The UW Now: Coachella Valley

UW Now – Coachella Valley

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, Fiesta Ballroom – Salon 6
Thurs., March 10, 2022

4:35 p.m.

Thank you Mike for your kind words — and thanks to all of you for being here.

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I was last with you here.  It’s always wonderful to be in the Coachella Valley, and it’s particularly wonderful right now.  I know many of you will remember that special mix of snow, ice, and mud that is Wisconsin in March … but the days are getting longer and (in a sure sign of spring) the students are running around in shorts.

I’ve enjoyed talking with many of you tonight, and I want to thank Mike and Alisa and their team for bringing us together, and Dean Golden and Dr. Kaplan for being here to update us on some of the really innovative programs they’re building.

Before they do that, I want to share a brief update from campus.

Good News from Campus

  • First — I am happy to tell you that UW–Madison remains a ‘hot’ school. The deadline to apply for a spot in the new freshman class was last month, and we received a record 60,000 applications for about 8,400 spots.
    • There are lots of reasons for this – as you all know, the Wisconsin Experience is unlike anything anywhere, and we’ve improved in some significant ways:
      • Our graduation rate is at a record high (we are now one of the top 10 public universities in the country in graduation rates)
      • And time-to-degree is at a record low, which means more students than ever are graduating with less college debt.
  • We’re also continuing to expand our research – one benefit of the pandemic was the faculty had more time to develop new grant proposals. As a result, our grant awards went up 15% last year to $1.5 billion.
  • And ten weeks ago at the end of 2021 we ended the most successful fundraising campaign in our history – All Ways Forward raised more than $4 billion, which is a game-changer for the university. Among other things, the campaign is helping us to recruit world-class faculty and to compete on an entirely new level for outstanding students.
    • That’s especially important in recruiting students of color. These students are often juggling multiple scholarship offers and (as a Midwestern, mostly white school) it’s been historically difficult for us to compete.
    • We’re already seeing the results. Our current freshman class is the most diverse in our history, and we’re still going through the new applications but we anticipate that the incoming class will also be more diverse.

 Raimey-Noland Campaign

But we can’t just bring people in – we have to make UW–Madison a place where all students feel they belong and can be successful.

That’s one of the goals of the Raimey-Noland Campaign, which is named in honor of Mabel Raimey and William Noland, the first-known Black students to graduate from UW–Madison.

The campaign is designed to leverage the All Ways Forward investments with a special focus on building a more inclusive campus community … supporting research related to social and racial justice … and helping to ensure that students who come to us from high schools that might not have prepared them as well in math and science can be successful in the STEM majors if that’s what they want to pursue.

Let me give you an example.

We have a senior named Ashley Yang who’s a first-generation Hmong-American. Becoming a Badger was a dream come true for her.  She’s a biology major working on a certificate in Asian-American studies, and was doing very well until the pandemic hit and she found herself failing Organic Chemistry (those of you who took O-chem in person can probably imagine how difficult it is online).

She got connected with our Chemistry Learning Center, where she found the support she needed.  She passed the class and is now getting ready to graduate and exploring her next steps – which may include medical school.

When we launched Raimey-Noland a little over a year ago, we hoped to raise $10M.  We are now at more than $70M.

All of this speaks to how much our alumni care about this great university. That’s something to celebrate in any year – but in a global pandemic, your support has been more vital than ever.  Thank you!

Building Boom

We’re also in the middle of a building boom (consider yourself warned if you plan to visit over the summer).  We have a number of new or newly renovated spaces, and I am particularly excited about several that are upcoming:

  • We’re hoping to start construction on a long-overdue Computer, Data & Information Sciences building in the next couple of years. Computer Science is now the #1 major on campus and we’re finally going to have a building worthy of a top-ranked program.  This building is entirely funded by alumni donations…and we have a matching program available for those of you who might want to participate.
  • The state approved funding for a new academic building for the College of Letters and Science –to be known as Levy Hall – that will allow us to move a number of departments out of the Humanities building. I know a few of you will remember Humanities very well.  The melting snow still runs down the outside of the building and creates those giant puddles that guarantee your feet will be wet for the rest of the day … and now the water also runs down the inside of the building.  I can tell you the faculty are really looking forward to hosting prospective graduate students without constantly telling them to watch their step!
  • And finally – we’re replacing the Nat with the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center. It’s been a lot of fun watching the new building take shape – it’s going to have an ice rink, demonstration kitchens for cooking classes, and a lot more, and I know that many of our students and employees on that side of campus are really excited to have a modern wellness facility nearby.

Our fundraising campaign may be over, but our fundraising is not.  We still need to raise millions of dollars for each of these projects and I hope that many of you will consider taking part.  

Wisconsin Medicine

I hope you will also take part in the Wisconsin Medicine campaign that Bob and Alan will talk about.

We waited until All Ways Forward was wrapped up to launch this one because it’s very specifically targeted to bring us into a whole new era of medicine that includes expanded health research … translating discoveries into our clinical work … and educating more students in the health professions.

If we needed a reminder of the importance of top-quality healthcare, we’ve gotten one in these last two years.  UW Health and SMPH have been national leaders in this very challenging moment because of their commitment to examining everything they do and asking, “How can we do this better?”


I want to close with a few words about my own plans.  As you know, I am leaving this job at the end of May to become the President of Northwestern University.

I will have completed 9 years at UW when I leave and I love many things about this campus.  I will miss game days at Camp Randall and evenings on the Terrace.  But it’s time to let someone else step into leadership.  I will particularly miss all the friends that Hanns and I have made over these years, which includes many of you.  Thank you for your friendship and support.

UW–Madison is a special university, as you all know.  And, with your help, it will continue to move forward.  On Wisconsin!