFAA loaded up a red and white ice cream truck this summer and it traveled thousands of miles around the state giving out free scoops of ice cream. The pictures and video from the tour (found heredemonstrate that Babcock ice cream remains one of our best-loved products.

I’m very proud of how we’ve developed and grown our partnership with Wisconsin. We have an obligation to the young adults in this state and we are fulfilling that obligation.

State of the University address Mon, 02 Oct 2017 20:59:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> As prepared for delivery to the UW-Madison Faculty Senate

Good afternoon. It’s always good to see all of you at the beginning of a new academic year. I hope you had a good summer and that the fall semester is starting well in your departments.

I want to welcome the new senators, and extend my thanks to a number of people here.

First, thank you to Anja Wanner for stepping into the role of UC chair, and to Terry Warfield and Steve Ventura, who are new members on the UC, succeeding Tom Broman and Amy Wendt, the outgoing chair.

Next, thank you to Secretary of the Faculty Steve Smith, who has done a terrific job working on some really challenging issues this year.

And finally, thanks to all of you for your willingness to be leaders on this campus and to serve on the Faculty Senate.

I also want to note three new recent hires:

  • Anne Massey joined us in August from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington, as the new Dean of the Business School, replacing Francois Ortalo-Magne.
  • David Darling joins us as Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities, Planning and Management, replacing Bill Elvey. Dave has been in charge of the facilities at Sandia National Labs in New Mexico.
  • Amy Gilman is the new Director of the Chazen Art Museum, replacing Russell Panczenko. Amy comes from the Toledo Museum of Art.

A New Academic Year

Let me start with a reminder of some of things we’ve accomplished here at UW in recent months:

  • We just welcomed an outstanding new group of faculty. We successfully recruited 105 faculty this year, and I know many of the people in this room worked very hard on those recruitments.
  • We closed 92 retention cases over the past year, compared to 144 in the previous year. We successfully retained 74% of these top faculty members – equal to our 10-year average.
  • We’re about to launch the fourth round of the UW2020 research funding initiative. There are now 49 projects underway, funded with $16.5 million and involving more than 300 faculty and staff from every one of our schools and colleges.
  • We have raised $2.2 billion for faculty, research, education and student access in our All Ways Forward campaign. We’ve had a record number of alumni and friends participating, and we’re well on our way to our $3.2 billion goal.
  • Our retention and graduation rates are at long-time highs – and we’re among the top public universities in these statistics.
  • We were just named #5 in the nation in federal dollars spent on graduate student fellowships, traineeships, and training grants. This is an important sign of our excellence in graduate education, even as we work to bring our graduate student compensation up to market rates.
  • WARF has helped us to substantially increase our graduate-student support, which in turn helps us to compete for federal dollars.
  • And finally, after a 15-year hiatus, we are re-starting our cluster program this fall. You might have seen the call for proposals that recently went out – another will go out in the spring.
  • Clusters build on an important UW-Madison strength: trans-disciplinary work on complex problems
  • Hope to launch 3-5 new clusters each year for the next 5 years
  • Estimate hiring 50 new faculty
  • None of this would have happened without all of you – thank you for your engagement, ideas, and support. UW has long been one of the top public universities in the country and it’s our job to keep that reputation.

Four Strategic Priorities

Both in our fundraising campaign and across the university, I’m focused on four strategic priorities:

  1. Enhance the educational experience
    • This means modernizing class facilities for active learning; strengthening our investment in student services, and enhancing out-of-classroom learning.
  2. Improve access for all students. My goal:  Every qualified student who we admit can afford to come here.
    • This means expanding support for low and middle-income students, with an emphasis on first-generation and historically disadvantaged groups. Right now, we lose top students because we don’t offer the same scholarships they receive elsewhere.
    • We are making progress on this front. Through the All Ways Forward campaign, we have raised money to fund approximately 1000 new scholarships for undergrad and graduate students.
    • We’re also putting more of our own institutional dollars into need-based fellowships. Ten years ago, we provided $13 million in need-based grants and scholarships with UW funds (that is, outside of state and federal need-based assistance).  Last year, we provided $58 million.
    • We’re trying to target our money effectively. Last month, we launched a new program called Badger Promise that guarantees free tuition for first-generation college students transferring from a two-year UW school or a Wisconsin technical college under our transfer agreements.
    • Every first-generation transfer student who meets the requirements is eligible for two semesters of free tuition, and those who qualify for the Pell grant will receive four semesters of free tuition.
    • This substantially reduces the cost of a UW-Madison degree for some of this state’s most deserving and neediest students.
  3. Maintain and grow faculty excellence.
    • This means hiring well, retaining our faculty, paying competitive salaries, and making sure we have the research and teaching environment in which faculty want to work.
    • New Cluster Hiring program is part of this effort.
    • For a number of years, we’ve made critical compensation dollars available to increase pay to selected staff and faculty based on merit or equity. For the first time last year, we also offered funds for one-time bonuses for employees who had done exception work on a specific project.
    • This year, we’re expanding these funds by 30%, making $3.5m available for faculty salary increases, $4.0m available for staff increases, and doubling the fund for bonuses to $4 million, for a total of $11.5m in compensation dollars this year.
  4. Expand and improve our research portfolio.
    • This means keeping up with the emerging trends, making sure our research facilities serve faculty well, supporting interdisciplinary work; providing the research support dollars needed to launch new projects or provide bridge funding; ensuring competitive support for our TAs and RAs; and re-starting our cluster program.

This is not a cheap nor an easy agenda.  Money is important, but we have to spend that money wisely, both centrally and across the Schools and colleges.  That’s why leadership with good judgment and good experience matters.

The state budget is important to us, and I’ll talk about it in a few minutes.  But not as a source of new revenue.

Entrepreneurial Strategies to Tap New Revenues

We are developing a number of entrepreneurial strategies to bring in new dollars to invest.

They include:

  • Expanding summer semester, which helps reduce time-to-degree, decreases course bottlenecks, uses our buildings more efficiently, and brings in revenues that go back to the schools/colleges.
  • Growing our master’s degrees and certificate programs for professionals.  These programs expand our outreach to older students who want to learn new skills.
  • Bringing tuition for out-of-state and professional students up to market levels.
  • Exploring the student mix & numbers – I’ll talk more about this one in a minute
  • Building alumni support, and
  • Growing research funds with programs like UW2020 and cluster hires; building a support group for large interdisciplinary grants; and working to renovate lab space faster and improve IRB functioning.

All of these strategies are on us to execute.  We need to be entrepreneurial if we are going to increase the revenue available to maintain and grow excellence at this university.  And we are already seeing the effects of these efforts…we’re using this new investment money to launch the cluster hire program, to invest in Badger Promise, and to fund the critical compensation funds.

Let me come back to strategy 4:  Exploring student mix and numbers.  Our commitment to Wisconsin students is stronger than ever:

  • Admit rate of 71% for Wisconsin residents.
  • Guarantee 3600 WI students in each freshman class. This year we have over 3700 WI freshmen.
  • Badger Promise designed to increase access to transfers.
  • Expanding a special high-touch program aimed at persuading top performing students in WI to attend Madison. It’s focused on what’s called ‘high-touch’ recruiting – personal contacts through a variety of channels, including faculty.

Couldn’t make a stronger commitment to this state.

With this strong commitment, we now have another opportunity with our out-of-state students. Applications from these students have increased more than 70% over the last decade. We can benefit from this asset with some increases in class size. 

  • Quality of the out-of-state applicants means that we can pursue this strategy without lowering our standards.
  • This year, we rejected 1,300 high-caliber out-of-state students (note: this does not include international students) whose academic quality was comparable to that of the admitted students (both resident and non-).
  • We are exploring expanding the freshman class by 250 students next fall and will consider additional future increases. We will be talking more about this in the coming months, but I want to assure you that any plan will be developed with your input and will include money to maintain quality through increased hiring for instruction and student services.

Some increase in class size is our best opportunity to generate revenues that can help us work on compensation, on educational programming, on access, and on better support for research.

We’ve talked about this with the deans and department chairs and we are working to make sure we know what hiring and other work we need to do in advance.

Our final two strategies to bring in new revenue are:

State Budget

Over the last year, we have stood up one of the biggest budget advocacy campaigns this university has ever seen – including our first-ever paid media campaign (funded by WFAA) – to build support for this budget from the ground up.

We made sure state leaders understood why investing in the UW System is essential for our students and the state’s economy.

These efforts paid off.  After cuts in five of the last six budgets, this budget has no cuts.  There is actually a small increase in funding for the UW System.

The budget also includes a strong pay increase in the second year…two 2% increases, one coming on July 1, 2018 and the other on Jan 1, 2019.

Furthermore, the capital budget restores maintenance funding, and includes funds for a critical utilities repair project on Bascom Hill and the Lot 62 parking ramp, which is necessary for the future expansion of the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Now, as always, there are some things in this budget that I’m not happy about.

A provision changing the qualifications for chancellors of UW institutions was also added to the budget.  The change prohibits UW System schools from adopting any policies or rules that would require the Board of Regents to consider only individuals who are eligible for tenure when filling chancellor or vice chancellor positions.

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone and I wrote a letter to the governor setting out the ways in which this could weaken UW schools and encouraging him to veto this provision.  We were unsuccessful in that request.

As you know, the Board of Regents has also proposed changes that I find deeply problematic, greatly reducing the voice of the campus in the selection of Chancellors. We’ll talk about that later in the meeting.

There are also provisions around performance funding that are problematic…they compare the System schools with each other rather than with our peers. This may be to our benefit…but it’s not a helpful way to measure our accomplishments or the performance of other System schools.

We will continue our outreach efforts across the state in the year ahead to share the stories of the incredible work happening on this campus. If you have ideas for industry partners or alumni-owned businesses we might consider visiting, I encourage you to bring those to Charlie Hoslet, Vice Chancellor for University Relations.

Federal Budget

The federal budget remains a top priority for us. As many of you know, the federal government provides 30% of the university’s funding.

Earlier this year, the president proposed large cuts to federal agencies important to the university, and to the federal financial aid programs many of our low-income students rely on.

Along with universities across the country, we have been working with our congressional delegation to explain the devastating impact of these cuts on research and education, and on programs that help this nation stay productive and competitive.

I am pleased to tell you that there are hopeful signs that Congress may be unwilling to implement these drastic cuts.

Despite the best efforts of Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, and Rep. Mark Pocan, to reauthorize the federal Perkins loan program, it expired on September 30, and while they and others in our delegation are continuing to do all they can to once again bring this program back to life, the opposition may be too much to overcome this year.

After the president released his budget proposal, Congress passed a temporary budget bill that not force major cuts – in fact, it increased funding to NIH by $2 billion. Congress is now operating under a continuing resolution until December 8, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have rejected most of the research cuts proposed by the president. I expect the final FY18 spending bill to include another substantial increase for the NIH.

One area we know many of you are watching with us is the Trump administration’s proposed cap on indirect costs for NIH awards. This would cost our campus over $50 million, which is why we were happy to see that the House Appropriations bill that funds NIH for FY18 did not include the cap.

Of course nothing is final until both houses agree on funding levels and the president signs them, so our federal relations team will continue to monitor the Federal budget closely.


In addition to working on the revenue side, we have to constantly be looking for ways to run this institution better. Among other things, that means paying attention to sustainability. I know you are interested in this issue as well and you have an agenda item about it later today.

This is a deeply important part of our organizational identity that traces back to John Muir, who began organizing the national park system here at UW, and Aldo Leopold, who developed a whole new academic field around the radical idea that wildlife habitats could be scientifically managed.

A couple of our Nelson Institute faculty published a paper recently about the ways in which this campus is a “living laboratory.” They were talking about education and research, but this is also true of our campus conservation and preservation efforts.

We’ve distributed via e-mail a handout that describes some of what we’re doing, but let me share just a bit more. We work on sustainability in three important ways on this campus:

  • Through education:
    • We’ve seen significant growth in student enrollment in programs related to the environment and sustainability – and these topics are being integrated into classes across the campus.
    • We now have 172 courses cross-listed with Environmental Studies, and we know that many other classes incorporate this learning.
    • The Nelson Institute’s faculty affiliates come from 55 different departments – including some that might seem unexpected, like Dance and Comparative Literature.
  • Through research:
    • We have more than 250 current projects funded with approximately $360 million in federal and private grants that involve sustainability, including:
    • The Johnson Controls Research Partnership at the Wisconsin Energy Institute, which focuses on building car batteries that will last longer, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce CO2 emissions.
    • Our largest Federal grant comes to the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which is a national center for bioenergy research. It’s working to develop sustainable agricultural crops for biofuels.
  • Through our stewardship of our own campus and buildings:
    • Guided by the Campus Master Plan, we’re working to reduce our carbon footprint. I know we have more progress to make, but we are moving forward, as detailed in the handout you received.
    • We’ve invested $63 million in energy conservation projects over the last decade, reducing our energy footprint by 27% per square foot.
    • A number of campus buildings have renewable energy systems such as solar hot water, and others – such as Union South – are designed to maximize daylight to reduce electricity use.
    • We are retrofitting our older buildings with more-efficient HVAC systems, better insulation and lighting, and occupancy sensors to conserve energy. This is 10-phase project, and we’ve just completed phase 2.
    • Unfortunately, this sort of work costs money, and the much-reduced budget for buildings and maintenance over the past four years has made it difficult for us to move forward as fast as we’d like.

We have some great leadership on these issues, including the Office of Sustainability led by Professor Cathy Middlecamp, interim director of sustainability research and education, and a staff member on our facilities staff.  (We’re in the process of hiring a new person in this job.)

Paul Robbins has also been an important leader, and told me just yesterday that he was starting a process to collect the information needed for our campus to receive a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) score, which will give us a way to measure progress and compare ourselves to peer institutions.

This is just a snapshot of things we’re working on and I welcome further conversations.

Let me close by addressing one other issue that is critical to building a strong future:  improving our campus climate.

Campus Climate

This campus is very much engaged in the national conversation around racial injustice and the ways in which this country does or doesn’t welcome those of other ethnicities and nationalities.

We saw what happened in Charlottesville and in other communities in this country, and so far we’ve been lucky to avoid being targeted by hate groups.

Here at UW, it’s been well-documented that a group calling itself the Ku Klux Klan existed on this campus in the 1920s.  I’ve created an ad hoc study group to advise on how we can best acknowledge and respond to this history.   Professor Steve Kantrowitz, a history professor and expert in white supremacist movements, and Dr. Floyd Rose, a longtime community leader, are co-chairing this committee.

It’s not easy to have conversations about racism on a disproportionately white campus, in a disproportionately white community and state.  But these are conversations we have to have if we are going to compete effectively for the best and brightest students and faculty of color.

Last year, I asked all units to engage in some way in training that focused on inclusivity and diversity.  I am renewing that call this year, asking units to expand and follow-through on what they did last year.  And I’m asking all the deans to work on a strategic plan for promoting diversity within their unit.  Some units already have this in place…the School of Education did excellent work on this last year…while others are just beginning.

We are also preparing to release – next month – the results of the Campus Climate Survey conducted last fall, along with recommendations from a cross-campus task force.

The survey is likely to demonstrate in greater detail what we already know:  Our African-American and LGBTQ students (among others) have a markedly different experience here than majority students.

Addressing these campus climate issues will require all of us.  This is not a top-down process.

You will hear more about the many things we’re doing.   I am particularly excited about two projects that are new this year:

  • The expanded ‘Our Wisconsin’ program that’s challenging our freshmen to think about the lenses through which they view the world and to talk about how they live and work with people who may have very different experiences and perceptions. We piloted this program last fall; this fall we’ve rolled it out to all of our freshmen.
  • And the new Diversity Liaison Program to engage interested faculty and staff in developing and leading workshops for their peers. It comes with a stipend to ensure that you have a release from teaching or administrative duties to dedicate time to the workshops.   Vice Provost Patrick Sims is heading up the application process.  If you have interest and experience in this arena, I encourage you to apply.
  • We are also again funding our Faculty Diversity Initiative that provides central funding support for faculty hires that are targets of opportunity. When we asked students of color what we could do to make this a more welcoming campus, the most common answer was “hire more diverse faculty and staff.”


I know many of you are concerned about our DACA students, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  We have joined the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) in opposing President Trump’s decision to repeal DACA.

There are a number of resources both on and off campus for students and others that are interested in or might be dealing with these issues.  That information can be found on the Multicultural Center’s website.


We have come through a period of challenges in recent years, but we are now positioned to make some much-needed investments that will keep this university one of the best in the world.  Yes, there are still ongoing problems we need to address – problems of underfunding, problems of campus action or inaction, and problems in competing effectively in the highly competitive world of higher education.

But as we move into a new academic year, I want to encourage you to see all the good things that happen here every day… things that the media don’t often cover.  Students who walk into a class and discover a lifetime passion.  Faculty whose research project transforms what we know about a critical topic.  Work that we do across the state to help people thrive.

We are privileged to be in a position to impact the world in so many positive ways.

I want to thank you for the strong commitment you’ve made to this place. I am honored to work with you, and I’ll be happy to take your questions.

How UW-Madison is working on building a healthy and sustainable environment Wed, 27 Sep 2017 23:47:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Since the days of John Muir and Aldo Leopold, sustainability has been woven into the fabric of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Our commitment to conservation and stewardship runs through our campus in our educational offerings, research projects, facilities operations and outreach to the state.

We have an important story to tell about how this work is affecting our campus and the world in a positive way. We’ll be telling this story more frequently this academic year and we’ve created a short summary of some of our current efforts.

The UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, created in 2012 to align academics, research and campus operations to advance campus sustainability goals, serves as a campuswide resource. Here are a few ways UW-Madison is creating a more sustainable campus:


Perhaps our most important long-term contribution to sustainability is educating students, who will be involved in these issues as citizens and through their jobs.

  • At least 285 undergraduate courses and 112 more for graduate students incorporate learning on sustainability, according to a 2013-14 preliminary analysis by the Office of Sustainability. UW–Madison offers 31 bachelor’s degrees, 44 undergraduate majors, and six undergraduate certificates in topics related to the environment and sustainability, along with 33 environment- and sustainability-related master’s degree programs.
  • At the Ph.D. level, students focused on sustainability are dispersed across disciplines. The Nelson Institute Environment and Resources Ph.D. program graduates eight to nine students per year, and enrolls about 62 students each year.
  • Our teaching is not just focused on our UW students. The Wisconsin Energy Institute, in partnership with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, provides educational materials and professional development opportunities around clean energy to K-12 teachers.


Progress on sustainability requires new knowledge about how to increase the use of renewable energy, how to develop more sustainable technologies, and how to mitigate the environmental effects of past harmful practices.

  • There are more than 200 sustainability and environmental studies research projects currently underway at UW-Madison, supported with an estimated $350 million in externally generated funding. Our largest federal grant focuses on alternative ways to generate renewable fuels.
  • The UW-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment in the Nelson Institute brings together collaborators from disciplines across campus and from universities in the U.S. and Canada to examine the relationship between human actions and the Earth’s complex environment systems, and develop adaptive strategies to sustainably manage natural resources and preserve human health.
  • We are deeply involved in research on agriculture and wilderness/water areas in the state of Wisconsin, helping farmers and property owners understand how to reduce runoff, keep Wisconsin’s lakes healthy, and preserve the environment that makes this state so attractive to those who live and play here.

Our Campus

Of course, we can’t just talk about sustainability; we also have to incorporate it into the ways in which we utilize our facilities and maintain our campus.

  • We are committed to renovating and constructing sustainable buildings, including many designed for LEED certification. The campus has invested $63 million in energy conservation projects over the last decade, reducing its energy footprint by 27 percent per square foot. Many campus buildings now have solar or geothermal systems, green roofing and/or designs that take advantage of natural light.
  • The university began purchasing renewable energy credits from Madison Gas & Electric in 2009. They now account for 15 percent of each year’s electricity use. MG&E has committed to providing 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, so if the university continues to buy credits for 15 percent of its electricity consumption, its total renewable use will be above 40 percent by 2030.

It is important to recognize that sustainability improvements on campus often require financial investments. Our buildings are state-owned, and making improvements to our facilities to make them more sustainable often requires state approval and funding. While the state provided some funding for specific building efficiency projects over the last two years, we still have a significant backlog of building and maintenance projects and made increased funding for the Capital Budget one of our top priorities in the 2017-19 state budget.

Former Wisconsin governor and U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the namesake of The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies on our campus, once said, “The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” The dream of Muir, Leopold and Nelson to leave future generations with a world as good or better than the one we came into continues to inspire us today. To learn more about our efforts, visit

Finding that piece of research equipment just got easier Mon, 18 Sep 2017 21:15:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Have you ever tried looking for a needle in a haystack? Probably not, but you still might know what that feels like. UW-Madison is an expansive and complex campus with many moving parts. That makes it an exciting place to conduct research, but it also makes finding the resources you need to do your job a challenge at times.

Maybe you wanted to know if a certain cutting-edge technology was available on campus, or you were looking for expertise in high-speed digital circuits on campus. There has been no easy way to locate these resources.

Now that’s changed. On June 20, the Directory of Resources for Researchers opened its virtual doors and in less than three months, the directory has grown to include more than 650 resources and services, with more being added all the time.

The directory crosses all divisions — the biological, physical and social sciences, and arts and humanities. This scope makes the UW-Madison website unique among our peer institutions, whose efforts are typically limited to medical schools, biological or physical sciences.

The directory is the first centralized, publicly searchable directory of shared research resources, services and cores at UW-Madison. Information in the directory is organized using categories and keywords so related resources are easily located. The shared resources directory provides information about equipment and instruments, but also databases, technologies, services, training, expertise and consultation. Information in the directory also includes location, rate sheets, primary contacts for resources, and more. To date, the directory has had more than 1,400 unique users.

Resources for Researchers is a product of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. We are thankful to Dr. Isabelle Girard, director of the Office of Research Cores, for her leadership in the process and OVCRGE information technology support for developing the tool to make the directory a success right out of the gate.

Developing the directory was one of the recommendations of the cross-campus Working Group on Scientific Core Resources in 2014, and follows the model of our peer institutions. The framework was developed over a period of eight months through input from user inquiries and testing, particularly with new faculty members in a range of disciplines. The directory team used a model of continuous feedback to ensure alignment with researcher goals, and regular user testing will be used to make ongoing improvements.

We want this to be a value-added service that is transparent and easy to use, and enhances and expands the collaborative capabilities of the research community at UW-Madison.

If you need help locating a resource or if you would like to add a shared resource to the Directory of Resources for Researchers, please contact Isabelle at 608-890-4268 or (By the way, we need your help in expanding the directory. Please consider adding your shared resources to the directory and sharing information about the resource with your partners.) You also can sign up at the directory website to receive periodic summaries from the Office of Campus Research Cores on core service updates and new, shared resources. To learn more about the Office of Campus Cores visit

We hope that this resource helps you move your research forward, without spending your valuable time searching for a needle in a haystack.

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor

Marsha Mailick, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

A #UWSummer to Remember Wed, 13 Sep 2017 23:09:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]> On July 18, hundreds of people enjoyed classes, leisure activities and beautiful views on campus from early morning until late at night. They shared their impressions on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #UWSummer, showing the whole world what UW-Madison’s Summer Term looked like on a typically glorious day.

It’s not surprising that so many students, staff, and faculty members participated in the university’s creative crowdsourcing activity. There’s tremendous energy surrounding Summer Term. As many of you know, we launched an effort two years ago to reorganize and reframe Summer Term at UW-Madison, opening a host of new courses in the summer of 2016. This has provided students with expanded educational opportunities and flexibilities, allowed the university to use more of its facilities year-round, and expanded our tuition revenues by 35 percent over the two-year period. This year’s successes show the benefits of our new approach to #UWSummer.

Let’s start with the biggest advantage to Summer Term: There’s no better time to be in Madison than in the months of June, July and August. This is a wonderful time to invite current students to remain in town and to attract new summer-only students.

Past student surveys indicated that students wanted more online courses that accommodate summer schedules, more high-demand courses that satisfy curricular requirements, and more hands-on learning experiences that prepare them for future careers. As a result, our new summer curriculum includes almost all of the high-demand courses. Academic departments have expanded their offerings, and students have enrolled in record numbers. Total credit hours taken during Summer Term has increased 18 percent over the past two years. Significantly, summer enrollment in online courses has almost doubled from 2015 to 2017. About half of our summer students enroll in online courses and half are in residence.

We are using Summer Term as an opportunity to give more undergraduates research experience with UW faculty, including specialized coursework and faculty mentoring. This year, with help from Educational Innovation, we offered the new WISCIENCE Summer Research Scholarship to 34 students. They worked on projects ranging from treating autism to investigating infants’ brain development to ensuring safe medical procedures in rural communities. We expect this investment to pay off for Wisconsin and beyond as these students contribute to the next great breakthroughs in their fields.

Along with the WISCIENCE scholarships, we awarded an Undergraduate Scholarship for Summer Study to more than 700 students. We also instituted a Transfer Scholars Summer Award for spring transfer students, who took summer courses to work toward their UW-Madison degrees. We’re proud that the increase in scholarship funding over the past two years has made Summer Term more accessible for students with documented financial need. It has also allowed more students to capitalize on one of Summer Term’s key benefits: staying on track to graduate in four years, thus avoiding the expense of an extra semester.

As I scrolled through the #UWSummer posts, I was impressed by the diversity of our campus during Summer Term. We’re opening the door to a wider range of learners, including high school students, adults and undergraduates from other institutions. Along those lines, we created the International Student Summer Institute to ease the way for international students starting at UW-Madison in the fall. The four-week program helped students from nine countries improve their academic English skills before classes began. It also introduced them to the Chazen Museum of Art, the Babcock Hall Dairy Store, the Wisconsin Union, and other one-of-a-kind attractions that make our campus special.

We’re already looking forward to 2018. We’ll expand this year’s successful programs for undergraduate research, first-year students and transfer students, along with creating more residential programs for high school students and undergraduates from other institutions. Thanks to changes we made to the academic calendar, we’ve added a four-week summer session in May that will give students increased flexibility in scheduling courses. And we’ll offer an even more robust array of learning experiences with help from both campus colleagues and external partners. To spur innovative programming, we’re encouraging instructors, departments, administrators and cross-campus workgroups to apply for Summer Term Igniter Funds.

The ability to take courses over three semesters adds flexibility to student schedules. This makes it easier for students to participate in study abroad or internship/work experiences during the fall or spring terms without falling behind in required coursework. If a student experiences a health problem or family crisis that leaves them short of credits during the regular term, summer courses can help them catch up with their cohort. We want students to graduate on time whenever possible. That reduces debt and moves them into their careers more quickly.

As most academic units know, much of the money generated by summer tuition stays within schools and colleges and is used to support faculty and staff in those units. That’s a big incentive to offer courses that attract a good number of students.

So, if you thought there was more activity on campus this summer than you’ve seen in recent years, you’re right. I’m waiting for someone to complain to me that they can’t drive across campus in July because there are too many students around! If you thought #UWSummer 2017 was good, just wait until next year, when there will be even more to tweet about.

Welcome back to fall semester Wed, 06 Sep 2017 19:33:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Welcome to a new academic year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As we embark on the fall semester, I want to recap some highlights from the summer, and look ahead to some priorities in 2017-18.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank, left, and Dean of Students Lori Berquam, at right wearing a cap, hand out Kind snack bars on Bascom Hill on the first day of classes for the 2017-2018 academic year. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

The state Legislature is wrapping up its budget deliberations, and we are thankful that the budget includes a funding increase for the UW System after several years of cuts. We are also grateful that the Joint Finance Committee last week passed a motion to include funding for a new parking structure on the west side of campus and utilities and infrastructure repair in the central campus area. We will continue to work with the governor and legislators to increase investment in higher education in Wisconsin.

A key part of our mission, and a top priority for me, is to expand access to Wisconsin students. This fall we are launching a new program called Badger Promise to create a pathway to a UW-Madison degree for some of Wisconsin’s neediest students.

Badger Promise offers one year of free tuition to first-generation, Wisconsin-resident students who meet our admission requirements and transfer with at least 54 college credits from a two-year UW System campus or technical college partner. Pell Grant-eligible Badger Promise students can receive two years of free tuition. (And by the way, virtually every one of our first-generation transfer students is eligible for financial aid, so this is a good way to target our resources effectively.)

We enter this semester with what will be the largest freshman class in UW-Madison history. Final numbers won’t be available until the second week of classes is complete, but we estimate 6,600 freshmen will be at UW-Madison (out of 35,614 applicants, also a record.)

Another top priority is to help grow revenue sources that allow us to invest in this university. That means funding to hire new faculty in key areas, increase our support for research, expand access to lower-income students, address compensation issues among faculty and staff, and improve both the classroom and out-of-classroom experiences that we offer our students.

Among the things we are doing to create new investment funding: the expanded and revised summer term (I’ll have more to say about that in a blog post next week), expanded professional master’s programs, our All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, efforts to set professional school and out-of-state tuition levels at market rates, some expansion in the number of students, and increases in research dollars.

These efforts are already showing results. The Badger Promise program is possible because of a positive state budget and this new revenue. But other good initiatives are also underway. We are in a very competitive market for faculty and staff, and to retain the best we have to offer compensation on par with our peers. This fall, we will again offer a critical compensation fund to provide salary increases to faculty and staff whose salary has fallen particularly far behind, based on performance, equity and market factors. As we did last year, we will also provide funds for one-time bonuses to exceptional performers.

We are also, after a 15-year hiatus, creating a new cluster hire program. This is designed to recruit groups of faculty from different disciplinary areas but whose work intersects on a key area of research interest. We’ll provide substantial central support for salaries for these individuals, hoping to deepen our research strength on critical topics. We will hire three to five clusters per year for the next five years. We’ll begin receiving calls for proposals from faculty, research centers, or departments this fall, with the goal of hiring the first clusters this spring.

Another important priority is to ensure that our campus is inclusive and welcoming to all of our students, staff and faculty. We continue to work on a variety of projects designed to expand our campus’s ability to live up to these ideas. To learn more about what we’ve done over the past semester and the summer, see our Fall 2017 Campus Climate Report.

For many of us, the scenes from Charlottesville last month are still very vivid. The racism, hatred and violence, along with the images of the KKK and Nazi flags, were deeply disturbing and antithetical to the values this campus represents.

Our campus community cares deeply about the things that affect people’s lives, and we are not afraid of robust debate that allows for many points of view — even those contrary to our values. That’s what free expression is all about, and it’s important that we are and remain a place where a wide variety of opinions can be expressed.

But we will not tolerate threats or violence. So I want to end by reaffirming this campus’s commitment to providing an environment that is safe for the teaching, learning, research and public service that is central to who we are as a university. We value diversity and welcome everyone who wants to learn, to work hard, and to be part of this wonderful community.

Best wishes for the fall semester here in Madison!