Blank’s Slate – Office of the Chancellor – UW–Madison Thu, 17 Oct 2019 19:57:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Video: Breakfast with the Chancellor 2019 Tue, 15 Oct 2019 18:32:28 +0000 ]]> AAU survey highlights need for continued action against sexual violence, misconduct Tue, 15 Oct 2019 16:01:15 +0000 Read More]]> Sexual assault and misconduct remain serious problems on every campus across the country. Ensuring the safety of our students is a fundamental priority for all of us at UW–Madison.

Today our university released results from the 2019 American Association of Universities survey on sexual assault and misconduct. When our university participated in this survey in 2015, it was a first-of-its-kind effort nationally.

The results from 2015 led to the campus investing in a number of new and enhanced programs. These included hiring of additional staff in the Title IX Office and University Health Services; mandatory prevention training for all faculty, staff and graduate students; and additional in-person mandatory education for undergraduate students.

Surveys like this one are a critical tool for assessing and improving our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence and to support all survivors.

I am deeply grateful to the students who took the time to share their experiences, understanding how difficult that can be. Your courage and honesty will help our campus become a safer and more supportive environment. To those students from communities that are disproportionately affected, including LGBTQ+ students and students with disabilities, I want to let you know that we hear you and are committed to supporting you.

It is encouraging to see that in comparing our 2019 survey results to 2015, both undergraduate and graduate students report significantly higher levels of knowledge about sexual assault and campus resources; the levels of knowledge at UW-Madison are also higher than at other universities.

Another positive development is that most students who see concerning behavior report taking some action to prevent further harm. Student involvement is essential in both preventing assault and misconduct and supporting survivors.

Rates of sexual assault at UW-Madison remain similar to other universities. While rates of sexual assault for undergraduate women rose between 2015 and 2019 for other AAU institutions, there was no significant change at UW-Madison. However, our numbers remain distressingly high – and even a single incidence of sexual assault is too many.  In 2019, 26.1 percent of undergraduate women at UW-Madison reported having experienced some form of sexual assault; 11 percent reported experiencing assault by penetration.

Going forward, we must strengthen our efforts to reduce these rates and to increase the number of students who seek campus support after experiencing assault or misconduct. Currently 87 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported to any campus resource, even including confidential resources. This means that students are not able to access critical support such as mental health services and academic accommodations.

As we did in 2015, we will be using the 2019 survey results to refine campus policies and programs. I urge students, faculty and staff to attend campus forums in November to share your feedback, questions and concerns.

Reducing sexual violence at UW will require changes in behavior and culture as well as in resources and the campus environment. All of us need to understand the importance of consent, watch for warning signs and be willing to intervene.

We are committed to doing all we can to ensure a safe living and learning environment for all of our students. When sexual assault occurs, we will respond swiftly and with compassion, providing resources and support. Together, we can reduce sexual violence.

Summer Term increases offerings for more students—online, on campus and around the world Wed, 09 Oct 2019 20:00:19 +0000 Read More]]> With the leaves starting to change color and fall semester in full swing, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on another successful Summer Term. Aside from enjoying summer in Madison with warm evenings on the Terrace, students spent the summer furthering their academic careers.

Summer Term enrollments in 2019 were up 7 percent from last year. For many students, Summer Term has become an integral part of the Wisconsin experience.

Summer enrollment of incoming first-year students increased by 56 percent from last summer. In 2019, the inaugural Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch program invited incoming first-year students to take an online course, meet fellow students and faculty, and move in to their residence halls early. This program joins our growing list of early start opportunities, including the Electrical & Computer Engineering Summer Launch, Mechanical Engineering Summer Launch, and the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS) QuickStart Program.

Students also got a head start with the International Student Summer Institute and the UW Study Abroad Summer Launch. UW Rebels and Revolutions in Ireland is a 3-credit political science course that included guided visits around Dublin and an excursion to Northern Ireland to explore ideas central to political thinking in Ireland and the U.S., from the English Civil War to the American Revolution. Summer is a great time for international experiences on campus, too, with our eight-week summer language programs through the Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institute.

On campus, students took a broad range of courses, from the ever-popular Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory to the newer Design Thinking for Transformation. They also explored yoga and mindfulness in Introduction to Relaxation: Mind, Body and Spirit and studied American Sign Language in Communication Sciences and Disorders 424.

But not everybody can attend classes in person during the summer. Thousands of students took advantage of our growing list of nearly 300 online courses, a 25 percent increase in online enrollment from last year. Students are telling us they want more online choices, and schools and colleges are answering the call. The Wisconsin School of Business doubled their online offerings, including courses on Introductory Business Law, Marketing Management, and Fundraising and Development.

Many summer offerings focus on experiential learning and career skills. For example, our new Sports Communication Certificate through the School of Journalism and Mass Communications combines high quality journalism and marketing communications instruction with career exploration in a 12-credit package. This summer, students took two of the required courses. Learning to write for Sports Illustrated or studying the Green Bay Packers is not a bad way to spend the summer.

In addition to online and on-campus opportunities, Summer Term is becoming a time to make community connections. We offered nearly 20 community-based learning courses this summer, including Legal Studies/Sociology 694, a 3-credit internship through the Center for Law, Society & Justice. Students spent 300 hours at an agency focused on individuals who are justice-involved, at-risk, or affected by crime.

Students in Nursing 436: Summer Respite Camp Immersion for Undergraduate Nursing Students spent three weeks at an Easter Seals camp, providing services for people with a broad spectrum of disabilities while building and practicing new nursing skills.

For our Badgers coming to the end of their academic careers, summer is increasingly a time to savor one last season. Graduating students took advantage of our Summer Finish program to complete their degree with the help of a scholarship. Various scholarships have, in fact, been a highlight of Summer Term—we made more than 1,000 scholarship offers for summer study.

Thank you to the Summer Term office, faculty and staff for continuing to make courses and experiences more accessible to a wider range of students. And, thanks to our summer students who keep campus buzzing May through August—whether they’re walking up Bascom Hill, studying abroad, or taking an online course while working in another city.

State of the University address Mon, 07 Oct 2019 21:15:42 +0000 Read More]]> As prepared for delivery to the UW-Madison Faculty Senate, 3:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 7, Bascom Hall.

Welcome. I want to thank all of the Senators and alternates for your service and dedication to shared governance.

I’d especially like to welcome:

  • New UC chair Terry Warfield (Wisconsin School of Business)
  • Jane Richard, serving as Interim Secretary of the Faculty

New UC members:

  • Erica Halverson (School of Education)
  • Eric Sandgren (School of Veterinary Medicine)

I know we have a number of new Senators – how many of you are new?  Thank you for serving.

New leadership:

  • Provost Karl Scholz
  • Interim VCRGE Steve Ackerman
  • Wisconsin School of Business Dean Vallabh Sambamurthy
  • Interim L&S Dean Eric Wilcots
  • Dean of Students Christina Olstad

We also have several major searches in the works – thank you to those of you who are taking part in these:

  • VCRGE search, headed by Bill Murphy from the College of Engineering
  • Dean of the Division of Extension, headed by Jed Colquhoun
  • Dean of Letters & Science search later this semester.
  • Search for a new Secretary of the Faculty, headed by Terry Warfield.
  • And it was just announced on Friday that the Dean of the Law School, Margaret Raymond will be stepping down at the end of this academic year. I want to publicly thank Margaret for her years of service as dean; this may well produce a third dean search this year.
  1. News from Campus

The new academic year has started off very well – let me share just a few pieces of good news.

Top faculty awards

First, a couple of weeks ago we got word that two of our faculty were selected for 2019 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as Genius Grants. These are given to individuals who show exceptional creativity, and whose work is likely to have a profound impact. They are:

  • Professor Lynda Barry from the Art Department. Lynda is an award-winning cartoonist and author who teaches art classes for STEM students.
  • Associate Professor Andrea Dutton from the Geoscience Department.
  • Andrea is one of our newest hires. We recruited her through the TOP program that provides central-campus funds to departments to go after people who are not well-represented in their discipline.
  • Andrea is a great example of what we’re hoping to achieve in this program. Geoscience is heavily dominated by male scholars – both here and around the country. Our Geoscience Department had just one female faculty member a year ago … after some really targeted recruitment, they are now up to three (out of 22 professors).

Delighted to see the results of this first year of TOP, and very proud to have two MacArthur recipients in one year. Another testament to UW-Madison faculty quality.

Of course, we have quite a few other ‘geniuses’ on our faculty. Next week at my house we’ll celebrate 78 faculty members who won prestigious national and international awards this year.

Excellent freshman class

Set a new record for freshman applicants – nearly 44,000 from every U.S. state and 125 countries outside U.S. Up 3% — all out of-state

  • Enrolling students from:
    • 71 counties (missing Menomonie)
    • 46 states (missing Hawaii, Louisiana, South Dakota, West Virginia)
    • 46 countries outside of the U.S.

New freshman class is just over 7,500 students – largest ever – and includes 3,797 Wisconsin residents. Close to 900 transfer students. A bit of an enrollment surprise … both good news and bad news.

  • Unexpectedly high yield among our non-resident admitted students. We’d intended to add about 250 non-resident freshmen – instead adding more than twice as many.
  • Speaks to our national reputation as an excellent school and good value. But also creates some challenges – we’ve worked to make sure we have housing and advising available to the larger class.

Misleading headline in Wisconsin State Journal a couple of weeks ago left impression we were reducing Wisconsin students in our freshman class. The opposite is true. This is the second-largest cohort of in-state students in last 10 years. Admitted 68% of Wisconsin applicants.

Hard to push further on our in-state admissions, given the shrinking number of HS graduates in Wisconsin. We should be proud we have maintained and even increased our applications and admissions of WI students. But as we tap into our very deep and growing pool of out-of-state students, that reduces the share in-state.

Furthermore, the modest increase in out-of-state students that we’ve made is to the advantage of our WI students and to the state. We are using some of those funds to provide free tuition and fees for 20% of the class – all WI students – through Bucky’s Tuition Promise and Badger Promise.

I’d also note that we are the only institution in the state that brings 3,500 highly talented young adults into a state that is short of this talent, giving a chance for WI-based firms to recruit and retain them in the state.

  • Share of underrepresented students of color remains constant at just under 11%, but numbers are growing. Five years ago, just over 600 in freshman class; today more than 800. All students of color (including those who are not from targeted minority groups) make up 20% of the class.
  • Quality of our freshmen – as measured by ACT and SAT scores – has also increased. We have successfully translated an increase in quantity among our applicants into an increase in quality among our incoming freshmen.

Large number of new faculty

Our new faculty hires are also very strong.

  • We welcomed 147 new faculty in 2018-19 … largest number since we started keeping track in 2004-05.
  • This faculty expansion is long overdue, particularly in departments dealing with more students selecting their classes. With next round of cluster hiring, and other new dollars available to schools/colleges, I hope we can continue to grow the faculty.
  • Good news to report about recent faculty retention efforts. There were 46 retention cases reported for 2018-19, continuing our downward trend.

Successful transition for Coop Extension

Successfully transitioned Cooperative Extension and Public Media back to UW-Madison. Officially became one organization on July 1.

Next job is to really integrate the University and Extension. That means getting to know each other and starting to work together.

  • I know this is the first Faculty Senate meeting with our new Division of Extension senators – welcome.

First STARS rating

We’ve taken an important step that will help us to organize and track our efforts to make this campus greener and more sustainable.

Earlier this afternoon we announced our first-ever STARS rating.  STARS stands for Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System. National program that rates colleges and universities on a number of different measures related to environmental sustainability.

STARS rating tells us where we’re doing well and where we need to improve, and how we’re stacking up against our peers.

It’s also helpful for recruitment.

To get a rating, you have to submit a very long and detailed report.

We received a ‘silver’ (that’s third place – behind platinum and gold – it’s typical for a first-year rating).

Next step is working on things we need to improve. We’re convening two new groups to work on different pieces of this.

Heritage marker

We also acknowledged some difficult parts of our history this past summer. UW sits on the ancestral homeland of the Ho Chunk people. They were here for 13,000 years before they were forcibly removed.

Took first step to begin telling that story in June, when we joined with Ho Chunk leaders to put up a heritage marker on Bascom Hill.

Will travel campus for first year, since we’re digging up Bascom Hill to replace steam pipes.

No plaque or monument can adequately convey this history, but we’re hoping this will help start conversations that can increase our awareness of, and our connections with, the Native American community in this state.

Homecoming video:

It’s the start of Homecoming week and I want to directly address the recent issue of the student video and our larger efforts to make our current campus a welcoming and inclusive place. It’s clear that nobody was paying attention to diversity issues when this Homecoming video was produced, presenting a limited view of campus that excluded many students. That’s not acceptable. The Alumni Association, which oversees homecoming and the student homecoming committee, has already announced a number of steps they will take to prevent this happening in the future. I share in apologizing for the hurt that has been caused.

The reaction wasn’t just about a video, but more broadly, the feeling of exclusion our communities of color feel on a regular basis. Each time an event happens like this, it further demonstrates that the day-to-day campus experience for many students of color is not what we want it to be.

We all have a responsibility to help improve this and I’m asking you as senators and colleagues across campus to be leaders in these efforts, especially for ways to improve inclusion in academic settings.

New Music Center

Final piece of big news since we last met is the opening of the Hamel Music Center and Mead Witter School of Music.

Soft opening a week ago, official opening Oct. 25.

Music School is excited to build new collaborations across campus – and really excited to see the impact on education, and on ability to recruit.

  1. Budget

Will tell you some of the other things we’ll be focused on in the coming year – but no beginning-of-year presentation is complete without a discussion of the budget.

Gov. Evers signed new state budget into law on July 3. Contains good and not-so-good news for us.

On the not-so-good side, the new state budget includes very few new dollars in educational and programmatic support. Approved $45 million to the System over the next two years. These new dollars do not even keep pace with inflation.

Furthermore, in-state tuition is frozen for another two years.

In better news – 2% raises in January 2020 and January 2021 for all UW System employees. Increase is funded 70% by the state – the rest comes from us.

And budget also gives us approval to move forward on several major facilities projects. Most important is the expansion and renovation at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Also got funding for much-needed building maintenance and renovation.

  • Investment Priorities

Because of our own efforts to be entrepreneurial and generate new investment dollars, we have some investment funds to spend. Much of this is going back to schools and colleges.

Raising money isn’t the point. Point is that the money can be invested in UW to make it better. Our entrepreneurial efforts have given us some dollars to invest, and we’ve established 4 top priorities:

  1. Maintain and grow faculty strength
  2. Cultivate educational excellence
  3. Expand & improve student access
  4. Expand and improve research

I’m going to talk very briefly about each.

#1:  Maintain & grow faculty strength

Faculty quality is the bedrock of this institution. Need to continue to make significant investments in faculty if we’re going to remain a top school.

  1. Compensation
  • Since 2015, central campus has invested more than $59 million in merit and equity-based raises and one-time bonuses for both faculty and staff.
  • Schools and colleges leveraged those investments with additional dollars — $15 million in 2018-19.
  • This year again allocating compensation funds to all departments for merit and equity increases and one-time bonuses for faculty and staff.
  • Same as last year: $3.5 million for faculty, $4 million for staff, and $4 million for bonuses
  • Result over past four years has been to raise us from bottom of the comparison group to the next-to-the-bottom — #11 rather than #12. We want to do better than that.
  • In June, announced additional $9 million for targeted faculty increases. Aimed at highly productive faculty in highly ranked departments whose departmental salaries are substantially below peer median.
  1. Cluster Hire Program
  • A way to be strategic about hiring in areas of research where a group hire of new faculty can help us move forward.
  • In first 15 months, approved hiring for 16 new research clusters. Another round underway now (closing Oct 18).
  • Authorized 30 hires, have 16 accepted offers and a number of others pending.
  1. TOP program

 Third focus area is TOP program, mentioned earlier. TOP stands for targets-of-opportunity program.

  • Created TOP a year ago to give departments new tools to go after people from groups not well-represented within discipline. Want to diversify in every possible way – not just racial diversity.
  • Goal is recruitment but also building a stronger bridge to tenure. Losing too many faculty from underrepresented groups before they reach that point.
  • In first year, authorized 42 hires, had 15 accepted offers. Seven more hires pending.
  • You all know that competing for these faculty is hard. One recent TOP hire – an expert in biostatistics – had excellent offers from 3 other major universities.

#2:  Cultivate educational excellence

Moving in the right direction:

  • 4-year graduation rates up substantially this year – 69.3% of our undergrads graduate in 4 years. Among top 10 publics in 6-year grad rates.
  • Time-to-degree down (3.96 years on average – 15 days less than 4 years)
  • This is driving down student loan debt – more than half (54%) now graduate without any student loans. Default rates have dropped again – now 1.3% v. national 10%.
  • Many of our top students tell us they chose UW-Madison in part because they knew they could graduate without debt.
  • Retention of freshmen into sophomore year continues at all-time high.
  • Improving outcomes while increasing our numbers doesn’t happen without a level of commitment from all of our faculty – thank you.

But higher education is changing, and we need to change with it. That means more flexibility for residential students, and better access for non-traditional students.

Working on a number of innovations including online degrees focusing on non-traditional students who have some college credits and now at a point in their career where they need to finish but can’t move to Madison to do it.

Preparing to launch first fully online degree in fall 2020. Personal Finance degree based in School of Human Ecology.

School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences

We’ve also opened a new School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences within L&S.

  • Will house the departments of Computer Science, Statistics, and the i-School and help expand research and educational offerings. Designed to strengthen our competitive reputation at a national level, to help bring in the best students and faculty.

Creating new programs is exciting, but we’re mindful of need to continue working on fundamentals – making sure all students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and get the support they need to be successful.

  • Continuing work on improving campus climate
  • Expanding access to mental health services – UHS added 10 new positions this fall … extended evening hours … and now have four staff providing services in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

#3: Expand & improve student access

  • Launched Bucky’s Tuition Promise one year ago. Our pledge: We will cover four years of tuition and fees for any incoming freshman from WI whose family’s adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less – roughly the median family income in this state.
  • Students from low-income families may get more aid than this, but we want a simple message about the minimal level of financial aid they can expect.
  • Just welcomed second cohort of Bucky’s Tuition Promise students –– 825 students from 63 Wisconsin counties.
  • Also – Badger Promise – just welcomed third cohort. Guarantees free tuition for first-generation transfer students who come to UW-Madison after they complete a degree at a two-year Wisconsin school.
  • 20% of our incoming freshmen have free tuition due to BTP or Badger Promise.

#4: Expand & improve research

Final priority is to expand and improve research. Working on three fronts.

1. Better support for grad students Stipends up 42% in last 6 years for TA, 22% for RA

• UW has moved from one of lowest among peers to above median in TA salaries among public peers

2. Research partnerships with industry where appropriate for the university.

• Example: American Family Insurance Data Science Institute – opened July 1. New campus-wide research center, reporting to the VCRGE’s office, designed to bring together faculty from across campus to collaborate on research and create new opportunities for our students – and be a resource for faculty working with complex data sets.

• Director is Brian Yandell, professor in both Statistics and Horticulture

3. Launched a constellation of programs – largest is UW2020 – that invest in developing high-risk, high-potential research projects to the point where they will be able to compete for federal grants.

• We’ve invested $37.5m in 85 different projects involving hundreds of faculty, staff and students.

• That $37.5m has already generated $85m in extramural funding. Ultimately expect a very substantial return on this research investment.

• At a time when federal research dollars are largely flat, this is critically important to keep research enterprise growing

  1. Conclusion: UW Changes Lives

Let me end with a brief story. Some of you have heard about our “UW Changes Lives” campaign – a statewide initiative to build support for this university by helping people understand the impact we have.

It’s easy to lose sight of that impact in our daily work – but the students have a way of bringing us back to why we’re here.

We heard recently from Alan Chen. Some of you may remember Alan. He graduated in 2015. Alan came to the U.S. from China at age 7, not speaking a word of English. The family settled in Minocqua and opened a restaurant where they worked every day of the year except Christmas Eve.

On a 7th grade field trip to this campus, Alan made the decision that he would someday come here.

He was an outstanding student at UW … a mentor to other students … and a community volunteer. While an undegraduate, he made his next decision –  he wanted to go to medical school.

Alan is now a fourth-year medical student at UW.  He’s focusing on emergency medicine and plans to work here in Wisconsin after residency.

He’s a reminder of how the work we do is changing the lives of our students. And through our research and outreach, we change many more lives.

This is a great university. But we can be even better. Making progress on any front – faculty excellence, educational excellence, accessibility, and research growth – won’t be quick or easy. But the result will be to strengthen our reputation, enhance our quality, and expand our ability to continue changing lives.

Thank you and I’ll be happy to take a few questions.

Op-ed: Statistics show UW-Madison’s strong commitment to in-state students Fri, 27 Sep 2019 14:28:54 +0000 Read More]]> The following editorial was co-written by UW System Board of Regents President Drew Petersen and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

As the UW Board of Regents president and the chancellor of the state’s flagship university, we both share an important goal: ensuring access for our state’s students at UW-Madison.

In response to the story in Wednesday’s State Journal “Wisconsin students make up smallest share of UW-Madison freshman class in at least 25 years,” we want to challenge the focus of the article and reiterate that our commitment to Wisconsin students and families has never been stronger. Moreover, we believe the coverage should have reflected that this class is actually a winner for the university, the state and its economy.

Applications to UW-Madison from Wisconsin residents continue to grow. Of those who applied this year, 68 percent were admitted, an increase from last year. More new freshmen come from Wisconsin than a decade ago, even though the number of Wisconsin high school graduates has declined during that same period. In-state demographic trends matter and play a pivotal role in our admissions process.

Read more …

Investing in faculty excellence Wed, 25 Sep 2019 18:55:05 +0000 Read More]]> I was delighted to receive the news Tuesday that two members of our faculty are receiving MacArthur “genius grants.” Lynda Barry in the Department of Art and Andrea Dutton in the Department of Geoscience are the recipients of these 2019 MacArthur Fellowships, which come with much prestige and a $625,000 stipend.

Having two MacArthur recipients in one year is yet another testament to the quality of our faculty here at UW-Madison. I’m confident there are some future winners of this grant, not to mention quite a few actual geniuses on our faculty as well.

It is the job of those of us in leadership at UW to support our faculty at the highest level possible and to promote their work, as much of the reputation of the university hinges on the reputation of the faculty.

At a recent welcome for our academic leaders, I was pleased to announce that UW–Madison now has 506 named chairs or professorships, ranking us number 2 in the Big Ten. The news was met with a round of applause, and rightfully so – named chairs enhance our ability to attract and retain the excellent faculty that help make us a world-class university.

I’d like to take a moment to share with you some more positive news about our faculty hiring and retention efforts.

This year, we welcome the largest new-faculty class we’ve hired in at least 15 years – 147 new faculty members have joined us. I had the opportunity to meet many of them at our New Faculty Luncheon, and like all of our faculty, they’re an impressive group. I look forward to seeing all the great things they will do here.

And I have good news to report about our recent faculty retention efforts. There were 46 retention cases reported for 2018-19, continuing our downward trend. There were 64 last year, 92 in 2017, and 144 in 2016.

I’d also like to tell you about several ongoing investments we’re making to continue to enhance faculty excellence, focusing on three areas: compensation, the Cluster Hire Program, and targets of opportunity, or TOP.

As a major research university, we compete in an international marketplace to attract and maintain top talent. The competition is fierce, and offering competitive salaries is critical to bringing the best faculty to UW–Madison and keeping them here. With that in mind, since 2015 we’ve invested more than $59 million in merit and equity-based raises and one-time bonuses for faculty and staff. And this year, as before, we’re allocating compensation funds to all departments for merit, market-based equity increases and one-time bonuses for faculty and staff – $3.5 million for faculty, $4 million for staff, and $4 million for bonuses.

These efforts over the last four years have raised us from 12th in our group of 12 official AAU salary peers to 11th. It’s good to no longer be at the very bottom, but it’s pretty hard to fire up a crowd to chant, “We’re number 11!” We can do better.

So this year we’re trying to make noticeable gains in faculty salaries. We know we have some highly productive faculty in highly ranked departments whose departmental salaries are substantially below the peer median.

In June, we announced an additional $9 million for targeted faculty salary increases. I asked deans and directors to submit distribution plans to help us allocate that funding in the best way and received very thoughtful proposals. These additional dollars will significantly boost our ability to retain faculty. It will take a bit of time for results to show up, but watch – we’re not going to be number 11 for long.

Our Cluster Hire Program is another way we’re enhancing faculty excellence. I know many of you are familiar with it. It’s a way to be highly strategic about hiring in areas of research where a group hire of new faculty can really help us move forward. In the first 15 months of the program, we’ve approved hiring for 15 new research clusters, and we have another competitive round coming up soon. And hiring has begun. We’ve authorized 30 hires, have 13 accepted offers, and a number of others are pending. Among other benefits, the Cluster Hire Program is providing new research tracks and collaborative opportunities for our faculty, encouraging and fostering the kind of cooperation that will burnish our standing as a world-class research institution.

Finally, our TOP program – targets of opportunity – is giving departments new tools to go after the people they’d like to recruit from groups that are underrepresented in their discipline. The goal is to increase the diversity of our faculty – not just racial diversity, but diversity of identity, culture, background, experience, status, ability, and opinion. When a faculty member is hired through this program, central administration will pay 100% of the salary, up to $90,000, for five years (for tenured hires) or six years (for assistant professors). After that, the school or college picks up half the salary.

In the first year of the TOP program, we’ve authorized 42 hires and had 15 accepted offers in six of our schools, colleges, and research centers. Seven more hires are pending. Through this program, we’re bringing in outstanding people and building a stronger bridge to tenure for faculty from underrepresented groups. Over time, TOP hiring will further strengthen the faculty. (I should note that Dutton, one of our two MacArthur recipients that I noted at the beginning of this blog, was hired this year through the TOP program.)

Talented, dedicated faculty and staff are any university’s most valuable assets. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in our efforts to attract and maintain the very best. I appreciate the work of our faculty – in teaching, in research, and in helping run the organization – every day.

Research security and transparency are not mutually exclusive Thu, 12 Sep 2019 12:00:15 +0000 Read More]]> Below is a  post co-authored by Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Steve Ackerman, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

As I’ve shared in other recent posts, UW–Madison values international research collaborations and is committed to international faculty and student exchanges. We strive to provide a welcoming environment to foreign students and scholars and to uphold academic freedom. We believe in the open dissemination of research and encourage our faculty and staff to collaborate with others to advance knowledge.

All of these perspectives help UW–Madison maintain its excellence in cutting-edge research.

That said, there are threats to research security and intellectual property and the university takes these threats seriously.  Our federal agency partners have been paying careful attention to issues of foreign influence and research security. There has been an increasing focus on these topics, both from the government and in the news media.

Last year, NIH Director Francis Collins issued a “Foreign Influence Letter to Grantees.” Dr. Collins also testified in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee outlining concerns about foreign influence in U.S. research. This summer, National Science Foundation Director France Córdova issued a Dear Colleague Letter on research protection, outlining initiatives and policies to help mitigate risks due to foreign influence. The Department of Energy and Department of Defense also have issued memos describing planned methods to protect national security.

These are important issues, but our response to them has to be measured. In some cases, it appears that Chinese and Chinese American scientists have resigned from research institutions under pressure that did not seem well-grounded in facts. But we do have to recognize that there are bad actors out there and that there is sometimes pressure for researchers with foreign affiliations to report back in inappropriate ways.

We know that stronger security measures may protect intellectual property. We also know that overly-aggressive actions could discourage top talent — students, faculty and staff — from coming to the United States. In some cases, racial profiling is a very real concern.

China may be the most noteworthy threat, but federal officials are also concerned about countries such as Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

To bolster our security without sacrificing the continuing free flow of ideas at UW–Madison, we have met with federal intelligence representatives, listened to their concerns and consulted with them on how we address and prevent security threats on campus.

We have convened a working group to assess policies, procedures, and activities that involve foreign entities and to develop strategies for the future. In part, we need to remind faculty of federal and university disclosure and export controls compliance requirements, and make sure they understand and follow them. Funded and non-funded agreements that support sponsored research at UW−Madison are already reviewed internally by Research and Sponsored Programs. But faculty are also now required to report connections with foreign Institutions and to report on research funding which does not flow through UW-Madison.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and protection of confidential grant-related information is essential and that’s why we are taking a more comprehensive note of employee travel and affiliations and ramping up data security.

One tool to help you share information is the annual Outside Activities Reporting form. Changes to the form include a new set of questions and a foreign entity option for reporting new activities and enhancing our research integrity rules already in place.

If you are contacted by federal authorities or if you have concerns about any research security issue, please contact our Office of Legal Affairs for assistance. There is a system in place for the FBI to contact senior officials at UW-Madison if they intend to talk with anyone on campus. A contact by a federal official, however, does not mean you are being investigated. Often university researchers are contacted by federal authorities because they are experts in a field and able to offer a deeper understanding of a topic.

Campus also has several resources for faculty and staff who are traveling to other countries. The International Division’s unit of International Safety and Security is available to help you prepare for international travel on issues such as insurance and UW’s international travel policy. DoIT provides guidance and resources for protecting your data and devices when traveling.

Our Office of Cybersecurity supports the campus by leading and managing campus efforts to reduce risk. A recent UW System initiative includes a plan to bring all campuses in alignment around cybersecurity. UW­–Madison is an enthusiastic partner in this initiative, as it includes some measures we already have in place or have planned.

Today’s scientific challenges are complex and to meet these challenges, we have to reach across borders in areas such as global health, agriculture, language, political studies, climate, and much more. International collaboration is found in all divisions on campus. Its importance is echoed in an epiphany that many of our study abroad students and Peace Corps volunteers experience early on in their travels — when you interact with people from diverse backgrounds, you often come to think about things in a different way and see connections you never thought of before.

We can strengthen research security while also preserving our commitment to scientific collaboration and openness. We encourage international collaborations, but it is important for us to be transparent about our foreign relationships and activities.

Fall 2019 Convocation Speech Fri, 06 Sep 2019 19:19:16 +0000 Read More]]> As prepared for delivery, 1:30 pm., Sept. 3, Kohl Center:

Good afternoon, new Badgers! Welcome to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. You are now students at one of the top public universities in the world. Congratulations!

It’s wonderful to see you all here, and I know we have more than 70 members of the faculty and staff here as well – they’re eager to meet you.

This is a pretty special class – the largest freshmen class in UW-Madison history – which means Graduation Day 2023 is going to pack Camp Randall Stadium!

And I know that some of you are transfer students – we have more than 1,000 transfer students joining us this fall, and you’ll be graduating even sooner.

The freshmen here were selected from a record-breaking pool of applicants … more than 44,000 students applied for about 7,500 spots.

We picked you because you are highly qualified academically, but also because we believe that your talents and interests make you an excellent fit for this great university.

I’ve seen you all taking lots of photos – now it’s my turn. Your first official UW portrait … I’ll Tweet it from my account – if you want to see it, follow me @BeckyBlank. I know many of you are already on Instagram and Twitter with us. Let us see what you’re up to.

I want to tell you a bit about the people sitting around you:

• The majority of you are from the great state of Wisconsin.

• You also come from 46 other U.S. states. (Let’s hear from you if you’re from one of the top 5 – Illinois? Minnesota? California? New York? New Jersey?) Welcome to you and your classmates from across the country and around the world.

• Our international freshmen are from 45 nations outside of the U.S.

• And I am very proud to say that nearly two out of every 10 new freshmen, and nearly three out of every 10 new transfer students are the first generation in their family to go to college. Special congratulations and welcome.

I told you this class is pretty special. You’re also beginning your studies here in a year when we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first women to earn bachelor’s degrees from this university.

We’ve created a short video celebrating UW women to honor this milestone. Let’s watch.

[5:00 video plays]

As we honor our accomplished women, we also celebrate the extraordinary experience of studying at a major research institution. In the next four years, you will get to learn from world-renowned scholars … choose from among 124 majors … participate in groundbreaking research … and study abroad in almost any country in the world.

This is an exciting place. But it can also feel a little overwhelming, particularly when you’re new. You just heard Izzy talk about the importance of getting involved in activities outside of the classroom, to get to know other students.

Getting involved is not only good for your social life … it’s an important part of your education here. If you leave UW with only classroom learning, we haven’t done our job. You are here for a residential learning experience – what we call the Wisconsin Experience – and that stretches far beyond your classes.

We have about 1,000 student organizations on this campus (though I admit I’d never heard of the Meme Analysis Club…) – so pick one and try it – if you don’t like it, you have 999 other choices. Or get involved with the Badger Volunteers – we have thousands of students working together on projects in the community.

Let me exercise my privilege as chancellor to give you three pieces of advice.

First, your primary reason to be at UW is to learn…to be a student. So take your academic work seriously.

This is a challenging place. The classes are rigorous, and you will need to keep up with the readings and do the homework. Your parents may still try to nag you, but it’s just not the same when they’re not here in person. So it’s up to you to get the work done.

A special warning: High-risk drinkers jeopardize their own heath and well-being and make our campus less welcoming and less safe for everyone. So please, take care of yourself, be smart about the choices you make, and think about the kind of community you want to create.

My second piece of advice is to ask for help when you need it.

Like many of you, I am from right here in the upper Midwest – I grew up in Minnesota. I learned from my family that I should take care of my own problems and not bother other people with them. Does that sound familiar? That really wasn’t the best thing to learn. Just because you can do things on your own doesn’t mean you should.

The faculty, staff, and advisers are here to work with you and to help you. So if things aren’t going quite the way you want them to … don’t hesitate to reach out.

We selected you because we know you can be successful here. So when you hit snags, let us help.

My third and final piece of advice is – take advantage of being a student at a university with the scope and breadth of this one. Try a class in something you know nothing about. Get to know students who grew up in a place far away from where you’ve lived. Visit the Chazen Art Museum, one of the best campus museums in the country. Learn to sail on Lake Mendota.

In short, do things that push you to learn in new ways.

Let me tell you a quick story about one of our recent graduates. His name is Colin Higgins. Colin is UW’s most recent winner of the Rhodes Scholarship – the most competitive and prestigious award for students in the U.S.

When Colin sat where you are sitting today, he was mostly feeling relieved … he’d just gotten off the waitlist. Some of you can probably relate.

But he was also feeling like he needed to demonstrate that he had a solid plan to do well at UW – which to him meant picking a major right away, and sticking to it.

He decided he was going to be an art major. This decision was based on two things. First, he liked art in high school. Second, the girl he had a crush on was studying art.

But then he took a history class, and really liked it. And he took an environmental studies class and really liked it. And he took a geography class, and really liked it.

He started to worry about what was going to happen to that art major. But then he remembered something he’d heard Professor Howard Schweber say at SOAR. He said: “The students I worry about most are not the ones who come to UW without a plan … they’re the ones who come to UW with very detailed plans that don’t allow for flexibility and growth.”

Colin abandoned the art major, and ended up triple-majoring in history, geography, and environmental studies … working on some important research projects with his professors … and founding a new student group to work on making this campus a more sustainable place. And he went on to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar.

We talked to Colin this summer, and he told us that the one decision he made on this campus, that opened the doors to all of the opportunities he found here, was to step out of his comfort zone.

If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably a little bit more comfortable with people whose names and faces and language are like your own. And it’s a little too easy to hang out just with that group. But in 2019, one of the most important skills to learn for your future career is how to live and work effectively in a diverse and global community.

So it’s our job to help you mix it up. You’ll take part in the ‘Our Wisconsin’ program to help you recognize and challenge the assumptions you probably don’t even realize you make about other people. And we’ll do our best to get you out and involved in lots of other activities and events.

And I think you will find, just like Colin Higgins did, that some amazing opportunities open up for you.

One thing that will bring all of us together is reading and talking about this fall’s Go Big Read book. It’s called The Poison Squad and you’ll receive a copy on your way out.

Go Big Read is basically the biggest book club you’ve ever seen. Thousands of people – on campus and around the community – will be reading this book. Your professors might incorporate it into discussions, and we’ll have a big campus conversation about it in October, when the author comes here to speak.

The Poison Squad was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum, who also happens to be a UW graduate. She taught science writing here for many years.

The title refers to a group of young men who volunteered to be test subjects in a long-term research project to figure out what different food additives would do to the human body.

There was a time in this country when manufacturers could put anything they wanted into food. They added lead to candy to make it bright yellow. Put chalk dust in milk to make it look whiter after they’d watered it down … and mixed tar into ketchup to make it thicker.

The Poison Squad shows how science can influence policy.

It shows how one person with passion can change the world.

And it shows how government regulation can sometimes be a good thing.

A few of the stories may shock you, but I hope they also make you think about the scientists and policymakers and ordinary citizens who have worked together to build a system that makes sure the SpaghettiOs and Ramen noodles you love to eat aren’t going to poison you.

In conclusion, you have come to a university with a long and proud commitment to changing the world by actively engaging on issues that affect people’s lives. We are not afraid of robust debate that allows for many points of view – even those contrary to our values. That’s what free expression is all about.

We value diversity and welcome everyone who wants to learn, to work hard, and to be part of this wonderful community.

Each of you has a different background, but you now share a common identity as Badgers. An identity that I hope you will claim for the rest of your lives: you are students – and one day will be alumni – of one of the greatest universities in the world.

We want to celebrate our new Badgers with two time-honored UW traditions – singing Varsity and eating Babcock Ice Cream.

Of course, we can’t do both at once.

We’ll sing here, and eat ice cream down by the Memorial Union, courtesy of the Union and the Alumni Association.

Congratulations on being here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and my very best wishes for your time here as a student.

Now, please join me in welcoming a special guest to help lead Varsity. (Bucky appears from behind the curtain on stage and joins the Chancellor on stage) (video with Varsity music and imagery)

On, Wisconsin!

Welcome back … A few news items you might have missed Wed, 04 Sep 2019 15:53:08 +0000 Read More]]> I had the opportunity to stop by a few residence halls last week and chat with student staff, and students and parents as they were moving into University Housing. It’s something I like to do every year. The enthusiasm of the incoming freshmen is contagious.

This fall, we have some new leaders in key positions — Provost John Karl Scholz, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Steve Ackerman, Interim L&S Dean Eric Wilcots, new Wisconsin School of Business Dean Vallabh Sambamurthy, new Dean of Students Christina Olstad and new University Health Services Executive Director Jake Baggott.  Welcome to all of them.  And we have a new marching band director, Corey Pompey.

For those who were here all summer, you already know that it was an active several months. For those of you who were away (or just so engaged in your summer work that you didn’t pay attention) I want to offer a brief recap of campus headlines you may have missed over the summer.

  • We’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first class of women to earn bachelor’s degrees at UW — six women graduated in 1869, following a contentious discussion over the previous decade about whether women should be admitted as regular students. A special fund called “In Her Honor” has been established to gather and share stories and raise funds for campus programs designed to help improve women’s lives.
  • As you may know, this university sits on the ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk people. We took the first step to begin telling that story in June, when we joined with Ho-Chunk leadership to put up a heritage marker in front of South Hall on Bascom Hill. The marker will travel to other units on campus for the first year both as part of an effort to share this story to as much of campus as possible and also because of a construction project to replace the 100-year-old steam tunnels under Bascom Hill.
  • You will be seeing a lot more construction around campus in the coming years, as we had five construction projects — the School of Veterinary Medicine expansion, Sellery Hall addition/renovation, Natatorium replacement, Field House exterior renovation and Kohl Center addition — all approved in the 2019-21 state budget bill that was signed by Gov. Tony Evers in early July.

This budget also approved 2 percent raises for all faculty and staff in January 2020 and January 2021.

I hope you all had a chance to unplug and recharge at some point over the summer. (I had a fun visit to Southwest Wisconsin.) We are a great university because of the talent and energy you bring to this campus.

I look forward to the coming academic year. And I look forward to hearing from all of you about the many things you are doing in your work to strengthen our reputation, enhance our quality, and expand our ability to continue changing lives.

UW’s relationship with China Thu, 22 Aug 2019 16:09:08 +0000 Read More]]> As we count down the final days of summer and get ready for another academic year, let me tell you about my most interesting trip of the summer.

In late May, I had the honor of leading a delegation to China. While not my first trip to that country, it was my first trip as UW chancellor.

Why visit at a time when the geopolitical relationship between the countries is strained? Quite simply, UW and China need each other more than ever and can learn much from one another.

On the May trip, multiple groups from campus, including the International Division, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, International Student Services and several of our schools and colleges, participated in various aspects of the trip to help make it a success.

It was a busy itinerary, including meeting with our alumni, welcoming incoming Chinese students and their families to UW, attending conferences organized by UW faculty at Chinese universities, meeting with higher education leaders, and conducting industry-partnership conversations.

By way of background, you might know that UW’s history with China goes back more than 100 years. A century ago, we were the top public university (and 4th largest overall) recipient of Chinese students enrolling in American universities through the “Boxer Indemnity” scholarship fund, the main route at that time for Chinese students to attend college in the U.S.

Forty years ago, then-Chancellor Irving Shain was the among first American university presidents to visit China after it re-opened to the outside.

Today, we have 3,200 students from mainland China studying at UW. They comprise the largest group of international students at UW. Between 2000 and 2018, their share increased from 25% of all international students to 55%.

We welcome these students and scholars to Madison and do everything we can to support them and help them to be successful. Their presence on campus enriches the residential experience of all of our students.

Big, public research institutions like UW that educate thousands of students and conduct groundbreaking research have to have a global reach if we’re going to carry out our mission. Unlike in past decades, this relationship has become increasingly bilateral. Our scientists are collaborating with Chinese scientists. While there are still far more Chinese students coming to UW, increasing numbers of our U.S. students are interested in going to China. Our faculty are organizing international conferences in China with colleagues from that country – and vice versa. During my recent visit, a conference on higher education organized by a UW faculty member in collaboration with Peking University allowed me to address colleagues in China. All of these connections create new opportunities for all involved.

The strategic partnership agreement that we signed with Nanjing University is particularly significant. We have a long-shared history of cooperation with Nanjing – this is the campus that made the most significant impression on Chancellor Shain in 1979.

In signing our most recent agreement, UW-Madison and Nanjing are seeking linkages across disciplines that can have a lasting and positive global impact. This lays the foundation for an expanded relationship featuring many more years of research collaboration and student exchange.

We also are collaborators in nine active research partnerships with Chinese universities, including a project that brings our wildlife biologists together with ones at Peking University to understand the impact of development on the Asiatic Black Bear population.

Our faculty talk about the two-way nature of their work with Chinese counterparts. As Chinese universities expand in size and quality, and as top scholars work in China, we now meet as full partners and potential collaborators with much to gain on both sides.

Collaborations can create the potential for economic development, with six current industry projects located in China, including a $2.5 million project with Nestle to develop and run a dairy farming institute.

There is growing concern about security issues with China, particularly around intellectual property. We need to be smart and respectful in all of our international collaborations. Full transparency and disclosure will benefit all partners and everyone involved in collaborative research projects.

But I am proud of the number of scholars at UW – both US citizens and citizens of other countries – who have ties to China, and I support the work that they do.

The U.S. and China need each other. We need each other as trading partners; we need each other as major world leaders. And our universities need each other. We can learn more working together than working in silos.

As long as we both share a commitment to open inquiry, outstanding education, and sharing knowledge and discoveries in a way that improves people’s lives, we can work together.