Blank’s Slate – Office of the Chancellor – UW–Madison https://chancellor.wisc.edu Fri, 03 Apr 2020 21:43:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Supporting our campus community https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/supporting-our-campus-community/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 17:51:36 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2392 A New Strategic Plan for the Next Five Years https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/a-new-strategic-plan-for-the-next-five-years/ Mon, 09 Mar 2020 20:30:21 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2387 Read More]]> Strategic plans provide a blueprint for where an organization wants to go.  At UW-Madison, we’ve typically updated our strategic plan every five years.  In the past year we’ve recently completed a new strategic framework for 2020-2025, and I’d encourage you to take a look.  (If you want a one-page summary of the elements in this strategic plan, you can download it here.)

We want the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be a model public university in the 21st century, fulfilling our responsibilities for excellence in teaching and research, acting as a responsible community that serves students, staff and faculty well, while also reaching out to the state and nation to enhance quality of life and fulfill the Wisconsin Idea.

Our strategic plan provides guidance by outlining the key issues we need to be working on in the next five years in order to be a model public university.  Each school, college, department, and other unit can build their own strategic plans off of the template provided by this university-wide plan.  For instance, while we outline key ways by which the university can maintain and expand on its excellence in education, a school or a department can outline the specific steps they are taking to maintain and improve educational excellence in their own unit.

There are five primary priority areas in this strategic plan:

Under each priority area, we provide a few bullet points that indicate the strategic areas that we will be emphasizing in order to pursue these priorities over the next few years.  For instance, under a vibrant campus community, we want to focus on health and wellness, diversity, and learning that encompasses experiences both in and out of the classroom.

In each area, we identify several initiatives that we are currently pursuing.  Please keep in mind, there are many great initiatives and programs happening across campus and that we have chosen only a few to illustrate how this is being implemented.  These featured examples are just that – examples – and the lists are far from exhaustive.   Each school, college and other unit will have their own lists.

Creating a good, actionable strategic plan is a big challenge. I’ve seen them done in a variety of ways and all too often the process can take time, or focus, away from doing the hard work required to improve the organization. This plan is specific enough to give clear direction on the issues we plan to work on in the years ahead and how we want to get there.  But it’s also broad enough to allow almost all units to use the framework to develop specific plans for their unit that integrate with this larger plan.

I hope you’ll take the time to review our website. I want to thank everyone who’s worked on this round of strategic planning. If you have feedback on the 2020-25 strategic framework, please send your thoughts to chancellor@wisc.edu.

The strategic plan is just the blueprint. The work of turning that blueprint into a reality is what we must engage in every day.

 

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Citizen participation in 2020: Voting and being counted in the census https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/citizen-participation-in-2020-voting-and-being-counted-in-the-census/ Tue, 25 Feb 2020 13:00:45 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2382 Read More]]> The Wisconsin Idea commits UW-Madison to being involved in our community, our state and our nation. One way to fulfill that commitment on the educational side of our mission is to prepare our graduates for a life of civic engagement as active and involved citizens.

This is an election year, and there are extensive efforts here on campus to ensure students and employees have the information available to exercise their right to vote. But this year we have another important way to participate as citizens:  being part of the 2020 U.S. Census.

I have a deep connection to the census.  Although most of my career has been spent in academia, I have had several opportunities to work in the federal government, taking leave from campus. Ten years ago, I was the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in the U.S. Department of Commerce, which meant I was overseeing the U.S. Census Bureau during the 2010 Census.

Being involved with the 2010 Census was in some ways one of the most fascinating projects I’ve ever worked on.  Every 10 years, the census is the largest domestic deployment of people and activities ever conducted.  In the space of about 9 months in 2010 we hired, trained, put to work, and decommissioned over 600,000 Census workers. Imagine the work required to gather information on every household in America … not 90% or even 99%, but 100%. Over that year, I learned a great deal about large event management, rapid response to emerging problems, outreach to very diverse communities, and much more.

Why is the decennial census so important? It is a constitutionally mandated count of everyone living in the United States, which is necessary for apportioning seats in federal and state government. Any democracy needs an accurate population count if it is to have representative government. But the census matters for much more. Census data is used to determine how much Madison and Dane County will receive in federal funds for schools, health facilities, transportation and local programs. Local governments use it to forecast demand for schools and medical facilities. Private firms use it to determine where they are going to site their next restaurant, store or manufacturing facility. And at UW–Madison, our researchers use this data in multiple ways to study demographic and economic trends.

Census forms will begin arriving at individual households in mid-March with mailed invitations to respond online, by phone or by mail. Students in campus residence halls will receive their forms in early April.

The count is based on where you live on April 1, 2020, so most UW–Madison students are counted at their campus-area addresses — not at the home of their parent or guardian. This includes international and nonresident students. To get an accurate count of everyone who is using public resources here, we need everyone to participate.

By law, the survey answers are confidential. The census does not share data on identifiable individuals with any other governmental units. It only releases data for aggregate areas or in a way where no individuals can be identified. (For the record, actual census data is released 70 years after the census. This has allowed for fascinating research that tracks individuals and families over time through the decennial census, looking at questions such as the occupational differences between parents and children in the 19th century, or the geographic movement among immigrant families over time after they arrive in the U.S.)

For more information, visit this City of Madison website.  Please be sure to watch for the form and participate in the Census. It’s an important part of our democracy.

Now, back to the issue of voting. Our campus voter information and registration drive will launch on March 6 and kick off registration efforts in advance of the spring presidential primary, which is Tuesday, April 7. The partisan primary for statewide offices falls on Aug. 11 this year.

UW–Madison students are again competing in the nonpartisan Big Ten Voting Challenge, vying against our Big Ten rivals to have the highest voter turnout rates and most improved turnout relative to the Nov. 3 presidential election. We finished with the second-best turnout in the Big Ten in the midterm in November 2018. (The University of Minnesota — otherwise known as the University of Western Scandinavia, an area with notoriously high voting rates — came in first.)  I’m proud of our students at UW–Madison for their engagement. While the earlier primary and state elections won’t count in the competition, the Badgers Vote Coalition is seeking strong turnout and registration in those as well. Information about the registration and voting places can be found here.

With the campaign season in full swing, I know some may be wondering about whether and how political activities can be pursued on our campus. General guidelines for employees and students can be found in this document, while this document provides more specific information about rules for political events and candidate visits, which generally can be accommodated with planning and the assistance of our staff.

If you have specific questions, please email chancellor@wisc.edu and we’ll be sure to answer.

I encourage every member of our campus community to be engaged and to participate in these essential functions of our democracy.

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How UW-Madison Is Navigating the Rapidly Changing World of Higher Education https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/how-uw-madison-is-navigating-the-rapidly-changing-world-of-higher-education/ Fri, 07 Feb 2020 16:58:53 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2377 Read More]]> On Thursday I delivered my annual address to the UW Board of Regents. I told the board how UW-Madison is responding to three important national trends that are challenging top research universities nationwide.

Click to view my notes and the slides from my presentation. (pdf)

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Talking workforce development with Secretary Caleb Frostman https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/talking-workforce-development-with-secretary-caleb-frostman/ Fri, 31 Jan 2020 14:59:36 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2372 Read More]]> Chancellor Blank recently sat down with Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman for an interview on his podcast, “On, Wisconsin Workforce.” They talk about how UW-Madison attracts top students, how the state can keep them here after they graduate, and the university’s role in workforce and economic development.

Listen to the podcast at https://soundcloud.com/onwiworkforce/episode7.

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Visiting A Few of Wisconsin’s Star Businesses https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/visiting-a-few-of-wisconsins-star-businesses/ Tue, 21 Jan 2020 13:30:21 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2368 Read More]]> Welcome back to a new semester, I hope you all had a chance to spend time with family and friends and recharge.

It was a busy winter break. A highlight for me was the chance to travel to Pasadena and see the Badgers compete in the Rose Bowl. It was good to see thousands of alumni and students who traveled to the game, and I was particularly proud of the many Badgers (and Ducks) who took time out of their visit and volunteered to package food for low income families in the Los Angeles area.

This month, I also did some traveling inside our state, visiting Stevens Point, Wausau, Eau Claire and Black River Falls. These outreach visits are an excellent opportunity to spread the word on the world-class education and research we do here, and to make businesses and communities across the state aware of the resources we can provide. Meeting with local and state officials, business leaders and alumni is a chance for me to hear about issues they are facing, leading to more collaboration on solutions that will positively impact their community and the rest of the state.

In Stevens Point, I visited Sentry Insurance, a company which has been in business since 1904 and continues to heavily invest in their community. I talked with them about our many talented students both in technology and the humanities.

In Wausau, I stopped by UAS Labs to meet with two proud UW alums, CEO Kevin Mehring and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Greg Leyer, for a tour of their production facility, where they manufacture and brand probiotics. This company is growing fast and they are doing increasing work in international markets. A fun part of the visit was that UAS leadership and our many alumni employees wore Badger red for the visit.

In Eau Claire, I met with senior leaders at Silver Spring Foods to learn more about the business and their involvement in the upcoming Farm Technology Days, which will take place at Huntsinger Farms on July 21-23. Huntsinger Farms is the world’s largest grower and processor of horseradish, bottled and sold worldwide under the Silver Spring brand. They work with our our Horticulture Department and the Division of Extension to improve their products. I did get a sample of one of their new products to take home and I can tell you it was a wonderful complement to the roast that Hanns and I had this past weekend.

While traveling home I stopped in Black River Falls, where I had the honor of presenting a framed gift titled “Our Shared Future” to Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle.

I was impressed with the creativity and business acumen of the leadership in all of these companies. I promoted closer ties with UW, offering them help in reaching and hiring our graduating students while asking them to help us communicate the career opportunities here in Wisconsin. I also advocated for research and knowledge collaborations with our faculty in areas where we share substantive interests.

I look forward to doing more travel around the state this year. Our impact on the state is large, and there is much potential for collaboration all over Wisconsin. You can find stories at impact.wisc.edu 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.

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Renewing our commitments https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/renewing-our-commitments/ Thu, 09 Jan 2020 13:00:31 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2356 Read More]]> Welcome to 2020. The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity to create new resolutions and renew commitments we’ve made in the past. Last fall, a teachable moment around the student-produced Homecoming video reminded us that we must remain diligent to make diversity and inclusion a conscious decision in order to create a welcoming campus climate. At UW-Madison we are fortunate that our students, faculty and staff are rarely afraid to speak out and keep us honest on our progress toward the goals we’ve set and the values we espouse.

Last week, the New York Times covered the issues raised on the UW campus by the Homecoming video. We continue to acknowledge how much work we have to do on these issues and the pain and frustration the video has caused to our community. We are committed to improving the experiences of all our students, especially our students from underrepresented groups. But we would be less than honest if we didn’t share our level of disappointment with this most recent coverage, which lacked context and nuance.

The story overlooked both the ways we have responded to the video and made no mention of the multiple efforts we have undertaken in recent years to make campus a more welcoming and diverse place. It also did not recognize the fact that these issues are prevalent on campuses across the country and that UW is not alone in struggling with the differential experiences of underrepresented students on campus and in our community.

We have made a significant commitment to diversifying our faculty and those efforts are bearing fruit as we hire more faculty of color in current and future cohorts. A successful new hiring program called targets of opportunity, or TOP, provides central campus funding to make it possible for departments to go after people they’d like to recruit who are from groups not well-represented within their discipline.

We expanded the number of cultural centers to support the needs of our underrepresented students and renovations are currently happening for those spaces in the Red Gym (to be ready by fall 2020). We continue to invest in the long-term success of cultural centers on campus as a place for underrepresented students to build affinity and community.

Efforts like #IamUW feature the many ways in which our students, faculty and staff share their passions and celebrate what it means to be a part of the Badger community. In similar fashion, we’re highlighting important alumni who have made significant contributions in their respective fields through a series called Why I Love UW. In our first installment we feature the story of Reverend Dr. Alex Gee Jr. and his family’s journey to 13 UW degrees (soon to be 14 when his daughter Lexi Gee completes her PhD.)

This past October we held the largest and most successful Annual Diversity Forum on campus in its 20-year history. Over 1,300 people participated in the forum, nearly double the 700 participants in the forum just four years ago. This event has continued to grow, meeting the professional development demands of our campus community and beyond.

But we recognize that we are a majority white campus in a majority white state. That means we have to make exceptional efforts to diversify our campus, to educate our students on how to prepare for a career in an increasingly global and diverse world, and to make sure our staff and faculty know how to teach and work in an inclusive environment.

It also means we need to do our part to help prepare underrepresented students in the K-12 schools to be successful in college. Our PEOPLE and Business Emerging Leaders programs are examples of UW-Madison programs designed to enrich high school students’ skills to prepare them for college. And we partner with other pre-college programs like Posse, bringing these students to our campus.

We recognize we have more work to do. Working towards greater diversity and inclusion is not something you finish. It’s an ongoing process … every time we take one step, we need to think about the next step after that.

And this is work that must engage the entire campus community. While those of us in leadership can make commitments that help move these issues forward, conversations, education, and change must happen at every level. This is one reason we asked all of our Schools and Colleges to develop and implement their own diversity and inclusion plans.

Diversity is a source of strength, making us a better community and preparing our students better for their post-college lives. We want all members of the UW-Madison community to feel welcome and supported on our campus.

As we look toward 2020 the leadership at UW is committed to continue making this issue a priority. We want the outcomes on this campus to measure up to our aspirations. We know we aren’t there yet. We hope that you will join us on that journey.

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor

Patrick Sims, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion

 

 

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What does the Rose Bowl have to do with the future of the global internet, earthquakes and wildfires? https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/blank-schill-what-does-the-rose-bowl-have-to-do-with-the-future-of-the-global-internet-earthquakes-and-wildfires/ Tue, 31 Dec 2019 20:06:27 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2349 Read More]]> The Blank’s Slate post below is co-written with Michael H. Schill, the president of the University of Oregon.

It’s been eight years since our two schools last met on the field at the 2012 Rose Bowl and we’ve both been eagerly anticipating the rematch.

While most people will see University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon as fierce gridiron competitors, off the field our faculty collaborate on work with global implications.

UW and UO represent two of America’s leading research universities and proud members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Our work has lasting impact far beyond our home states. For example, in the years since the last Rose Bowl, our faculty members have been teaming up to save the internet.

A study produced jointly by our researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon suggests internet infrastructure may be under water within the next 15 years as the result of rising sea levels.

The most susceptible U.S. cities are New York, Miami and Seattle, but the effects would not be confined to those areas and could ripple across the internet, potentially disrupting global communications.

You might be surprised that both of our universities have a reach far into California and are shaping life there in positive and remarkable ways. UW-Madison is evaluating the effectiveness of laws around vaccines, protecting spotted owls and studying attacks by coyotes.

Both our universities are working to curb and detect wildfires. The UO’s effort in AlertWildfire uses a network of fire cameras in California designed to spot wildfires before they flare out of control.

UO is also a partner in ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system that detects significant earthquakes so quickly that alerts can reach many people before shaking arrives. Many California residents received the first public alert on their cell phones from the system when a magnitude 4.3 earthquake ruptured in the mountains between the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

Scientific research is the foundation on which future advances in technology, health and productivity are built. But scientific advances don’t happen by accident—they require investment by public and private entities to succeed.

U.S. global leadership in science, technology and innovation has been threatened in recent years, as other countries rapidly increase their investments in research and grow their STEM workforce.

This is not inevitable; together, and with the support of organizations like AAU, we can take steps to maintain our long-term leadership in innovation and discovery.

With a strong and sustained commitment by the federal government to scientific research our nation can continue to be a world leader. Such investments will drive the U.S. economy forward and lead to improvements in the human condition around the U.S.

To be successful public research universities need people in our states and across the nation cheering for us, advocating for resources and partnership from state and federal lawmakers, agencies, industry and private donors—to help keep our life-changing work on track in California, Oregon, Wisconsin and across the globe.

At the Rose Bowl, we’ll be cheering on our respective teams. UW has wagered our state’s famous cheese and UO is putting Oregon’s excellent pinot noir wine on the line. Regardless of who wins, when you pair our two schools’ research together for the greater good, it’s like pairing fine wine with good cheese—and everyone wins.

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Semester’s End https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/semesters-end/ Mon, 16 Dec 2019 20:50:49 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2341 Read More]]> Another semester has come and gone. We graduated 1,770 students at the end of December, many of them joining us in the Kohl Center for the ceremony. The Winter Commencement address was delivered by Jason Gay, columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a proud (and humorous) UW-Madison alum. (I also encourage you to watch the remarks from our student speaker Lisa Kamal, she did a wonderful job.)

Seeing a Kohl Center full of graduates reminded me of the incredible successes of all our students. Taken as a whole, the numbers we use to track that success continue to show improvement to historic levels.

Here are several reasons I’m so proud:

  • Undergraduates are taking less time to complete their degrees, setting a new record – 3.96 calendar years – the lowest since the university began actively tracking the measure in the 1980s. This is the first time the number has dropped below four calendar years.
  • The six-year graduation rate (the standard measure used across higher education) for freshmen entering the university in 2013 rose to 87.6 percent from 87.4 percent. This puts us among the top 10 public universities.
  • The freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate is 95.2 percent, the seventh-consecutive year the figure has been above 95 percent.

Our students continue to reach remarkable personal achievements, as well. Senior Claire Evensen, who is majoring in biochemistry and mathematics with comprehensive honors, is the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship, one of academia’s most prestigious honors.

Evensen, a native of Verona, Wisconsin, was also among the three finalists in the Rhodes Scholarship awards from UW-Madison, which itself is an extraordinary achievement and a signifier of the quality of students we have on our campus.

The other finalists were, Kevin Crosby, a senior from Brandywine, Maryland, majoring in nutritional sciences, with a certificate in environmental studies; and, Lauren Jorgensen, a May 2019 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and community and environmental sociology, with certificates in environmental studies, food systems, and global health. Jorgensen is from Stillwater, Minnesota, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs through an accelerated program at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Congratulations to Claire, Lauren and Kevin on this impressive accomplishment and on all they’ve achieved, and thanks to them for reflecting so well on this institution and on the many opportunities we offer to learn in and outside the classroom.

Lastly, like many of you I am cheering on  our volleyball team as it competes in the Final Four of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. And I will be in Pasadena on January 1 to root for our Badgers at the Rose Bowl against the University of Oregon.

I’ve reached out to Oregon President Michael Schill and “wagered” our finest Babcock cheese against some Oregon wines over the outcome of the game. I will enjoy drinking his Oregon wine in 2020—I suspect it pairs nicely with our own cheddar.

I want to wish you all a safe and restful winter break, and I will see you back on campus in 2020.

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Winter 2019 Commencement Remarks https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/winter-2019-commencement-remarks/ Sun, 15 Dec 2019 18:00:14 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2337 Read More]]> Prepared for delivery at the Kohl Center
Sun. Dec. 15, 2019

Good morning and welcome to the winter 2019 commencement of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Congratulations to the new graduates, and a warm welcome to family and friends.

I also want to welcome and thank our guest speaker.

Jason Gay is a Wall Street Journal columnist and sports reporter, and a UW alum who has built a career around arguing why the University of Wisconsin Badgers are better than the University of Michigan Wolverines…and every other Big 10 team.

In other words, he’s figured out how to get paid to do what many of you do for free.

Jason, we’re all looking forward to hearing from you, and I want to thank you for being here.

2019 Milestones
Class of 2019, you are graduating in a historic year for this university.

We are marking the anniversaries of two important events that changed our campus.

First, 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the graduation of the first women to earn bachelor’s degrees from UW-Madison. There were six of them. You will hear more about them, and their legacy, in a brief video we’ll show in just a few minutes.

Second, 50 years ago – following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – students here at UW and around the country staged protests to draw attention to systematic discrimination that was excluding students of color (and faculty of color) from higher education. Here in Madison, the Black Student Strike ultimately involved close to 10,000 faculty, staff and students. It led to the creation of our Afro-American Studies Department and prompted the administration to make diversity and inclusion a priority.

Both of these anniversaries remind us that we are a public institution that opens its doors to provide a college degree for everyone who can show that they’re ready to take on the academic rigors of this place.

While we have not always lived up to that promise – at times we have excluded groups or been less welcoming than we should – it is imperative that we remember our history and learn from it, to become an even better and more inclusive institution. Whoever you are, if you want to engage in the learning that takes place on this campus, you are welcome here.

Today’s graduates
Today we confer 1,770 degrees upon our undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students. About two-thirds of you are here in person – many others will participate in the ceremony next spring.

December graduates are an interesting group. As our student speaker several years ago pointed out – it’s pretty unlikely that you came to UW planning to graduate in December.

Some of you took a little more time to reach this milestone because you did internships and studied abroad.

Some of you took a little less time because you focused like a laser on completing your degree.

And some of you have overcome great challenges to reach this moment. For you, today has special meaning – and I want to share just one of your stories.

Uma-ima Mohammed Saed was just 11 years old when her family had to flee their home in Baghdad after a threat from Al Qaeda.

For the next 7 years, they were refugees. There was no opportunity to work or go to school, so Uma-ima’s mother homeschooled her and her siblings. And then, in 2014, the United States granted them asylum and they settled in Wisconsin.

Uma-ima worked hard to build her academic skills, and finally achieved her goal of admission to UW-Madison.

Today, she earns her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the School of Human Ecology, and hopes to go on for a master’s degree at our School of Medicine and Public Health.

She is here with her proud parents and her siblings (who are also now UW students) – congratulations!

The value of a college degree
Today I want to make a few observations about the value of the degree you are receiving, which represents one of the biggest investments you (or your parents) will ever make.

As one of our students described his December graduation:

I am definitely hoping this is the most expensive ticket I’ll ever buy to the Kohl Center.

In your time here at UW, there’s been debate about whether a college education is worth it. In the last year alone, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post all published pieces questioning the value of a college degree.

Before I became chancellor, I was trained as an economist and have spent much of my life studying how the U.S. labor market operates. As an economist, I am entirely mystified by those who question the value of a college degree.

Simply put, you have just made the best investment you will ever make.

The monetary returns on a college degree are higher now than they have been in the past 50 years. College graduates earn far more than non-college graduates, and this remains true even if you adjust for differences in who does and doesn’t go to college. It’s clear that university training gives you skills that this global economy values more and more each day.

It’s not by chance that unemployment among college graduates is far lower than among other groups.

But it’s not just about the money. College graduates are more satisfied with their jobs and express greater life-satisfaction than people without college degrees.

• They are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce.

• They’re healthier and live longer than non-college-grads.

• They’re more involved in communities where they live, and more likely to do volunteer work and vote.

• And good news for all of you, college grads are far less likely to end up in jail.

The value of a UW degree
You have chosen particularly well, because you are graduating from a school that is consistently ranked as one of the best values in the U.S.

But the value of a college degree reflects more than the educational quality and the price of tuition at the institution you attend. It also sends a reputational signal about who you are.

So what will your diploma from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tell the world about you?

Let me start with the obvious answers. A UW degree tells the world:

• That you understand the appeal of deep-fried cheese curds

• That you believe shorts are not an unreasonable clothing choice on a 40-degree day in March

• That you will always root for Badger teams

• And that you know there’s no better place on earth on a warm summer evening, than the Union Terrace.

To be more serious – this is one of the top 25 universities in the world. The credential you receive today is a signal of excellence. It tells the world that you have deep knowledge of your academic field, and the ability to function in a big, complex, and sometimes daunting institution.

But there’s another thing that makes UW-Madison special. And that is our profound sense of responsibility to be involved with the world and to be part of changing the world for the better. That’s the Wisconsin Idea.

The class of 2019 has embraced this ethic in a big way.

• You’ve helped make UW the #1 school in the country for Peace Corps volunteers.

• You’ve helped make the Madison community a better place by doing 31,000 hours of community volunteer work in the last year alone.

• And you’ve set a new record for voting on this campus – and turned out to vote in far higher numbers than your peers at most other schools.

As one of our alumni said recently:

People like to talk about all the things “someone” really ought to be doing … at UW, they’re actually doing those things.

Collaboration
But very few people can tackle serious problems on their own. To make a difference in the world, you also need to know how to collaborate. There is a growing body of research that shows that groups solve problems faster than individuals. And diverse groups solve problems even better.

I hope you’ve learned something about how to work with people from many different fields and different backgrounds while you were here…while living in the dorms, being part of a student club, or participating in group projects in class.

There are plenty of big problems that need to be addressed and that will require many people working together. Like improving how we educate children. Dealing with climate change. Developing better treatments for disease. Or tackling inequities in our society.

No matter what school, college, department, institute, or research center you’ve been part of, I hope you have experienced an extraordinary community of scholars collaborating across many different fields.

I hope that you will stay connected to your friends and colleagues here at UW.

And I hope that you will use your education to make this world a little better.

Conclusion
Let me close by asking you to do something for me. Friends and family, this means you too.

Take a moment to look at the people all around you.

Today, we are all part of something incredibly rare in this country – and on this planet – a peaceful and joyful gathering of people from across the world, of every race and every religion … people from Beijing, China … Miami, Florida … Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and every point in between.

And people whose families started on every rung of the economic ladder.

All members of one big Badger family.

This community is what a great public university can create. Our doors are open wide to Wisconsin and the world.

Families, thank you for the support and love and advice you’ve given your students over these years – and thank you for sharing these wonderful people with us.

Students, thank you for making this university a better place while you were here. Keep in touch. Let us know how you’re doing. I can’t wait to learn what you accomplish in the years ahead.

Congratulations to each and every one of you … and On Wisconsin!

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