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Chancellor Martin’s year-end message

May 5, 2011

Dear Members of the UW–Madison Community,

It is hard to believe that another academic year is coming to a close. That thought is a relief to those for whom summer can’t come fast enough, and I count myself among them, but it may strike fear in those who wonder how they can possibly finish everything they need to get done by the end of the semester. I count myself among those, too. In either case, or in both cases, I hope you will soon be able to look back on 2010-11 as a year during which you reached your goals for academic and personal success by rising to the challenges that always accompany important achievements.

Video: 2010-11 in Review

UW-Madison has faced enormous challenges in pursuit of a long-sought solution to the problem of excessive bureaucracy and regulatory constraint. I want to bring you up to date on some of the major events in the life of the university community during the past year, and then share some positive developments in evolution of the New Badger Partnership as it continues through the legislative process.

UW-Madison’s importance to the state’s economic well-being was confirmed in a consultant’s study that puts our impact on Wisconsin’s economy at $12.4 billion annually, supporting 128,146 Wisconsin jobs and generating $614 million in state tax revenue. And, for the first time, our annual research expenditures surpassed the $1 billion mark. At a time when financial support for higher education is under unprecedented pressures, these two new developments provide powerful reasons for the state to invest in the teaching, learning, research, outreach and public service that are our hallmark.

We observed 2010-11 as the Year of the Arts with dance, theater, music, visual arts, film and writing showcasing the reach and quality of the arts on our campus. In the second year of the Go Big Read common-reading program, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”prompted classroom and community discussion and debate on a range of issues related to bioethics and diversity, highlighted by a well-attended talk at the Kohl Center by Rebecca Skloot, the author of the nationally acclaimed book.

The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates (MIU) granted $4 million to 19 projects, completing its third and final round of funding for now. The final allocation will add 24.5 faculty positions in innovative or high-demand programs, bringing to 80 the number of new faculty positions that the program has funded. MIU, approved in 2009, leverages a supplemental tuition charge to improve the quality and long-term value of undergraduate education, while also enhancing our ability to provide need-based financial aid. In another boost to curriculum across campus, the university received an extraordinary grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will be used to support and sustain strength in core areas, hire new faculty, and support postdoctoral and graduate students in the humanities. The Mellon grant was matched by a commitment from the state of Wisconsin.

Students marked the year with outstanding achievements in the academic and extracurricular realms. We had a winner of the prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate study and the Udall Scholarship for students pursuing environmental careers, and 14 recipients of Fulbright awards for research overseas. A College of Engineering team won top honors in a national clean snowmobile competition, and a journalism and mass communications major was named PR Week’s national Student of the Year. Outside the classroom, student groups became active in breaking the silence against bullying and raising awareness to stop sexual violence. And Japanese students spearheaded campuswide efforts to aid victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

Our faculty continued to win major honors. Four were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, putting them in the company of the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein. One current and one emerita professor received 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship Awards, which recognize artists, scholars and scientists for distinguished past achievement and exceptional future promise. Jamie Thomson won the Albany Prize, the largest award in medicine and science in the United States, and the prestigious King Faisal International Prize in Medicine. Bassam Shakhashiri was voted president-elect of the American Chemical Society, the largest scientific organization in the world. Bill Cronon was elected president of the American Historical Association, one of the highest honors in the profession. Carolyn Heinrich was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. And eight faculty members were elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. These are just a few of the many forms of peer recognition of our faculty this past year. It is no surprise, given the quality of our faculty, that Times Higher Education ranked UW–Madison as 25th among the world’s top institutions in reputation for teaching and research.

As our intellectual resources flourished, so did our physical ones. The impressive new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery quickly became a hub for discovery and exchange. The dazzling new Union South opened to rave reviews and is already a must-see destination. The restored, stately Education Building was officially dedicated as part of the American Education Week observance. Construction of a much-needed addition to the School of Human Ecology and the eagerly anticipated expansion of the Chazen Museum of Art continued apace, and we broke ground for the new Wisconsin Energy Institute, Lakeshore Residence Hall and Gordon Commons.

Our existing facilities also reached a milestone in sustainability. Five years ago, the university committed itself to reducing our campus energy use and environmental footprint by 20 percent by 2010. Through the We Conserve program, we actually exceeded this goal, achieving a 25 percent annual energy reduction relative to 2006 levels.

The campus was abuzz in late September when President Obama became the first president to appear at UW–Madison since Harry Truman in 1950. The rally spilled out from Library Mall and was one of the largest crowds the president drew during the mid-term election campaign. We successfully navigated the massive logistical undertaking of a presidential visit, which generated priceless positive, national publicity for our university, particularly for our politically aware and engaged students.

Badgers everywhere were bursting with pride over our nationally successful sports squads: the NCAA champion women’s hockey team; our fifth-ranked football team that reached the Rose Bowl; our men’s basketball team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen; and six participants — including 200-yard backstroke winner Maggie Meyer — in the national Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Sixteen Chinese student-athletes, including world champions and Olympic medal winners, became the second cohort in the university’s partnership with Beijing Sport University, arriving for a nine-month stay in Madison. And, loosely under the category of athletic exploits, I must add that if snowball fighting were an Olympic sport, we would undoubtedly have been in the medal hunt after the epic Ground Hog Day battle of Bascom Hill between the Lakeshore and Southeast residence halls.

More seriously, I also want to share an update on some encouraging developments in the advancement of the New Badger Partnership. Lawmakers are just beginning to focus on the higher-education portion of the budget and as we continue to make our case at the Capitol and in the community, we are gaining momentum:

In an editorial aptly titled “Give UW flagship more freedom,” the Wisconsin State Journal endorsed the public-authority model. “Instead of its talent and research prowess slowly eroding along with state financial support, UW–Madison can become more efficient and nimble by freeing itself from the state and System bureaucracies,” the State Journal wrote.

Key business-community support is coming from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, which includes 1,600 businesses that range from one-person shops to corporations with more than 4,000 employees. The chamber’s board of directors rightly points out that, “For the university to flourish despite continued and significant state reductions, it is critical that the campus be provided greater flexibility to manage its affairs. For these reasons, the GMCC Board of Directors support making UW–Madison a public authority.”

Another influential business group, Downtown Madison Incorporated, announced its support of public-authority status as well. Susan Schmitz, DMI president, says, “We believe the Chancellor’s plan insures that UW–Madison will continue to be one of the top universities in the world, which is extremely important for the health and vitality of downtown Madison.”

In a signal that UW–Madison’s role in the state’s agricultural economy will thrive as a public authority, NBP won an endorsement from one of UW–Madison’s most important industry partners, the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. It commended the governor and the university for “recognizing that the UW–Madison must be made more competitive and stronger in the 21st century. Maintaining UW–Madison as a top tier University not only is important to Wisconsin’s cranberry growers but all of the citizens of the state.”

On campus, the Faculty Senate voted this past Monday to endorse the public-authority model. And in a letter to the co-chairs of the state Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, more than 75 UW–Madison department chairs and directors urged passage of public-authority status. “Increased flexibility and public-authority status would allow UW–Madison to preserve and enhance its world-class status and its ability to serve as an economic engine for our state, while also reducing strains on the state budget,” they wrote.

UW-Madison’s student government, the Associated Students of Madison, also endorsed the New Badger Partnership at a recent meeting. Chair Brandon Williams is quoted in the Badger Herald as saying, “I think this model is the only way our institution will succeed in the future.”

As important and persuasive as these endorsements are, there is also an important role for each of you to play. I am asking those who agree that the New Badger Partnership and the public-authority model are crucial to the future success of UW–Madison to speak out as individuals, citizens and taxpayers — not on behalf of the university — by contacting state lawmakers. With your own time and resources, tell lawmakers that we need their support of the public-authority model in the current state budget, not only for the good of UW–Madison, but for the good of the state. Details about how to contact members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee are available online.

There are, of course, people on our campus who oppose the public-authority model for UW–Madison. I want to acknowledge that fact and thank members of the community who have contributed to the debates on and off campus by offering civil and reasoned arguments against the proposal in the governor’s budget. Regardless of the outcome of the Legislature’s deliberations, we will have raised awareness throughout the state about the value of UW–Madison to the people of Wisconsin and the importance of changes in the state’s system of higher education.

I hope all of you will have an enjoyable and satisfying summer. Thank you for your commitment to this great university.

Chancellor Biddy Martin

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