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UW-Madison chancellor, alumnus and professor named to national commission

February 23, 2011 By Susannah Brooks

As the American Academy of Arts & Sciences introduces a national commission to encourage research in the humanities and social sciences, the University of Wisconsin–Madison boasts strong representation.

Chancellor Biddy Martin will serve on the commission, joining alumnus John Rowe and sociology professor Robert Hauser.

“Knowledge of history, an understanding of civic institutions, the ability to use evidence and to think creatively, an aptitude for cross-cultural communication — these are all vital attributes of a 21st century citizen,” says Rowe, co-chair of the commission.

Formed in response to a bipartisan request from members of Congress (including U.S. Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin), the commission recognizes the critical importance of these fields in America’s culture, education and economic competitiveness. The last comprehensive national assessment of the state of the humanities took place in 1980, the report of the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities.

During the next 18 to 24 months, the commission will draw on past research, data from its own “Humanities Indicators” report and the expertise of the multidisciplinary commission in order to recommend specific steps toward maintaining the United States’ excellence in humanities and social sciences.

A distinguished scholar of German studies, Martin received her Ph.D. in German literature in 1985 from UW–Madison. That same year, she joined Cornell University’s faculty full-time as an assistant professor of German studies and women’s studies. Martin went on to become provost of Cornell from 2000-2008 before joining UW–Madison in September 2008.

The chair and CEO of Chicago-based Exelon, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, Rowe is president of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Board of Trustees. He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from UW–Madison, and has endowed the John W. & Jeanne M. Rowe Professorship in History.

The director of the Center for Demography of Health and Aging, Hauser has led the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study since 1980. In recent years, he has studied trends and differentials in educational attainment, the role of achievement testing in American society and the measurement of adult literacy. He has pursued connections between social science and social policy through work with the National Research Council.

Members of the commission were chosen from the humanities, sciences, philanthropy, arts and media, business and law. Former UW–Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala, now president of the University of Miami, will also serve.

The 40-member commission also includes the presidents of Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Notre Dame, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania; the president of the Association of American Universities; former Supreme Court Justice David Souter; artist Chuck Close; actor John Lithgow; directors Ken Burns and George Lucas and musician Emmylou Harris.