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From student meetings to cream puffs, Cream City charms Chancellor Mnookin

August 11, 2022 By Greg Bump

After days of meetings around campus and in Dane County, Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin took her sixth day as the university’s 30th leader to emphasize the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s partnerships and build relationships in Milwaukee.

Not only did this entail conversations with elected officials, students and community leaders, it also brought her to the pitcher’s mound at American Family Field with Bucky Badger, livestock pavilions at the Wisconsin State Fair and face-to-face with a cream puff.


The day began with an early morning meeting with UW System Board of Regents members Mike Jones and Scott Beightol, before shifting to a sit-down meeting with state Sen. LaTonya Johnson and Rep. Kalan Haywood at 3rd St. Market Hall in downtown Milwaukee.

Later, Mnookin met with nearly 20 UW–Madison students from the Milwaukee-area who are participants in the All-In Milwaukee, PEOPLE, Graduation Plus, and the MKE Fellows programs.

Makayla Harris, a graduate of Messmer High in Milwaukee who is going into her third year at UW–Madison, said she wouldn’t have even considered Madison without the financial support the All-In Milwaukee program provides.

A first-generation student, Harris spoke with Mnookin at length about what’s going well at the university and where there are opportunities for positive change.

“She is very interested in making a more diverse and well-rounded community, and in learning about the perspective of students, and where things can improve,” Harris said of her new chancellor.

Mnookin also shared her appreciation for community partners in Milwaukee and for the university programs that help encourage and increase access for lower-income students and first-generation students in the state.

Then she took a trip to American Family Field for a Milwaukee Brewers game and the chance to toss the ceremonial first pitch. Joining Mnookin at the mound was a promising young prospect named Buckingham “Bucky” U. Badger who, while standing on his head, uncorked a one-hopper to the plate to cheers from the still-arriving crowd.

In an interview with Bally Sports during the game, Mnookin said Badger fans are already pumped for the Brew City Battle on Nov. 11 at American Family Field, which she called a “great partnership.” The first basketball games ever to be played at the home of the Brewers, the UW women will take on Kansas State, followed by the Badger men challenging Stanford.

At the Wisconsin State Fair, Mnookin heard from UW Extension specialists and 4-H participants who talked about the ways in which participation in 4-H enriches lives in the state. At the same time, high school students in 4-H were preparing to show pigs at the livestock showcase. Mnookin heard from more about how 4-H’s youth programs prepare students for college and jobs in agriculture and beyond.

Mnookin wandered through pavilions, exploring the FFA (Future Farmers of America) tent, and strolled down Grandstand Avenue, taking in the sights, the sounds and the smells emanating from booths offering everything from BBQ stuffed sweet potatoes to fried olives.

And geez Louise, wouldn’t ya know that Charlie Berens, preparing for a show at the fair later in the evening, took a few minutes to meet the new chancellor of his alma mater.

Berens and Mnookin bonded over experiences as former Los Angeles residents and Mnookin asked him about his path from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to his current success as a comedian, creator and media personality.

“A broadcasting professor told me I had a voice for print,” Berens shared. Despite a voice coach, he said he couldn’t shake the accent he cultivated growing up in Wisconsin and lost gigs as a result. But, he won an Emmy while at KDAF-TV in Dallas and began to build a stand-up career, creating a character based around the feedback he’d received about his vocal flaws.

“The nice thing about comedy is your weakness can become your strength,” Berens said before saying goodbye to Mnookin. “And watch out for deer.”

Later, Mnookin visited the Case IH Coliseum for the Junior Grand Champion beef and sheep selections, sharing appreciation for the students in Wisconsin who invest in the state’s proud agricultural traditions.

Because no trip to the State Fair is complete without a sampling of the state’s culinary delicacies, Mnookin also visited the Wisconsin Partners Pavilion, where she tried a variety of local meats and cheeses.

Then came the cream puff. A little bit of pressure, a slight twist, and she had two, cream-and-powdered-sugar-covered halves of the iconic treat to eat the Wisconsin way. The State Fair says more than 400,000 cream puffs are consumed each year.

She capped off her visit as an honored guest at the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction, saying hello to Governor Tony Evers and State Fair leadership. There, Bucky took the chance to present her with the ball he’d pitched earlier in the day, complete with the mascot’s autograph. Members of the UW Marching Band also took the stage to perform.

“This first week has been a whirlwind, and I mean that in the best way,” Mnookin said. “I’ve only been in Wisconsin a short while, but I am lucky and proud to be leading this great public research institution. I’m looking forward to connecting with more Wisconsinites and listening to their stories and learning how the university can do even more to positively impact the lives of the wonderful people all across this beautiful state.”

Kelly April Tyrrell contributed to the story.

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