Office of the Chancellor Tue, 17 Oct 2017 18:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Our commitment to educating Wisconsin’s top students Wed, 04 Oct 2017 21:12:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also want to note three new recent hires:

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

A New Academic Year

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

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

Four Strategic Priorities

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

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

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

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

Entrepreneurial Strategies to Tap New Revenues

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

They include:

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

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

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

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

Couldn’t make a stronger commitment to this state.

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

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

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

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

Our final two strategies to bring in new revenue are:

State Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campus Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Our Campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor

Marsha Mailick, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for the fall semester here in Madison!

A message to our UW-Madison Community Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:41:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Chancellor Blank emailed the message below to all students, faculty and staff on Aug. 16.

Members of our Campus Community,

We had planned to wait until later in August to welcome you to our UW community ahead of the fall semester, but events across the nation compel us to reach out to you today.

We, like many of you, were appalled by the scenes from last weekend’s protest and rally in Charlottesville and horrified by the actions that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.

The use of violence in the service of racist and anti-Semitic ideology is cowardly and against the ideals this country has fought to preserve for generations. We unambiguously reject violence and the ideologies of white supremacist groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis that express hatred of people because of their identities. These organizations are antithetical to the values that this campus represents.

We’d encourage you to engage in conversations on these issues in the days to come. We also want to reaffirm our commitment on three vital principles.

First and foremost, the safety of our campus community is our top priority. Only in an environment that is safe can teaching, learning, research and service—each central to our mission—take place.

We have worked to put in place policies and plans that ensure our community’s safety as it relates to campus speakers, protests and demonstrations. We reserve the right to cancel or disallow events that threaten violence.

Second, we value the diversity of our campus community as a source of strength that improves learning, creativity and innovation. And, we aspire to build a community where all students can thrive, and challenging conversations can happen in a learning environment, in a respectful manner.

We would invite you to learn more about our efforts at

And finally, our commitment to free expression compels us to allow the exchange of viewpoints, even those that violate the values for which this campus stands. However, our goal is always to ensure that such speech remains an exchange of ideas, not an exchange of threats or violence which could endanger our community.

We stand by these values and plan to continue to communicate about them in the coming academic year.


Rebecca Blank, Chancellor
Sarah Mangelsdorf, Provost
Patrick Sims, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer
Lori Berquam, Vice Provost and Dean of Students


Lands’ End partnership a model of success Thu, 27 Jul 2017 15:29:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This week, I went to Dodgeville to meet with the leadership at Lands’ End, a company anchored in southwestern Wisconsin since the 1980s. We were given a great plant tour. If you haven’t seen it, you’d be impressed: The Lands’ End complex in Dodgeville is a major international operation.

But the best part of the visit was our meeting with a number of UW alums who work at Lands’ End, along with 17 UW-Madison students who are interning there this summer.

Lands’ End has long been a partner in helping us build our talent pipeline by creating scholarships and internships. This gives our students an excellent training ground with an international company right here in Wisconsin. And some of those interns get job offers. That’s why more than 150 UW alums currently work at Lands’ End.

One of the things that’s special about our partnership with Lands’ End is that it extends far beyond any individual school or college. Together we have built enduring collaborations through the UW E-Business Consortium and the Kohl’s Center for Retailing. Lands’ End also partners with a host of other on-campus programs in the School of Human Ecology, the Wisconsin School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science. And they support our athletic programs as well.

The new CEO of Lands’ End, Jerome Griffith, understands the value of innovation to his business. And he understands that UW-Madison can be an important partner. I’m sorry to say that he is a strong supporter of the Penn State football team, which is forgivable since he’s a Penn State alum. In fact, the president of Penn State called me when Griffith was selected for this job earlier this year, to tell me that he’ll be a great person to have in the Madison area. I’ve already invited him to see some Badger football this fall.

Our partnership with Lands’ End is just one example of the kind of innovative thinking that’s going to drive business development and keep both UW-Madison and our industry partners moving forward in the next decade. The legacy we are building together will mean a stronger, better future – for Lands’ End, for UW-Madison, and for the entire State of Wisconsin.

The cost of keeping the research engine humming Tue, 13 Jun 2017 09:19:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Among the many unpleasant surprises in the recently proposed federal budget framework is a cap of 10 percent on facilities and administrative costs for awards from the National Institutes of Health. The cap represents a dramatic reduction in the recovery of “indirect costs” universities incur to support research and to maintain safe and productive research environments for their faculty, staff and student investigators.

“Indirect costs” are perhaps an inappropriate name, as it implies to some people that these are not “real” costs. So-called “direct costs” pay for things like lab supplies and equipment, salaries and stipends for researchers and graduate students, and travel costs incurred conducting or sharing the research. Indirect costs cover facility and administrative costs which includes all the other costs of doing research. This includes services like utilities, internet, telecommunications, data storage and hazardous waste disposal. Indirects also pay for personnel outside the lab who provide necessary support to research projects, including security, financial, administrative, technical, maintenance and custodial services. They also help maintain and update lab facilities and equipment needed to conduct research.  Finally, these costs cover expenses incurred in maintaining compliance with federal, state and local regulatory oversight. Things like institutional review boards for human subjects, campus animal care, and biological safety are all paid for through indirect cost recovery.

This differentiation between direct and indirect costs was created decades ago when the federal government decided it was far more efficient to negotiate a fixed rate for facility and administrative costs with each university rather than to monitor these multiple complex costs in every grant.  Our indirect cost rate is negotiated every three or four years with the federal government.

Currently, UW-Madison’s indirect cost rate is 53 percent. In fiscal 2016, UW-Madison researchers brought in about $325.5 million from NIH, meaning that a cap at 10 percent for NIH awards only would result in a reduction of as much as $53 million per year for our campus. (We receive about $500 million in federal research dollars but the federal government does not pay indirect costs on all types of research expenses. A cap extended to all federal agencies would result in an estimated loss of about $110 million annually in indirect cost recovery.) According to the data we submitted in our last renegotiation, UW-Madison’s actual facility and administrative costs on research are more than 60 percent. That means the university already contributes about $7 from its own funds for every $100 we receive in direct costs for research.

If the federal government reduced its support, covering only a small share of the facilities and administrative costs that we bear, we would have to make some tough decisions about our research priorities. We would not have the resources to cover these costs for all of the research projects we currently conduct with federal support. As our faculty know, UW-Madison’s strong reputation for innovation in research is due to its broad research strength across many areas. Like many other public universities, we could not continue to conduct the same breadth and quality of research with lower cost recovery rates.

One of the biggest and most ironic reasons indirect costs are so high is the increasing regulatory burden imposed on research by the federal government. As any recipient of federal research dollars knows, there have been increases in the time reporting requirements, in the conflict of interest area, and in the financial reporting that we have to do. Particularly as these regulatory requirements increase, raising the administrative costs of doing federally-supported research, it is odd to propose cutting back on administrative cost payments.

I am well aware that not all faculty appreciate or understand indirect costs, and would rather receive fewer dollars in indirect costs and more dollars in direct costs. But the indirect dollars cover real costs of their research that have to be paid.  I also know that there is regular dissension about the ways in which indirect costs are distributed here on campus. I’ve now worked at four different universities, each with different models of distributing indirect costs. In every university, faculty grumbled about the distribution. We can have a discussion about UW’s indirect cost distribution formula – that’s a valid conversation to have. But there should be no disagreement about the need for the federal government to pay the full cost of the research for which it solicits proposals.

The proposed indirect cost cap represents an additional and far from insignificant cut to the nation’s research capacity. If implemented, it would reduce both the volume and kinds of research UW-Madison and many other universities would be able to conduct, further eroding the nation’s global scientific and economic competitiveness.


The federal budget proposal and its potential impact on UW-Madison Tue, 06 Jun 2017 11:19:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]> President Donald Trump’s first budget request to Congress has understandably caused some concern on our campus and across the higher education landscape. The $4.1 trillion proposal lays out an aggressive plan to reduce discretionary non-defense spending as a way to offset large proposed defense spending increases. The cuts are broad and deep, but a significant chunk of the savings proposed would come out of student aid and research spending.

  • The budget proposal funds the Department of Education at $59 billion, which is $9 billion less than FY 2017 levels, or a 13 percent cut in funding. While investment in Pell Grants would remain at current levels, President Trump’s proposal would drain $3.9 billion from the Pell surplus, speeding the time when Congress will be faced with increasing the funding appropriated each year or cutting the size of the maximum grant.
  • Beginning in July 2018, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is eliminated.  This forgives the remaining balance on student loans for borrowers who work full-time in public service and who make on-time payments for 10 years. Ending this program would impact students who pursue careers in teaching, non-profit and social service agencies, and with the military and local, state, federal and tribal agencies.
  • The president’s plan also allows the Perkins Loan program to expire on Sept. 30, eliminating a source of low-interest campus-based loans for high-need students.  This program helped 3,265 students attend UW-Madison last year.  The proposed budget also cuts the Federal Work-Study program by nearly half, to $500 million, from $990 million. Cuts to work-study student aid would affect about 2,000 student workers at UW-Madison.  Because our housing office employs a large number of work-study students, ending this subsidy to low-income student wages would also potentially lead to higher student fees and housing costs.
  • Under the president’s plan, the National Institutes of Health would be funded at $26.9 billion, a $7.2 billion decrease from the current budget. This 21 percent cut would result in almost 2,000 fewer grants. A reduction for NIH would severely impact lifesaving research on our campus and will slow the development of new treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. These cuts will also impact our graduate training programs that educate the next generation of science leaders.
  • The proposal also caps NIH indirect-cost reimbursements at 10 percent. This could result in a loss to campus of more than $50 million per year. Indirect cost reimbursement covers administrative and facilities costs that part of the cost of research. By drastically reducing indirect cost reimbursements, over time, the facilities and support for research that we can afford will decline, reducing the capacity and quality of such research. I’ll have a blog post soon that dives more deeply into indirect costs.
  • The National Science Foundation is budgeted at $6.7 billion, a decrease of $819 million, or 11 percent. While $6.7 billion will fund approximately 8,000 new research grants, that only amounts to 19 percent of the research grant proposals NSF receives. A reduction for NSF would impact groundbreaking work in the areas of advanced manufacturing and material sciences research.
  • The administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal requests $17.9 billion for USDA, a $4.7 billion, or 21 percent, reduction from FY 2017. The proposal would provide $1.3 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a reduction of $110.1 million, or 8 percent. A reduction for USDA would limit our ability to generate innovations in agriculture that translate directly to gains in farm productivity.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is budgeted at $4.8 billion, a reduction of $987 million, or 16 percent. The Trump budget sets funding for NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at $350 million, a $139 million, or 26.8 percent, decrease. A reduction to the NOAA could harm our efforts to enhance weather forecasting capability and preserve coastal areas.
  • The proposed $919 million reduction for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science would threaten innovative research happening at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and high-energy physics.
  • The budget proposal would eliminate the National Endowment of the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. The elimination of NEA and NEH would have ripple effects across campus, hurting programs to study the Constitution, preserve film history and even to assist veterans through innovative programs like the Warrior Book Club. The arts and humanities are also vital to the education of our students and support of our faculty.

I understand why these proposals are alarming, but the president’s budget request is just that – his request. Though the document signals to Congress the administration’s spending and tax policy priorities, it is Congress that makes the final budget decisions.

Unsurprisingly, congressional Democrats rejected the plan. But perhaps more telling was the less-than-enthusiastic response the plan received from Republicans. This suggests that we will likely see major changes before a final budget is adopted.

Next the House and Senate Budget Committees will draft their budget resolutions. These resolutions set the spending targets for each chamber’s appropriations committees. I don’t want to get too far in the weeds on the process, but suffice it to say that the federal budget process is a marathon, not a sprint.  Given disagreements about the president’s budget proposals, it is likely to take longer for all parties to reach an agreement on spending levels.  That means Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to operate under last year’s budget by the end of September or face a government shutdown.

In the meantime, our federal relations staff has been working to ensure that the importance of these funds to our institution, and to the greater state and national economy, is fully apparent to our congressional delegation. When administration officials come to the Hill to testify, we are arming our representatives with questions to ask. We have encouraged our congressional delegation to sign Dear Colleague letters in support of programs that are important to UW and our students.  Almost every program has a champion in Congress, so we will look for ways to work with them.

In addition to coordinating with national higher ed associations and science coalitions, we also work hand-in-hand with other Big Ten universities. In the past few months we have also coordinated Capitol Hill meetings for campus faculty; more such visits are planned.

In April I was in D.C. to testify at a congressional hearing about regulatory reform, I also led a Big Ten delegation meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan. During that meeting he made clear he understands the importance of federally funded research.

An excellent summary of the complete budget proposal and its potential impact on campus can be found here. You can also receive periodic updates by clicking on the subscribe tab at the bottom of the to the Federal Relations home page.

If you have further questions about how the federal budget will affect your department, or if you have information you think would be helpful to our federal relations team, please contact Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships Ben Miller here on campus, or contract our Federal Relations office in D.C. and speak to Director Mike Lenn or Assistant Director Cate Johnson.