Blank’s Slate – Office of the Chancellor – UW–Madison Fri, 13 May 2022 01:41:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Final Blog Wed, 11 May 2022 20:19:39 +0000 Read More]]> May 31 is my last day in the office here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I admit to feeling a bit wistful as I realize how many friends and colleagues will no longer be a regular part of my life. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have taken time to stop me on campus or in town, or to send an email, thanking me for my service to the university.

Thank you for all the gracious words you have shared with me. But more importantly, thank you for what you have done to help this university move forward.

While there have been some hard days on this job, there have been many more good memories. No other job in the world would let me lead an institution with its own marching band, sailing club, mascot (I’m going to miss Bucky), and ice cream flavors. In no other job do you get to address 50,000 people in Camp Randall on graduation day when they are all in a happy mood and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. And there is no other spot on any college campus in the country as much fun as the Terrace, drawing in not just the campus community, but people from all around the region for good food, good music, and an unbeatable view.

I have been regularly asked what I think my legacy is here at UW. If you’ll indulge me for a bit, let me list what I think were the most important changes of the past nine years. But let me be clear that this is not MY legacy, but OUR legacy. All of these things took the effort and involvement of staff and faculty across campus. I want to do a special shout-out to my Executive Team, the deans and other unit leaders. I’ve had the privilege of working with a great group of leaders.

Here are a few of the things we’ve accomplished:

• Most important, UW is on a much more stable financial footing than it was when I arrived, with investment resources that have allowed us to fund new initiatives and further advance our mission across campus. This didn’t happen by accident but is the result of a multi-pronged effort to be entrepreneurial and generate our own investment income when it became clear the state would not do so. We’ve expanded summer programs, increased class size, raised out-of-state tuition, grown research dollars, and received many generous donations from alumni and friends. As a result, we’ve brought our faculty salaries up substantially, made big increases in our graduate student stipends, greatly increased our scholarship dollars, invested in IT infrastructure, and done more for campus maintenance. (This coming year, now that we have benchmarks for all staff salaries, we’ll be putting extra money into salary changes for staff based on compression, parity, equity and merit.)

• UW has steadily improved as an educational institution. We’re now one of the top 10 public universities in our graduation rates. We’ve substantially decreased the graduate gap for low income and underrepresented groups. We’ve steadily increased the share of undergraduates who leave with ZERO debt – it’s just under 60% of the class. And our advising and career counseling has steadily improved. It’s not surprising that applications to UW-Madison have doubled in the nine years that I’ve been here.

• UW has expanded its research enterprise. When I arrived, research dollars were declining at a time when they were growing at other top universities – which, not surprisingly, led us to slip in the research rankings. We’ve stabilized that, with research dollars growing 17% over the past five years. We brought in almost $1.5 billion in research awards last year. While there is always more to do, we have improved administrative support for those competing for outside funding. And our partner organization WARF has also increased its dollar support to us, allowing us to deepen our funding for new projects and new faculty start-up packages.

• After almost 30 years of declining or flat faculty numbers, we’ve increased faculty size. The Cluster Hire program has strengthened a number of areas of research excellence, while the TOP program has helped diversify our faculty. This increase was made possible by more investment dollars in key areas of research and teaching and also reflects the increase in the undergraduate student body.

• A key effort has been our All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, aimed at alumni and friends. This campaign has helped us deepen our scholarship pool, fund named faculty positions across the university to help attract and retain top faculty, and subsidize the cost of some key building projects on campus. We aimed at raising $3.2 billion when we started in 2015. We ended the campaign with $4.2 billion. Thanks to the WFAA for being such great partners in this effort.

• We’ve expanded access to the university. Most notably, Bucky’s Tuition Promise has guaranteed that all low-income Wisconsin students who qualify for admission can come here tuition-free. But we’ve deepened scholarships and educational opportunities for many others as well. Our professional masters’ programs have expanded, providing a UW education to early and mid-career students. And we’re growing our online presence, both with summer online courses for our regular students and by starting a few online undergraduate degree programs for older workers who want to finish their degree but are not going to be residential students in Madison.

• Our service to the state is stronger than ever, reflecting our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea. In the early 1970s, the Extension program and Wisconsin Public TV and Radio were pulled out of Madison (which pioneered these programs more than 100 years ago.) Five years ago, these programs again became part of UW-Madison. It took work to reintegrate them into campus, but it’s been worth it. Our campus enriches these programs, and these programs help our campus reach out to serve the entire state even better.

• Our campus has worked in a sustained way to be more diverse and inclusive of all community members. Our student body and our faculty have become more diverse (and additional focus will be required to increase diversity among staff.) The schools and colleges are implementing diversity plans, working with departments and units on building hiring pipelines, developing training, and initiating sometimes difficult conversations. The School of Education is providing training to help faculty teach in more diverse classrooms. Conversations about living in a diverse community are now a regular part of our freshman orientation. Our Public History project is presenting stories from UW’s past that have gone untold, focusing on the experiences of more marginalized groups. We have more work to do, but many people are committed to keeping us focused on these issues.

I could keep going but suffice it to say that lots of good things have been happening on campus over the past decade.

There are plenty of ongoing challenges that the new chancellor will need to deal with, working closely with all of you. Most important will be breaking the logjam in funding and approvals that prevent us from modernizing and updating our facilities as our needs change. We need stronger partnerships with UW System and policymakers to promote flexibilities, particularly around facilities projects, so that problems are addressed quickly and at a lower cost.

UW-Madison also needs to negotiate greater leeway around in-state tuition. We’ve had a decade (yes that’s TEN YEARS) of an in-state tuition freeze. Unfortunately, our costs have not been frozen. It’s time our in-state tuition was set at a level similar to that of Minnesota, Illinois, or Michigan – with plenty of financial aid to lower and middle-income students. This will help provide revenue needed to maintain high quality educational programs for all our students.

And we will continue to need to persuade the legislature, the governor, and the citizens of this state, of the value of UW-Madison to the economy and the civic well-being of the state. We need the state to invest in us as a way to invest in the future of the entire state. UW-Madison is the source of this state’s most skilled workers and entrepreneurs and our research powerhouse is a key reason that businesses seek to locate or grow in Wisconsin.

I do not want to end with complaints. I thought you might enjoy excerpts from a few of my most memorable phone calls during my time at UW. These were usually calls that came in on evenings or weekends, just as I was ready to relax and forget about work. Here’s my recollection of three of them:

• “The pool at the SERF has sprung a leak. We seem to have lost thousands of gallons of water. Unfortunately, we aren’t quite sure where it’s gone. We’re a little worried that a big sinkhole could open up on Dayton Street at any time. But don’t worry. We’ll figure it out.”

• “There’s a new PCR test for COVID that doesn’t require a nose swab. People just have to drool into a test tube. Everybody will love it!”

• “We just learned that the pipes burst on the top floor of <you name the building>. Unfortunately, this happened Friday night and we didn’t discover it until Monday morning. We’re going to have to relocate everybody in the building and move all of the classes. But don’t worry. We can probably get this fixed up in six months to a year.”

Don’t worry. The good news is that all of these were handled by our excellent staff.

It’s been an honor every day that I’ve served as Chancellor at this university. Thank you for being such great partners and colleagues in this work.

Wisconsin is one of the great public universities. I know you will give the new Chancellor the same level of support and friendship that you’ve given me. And I am confident that all of you will do what is necessary to grow and change in a way that maintains the excellence of this institution.

I have come to love this campus, as I know you do. I look forward to watching it continue to move forward.

On, Wisconsin!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – It Takes All of Us Wed, 06 Apr 2022 17:16:50 +0000 Read More]]> The following post was jointly written by Chancellor Blank and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor.

*Content Warning: Sexual Assault

While the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage the past two years, another public health issue has persisted — one that is much less talked about and is historically complex to navigate.

We’re talking about sexual and relationship violence.

  • About one of every two students at UW–Madison has experienced sexually harassing behavior — an unwelcome sexual advance, request, or behavior.
  • More than one in four women at our university is a survivor of unwanted sexual contact. The number is notably higher for transgender and gender-diverse students.
  • In more than three of four of sexual assaults at UW–Madison, alcohol was consumed by the survivor and/or perpetrator.

These aren’t mere statistics; these are people’s lived experiences, and they have far-reaching impacts on their academic and personal lives.

Sexual violence is not unique to UW–Madison. Campuses across the U.S. report similar prevalence rates, as well as survivor difficulties navigating layers of campus and community supports.

At UW–Madison, we’re also committed to doing something about it — to supporting our student survivors and ending violence on our campus.

In 2015, our campus participated in a first-of-its-kind national sexual assault climate survey with the Association of American Universities (AAU). This survey provided data on the prevalence of sexual violence, shed light on attitudes around it, and clarified where we needed to create more awareness and knowledge among our faculty, staff, and students. We set out to fill those gaps with a comprehensive plan to improve our sexual violence prevention efforts and response.

In 2019, students participated in the survey again to check our progress toward those goals. The survey revealed that our undergraduate and graduate students were significantly more knowledgeable about sexual assault and campus resources — some progress — but, similar to other campuses, rates of sexual assault remained relatively the same.

We learned that students with disabilities, students of color, transgender students, and gender-diverse students experienced disproportionate levels of sexual assault and misconduct on this campus. Only a small portion of assault and misconduct survivors reported their assault to a campus resource, confidential or otherwise. Most were likely to share their experience with a friend.

We’ve taken several actions since the 2019 survey — increasing the staff at University Health Services (UHS) Survivor Services to help victims receive care after an assault and understand their options for campus support or reporting; strengthening the Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program (Title IX) responsible for processing reports of sexual violence; and becoming a member of the national Culture of Respect Collective, a multi-year program that guides institutions of higher education through a rigorous process of self-assessment and organizational change. Our work on this has involved a large and diverse group of students, staff, faculty partners, and community members, and has been ongoing throughout the pandemic.

UW–Madison’s Culture of Respect team has worked hard to improve services and build awareness of the resources available to survivors at whatever stage they need it.

This includes three key entry points at UHS Survivor Services for confidential support alongside information on 24/7 resources within the community:

  • Advocacy — Assistance with accommodations, information about rights and reporting options, accompaniments, referrals, and consultations.
  • Medical — Care for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, emergency contraception, forensic nurse services, pregnancy testing and options, and treatment of injuries.
  • Mental — Trauma-informed group counseling, individual therapy (biweekly), and care management to support healing and post-traumatic growth.
  • 24/7 community resources — Help navigating your options from the Rape Crisis Center and no-cost, confidential forensic nurse exams at the UnityPoint Health – Meriter Emergency Department at 202 South Park Street.

While it’s critical for survivors of sexual violence to know where they can turn on campus and in the community for support, our students are still one of the most important resources for each other.

UHS will continue to educate new students about consent, bystander training and allyship, but we all have a responsibility to uphold a community of care at UW–Madison. Your actions can affect the way those around you think about and respond to sexual and relationship violence:

  • Be accountable — Hold yourself and the people around you accountable. That may mean accompanying a friend home who’s had too much to drink, letting someone know why their rape joke isn’t funny, or reporting aggressive behavior immediately to someone who can help.
  • Offer support — Listen and support someone if they tell you they have been harmed. Share and use the resources listed above.
  • Practice consent — Countering violence on campus means infusing the practice of consent into all relationships. It is a clear and conscious “yes,” not merely the absence of “no.”

We encourage you to learn more and engage as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April.  We’re proud to share that on April 20 at 6:30 p.m., our student leaders in PAVE are hosting an online book reading and conversation with Jaquira Díaz, a former Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fellow and visiting assistant professor and author of the acclaimed “Ordinary Girls: A Memoir.”

As a university, we are committed to creating a safe living and learning environment for all of our students. When sexual assault occurs, we will respond swiftly and with compassion. And we will depend on each of you to be part of the solution. It will take all of us to end sexual violence at UW.

If you are a UW–Madison employee who has experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence, you may speak with someone confidentially at the Employee Assistance Office or Ombuds Office. Both employees and students may report sexual misconduct to the Office of Compliance.

Sustainability at UW-Madison Thu, 03 Mar 2022 14:04:00 +0000 Read More]]> Weather-related issues that are likely linked to climate change are in the news almost daily. As many of you know, we’ve been working to make the UW-Madison campus more sustainable and resilient over the past decade. In this blog, I want to tell you about some of our current efforts to create a more sustainable campus.

Our approach to sustainability brings together our experts in facilities and operations with our faculty and staff working in academics and research. Dr. Missy Nergard directs the Office of Sustainability. She partners closely with Associate Professor Andrea Hicks, who is the director of sustainability education and research. (Assoc. Prof. Hicks is in an ideal position for this role, with a primary appointment in Civil and Environmental Engineering and affiliations with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Geological Engineering, and Freshwater and Marine Sciences Program.)

Over the last few years, and despite the disruption of the pandemic, the Office of Sustainability has launched major efforts in the areas of institutional sustainability, climate action and adaptation, and waste management. The Sustainability Advisory Council, the Zero Waste initiative, and our forthcoming Climate Action and Adaptation Plan have extensive stakeholder engagement have extensive involvement from faculty, staff and students. We’re building these efforts on both established best practices as well as evolving research.

By laying out a strategic plan for our sustainability efforts in the coming years, we’re creating a framework which will allow UW-Madison to be a leader in these issues.  We’re putting resources into this.  For instance, we’ve allocated $3.2 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects over the next fiscal year.

You can measure the effect of our ongoing sustainability efforts in many ways.  For instance, since 2007, UW–Madison has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 46% per building square foot and has cut potable water use by more than 37%, a remarkable metric considering that our campus continues to grow.

This spring, UW–Madison will submit its second Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) report, which will let us know how we’re doing and push us toward continuous improvement. Following the last submission, we scored a silver rating, and it is my hope that we can achieve gold and then platinum in the coming years.

UW–Madison’s schools, colleges, centers, and institutes are producing our remarkable research on sustainability topics. We are also working with faculty and students to incorporate sustainability issues into coursework, using the sustainability course attribute, which allows instructors to tag courses that relate to sustainability so that students can more easily find them. Students from all over campus are interested in this topic; undergraduates enrolled in the Nelson Institute’s sustainability certificate come from 48 different majors.

Some of our most distinctive sustainability efforts bring together students, staff, faculty, and our campus and community spaces. The UW–Madison Green Fund, which supports student-initiated projects that improve campus sustainability, has in recent years put solar panels on the roof of Gordon Dining & Event Center and the UW Arboretum Visitor Center, replaced inefficient fixtures in University Housing bathrooms, retrofitted many, many lightbulbs across campus, and rolled out Electric Eats, a new electric food truck featuring locally-sourced food. For each of these projects, student ideas were the catalyst for collaboration, research, problem solving, and real change on campus.

A few fun facts:

We are positioning UW–Madison to take its rightful place as a leader in sustainability, not only in the conventional sense of reducing our environmental impacts and improving our operations, but also in leveraging our truly world-class faculty involved in climate research as well as channeling the passion and talents of our remarkable students. We also want to be sure that our efforts pay particular attention to “social sustainability,” including how we honor and engage members of our Native Nations, how we address environmental injustices, and how we examine issues of diversity and inclusion in the environmental movement. Our great strength is in our community–on campus and across Wisconsin, with both current students and alumni. This reach allows us to amplify our influence across the region as well as nationally and internationally.

I encourage you all to stay informed and connected on our sustainability efforts.  You can subscribe to our campus sustainability newsletter, follow @SustainUW on social media, apply to the Green Fund to fund a great project, join a sustainability-related student org, or suggest ways in which you would like to collaborate on sustainability efforts.

A shared commitment to, and involvement in, operating our campus in a more sustainable way can help us make even greater progress in the near future.



Video: Chancellor Blank details accomplishments, urges support for UW–Madison Fri, 11 Feb 2022 17:26:14 +0000 ]]> Meeting the continuing challenge of Covid-19 Sat, 22 Jan 2022 17:26:26 +0000 On Tuesday, we will begin our fifth semester operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I share everyone’s frustration that the virus continues to negatively affect our lives, both at home and on campus. We are clearly at a point where institutions and public health agencies worldwide are beginning to plan for how to live and operate alongside COVID as it continues to evolve.

The direct health impact on those who are infected (and their families) is only part of the cost of this disease. The pandemic has also been hard on parents and children with disrupted school and childcare schedules; it has disrupted employment; it has limited the time we can spend with relatives and friends; it has affected travel and vacation plans; and it has been hard on those caring for parents or grandparents in assisted living facilities.

I’m proud that this university has continued to provide support to our students and staff through vaccinations, testing, and other health services. Our faculty have been on the front lines of research about COVID-19, and many have been advising our community, state and nation about appropriate next steps.

None of what we’ve accomplished could have happened without the dedication, perseverance and flexibility of our faculty and staff navigating an endless set of campus emails and — as our information and the course of the virus changed — a changing set of protocols.

But we have navigated these problems with some success.  Students have attended class, researchers are in their labs, there have been live arts and music performances, and evenings on the Terrace. I have received heartfelt messages of thanks from students and parents who appreciated the chance to celebrate graduation for the classes of 2020 and 2021 with an in-person event in Camp Randall.

As the virus has evolved, our approach to campus operations continues to evolve and I’m again asking for your trust, patience and flexibility.

As we begin spring semester 2022, I am thankful for the presence of vaccines and boosters and the incredible participation of campus in our vaccine and masking efforts. At the same time, the Omicron variant has resulted in higher, but generally less severe, infections across the country, including Wisconsin.

One thing that we have learned over the past four semesters is that COVID-19 will continue to be present, in ever-evolving forms, for the foreseeable future. Our goals remain the same: Carrying forward our essential teaching, research and outreach missions, creating the best possible experience for our students, and providing resources and care for our community.

Faced with these realities, we are transitioning into a new phase in which we will continue to employ proven strategies to reduce risk, such as masking and additional testing while providing support, flexibility and resources for those who become ill. This approach is being employed by many of our peer universities, as well as K-12 schools.

I recognize there are many in our community whose daily lives are still deeply impacted by the risk of COVID-19 — those with compromised immune systems and caregivers of young children, for example.  I ask that everyone continue exhibit grace and understanding for their colleagues at this time, including the liberal use of leave and work flexibilities.

Last week, we shared detailed information about our plans for this semester for faculty and staff.

We also answered questions from the community during a town hall event at noon on Friday, Jan. 21. The event is archived and I’d encourage you to watch it.

I also want to take a moment to address a few of the most common questions that I continue to hear as we talk about the semester.

Q. What is the campus testing plan?

This semester, in response to the omicron variant of COVID-19, UW–Madison is offering a greater variety and a larger quantity of tests than last semester, at no cost to students and employees. We are maintaining our previous capacity of 5,000 PCR tests per week. In addition, we have received delivery of a significant quantity of antigen tests which will allow us to provide them to students for recommended testing prior to the beginning of the semester.

Beginning on January 25 (the first day of instruction), we plan to begin distribution of antigen tests to individual faculty and staff as well who are experiencing symptoms or who may have been exposed to infection. We are continually working with multiple suppliers to expand our supply in this period of higher viral spread and public demand for tests.

Q. Why will campus have a single testing site? And why use antigen tests?

Consolidating at one testing site allows us to utilize PCR capacity and staff more efficiently. Like all organizations, we are facing some staff shortages.

Antigen take-home kits provide added convenience because they can be picked up and used when needed. Most antigen testing provides results within 15 minutes. This type of test is useful for quickly detecting current infections and containing the spread of disease.

We need everyone’s cooperation in using campus testing resources responsibly.  We encourage everyone to take advantage of the growing number of off-campus antigen testing resources, including four free kits offered by and up to eight free kits per person per month covered by health insurance. And if you are using campus PCR testing, avoid no-shows or last-minute cancellations.

Q. Can instructors shift courses online?

Instructors have received additional instructions from the Provost’s Office encouraging them to take another look at attendance policies in anticipation of the potential for more frequent student absences, particularly early in the semester, making course materials and assignments easily accessible to students who may need to miss class due to quarantine, isolation or other illness and thinking about the best types of exams and assessments.

Instructors are expected to teach course sections, including lectures, discussions and labs, in the modality indicated in the class schedule. View this guidance for situations when an instructor or multiple students in a course will be absent.

Q. Is campus requiring a certain type of mask?

Masks continue to provide important protection, including against the omicron variant. Given the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, a well-fitting mask is more important than ever. In keeping with the most current CDC guidance, we encourage you to regularly check the fit of your masks  and wear the most protective mask you can that fits you well.

University policy does not require a specific type of mask, because fit and other factors that are important in mask selection vary from person to person, but the university has purchased a large quantity of high-efficiency and surgical grade masks and are making these available at no cost to employees. Check with your department/center about mask distribution.

2021 Holiday Greeting Thu, 16 Dec 2021 14:36:22 +0000 ]]> Looking back at Fall 2021 Tue, 14 Dec 2021 12:00:34 +0000 Read More]]> Among the many pieces of advice we received at the start of this semester, one of my favorites came from the child of one of our staff members who quoted a line from the children’s classic Pooh’s Little Instruction Book. It goes like this:

Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the forest that was left out by mistake.

These last 21 months have tested our ability to keep the university moving forward while trying not to step on anything by mistake. We have succeeded for a lot of reasons – careful planning, the willingness of our students and staff to follow health protocols, the dedication of our faculty and instructors, and our high vaccination rate. And driving all of these things is what one of our students recently called our “vibe of caring.”

As this semester comes to an end, I am reflecting on how thankful I am to be part of a community that cares for and takes care of one another.

When we began planning for fall 2021, we were confident that we could bring back many of the events and traditions that make UW-Madison so special. We heard from students and families that they wanted as many in-person learning options as possible. But we also knew that the success of the semester would depend upon things we couldn’t entirely control, such as the students’ willingness to wear face coverings and how many of us would get vaccinated absent a mandate.

You probably already know that our vaccination rates are among the highest in the country. The Washington Post recently singled out Dane County as one of the most highly vaccinated counties in the U.S., and the university has contributed to that. At the same time, we’ve kept infection rates low.

But we’ve got much more to be proud of than just fighting COVID.

Fall 2021 is a semester in which we welcomed the largest and most diverse freshman class in our history, selected from a record number of applicants. Our measures of student quality continue to grow as well, with a five-year trend of more national merit finalists selecting UW-Madison. We remain a top destination for the best students in Wisconsin, and around the country and world.

Despite the stresses of the pandemic, our educational outcomes have also continued to improve. Our six-year graduation rate, over 89%, is the highest ever and places us in top 10 among U.S. publics. And we have once again set a new record for average time-to-degree – 3.89 years – 40 days less than four years.

The graduation gap between white and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half over the last 10 years (now a 7-point difference).

We have expanded institutional scholarship aid – from $25 million in 2007 to almost $100 million this year. Related to this, more than half of our undergraduates (57%) graduated with no student loan debt in 2020. Nationally, fewer than one-third of students do.

And this month, we wrap up the most successful fundraising campaign in our history – the All Ways Forward campaign has raised more than $4 billion for education, research, and outreach on this campus. Much of that money is designated through gift agreements to specific scholarships, faculty positions, or programs, all of which will help provide a margin of excellence to sustain the quality of this great university.

I am proud of all of these accomplishments, but the story of this semester is best understood by looking at our students’ achievements, such as

• Lexi Luo, a biochemistry and statistics major, and Hawra Lajawad, a chemical engineering and biochemistry major, were just named finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship.

• Lydia Nyachieo, a senior majoring in international studies and philosophy, with certificates in African studies and French, was named a 2022 Marshall Scholar. Nyachieo intends to use the scholarship to earn a master’s degree in international development through the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester.

• A team of students from the College of Engineering and the Wisconsin Energy Institute was just named a first-place winner in a competition by the Musk Foundation to find new ways to address climate change. The team will receive $250,000 — the largest available award in the student competition — to fund further work on their plan to take carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, out of the air and seal it away where it can’t contribute to rising global temperatures.

None of these accomplishments would be possible without the extraordinary commitment of our faculty and staff. Thank you all for the outstanding work you did this semester.

May this winter break be a time of joy shared with family and friends, and also a time to rest and renew. As Pooh Bear once advised, “When all else fails, take a nap.”



Veterans enrich our learning community Wed, 10 Nov 2021 23:29:16 +0000 Read More]]> On Veterans Day, our nation honors those who have served so well and sacrificed so much. Originally established as Armistice Day, this federal holiday honored veterans of World War I. Later, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day and broadened the focus to include all veterans.

Our university is home to nearly 900 current or former military personnel, according to 2020 data. This includes students preparing for military careers through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs, and those serving in the military reserves or National Guard.

That last group — our National Guard— has a unique dual mission. While maintaining military readiness and ability to deploy anywhere in the world, they are also called upon for domestic emergencies. They were mobilized to great effect during the global pandemic, providing assistance in testing and vaccination across Wisconsin. (See an interview with UW-Madison senior and National Guard member Abby Beem about balancing military service and student life.)

UW-Madison gives veterans the opportunity to pursue an education that will fuel their success in civilian and military life. In doing so, the university also reaps valuable dividends. As more veterans come to our campus, they bring a unique mix of leadership and experience to the classroom. Their unique perspectives enrich our learning community in many ways.

Lorence Ayag, a U.S. Marine veteran and UW-Madison student pursuing a degree in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies , is one of our featured speakers at the Veterans Day ceremony at Memorial Union.

At 1:45 p.m. on Veterans Day, the Student Veterans of America will host a flag dedication ceremony on Bascom Hill. Community members can place flags on the Hill in honor of a veteran. Those who cannot attend in-person can submit flag requests online.

This is a great opportunity to show your support for our campus community of veterans — including more than 380 faculty and staff colleagues who are also veterans. If you don’t get a chance to place a flag, please take an opportunity to thank a veteran for their service. All of us are indebted to them for their service.

Recognizing our Shared History with the Ho-Chunk Nation Fri, 05 Nov 2021 16:27:12 +0000 Read More]]> I hope some of you were able to join us Friday morning as we welcomed leaders of the Ho-Chunk Nation to campus for the raising of the Ho-Chunk Nation flag atop Bascom Hall — the first time the university has flown another nation’s flag over Bascom Hall.

Flag raisings are part of contemporary Ho-Chunk culture, with the Ho-Chunk Nation hosting annual flag raisings in their communities during Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and also participating in flag raisings with public schools serving Ho-Chunk youth or with city governments in locations significant to the Ho-Chunk.

This was more than a symbolic gesture. It’s part of an ongoing commitment to educate the campus community about First Nations’ history, sovereignty and culture, and to recognize the land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk. It affirms the special relationship between UW–Madison and the Ho-Chunk Nation that grows from the location of the campus on the ancestral Ho-Chunk land known as DeJope. And it shows how much we value this nation-to-nation relationship, and how dedicated we are to affirming it, improving it, and communicating its importance to the community.

What we now call Bascom Hill was sacred to the Ho-Chunk people for thousands of years before Europeans arrived here. The hill was the site of several mounds, including a water spirit effigy mound that was destroyed when Bascom Hall was built on the sunrise, or eastern side, of the glacial drumlin that makes up Bascom and Observatory hills. There were at least three water spirit effigy mounds on campus property near Lake Mendota, and of the three, one remains on the sunset or western end of Observatory Hill and is now part of the national register of historic places. The Ho-Chunk serve as caretakers of the mounds that remain.

For many years, UW–Madison was not mindful of this history, and we paid little attention to our relationship with the descendants of those who were here long before us. But we are working to change that.

A little over two years ago, we gathered on Bascom Hill to dedicate the Our Shared Future heritage marker. The marker recognizes this land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk people, acknowledges their forced removal, and honors their history of resistance and resilience.

At that time, I acknowledged that no plaque or monument could adequately convey a complicated and difficult history. But it could prompt a conversation. We have continued that conversation in many ways since then:

• We hired our first Director of Tribal Relations, Aaron Bird Bear, to work full-time on strengthening our relationships with the First Nations of Wisconsin.

• We are hosting events to inform and educate our campus and community about our relationship with Native Nations. Most recently, we had a Treaty Day panel discussion with top legal experts from the Ho-Chunk Nation.

• UW Law School is raising the profile of its Indian Law program and will install a display of the flags of Wisconsin’s Native Nations later this academic year.

• Through Bucky’s Tuition Promise, we assure any low-income Native American student from within Wisconsin that they can attend UW-Madison and pay no tuition or fees.

• We’ve graduated more Native American attorneys than any other law school in the country, and our Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center serves as a resource for Native Nations and their citizens.

• And we continue to expand the ways in which we incorporate teaching and learning about Native Nations into our curriculum.

I am proud of the progress we have made, and I also know that there is much more work to do.

The Ho-Chunk Nation flag, the flag of Wisconsin, and the flag of the United States rose together and flew together today – moving in unison with the wind – as a symbol of our determination to work together in a spirit of collaboration and innovation in this special place that has served as an extraordinary meeting place for many, many years.

Lunch with the Chancellor 2021 Fri, 29 Oct 2021 13:02:32 +0000 Chancellor Blank addressed alumni, donors and friends for her final Lunch with the Chancellor Homecoming event on Oct. 28. Her talk included her final “pop quiz” from the podium.