November 14, 2014
Good afternoon. Welcome to this celebration of the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay.
One of the joys of an occasion such as this is the gathering together of people who represent the history of this great institution along with those who will ensure its future. Thank you all for coming.
I am most grateful to have President Ray Cross with us this afternoon and thank him for his kind remarks and his trust in me. I am excited about President Cross’ leadership because like the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay, he is an innovator in a time of great change.
The University of Wisconsin—Green Bay is a relatively young university. There are many people here today who worked directly with our founder Dr. Ed Weidner, in honor of whom this wonderful facility is named. Dr. Weidner’s wife Marge is with us this afternoon and I wish to acknowledge her today.
We are very fortunate to have three of my predecessors with us today. These creative and pioneering leaders set the university on a trajectory of excellence and continue their support from afar. I want to thank Chancellors Tom Harden, Bruce Shepard and Mark Perkins for their great leadership of this university and for being here to celebrate with us today.
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is an extraordinarily committed group of volunteer citizens who love the university and Wisconsin. I am extremely grateful and pleased to be joined here today by the Board President Michael Falbo, Vice President Regina Millner and Regents Tim Higgins and Margaret Farrow. It is indeed a great honor to have you with us today. Thank you President Falbo for your kind comments.
I am deeply appreciative to the students, alumni, faculty and supporters who brought greetings this afternoon. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming years.
To be a public college president or chancellor is a great honor and privilege. But, since there are only about 680 public universities in the country, it can also be rather lonely. So, I am very grateful for the large number of University of Wisconsin Chancellors in attendance this afternoon. This is a supportive group of wise and experienced colleagues. Thank you!
I am also grateful for the Deans and Presidents of the UW Colleges and the Technical Colleges, and private universities and the many representatives of universities from around the country who joined the processing this afternoon. What a tribute to precious traditions of the American Academy.
There are no great universities without great faculty and staff and we are blessed with extraordinary faculty and staff at UWGB. Many of them are here this afternoon and it important we thank them for their work and, most especially, for their dedication to our students and to our community.
Among the faculty and staff is the group that organized this event. Some of those colleagues are participating in the ceremony today. I want to express my deep gratitude to Jeanne Stangel and the installation committee for their extraordinary work to make this such a special day for the University.
We also enjoy the company of many UWGB students, alumni and community supporters today. To have representatives of all these groups gathered with us is testimony to the importance of our work together in Green Bay and the region.
Long before this country or the State of Wisconsin existed there were nations of people who occupied this land and all of the lands of North America. The people of the First Nations continue to live here. The histories of these people have merged with ours and so must our future. Diana Morris joins the procession representing the College of the Menomonee Nation. We are especially honored today to have Chairwoman Christina Danforth of the Oneida Nation. It is indeed a great honor to share this celebration with you this afternoon.
The University is extremely fortunate to have the support of a highly engaged Council of Trustees who give freely of their time to provide counsel to me and the university leadership, assist us in raising funds for the university, govern our foundation and, importantly, advocate for the university and its programs. The chair of the Council of Trustees is Mr. Lou LeCalsey who is participating in the ceremony this afternoon. Thank you Lou.
It is an almost unimaginable personal joy for me today to be joined by so many family and friends.
My wife Georgia is here. She and I have committed ourselves to a partnership of love and exploration and the joy of life together in service and in the company of good people. She brings significant experience to Green Bay as a business woman, a community organizer and an advocate for those less fortunate than ourselves. She is a person of unmatched compassion, wisdom and creativity. She is my partner in this journey. No one could be more blessed with a life partner than me. Georgia, I love you so much.
Our three children are with us today. Our oldest Rosemary and her husband Brannon Stegall, our Son Brad Nix and his wife Sarah and our son William Miller. We are so proud of you. We love all of you.
I want to send greetings to Georgia’s mother Rosemary Nix who is unable to be here today and thank her for her support. I wish to say the names of my parents, the late Leon and Isabel Miller of Dayton, Virginia and Georgia’s father the late Dr. J. Elmer Nix of Jackson, Mississippi in order to remind me of their great love for me, their support and their pride in my accomplishments and to remind us all of the importance of those who came before us.
I told a group recently that one of the signals that Georgia and I had fallen quickly in love with Green Bay is the great joy we have felt over the past several weeks as we learned that some of our dearest friends would join us for today’s event. To be able to share this wonderful community and to introduce our friends to our new friends in Green Bay is a great honor.
You will easily know our friends from North Carolina and elsewhere. They are the ones shivering in the cold without proper attire. These friends have joined Georgia and the family in [indicate section]. I want to welcome:
- Max and Lynn Allen
- Eric and Jean Rosenberg
- Mary and Dean Gornto
- Carolyn Gavit
- Sandra Rowell
- Bob Tyndall
The love and support you demonstrate by being here is without measure. Georgia and I are deeply grateful. We love you all.
Next September, the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to share dinner with Marge Weidner, the wife of our our founding Chancellor Ed Weidner. We talked about the early history of the university. She was the third employee of the university so she was there from the beginning. The question I asked her was why in the world Ed would leave a promising career at the University of Kentucky to come to Green Bay to start this university?
After all, at the time he accepted the position, there was no faculty, no curriculum, no strategy, and no operational foundation of any kind. Local support for a new university in Green Bay was very strong but there was suspicion and uncertainty beyond the city limits. Appleton really wanted the university, the Governor was lukewarm on the idea of another university, the other state universities were suspicious. There are some in the room who may recall at the time Dr. Weidner arrived, folks in town had still not even settled on a location for the campus.
What was Ed thinking?
When I asked this question of Marge, she just smiled and said, “Ed loved a challenge.”
She and I know there was more to it than that. The 1960s were a time of great challenge and change in America. I believe Dr. Weidner understood better than most the powers universities have in navigating times of change, in fostering the American dream and, most importantly, in creating solutions to complex problems.
The founders understood the University could bring real solutions to real human challenges. It could do this by teaching its students to actively seek connections, to consider more ideas rather than fewer, to manage uncertainty rather than fear it, and to always remember there is rarely one answer. They designed a new university to apply this approach to the challenges of their time. Their unique approach stands today as one of the most important innovations in higher education. Imagine. An entire university organized around the idea that a college education was about solving great problems. I believe this founding principle is even more relevant and important today. It will serve as the foundation of our future.
We celebrate today during another time of great change, a global change that is already affecting Green Bay and will shape our future as an institution and a state. As an institution we must respond to the forces of our time. We must prepare our students to respond. And, we must take a leadership role in shaping the way Green Bay and this region, our community, meets the needs of the people who live here as we support the prosperity and growth of this state.
Our responsibility is great. Here is my vision for how the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay will meet the challenges of our time.
I believe our future rests on our embrace and application of three great powers — The Powers of the Phoenix — in a time of great change: the Power of Innovation, the Power to Transform Lives, and the Power of Place.
Power of Innovation
The first of the Powers of the Phoenix is the Power of Innovation.
The mascot of the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay is the mythical Phoenix, a long-lived bird that is periodically reborn or regenerated. What a fitting symbol for the rebirth and renewal in a world where changing technology and knowledge affect everything about how we teach, learn and work.
Consider the world in which we live:
- Over 2.4 Billion people use the internet.
- Currently, the number of internet connections and mobile devices exceeds the population of the planet.
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest on Earth.
- Every minute, collectively we upload 24 hours of video to YouTube.
- Every day we:
- download 22 million hours of TV shows and movies
- 19 million hours of music.
- Every month, 2.4 billion searches are issued on Google. Each of these is a question of some kind.
- More units of new information will be created this year than in the previous 5000 years.
- 4000 new books are published every day.
- New technical information doubles roughly every two years.
- So, students just beginning their university studies can expect one-half of the information they learn in their first year to be outdated by the time they reach their third year.
As the writer and public intellectual Thomas Friedman declared, we live in a “Gutenberg moment.” For the first time in history, nearly everyone can generate content and publish it to a global audience.
Technology is rapidly changing the world of work. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the American learner will have between 10 and 14 jobs by the time they are 38. And many of these jobs have not yet been invented and will use technology that currently does not exist. The top 10 in-demand technology jobs in 2013 did not exist in 2004.
We are living in an interdependent world and a growing innovation economy. To prosper in this world, our students must be entrepreneurs in their careers. They must exhibit extraordinary creativity, collaborative abilities and flexibility. They must not fear the world and its complexity. They must embrace it. Like the Phoenix, they must periodically reinvent themselves. UWGB was designed to give students these abilities.
But, the Power of Innovation requires exercise and practice. To teach our students to be innovative, we must be innovative. To lead in a time of great change, we must examine ourselves fearlessly and with a willingness to reinvent and redeploy. This requires us to turn a critical eye to the very innovations that set this university on its journey 50 years ago.
I believe we must:
- Ask ourselves whether we have right array of academic programs to provide our students the view of the world they will need to live and work in the innovation economy?
- Examine carefully whether we are being as creative as we can be in the way in which we deliver our programs of learning in a time when everyone has access to information.
- Determine whether we are organized in a way that allows us to capture innovations from the private sector and apply them to our learning programs, recognize and nurture the organic creativity from within the university, and to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among our students?
- And, I believe we must ask what, exactly, are the skills that will allow our students to lead in the innovation economy, how can we ensure they receive these skills during their time with us, and how we will demonstrate to the world these skills have been obtained.
Our consideration of these questions has already begun with the Invent the Future of Green Bay process and the establishment of a new university-wide planning and innovation structure. I applaud our faculty and staff for their great courage and determination in considering these important questions of our time.
The Power of Innovation is a shared power. We need partners to be innovative.
- We must asked our Regents to understand and appreciate our unique history and approach and the distinctive features of this region and its importance to the state’s economy, and to support and guide us as we take the risks necessary to help build a bright future for Wisconsin through creative regional solutions.
- We will ask our partners in business to help us invent new models for our future. As learners, we must be open to what the private sector can teach us.
- We must reach out more purposefully to our colleagues in the Technical Colleges and the UW Colleges with an invitation to try different approaches to learning and work for the future.
The Power of Innovation is our birthright at UWGB. It must be part of our future.
The Power to Transform Lives
The second great Powers of the Phoenix is the Power to Transform Lives.
The single most important attribute of prosperity in America is a college degree. Holders of the college degree enjoy substantially greater lifetime earnings, more opportunities for advancement, better health, provide more service to their communities and participate more actively in the democracy.
What is it about the college experience that provides these benefits? It is the personal transformation that comes from hard intellectual work in collaboration with inspiring accomplished faculty. This is a transformation that comes from struggling with and understanding ideas different than your own, experiencing the lives of other humans, learning the great power of music and literature, learning how to make a case, tell a story, write with persuasion, collaborate, think deeply and speak another language. It is the power of knowing the real answer is in how you ask the question. This is one of the most unique opportunities in the world — the American undergraduate experience. No enterprise in the world is better at preparing people for work and citizenship than American public higher education. This is the transformation we cherish today at UWGB. We have always cherished this.
The opportunity for us to transform lives is enormous.
Today, more than 60 percent of the students who join us at University of Wisconsin—Green Bay come from families with no tradition in higher education. We serve over 600 adults who wish to complete a degree or gain a certification. We count among our number over 300 veterans and members of their families who have served their country and are now ready to take advantage of the great transformation that is American higher education.
To welcome these students into our learning community, to discover their dreams and to help those dreams come true by collaborating with them to secure an education and then a fulfilling career is the most precious honor and privilege we could have.
Because of our embrace of the complexity of knowledge, our students leave here with an incredible capacity to take on the most important and most complex challenges of our time. The success of our graduates at securing employment — over 80 percent do so within months of graduation — and moving rapidly into positions of responsibility, demonstrate the great value of our approach. It is the way of the future.
But, we cannot ration our power to transform lives. The need for access to the opportunity at UWGB is immense in the increasingly diverse Green Bay community. Nor can we assume the simple beauty of learning, the most precious of life skills, is enough to sustain our graduates in their lives after leaving our campus.
It is my strong view that leading comprehensive universities like UWGB must work both to increase access to the college degree and to a life of fulfilling work. To do this we must focus on the following in the coming years:
- UWGB must work with great intensity and commitment to nurture pathways of access to the college degree, particularly in our region. Our Phuture Phoenix program is an opportunity for us to transform the lives of hundreds of underserved students in our region. I believe we should build on the success of this program and joining with our partners set as a goal to achieve within the decade of creating the means to provide every qualified local student some financial support to enjoy the transformations awaiting them at UWGB.
- I believe we should commit ourselves to establishing the necessary agreements and joint recruitment structures that will provide every college-eligible student entering our Technical Colleges and UW Colleges in our region an efficient and welcoming pathway to the transformation awaiting them at UWGB. I have already initiated these discussions with our partners in the region.
- Where appropriate, we must expand our professional programs and establish new graduate programs that meet critical workforce or social needs of our region. And, we must be prepared to reshape existing high-demand professional programs to allow them to grow.
- We must continue to embrace the needs of the many adult students in our region who wish to complete a degree or earn a certificate.
- As an institution we must share responsibility along with our colleagues in K-12 and the university system for providing cradle-to-career avenues for every student. We are a member of this community and we must support all citizens in that community no matter what their means or circumstances.
- Using the Power of Innovation, we should work to become a leader in developing new business models for making college affordable for every qualified student in this region.
- And, very importantly, we must embrace the imperative of career as a central part of the contemporary arts and sciences academic experience, not only by encouraging work and internship experiences, but also by actively engaging in discussions and providing direct training about contemporary work life and career in our earliest interactions with our students. Knowledge is universally accessible and the world of work is changing rapidly and will continue to change. Our innovations must include ways to teach students about the connection between the two.
To do all this we will have to grow. We will also have to adopt a coordinated, open and vigorous leadership role in all of the complex questions of education and the human condition in our region.
The Power to Transform Lives is a very special power. It will be part of our future.
The Power of Place
The final of the three Powers of the Phoenix is the Power of Place.
This is Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is our place.
Our place is big and complex and like no other place in the world. It is a breathtakingly beautiful, dynamic, broad-shouldered place with a strong and welcoming spirit. A place where people believe in the American dream. A place with special potential and special needs.
The UWGB of the future will embrace Green Bay and this region. We will look outward. We must:
- Organize ourselves for partnerships with business, government and the nonprofit sector that add value. This must include new relationships and programs that anticipate the needs of a changing innovation economy in this region.
- Related to this, we must directly support entrepreneurism and commerce through novel arrangements with the private sector and, where appropriate, execute bold initiatives that support business and build opportunities for students and faculty. We must become a leader in developing the talent for the innovation economy.
- Grow and extend our music and arts programs to every part of this community. There is no real understanding of the human experience or solutions to human problems without a deep and abiding appreciation of human expression in art, music, literature and the oral traditions. If we embrace the arts, we embrace our humanity. If we embrace the arts, we engage in the deepest form of learning.
- Support our Division I athletics program in order to celebrate competition, connect to this community and bring recognition to our university.
- Be open to the possibility of extending our physical presence in some way to a vibrant and growing down town Green Bay. I am especially pleased that Mayor Schmitt is with us today. I want to congratulate him on his vision for a vibrant downtown Green Bay and pledge our support to that great vision.
I believe the physical distance between this beautiful campus and the center of this wonderful city can be made irrelevant if this university commits itself to a vigorous, organized, institution-wide program of partnership and leadership in education, economic development and community vitality.
Georgia and I spend a great deal of time thinking about our future in Green Bay. We think about what this region and this city can be and how we can serve this community. And, of course, we think about the future of our university. We do this because this is our home. This is the Power of Place. It is the love of home. It is the love of our home.
I believe our future rests on our embrace and application of three great powers — Powers of the UWGB Phoenix. The Power of Innovation, the Power to Transform Lives and the Power of Place. These powers are within us. They are part of the UWGB heritage. We cannot apply these powers if we are afraid. We have to have the courage to ask hard questions and make difficult choices. We must do this with optimism and joy and, most of all, with love and respect for each other.
Ed Weidner would have loved this time. And, so do I!
Thank you. Go Phoenix!