Blank’s Slate – Office of the Chancellor – UW–Madison Thu, 16 May 2019 16:01:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 End-of-Semester News from Around Campus Wed, 15 May 2019 17:56:25 +0000 Read More]]> Hard to believe we’ve reached the end of another academic year. Commencement was an amazing event. JJ Watt gave one of the best commencement addresses I’ve heard, full of useful and inspirational messages for our graduates.

Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison

We conferred 7,881 degrees to bachelor’s, master’s, and law candidates, quite possibly the largest class in our history. Of course, the success of students is due to their hard work and talent, but also the hard work and talent of our faculty and staff.

As a small sample of the quality and excellent of our faculty, here are just a few of the national awards and recognitions that they have accrued in the past month:

Robert Fettiplace, a professor of neuroscience, has been named a 2019 Passano Fellow for research into the mechanics of hearing; he was also awarded the Kavli Prize in 2018;
Young Mie Kim, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been named a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow for her research on how targeted ads influence elections;
• Professor of Astronomy Snezana Stanimirovic has received a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship – she studies how molecules form into gas clouds in interstellar space;
• Two of our professors — Chang-Beom Eom in materials science and engineering and Donata Oertel in neuroscience – have been elected as fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science;
John Valley, a professor of geoscience, and William Engels, a professor of genetics, have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences;

As we all know, the end of the spring semester does not mean the campus goes dormant until fall. Right around the corner is our Summer Term. We’ve gone through much effort to expand offerings and make the classes more accessible to a wide range of students, and I’m hearing that enrollment will be up over last year. Scholarship funding for the summer term has been increased to $1 million, making it financially accessible to as many students as possible. We’ve also increased the number of online courses available this summer, to a total of 272.

The pilot online program Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch will ensure that incoming freshmen who choose to participate can make a smooth transition to campus. Beginning in June, these students can earn credit toward their degrees, meet other students, and learn about campus resources before the start of fall semester. Students work with an academic advisor to choose among five popular courses in art, communication arts, gender and women’s studies, journalism, and psychology. They also enroll in a one-credit online course on academic learning techniques and the one-credit online Wisconsin Experience Seminar. In August, they can move into their residence halls a few days early and participate in programs with their fellow summer learners. Scholarships are available for the program.

Finally, the summer will be a time of many transitions. Christina Olstad will join us in July as dean of students. Christina comes to us from Towson University in Maryland, and brings nearly two decades of experience in higher education administration, housing and residence life, crisis response and staff development.

And we will say goodbye to Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf after five years at UW-Madison, as she leaves to become president at the University of Rochester in New York. Sarah has been a dedicated advocate for faculty and staff development. Quite simply, she has left this institution better than she has found it.

While I’m very sorry to see her depart, Jim Henderson, a recently retired UW System vice president will join us as interim provost for two months. Our new Provost, current L&S Dean John Karl Scholz, will begin work in early August.

As L&S dean, Karl demonstrated the ability to lead in challenging times and build relationships across campus. He has been a tireless champion for the value of higher education. I know he will do an outstanding job as provost. We’re very lucky to have Eric Wilcots (currently serving as Deputy Dean and Associate Dean for Research Services in L&S) step in as interim dean. We will launch a dean’s search in L&S this fall.

If you’ll be here on campus this summer, I encourage you to get outside and enjoy the best time of year in Madison. I love an evening at the Union Terrace, taking in the beauty of the Allen Centennial Garden or strolling on the Lakeshore Path.

Here’s wishing you a productive and restful summer.

Spring 2019 Commencement Speech: “Opportunity” Sat, 11 May 2019 20:01:40 +0000 Read More]]> As prepared for delivery, 12 p.m., May 11, Camp Randall Stadium:

Good afternoon.  Welcome to Camp Randall Stadium and the 166th spring commencement of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Today, 7,881 bachelor’s, master’s, and law degree candidates will become alumni of one of the world’s greatest universities – making the Class of 2019 quite possibly the largest in our history!

Friends and family – you have the best seats in the house – where fans have been cheering on the Badgers for 102 years (just for the record, that first game in Camp Randall was a shutout: we trounced Minnesota).

Today these seats are filled with loyal supporters who have helped today’s students arrive at graduation. Students: Let’s give your friends and families a round of applause.

Class Highlights

The Class of 2019 has left its mark at UW.

This class has set new records for community service … and helped make UW-Madison the #1 public university in the nation for students studying abroad.

We’ve eaten 400,000 gallons of Babcock ice cream in your time here … you’ve battled for Bascom in epic snowball fights … and when Madison got colder than Antarctica for a few days last winter, you built igloos …  learned the term ‘frost quake’ … and a few of you even figured out that tossing boiling water into very cold air creates snow.

And just this spring, you watched the Badger Women’s Hockey team win the national championship! The co-captains and assistant captains of that team are graduating today … they’re great athletes and great students.

Annie Pankowski and Sophia Shaver … along with Emily Clark and Maddie Rolfes.

Congratulations on all of your achievements.

But for some today’s commencement is bittersweet. There are members of this class who passed away before graduation. They were friends and colleagues and we pay tribute to their memory.

Celebrating 150 years of UW women

2019 marks a historic anniversary at UW. 150 years ago, in 1869, the first women earned bachelor’s degrees from UW-Madison.

There were six of them:

  • Clara Bewick
  • Anna Headen
  • Jane Nagle
  • Helen Noble
  • Elizabeth Spencer
  • And Ella Ursula Turner

We honor them for their individual achievements but also as trailblazers for generations of extraordinary UW women. Some of whom you’ll meet in just a few minutes in our video. Women like:

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, a Roman Catholic nun who in 1965 became the first person in the U.S. to earn a PhD in Computer Sciences. And she did it right here at UW. Sister Mary Kenneth was a fierce advocate for bringing more women into computer science.

Mabel Watson Raimey, the first African-American woman to graduate from UW. She earned her degree 101 years ago and went on to become the first black woman lawyer in Wisconsin. She was a role model for  hundreds of others who followed her.

And Ethel Kullman Allen, a three-time UW alumna who did groundbreaking botany research here in the 1930s and helped to create one of the most beautiful spots on this campus – the Allen Centennial Gardens.

These remarkable women and so many more – including the multi-talented Cora Marrett, who will share her story later in this program – are an important part of our history. Their work has shaped this university, this state, and our nation.

But our celebration is about more than any single anniversary event or individual accomplishment. In recognizing our women alums at UW, we are celebrating opportunity – an opening up of possibilities that these first six women experienced and that many of our graduates, regardless of their gender, experience in their time here.


 Every one of you came to UW with your own dreams, and your own unique story. You brought your own skills and talents and interests. And each of you has had different experiences here.

But there is one thing I hope every one of you discovered on this campus. It’s the same thing the first six women found here 150 years ago.

By identifying skills, passions and abilities you may not have known you possessed, you discovered opportunity.

And today, we celebrate some of the extraordinary things you’ve done with that opportunity.

When Leah Johnson saw ways to make our campus more sustainable, she co-founded CLEAN – Campus Leaders for Energy Action Now. Leah and CLEAN have played a role in a number of changes, from installing bottle fillers on water fountains to hiring our first-ever Director of Sustainability.

Leah also spearheaded a clothing swap that is now on its third year bringing in thousands of items for students to exchange.

She has just accepted a position at an international environmental consulting firm in Chicago.

Kent Mok came to this country from the Philippines when he was 13. He dreamed of becoming a doctor, but after his father passed away, Kent wasn’t sure he would get to college at all.

He found a way – thanks to a Posse scholarship – and he made a decision to dedicate himself to helping others succeed. He’s been a community volunteer, a mentor, and an undergraduate teaching assistant.

Today, Kent graduates with honors and is applying to medical school.

Abby Catania came to UW to study agricultural and applied economics – but she noticed that there were few students of color in most of her classes, so she did something about it.

First, she organized a program to bring students from one of Milwaukee’s highest-poverty high schools for a three-day overnight on campus to learn about some of the things we have to offer.

And second, she took $500 out of her own savings to start a scholarship fund to encourage more students like her to pursue majors in agriculture.

She then brought in other donors, and the first Abagail Catania Diversity Scholarship was given last summer.

We often say that UW is a place that changes lives. But the university is just a collection of buildings on a beautiful lake.

It’s the people at the university who change lives.

People like Leah, Kent, and Abby, and every one of you who embraced the opportunity you were given to learn from world-renowned faculty … and then shared that knowledge to help others succeed.

That’s the proud UW mission of outreach and public service – what we call the Wisconsin Idea.

And it’s given you opportunities to learn things we can’t simply teach in a classroom. Things like how to be resilient when things don’t go well … how to ask for help when you need it … and how to work effectively with people who come from different backgrounds…and how to be a leader.

These are skills every one of you will need to be successful in work and in life.

Which leads me to offer you two pieces of advice.

First, learn to be comfortably uncomfortable 

Remember when Bryan Stevenson came to campus? Most of you were in your first year here when we read Just Mercy as our Go Big Read book.

Bryan talked about what he’s learned from his work at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

One of the most important lessons is that the people who accomplish really important things are the ones who can tolerate discomfort.

He said:

We all like to seek the things that are comfortable rather than uncomfortable. But … if I want to create justice, then I have to get comfortable with struggle.

Those first six UW women knew something about getting comfortable with struggle.

They had a hard time here at UW.

They were frustrated that they couldn’t take classes first thing in the morning – they had to wait until after the men’s classes were done. They had to deal with some of the male students treating them like they didn’t belong here … and some of the faculty openly questioning whether admitting women would dilute the value of a UW degree.

It would have been easier to leave. Maybe some of you have had that same feeling.

But they didn’t run away – and neither did you.

You learned to have difficult conversations. You learned to advocate for yourself. And you learned to be comfortably uncomfortable.

In those moments when you stretch beyond your comfort zone – that’s when you are most likely to learn and grow.

Second, don’t try to be someone you’re not

One of our students tells the story of coming here as an engineering major and struggling during his first year to admit to himself that he didn’t really like engineering, and wasn’t very good at it. With a lot of introspection and help from his advisor, he’s now a very happy speech pathology major.

I know that many of you have had similar experiences.

College isn’t just learning about an academic subject – it’s learning about yourself. And learning to accept who you are rather than trying to be someone else.

Your student speaker today will share his story about trying to become – as he puts it – a real person, rather than just a happy image on Instagram.

Becoming yourself can take a lifetime. There’s a story about an orthodox Rabbi named Zusya who, as an old man, said:

In the coming world, they will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’

They will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’

When you’re honest with yourself about who you are, what you love to do, and what you’re good at – that’s when you’ll be truly prepared to make the best choices for your career and your life.


I want to close where I began – with our first six women graduates. In many ways, they were no different than all of you … they came here for the opportunity to be educated at a great university.

They were shaped by the same enduring values that have guided your Wisconsin Experience.

And the letters they wrote home weren’t so different from the text messages you send to your families (although I’m told they were asking their parents for things like a fresh batch of pickles and a new slop bucket).

Clara Bewick was the valedictorian of that group of six – you can read about her in your program. She became a journalist and a renowned advocate for women’s rights.

As her graduation approached, she wrote a letter to her grandparents. I want to end with a passage from that letter. She wrote:

How strange it is that the years fly so quickly by. The close of each year brings us to a stopping place, where just for a moment we may tarry and glance back over the road we have passed; a milestone measuring off the past from the future, the actual from the ideal. … It is very pleasant to turn to a new leaf, as yet clean and bright. So “forgetting the things which are behind,” we will “run with patience the race set before us.”

I wish you all the best as you turn over the next new leaf in your life.

Keep in touch. Let us know what you’re doing and how you’re doing.

And remember to come back and visit. You will always be part of UW and I hope that UW will always be part of you. I can’t wait to hear what you accomplish in the years ahead.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

Investing in graduate students at UW Thu, 02 May 2019 00:47:59 +0000 Read More]]> The following is a guest blog by Laurent Heller (Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration) and Norman Drinkwater (Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education)

You may have read recently that a group of graduate student employees have been very vocal about what they believe is a lack of adequate support. We take the concerns of graduate student employees seriously – they are our future colleagues and we wouldn’t be a world-class university without them.

Both of our areas oversee the issues in question. In this blog, we want to focus on what we have been doing to increase our financial support for graduate students, especially as it relates to key campus priorities.

In 2013, when Chancellor Blank came to UW, our graduate student stipend offerings had been below average for a long period of time. In the years since then, we have increased minimum stipends by 42% — from $14,088 for a teaching assistant stipend (for a 50% appointment) to $20,000 next year. This reflects an investment of $12 million in additional central campus funding. Another $16.7 million has come from grants, gifts and other school, college and departmental funding sources.

This has moved stipends for graduate assistants from among the lowest in the Big 10 conference to above the median of AAU institutions. In fact, just this year we increased graduate student stipends by nearly 9% – and that was on top of a 13.3% increase the year before.

It’s important to note that graduate student employees, who are students first and foremost, also receive tuition remission valued at $15,000 and benefits like health insurance.

The Graduate School also has been working to make sure that incoming graduate students are offered a minimum package of four years of support. At present, 76% of departments now offer these packages to some or all of their students, so that incoming students have guarantees of ongoing support for multiple years when they arrive. We expect that all departments will be doing this by the end of next year.

We’ve invested substantially in graduate students. And while we recognize the pressures students are under due to the rising costs of living, it is only equitable to balance our investments across the university.

That’s why we’re funding greater affordability for undergraduates through Bucky’s Tuition promise; it’s why we’re investing in additional faculty through Cluster Hiring and the Targets of Opportunity Program; and it’s why we’re putting more money into ensuring that our teaching and research spaces are safe and functional. All of these important university needs require funding. When we say that we aren’t able to go above what we’ve already invested for next year, it’s because we recognize that there are multiple groups on campus that need and deserve additional funding.

The current graduate student group also has asked for relief from mandatory fees, like an international student fee that supports international students, or student segregated fees, which have increased a relatively modest $75 over the last five years to $641.04 per semester.

Philosophically, we believe all students – graduate and undergraduate alike – must pay segregated fees to support high-quality services that are available to all students, such as access to University Health Services, the upkeep and support of the Wisconsin Union, rec sports facilities, stipends for child care, and other student services that are funded by these fees.

Allowing broad exemptions could ultimately undermine the funding model that provides valuable services to undergraduate and graduate students, enhances the UW-Madison student experience, and is endorsed by the student shared governance body.

Discussions about pay and benefits are always difficult. Faculty and staff at UW received no across-the-board increases for a four-year period – a period when we’ve made significant investments in graduate student pay. We’re proud of the increases we’ve prioritized for graduate students, but we know we must balance our investments across multiple needs on campus.

Launching the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute Mon, 22 Apr 2019 19:26:30 +0000 Read More]]> As you may know, last year I appointed a working group made up of campus and industry leaders and alumni with deep technology industry experience and asked them to make recommendations on how our campus should move forward to retain our leadership in computer and data sciences.

Last week we made two big announcements that will help implement their recommendations.

First, we are creating a new data science institute that will pull together faculty from across campus to collaborate on cutting-edge research, spark new opportunities for our students, and give us new ways to work with industry partners. This institute will be one of the interdisciplinary cross-campus research centers that reports directly to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

Second, a generous gift from American Family Insurance will ensure that our new institute gets off to a strong start. They are expanding their partnership with UW-Madison by making a $20 million investment in data science research at our university. As a result, we will name this institute the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute.

American Family will make a $10 million gift to endow the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute. The 4.5 percent annual return on this endowment can be used to seed new research, support graduate students or postdocs, or help support for events. In addition, we will enter into a Master Research Agreement, providing for $10 million in research funding over ten years to directly support data science research.

Disciplines across campus are becoming more data-driven and this new institute can help facilitate shared research and expertise across campus. This work will pull in students and drive research in everything from climate change modeling to evaluating alternative cancer treatments to exploring voting patterns. Increasing numbers of businesses want to hire students with data science skills and partner with our researchers, driving economic growth in our state and reinforcing UW’s reputation as a leader in this important area.

In addition to the creation of the new American Family Data Science Institute, we will also be funding a cluster hire in the data science area, with three new faculty hired in different fields across the university.

The report from our working group stressed how critical it is that we act now if we want to maintain UW-Madison’s top reputation because our peers are investing and demand for our talented graduates is rising. In fact, computer science is now the number one undergraduate major on campus. Just five years ago 300 students majored in computer science. Today, it’s nearly 1,700 and growing.

In the coming year, faculty from several departments are collaborating to introduce a new major in data science which should will become available in the near future. This will help serve the growing number of students who want to prepare to work in this field.

The American Family Data Science Institute will build on some our other efforts in this area including the Data Science Hub at the WI Institutes for Discovery and the data science initiative – which provided seed money for data science projects across campus. These projects supported 32 faculty and staff from six different schools and colleges on topics that range from identifying risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease to transforming global supply chains to help address climate change.

American Family has been a long-time partner with UW-Madison and has supported research in areas such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. They have supported student scholarships and funded a faculty chair. And they’ve been big supporters of Badger athletics. I’m delighted they want to extend this partnership to include this new institute. It will help us launch the institute more successfully and at a larger scale.

Data science is an area that is flourishing, with applications covering the humanities to engineering. The research conducted through the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute will help propel this field forward. I can’t wait to see the ideas and innovations that we generate at UW in the years ahead.

Comments in response to the current national conversations about university admissions Thu, 28 Mar 2019 00:08:33 +0000 Read More]]> I suspect that many of you over spring break have been reading stories and op-eds about the college admission fraud scandal that was revealed two weeks ago. It’s a sordid story, involving faked test scores, fraudulent application information, and bribery of athletic coaches.

But let’s be clear about the nature of this case. It involved relatively sophisticated criminal fraud, something in which I believe most people – students or parents – would not participate. Admissions officers, even very experienced ones, can be fooled by someone who sets out to explicitly and cleverly falsify their information.

Unfortunately, no university – or any institution – can guarantee that it has a firewall in place to detect all cases of egregious criminal behavior. UW–Madison received almost 44,000 applications this year, which is a lot of information to read through. But we strive to have checks in place to reduce the risk of being victimized by scams and to identify such behavior more quickly when it occurs.

All of our students go through the same admissions process. There’s no separate admissions for our student athletes. They have to meet the admissions criteria just like everybody else.

The discussion following this scandal has also reopened the debate about legacy admissions and about the privileges that students from wealthier families have when applying to college.

There are many things that make me proud to be at UW–Madison. One of them is our long tradition of open doors to all students in the state. As many of our alumni can attest, we admit students from all backgrounds across the state and – particularly for students from lower-income families or who are first-generation college students – we give them knowledge and open up possibilities that they would not have dreamed of at an earlier age.

That was the point of creating state-affiliated public universities – to provide educational opportunities to all students who are ready to attend college.

As state funding for public universities has decreased, tuition has risen. High quality university-level education isn’t cheap. We need top scholars on the faculty, a first-rate library, excellent IT services, and facilities in which students can learn effectively both in the classroom and in labs. If the state is paying less, attendees will have to pay more…or grateful alumni will have to provide more scholarship aid.

We’ve done a number of things to make sure UW–Madison is accessible to any student from Wisconsin who is admitted. Over the last six years, through our alumni giving campaign, we’ve added more than 3,000 new scholarships. Furthermore, we’ve allocated a growing share of internal resources to scholarship aid…our UW-provided aid has grown from $13.9 million in 2000 to $93.8 million in 2018.

As a result of these new dollars, we’ve created several scholarship programs aimed at making UW–Madison affordable to all. Best known among these is Bucky’s Tuition Promise, which started just this past year, and which promises four years of funding for tuition and fees for all Wisconsin students who come from families in the bottom half of the Wisconsin income distribution (that means their family income is $58,000 or less.)

We need to keep building our scholarship aid. And I was pleased that Governor Evers proposed to increase state aid to low-income Wisconsin students, a proposal I hope the Legislature will approve later this spring.

Another reason I’m proud to be at a public university is that these schools typically do not give any extra points to legacy admits. If you want to get into UW–Madison, you’ll have to rely on your own record, not the record of your parents. Being the child of a UW alum or being the child of a major UW donor, as grateful as we are for both, doesn’t give you extra credit in the Admissions Office. Some of our alumni are disappointed and angry every year when their child does not get into UW – believe me, I receive those angry letters.

This is enforced by the fact that the chancellor or other senior UW leaders don’t have any direct involvement in admissions decisions. (In fact, senior leaders at other public universities have lost their jobs for trying to help particular students gain admission.) I am regularly approached by parents or friends of prospective students, and my preemptory response is always as clear as I can make it: “I do not participate in the admissions process. You should contact the Admissions Office directly if you have information for them.”

I am proud of the fact that I can look any student at UW in the eye and say to them, “You’re here because your record of accomplishment and promise made you someone we want on campus.”

It’s true that some prospective students have more advantages growing up, which may make their admission application look stronger…maybe they went to a high school with more advanced classes or their parents could afford to send them to test-prep courses prior to taking the ACT. That’s one reason why we run enrichment programs in Madison and Milwaukee aimed at taking students who might not otherwise expect to attend college or who would not be prepared without some extra help. And that’s also why we use a holistic admissions process. We don’t want to have to build a class based solely on test scores or solely on grade point average, or solely on any one measure. We weigh the opportunities a student had against what they did with those opportunities.

All of that said, some students who may want to come here don’t get in. While we admit about two-thirds of all Wisconsin applicants, some of our applicants are turned down. And some students don’t even try because they don’t think they can get in.

That’s why being part of the UW System matters. Some students will do better at one of the other excellent four-year campuses. And some students are better starting college at a two-year technical college or UW branch campus – it can be less expensive, closer to home, and can give them some of the study skills and academic preparation that they might lack coming out of high school. We work hard to make transfers into UW–Madison easy for those who want to come here. In fact, we have transfer agreements with most two-year Wisconsin schools, so that students who complete an associate’s degree with a certain grade point average and who have taken a certain basic set of general education courses are automatically admitted to UW–Madison.

Anyone who works in the admissions office of a major university will tell you that admissions decisions are an art and not a science. We want a class of students who can succeed at UW–Madison, but we know that we may need to provide some additional help to those whose high school preparation might have been a little less strong.

Consistent with our Mission Statement, we seek a student body that reflects diversity in all its forms. Part of a college education is the opportunity to meet students from very different backgrounds than your own. We want students who grew up on dairy farms, in small towns, in big cities, and in different countries to learn from each other. And we want students to meet persons with different gender identities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, political beliefs, and religious backgrounds. And yes, we want some students with particular exceptional talents, including those with special athletic skills or artistic skills.

I and others here at UW work hard to make sure that we make UW–Madison accessible to Wisconsin students whose background indicates they can succeed here. I’m proud of this university’s 171-year record of serving students from across the state.

Governor’s Budget Proposal Invests in Higher Education Mon, 04 Mar 2019 21:46:25 +0000 Read More]]> Last week, Governor Tony Evers introduced a very promising UW System budget proposal for the next biennium. It includes – among other plans – a robust reinvestment in higher education, more funding for financial aid, targeted investment in high-demand majors to promote workforce development, and a much-needed pay plan that will keep our faculty and staff from falling further behind their peers at other institutions.

This is only a proposal and (as discussed below) it’s not clear how the legislature will respond to these proposals or what the final budget will contain in higher education funding.  But the Governor’s budget is a starting point.

As I’ve said many times, budgets demonstrate priorities. It’s clear the governor, a career educator, understands that spending on education yields a strong return on investment, and a strong higher education system is a driver of the economy statewide.

The UW changes lives. This plan to reinvest recognizes the potential for our students, faculty, staff and alumni to positively impact our communities around the state.

Systemwide, the budget proposal has $45 million for capacity building initiatives that promote workforce development and expand student success and attainment. At UW-Madison, the funding would be used to expand four programs that have not been able to keep up with the strong growth in student demand, and where employer demand is also soaring.

This includes our computer science program, where additional funds would help us create a new undergraduate degree in data science, add 2,000 seats in high-demand classes and graduate between 800 and 1,000 more students over the next five years in these areas.

In engineering, we’d use the funding to develop new courses, ease course bottlenecks and expand student enrollment with the goal of graduating 650 more engineers over the next five years. We would also target funding to attract and retain more underrepresented students to the program.

In the business school, the capacity-building funding would be used to create 300 additional student spots for undergraduate majors and enhance our offering of high-demand online business courses. Finally, we would use these funds to add 40 new spots in our nursing program (a 25 percent increase) to help address the statewide nursing shortage and update our nursing education technology.

Overall, the proposal provides $150 million in additional funding to the UW System. About $50 million of that is to fund the cost of continuing the freeze on undergraduate resident tuition. While our tuition may be frozen, our costs are not frozen and I appreciate the governor’s plan to allocate funds to cover the increasing costs our campus faces. That said, I believe that eight years of a tuition freeze is too long and this is simply not sustainable much longer.

The budget includes a boost of $17.4 million to the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) for need-based grants to resident undergraduate students, helping more students gain access to a degree. One of my major priorities is to make UW-Madison affordable to all students who are admitted. I applaud the governor for proposing to help fund access for more students.

The proposal also includes funding to provide a 2 percent compensation increase for state employees – including UW System employees – on January 1, 2020, and an additional two percent on January 1, 2021.

The full budget summary can be found here. Details of the UW System budget proposal can be read here.

This budget is far from finished. The Joint Finance Committee will consider the budget next, and their proposed budget will have to pass the full legislature before going back to the governor again for his signature. As you know, a number of legislative leaders have suggested that they will start from scratch on their own budget and not use the governor’s budget as the starting point.

We’ll see where we are when a final budget passes next summer. But in the meantime, it’s good to have an initial proposal from the governor that recognizes the importance of the UW System to the state of Wisconsin, and that makes investments in higher education.

Additional information about the state budget proposal and process can be found at

Sharing the stories of how UW Changes Lives Tue, 26 Feb 2019 01:41:12 +0000 Read More]]> When I travel around the state, I try to schedule time to visit with Wisconsin businesses, public officials, community partners, and alumni. These conversations are a great way to learn more about the many ways the Wisconsin Idea touches communities all over our state – and it’s a great opportunity to talk about UW as well. We have faculty and staff from our campus working on everything from manufacturing innovation to helping dairy farmers find success in a tough market.

This is a budget year, which means we’ll be making special efforts to remind citizens across Wisconsin of the value that this flagship university brings to their community. For instance, did you know we were the largest employer in the state? The state provides only 14% of our revenue. We generate over $7 in revenue for every one dollar provided by the state, and a substantial part of that comes from sources outside the state, through out-of-state tuition dollars, federal research funding, and alumni gifts. That means the university drives employment and economic growth that would not otherwise occur. If you want the state to thrive, you want UW-Madison to thrive!

In addition to these larger economic effects, we have programs and outreach efforts everywhere in the state that reflect our ongoing commitment to the Wisconsin Idea. And the addition of Cooperative Extension and Wisconsin Public TV and Wisconsin Public Radio as part of UW-Madison adds even more to the story of how the university reaches every part of the state.

Over the next few months we will be telling more of these stories using the theme “UW Changes Lives” to show all of the ways the work done at UW-Madison changes lives and powers the Wisconsin economy.

The campaign started this month with the theme of health care. Whether it’s helping communities tackle diabetes, doing research to help stop the spread of diseases from ticks and mosquitoes, giving veterans the tools they need to manage COPD, or training more nurses and pharmacists to address shortages in rural areas, UW-Madison improves the health of residents across the state of Wisconsin. You can read more about those stories in the February edition of our Wisconsin Ideas newsletter here.

In March, we will highlight all the ways our campus is committed to improving the lives of Wisconsin residents by providing an affordable world class education through programs like Bucky’s Tuition Promise. Our many partnerships with agriculture, the agricultural innovations that have come from UW, and the work done by Extension will be highlighted in April. Our research helps farmers across the state, while county extension agents bring that work to farmers and local ag producers. In May, we will showcase our educational contributions, highlighting our importance to the state’s workforce and to Wisconsin’s ability to attract employers who want highly-skilled workers. June will bring stories illustrating the many business partnerships we have around the state.

You can find these stores at and by searching the #UWChangesLives hashtag on Twitter. I invite you to share these stories widely and help us show Wisconsin residents the many ways that UW changes lives.

Survey seeks to better understand sexual violence on campus Fri, 15 Feb 2019 18:14:08 +0000 Read More]]> This is a joint message from Chancellor Blank and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor.

This week, students at UW–Madison received email invitation to participate in the Association of American Universities (AAU) Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey. This is a national survey aimed at better understanding how sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence impact college campuses. We use the data to help make our campus a safer place by improving education, prevention and response efforts.

Sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and stalking violate UW-Madison policy and state and federal law.  We first did a survey of these issues in 2015 when a group of AAU schools initiated it. The 2015 results confirmed what we already knew, that these sexual assault and harassment were occurring at unacceptably high levels. But they also gave us a sense of how the incidence varied among different groups and where such behavior was most likely to occur.

Student involvement in this survey is invaluable and will help shape future campus policies and programs. Results from the 2015 survey prompted changes to important programs and services for students, including additional required education for incoming students, more programming for graduate students, and hiring more victim advocates and more Title IX investigators. All undergraduate, graduate, and professional students are eligible to participate. Participation is confidential and voluntary, and any experiences that are disclosed will not be considered a report to the university. Results of the survey will be communicated with the campus community during the fall 2019 semester.

UW-Madison supports healthy, mutually respectful relationships that are free from violence. We’re dedicated to preventing sexual violence before it happens and, when misconduct is reported, to promptly responding with support for survivors and an investigation if the survivor requests one. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or dating violence, help is available at UHS.

So if you’re a student, we urge you to fill out the survey. And if you’re a faculty or staff member, please encourage students you know to take part.

With your input, UW-Madison will continue to respond, prevent, support, and improve. We must work together to create a culture of respect and support on our campus. Join us in making UW–Madison safer for everyone.

Investing in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Thu, 07 Feb 2019 19:28:30 +0000 Read More]]> In my annual address to the Regents today, I discussed five goals – areas where we are working to expand our programs and reputation — and talked about the resources and strategies needed to meet those goals.

None of this should be news to those on campus who’ve been paying attention.  They are all areas where we’ve already made significant strides, thanks to the hard work of our faculty and staff.  But more work remains, both to maintain our accomplishments and to move forward.

Here are the goals I shared with the Regents, and a few thoughts on how we achieve them.

Goal #1: Maintain and Further Strengthen Educational Outcomes

In the past few years, we have decreased time-to-degree, increased our six-year graduation rate, shrunk the graduation gap between all students and students from underrepresented groups, and decreased the number of undergraduates taking on student debt.

This would be extraordinary at any time – but it’s particularly notable that we accomplished these things while also conferring a record number of degrees, expanding the size of the freshman class, and absorbing budget cuts.

Reasons for our success include improved advising as well as the expansion of summer term, which gives students more flexibility to complete their degrees.  Here are a few additional programs we are working on:

  • Early-start programs to help freshmen get a jump start on their degree;
  • Gap year programs to give students the option of delaying their start here at UW in order to spend a year abroad that we help them arrange;
  • Online degree programs, which expand access and allow us to bring a UW-Madison degree within reach for more non-traditional undergraduates.

I want to see us create and expand all of these initiatives.  By 2020, my hope is to have at least one fully online undergraduate degree program available.

Goal #2: Grow Accessibility

We need to make sure that every student who can qualify for admission at UW-Madison can afford to come.

We’ve made important progress toward this goal over the last two years with Badger Promise and Bucky’s Tuition Promise, both of which provide tuition funding for our middle-and-lower income students and simplify the process so that families know up front what they can expect from us.

This academic year was the first for Bucky’s Tuition Promise, a program that promises students up front that — if they are admitted to UW-Madison and if their family income is in the bottom half of the Wisconsin income distribution (below $58,000) — we will put together a funding package that guarantees coverage of tuition and fees for four years.  We already have nearly 800 students from 65 Wisconsin counties in the program – or about 17% of the freshman class.

But we still have substantial unmet need.

Part of the solution is more fundraising.  Over the past 10 years, our friends and alumni have enabled us to more than triple the number of scholarship dollars we provide to students.  But as we’ve expanded our commitment, the federal and state governments have decreased theirs.  They need to re-invest in our students, and we’re working hard to make that case both in Madison and in Washington.

Goal #3: Grow research strength

Over the last 10 years, our research expenditures have lagged our peers.  We’ve turned this around in the past two years, but expanding our research enterprise and maintaining this university as a top research center will be neither quick nor easy.

We need to continue to build our federal grants – which will require an investment in faculty, staff, and facilities – and continue to grow appropriate industry partnerships.

To accomplish these first three goals, we need to build a foundation that makes them possible.  These last two goals are about building that foundation.

Goal #4: Maintain and grow faculty strength

As I told the Regents, the reputation and the quality of a university rests on its faculty.  We’ve started a couple of new programs that are going to help us build long-term faculty strength:

  • The Cluster Hire Program, which we began a year ago to grow faculty strength in areas of key scientific and academic interest, and
  • The TOP (Targets of Opportunity) Program, which gives schools and colleges new resources from the central campus to recruit people from groups who are underrepresented in their departments.

In the Cluster Hire Program, we created 10 new clusters in the first two rounds, and are currently hiring for those as we review proposals from round three.  We also have more than two dozen TOP Program recruitments underway in departments across the campus.

One of our biggest ongoing challenges to building faculty strength on this campus is competitive pay.  Our full professors make 10.4% less than the median of our peers, and we are at the bottom of our salary peer group.

The Board of Regents has asked for 3% pay increases in each year of the coming biennium.  We’ll see what the Governor and the legislature propose.  But a 3% annual increase is about what our peers will do also, so it will not help catch us up.  At some point, we are going to have to find funds for a larger catch-up program for faculty across the System.

Goal #5: Strengthen financial stability

To make any of the investments that we need, we have to have a reliable pool of investment dollars each year.

We’ve come through a very challenging period with deep cuts to the state budget combined with a tuition freeze.   In the 2013-15 and the 2015-17 budget cycles we clearly fell behind our competitors.  During that time, we worked on a variety of fronts to become more entrepreneurial in order to generate our own investment income to fund the things this university must do to retain its excellence.  This work has been paying off in the past two years.

Many of our newest investments have been funded from the dollars we have generated by expanding programs such as the summer semester, increasing out-of-state tuition, and running a high-energy fundraising campaign among our alumni (now 90% of the way to its $3.2 billion goal).

But we’re still playing catch-up.  Our peer schools were growing their revenues in a period when ours were declining.  It’s going to take time and effort to regain lost ground.  The state has an important role to play, which is why we’re spending substantial time in the state Capitol these days making a case for state reinvestment in the university.

The Bottom Line

The key to a strong future for UW-Madison is investing in the right areas.  For too many years we were essentially standing still, if not moving backwards, because of reduced budgets.  We’ve turned that around, thanks to the state, our alumni, and the very good work of our faculty and staff.

If we are to maintain our reputation and our quality, we need to invest – and make sure those investments are strategic and well-targeted.

How important is this?  Let me quote one of my favorite U.S. political figures, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  He said:

“If you want to create a great city [and I would say a great state as well]

First, create a great university….

Then wait 100 years.”

The State of Wisconsin has been supporting us for 171 years.  We are one of the important engines of the state’s economy and have educated many of its leading citizens over the years.  The University of Wisconsin in Madison has long been one of the great public universities in the country.  It’s up to all of us to make sure that reputation continues.

Download a PDF of Chancellor Blank’s presentation

Comments to the U.S. Department of Education on proposed Title IX rule Mon, 28 Jan 2019 23:08:26 +0000 Read More]]> Note: Below is a letter from Chancellor Blank to the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed rule that would affect how universities respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The deadline for submitting public comments is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30. Learn more

Jan. 28, 2019

Brittany Bull
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW Room 6E310
Washington, DC 20202


RE: Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064

 University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Comments Regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s Proposed Rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance


Dear Ms. Bull,

I write on behalf of the University of Wisconsin–Madison to provide feedback on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) proposed rule relating to Title IX. You have also received comments from the University of Wisconsin System, of which UW–Madison is a part.  These comments are intended to reinforce that broader feedback and provide information that is specific to our campus.

I want to begin by stating unequivocally that every student has the right to be safe on campus. Sexual violence and misconduct is absolutely unacceptable and can have a devastating impact on students who experience it, both personally and in terms of their ability to complete their education.

It’s important to also consider what the data tell us about sexual assault and how it impacts our campus. In 2015, UW–Madison participated in a first-of-its-kind national survey administered to students at 27 colleges and universities by the Association of American Universities (AAU). It found that more than one in four undergraduate women (27.6 percent) at UW–Madison reported experiencing sexual assault or misconduct (defined as nonconsensual sexual penetration or touching). This is consistent with national results. Perpetrators were overwhelmingly identified as fellow students, often a friend or acquaintance, and assaults most commonly occurred in student residences, such as on-campus residence halls and off-campus private apartments. The vast majority of these incidents are not reported to police or campus authorities – many students reported a lack of confidence that an investigation would be fair or result in action against the offender.

A serious approach to reducing violence, therefore, must be one that students trust and that protects the rights of both parties in a complaint. All of us at UW–Madison are dedicated to preventing sexual assault and, when allegations occur, to investigating fairly and impartially while respecting the due process rights of respondents. As mentioned in the UW System feedback, parts of the proposed rule will be helpful in this endeavor. However, other parts need improvement to achieve our shared goals of protecting student safety and providing equitable policies and procedures.

I will focus on five areas in particular:

The role of campus disciplinary proceedings: Our non-academic misconduct proceedings are not criminal trials and they do not result in criminal sanctions. The final rule should clearly reflect this distinction between an administrative student conduct process and criminal procedure.

Standard of proof: We appreciate ED’s acknowledgment that both the “preponderance of the evidence” standard and “clear and convincing” standard comport with due process. However, universities need the flexibility to choose between a “preponderance of the evidence” and “clear and convincing evidence” standard in Title IX cases without tethering that standard to other types of misconduct cases. Currently, the burden of proof for UW System proceedings varies between “clear and convincing” and “preponderance” depending upon the type of conduct at issue and the severity of the sanction imposed. We support continuing this approach.

Off campus conduct: About 80 percent of our students live off campus. Each year, more than 2,000 students study abroad – one of the highest rates of study abroad participation in the country. UW System’s student non-academic misconduct code applies to student conduct outside of an institutional program or activity if the behavior implicates an institutional interest or creates a health and safety risk for the student or others. This includes sexual harassment and sexual violence that occurs off campus, including during study abroad programs.

The proposed rule requires colleges and universities to dismiss Title IX complainants for conduct that occurs outside of the university’s programs and activities and outside the U.S. Yet the proposed rule also appears to permit colleges and universities to utilize their typical employee and student disciplinary procedures to address such conduct, which would create a confusing bifurcated process. The proposed rule should be changed to allow institutions to apply their code of conduct as deemed appropriate and use the same procedures for all misconduct that affects the health and safety of its community.

 Informal Resolutions: Alternative methods for addressing complaints of sexual misconduct outside of formal investigations are very effective in allowing the university to engage in proactive and preventative measures without jeopardizing the due process rights of individuals. Often this is done at the complainant’s request. One common method is to have a conversation with the respondent aimed at educating that individual about behavioral expectations and university policy. This allows concerns to be addressed when a complainant does not wish to be identified due to fear of retaliation or simply wants the misconduct to stop. These informal resolutions do not include any fact finding and do not have any punitive impact on the respondents. The proposed rule should be amended to make clear that this practice can continue without any additional requirements.

Cross-examination: Our student disciplinary procedures provide the opportunity for a live hearing, which includes the opportunity for respondents and complainants to cross-examine individuals who testify at the hearing. We do not, however, have the legal authority to compel complainants or witnesses to appear at disciplinary proceedings. Sometimes complainants and witnesses agree to testify at the hearing, but if they do not, the investigative report is used by the committee to make decisions. Requiring complainants and witnesses to testify at a live hearing would likely reduce the number of individuals who request formal investigations, as complainants may be reluctant to subject themselves or their friends to cross examination. Alternatively, complainants and witnesses for either party may choose to participate during the investigative process but decline to participate in the subsequent live hearing, leaving the university unable to present that evidence. This would limit UW–Madison’s ability to address sexual harassment and sexual assault. The requirement should be removed.

In closing, I want to thank ED for using the rulemaking process to address these important issues. Doing so provides the opportunity for public comment and input, which ultimately will result in better public policy. I appreciate your consideration of these comments.

Rebecca M. Blank,

Chancellor, University of Wisconsin – Madison