Chancellor Gary L. Miller addressed about 500 UW-Green Bay faculty, staff and community members Aug. 24, offering remarks during the University’s annual 2016 Fall Convocation.
It is a great pleasure to welcome you here this morning as we kick off the second half of the first century of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Georgia is here with me this morning. We are deeply honored to be with you here at this most important time in the history of this great institution.
Let me begin by acknowledging some important guests with us today.
Dr. Lou LeCalsey chair of our Council of Trustees is here. You will remember that Lou was the recipient of the Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree at our spring commencement. This is a fitting recognition for someone who has given so much of himself to this university for nearly the entire 50 years existence of the institution.
We are also joined today by Dr. Ginny Rieopelle, Vice Chair of the Council of Trustees and another long-time servant of the University.
I want to ask the other members of the Council of Trustees who are with us today to stand and be recognized.
The support of the Council of Trustees is absolutely essential to our success. Dr. LeCalsey and I have committed to organizing substantive discussions between the COT and members of the faculty, staff and students of the University in order to build on the collective power we have in Green Bay.
Another special person joins us today. Marge Weidner, wife of the founding Chancellor of UWGB is here. Marge, thank you for being here with us and for all you do for UWGB and this community.
We were just introduced to new members of the faculty and staff. It is always very exciting for Georgia and me to welcome new faculty and staff to the university. Your energy and creativity will change this place for the better. We look forward to getting to know you.
The Provost also just introduced the deans of the new colleges. It is very exciting to have this cohort of experienced leaders join the senior leadership team. As they have begun their work this summer it has been obvious that the level of excitement and innovation they bring to their position is already paying benefits for the university. The tempo around our consideration of student success, new programs, enrollment, faculty development, fund raising and community partnerships has increased dramatically in the past several months as the deans and the Provost plan for the coming year. It is easy to see that once these leaders have the benefit of the wisdom of our extraordinary faculty and staff great things will happen at UWGB.
We are joined by two new student leaders this morning. Mr. Nick Austin begin his term as President of the Student Government Association. Mr. Dylan Tripp will serve as Vice President of that organization. Congratulations to both of you. I look forward to working closely with you on a variety of important issues affecting students.
[Introduce others if appropriate]
Of course, the most important event on our horizon is the arrival of our new and continuing students and the beginning of classes. It is at this time each year when we are reminded of the great honor and obligation we have to teach and discovery and shape the perspectives of students of all ages. There can be no greater calling than to transform the lives of students by encouraging them to Learn More, Do More and Be More.
This is a very important year for UWGB and the UW System. Perhaps even more important than the last two. Many of the challenges we will face together this year are not just strategic or tactical. They are challenges relating to our values and purpose. There is a great deal a stake:
- Our biennial budget negotiations which began in earnest last week are not just about getting more money for the university. They are also about the nature of the social obligation to support public higher education in Wisconsin.
- Our work to increase enrollment is not just about the bottom line. It is about how we will provide access to the college degree in an urban area with one of the lowest college attainment rates in the country.
- Our work to expand business partnerships is not just about political clout. It is about giving our students an advantage in a highly dynamic career ecosystem.
- Our work to nurture and sustain a campus climate that is not just tolerant but welcoming to the great diversity of people and ideas is not simply an obligation. It is a special opportunity to embrace every dimension of what is good in this region and this country.
As I told the Board of Regents last April, we are in a very real sense re-arguing the case for a public comprehensive university in this city.
There will be many opportunities in the coming months to work together on these important challenges. We will soon announce the first university business meeting where we will review our enrollment and financial picture. We hope this will become an annual event.
The UPIC has begun work to integrate the Invent the Future results and the new UW System 2020 Forward strategic framework approved last week with our current strategic plan to develop priorities for the coming years.
And, of course, we will need your help in supporting the higher education investment proposal approved last week by the Board of Regents.
But, today is for celebration. There is much to celebrate.
The UWGB experience is transformational.
During the coming year we will celebrate these transformations. We will do this through short videos each telling an individual story of how the work of one or several of our faculty and staff fundamentally changed their lives and the lives of a student or group of students with whom they have interacted. We want to capture and show to the world how your work enriches you and how in many cases it makes the most important difference in someone else’s life.
Let me show you an example of one of these videos.
[youtube id=”u28OgtXRvG0″ width=”460″ height=”259″]
We plan to produce two or three of these a month as we build a large catalog of important stories of transformation. We will show them widely and as often as we can. Of course, they will be available on our website for you to use.
We need your help in identifying these stories. Please contact Janet Bonkowski or someone in the Office of Marketing and Communications with your ideas. Thank you for your support of this project.
Just think about what we did as an institution in one year.
- In nine months, beginning last summer, the faculty and staff leadership of this university developed, discussed and won Board of Regents approval for a sweeping reorganization of the university. To grasp the enormous challenge we face, reflect deeply on our processes, conceive a bold solution and, in some cases, have the courage to suspend disbelief, to move forward with this organization removes all doubt of the power of the innovative spirit that is part of the DNA of this university. As I told the Board of Regents last February, I have never been prouder to be part of a university.
- On the strength of the work of hundreds of people in this room and with the support of many in the community, last year we celebrated the first 50 years of this institution in glorious fashion with numerous events on campus and in the community culminating in a grand celebration in the Kress Event Center.
- While engaged in that work, we organized a three day meeting of the Board of Regents on campus and used that opportunity to make the case forcefully that UWGB is not just another comprehensive university. We are the central partner in an internationally recognized, diverse and economically complex major urban center the success of which is key to the future of Wisconsin.
- As if all that were not enough, this past spring on incredibly short notice we hosted two major political events on campus. The work of our Communications team and the work of our Police Department were extraordinary in these events.
- And, most importantly, drawing on the resolve, creativity and sheer determination of many, many people, this university began the hard process of vastly reshaping its enrollment philosophy and strategy with the goal of vastly increasing access to the college degree in this region. We have a long way to go but it appears we have turned the corner on enrollment. Let me give you a preview of our enrollment picture:
- After three consecutive years of enrollment decline, total enrollment projections have been up all summer.
- The new freshman class is projected to be 11% higher than last year and our largest since 2012.
- 14% of new freshman come from non-white backgrounds.
- This freshman class comes from recruitment efforts in 347 high schools across the U.S.
- The freshman class includes 60 new student athletes from 11 states with a cumulative GPA of 3.46. This is significantly higher than the rest of the freshman class at 3.33.
- 80% of the freshman class will live on campus
- Our masters programs doubled in enrollment last year and continue to grow.
- Our engineering technology program is three times larger than last fall and continues to grow.
- Majors in the fine and performing arts are up 10%; computer science 35%; Psychology 11%; Accounting 6%; Social Work 14%. People are attracted to great programs. All we have to do is tell our story.
I have worked in higher education for nearly 30 years. I have never seen an institution accomplish as much in such a short period of time. I am honored by your commitment.
One of the most important aspects of this university is its work in the community and its potential for even more partnerships.
- Nearly every member of our faculty and staff give of their time in this community.
- The University continues to provide top quality entertainment in the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, one of the very best entertainment venues in the country. Last year:
- 286 public and private events.
- Total attendance 98,706; new record.
- 15,580 preK to 12th grade students from 67 cities. Increase in 8%.
- Kicks off another great season on October 15 with An Evening with Garrison Keillor.
- Our Division I Athletic program, one of only 320 in the country and 4 in Wisconsin continues to be one of our biggest assets.
- 85% of our national media comes from athletics.
- The vast majority of our major academic donors are Phoenix Athletics supporters as well.
- For the first time in 20 years, men’s basketball earned a spot in the NCAA tournament after winning 4 games in 4 days to take the Horizon League championship. What a great testament to first year coach Linc Darner.
- For the 18th consecutive year, the women’s basketball team won the Horizon League tournament, which was hosted at UWGB. The women also went to the NCAA tournament.
- Nordic Ski student athlete Matt Nichols earned a spot in the NCAA Nordic Ski Championship.
- For the 33rd consecutive semester, UWGB student athletes earned a GPA greater than 3.0. 72 student athletes had a 4.0 gpa in the spring semester.
- Last year the Phoenix Fund raised $1.2 million dollars in private support.
- And just last week, former UW-Green Bay student athlete Megan Lukan earned a Bronze Medal at the Olympics.
- We continue to reveal the possibility of higher education to large numbers of students in this area that do not think of college as part of their future.
- The Phuture Phoenix program brought nearly 1500 5th graders to campus to experience college. A record number 120 UWGB faculty and staff and 250 UWGB student volunteers welcomed these students to campus and helped with the program.
- This spring the Phuture Phoenix program hosted nearly 400 8th graders from Edison Middle school to campus.
- Last year this extraordinary program provided a total of 6691 hours of tutoring in our partner schools.
- Nearly 40 students from the Phuture Phoenix program will be attending UWGB this year with the help of Phuture Phoenix scholarships.
- And, this year a graduation we had among our first college graduates from this program since its inception.
- Right in the middle of our campus, the tallest building in the area is the Cofrin Library, one of our most important symbols of learning and discovery.
- This past year the Cofrin Library was awarded the Board of Regents Award for Academic Staff Program Excellence and was acknowledged at the April BOR meeting on campus. Paula Gaynard had to postpone a long anticipated vacation to accept this award – which she did with great pleasure. Congratulations!
- Speaking of the Cofrin Library, the UW System budget proposal includes a request for $1.5 M to plan for the renovation of the Library so we can get that project moving after nearly 20 years of planning.
We have a beautiful campus with good facilities. Every day and every night extraordinary people come to work at UWGB to clean, repair and solve problems to make our facilities work. What about those newly waxed floors!
Many have worked to have our facilities upgraded.
- This summer the Studio Arts, Band and Vocal rooms were remodeled. One of the great enhancements of this refurbished facility is a new digital recording studio that will allow students to record their work to industry standards.
- We signed a contract with a new food services provider Chartwells and they are renovating various dining facilities across campus. It is important to know that the new food services contract saves money for students.
- The traditional student apartments received a $1.5 million face lift to make them more energy efficient and safer. And we renovated the common student lounges in six freshman and sophomore residence halls.
- Last year we reduced our electric usage by 345,000 kilowatt hours from the previous year. Since 2008, the university has reduced electric usage by over 2.4 million kilowatt hours. Folks, this is putting Eco U in action.
- I know you will be very disappointed to learn that the time-tested and much beloved plastic water buckets in MAC hall are on their way out. Yes, we’ve received money to put a new roof on that hall to replace the original roof which has leaked since day one!
Let’s give a round of applause for Paul Pinkston and all the great colleagues who work in the physical plant department.
Last year, with your strong support I appointed Greg Davis as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Greg has quickly distinguished himself among system provosts and articulated a strong and forward thinking vision for the university. His has a tough job. I want to thank him here for his work.
His office is working with great success to put our vision of an urban serving university into practice:
- He created the position of Director of Student Success and Engagement and had the wisdom to hire Denise Bartell to fill that post. This will become an increasingly important operation as we work to implement the system strategic priorities.
- Under the leadership of Cliff Gaynard our preparations for our HLC accreditation visit moves ahead with great success.
- Matt Dornbush has brought an important new perspective to our graduate and research programs and there is much to celebrate there:
- Last year university faculty requested $18 million in extramural support for research. To date, $4.5 million has been funded.
- Many commented that the 9 UWGB students who presented their research at the Posters in the Rotunda event at the capital were among the best in the system.
- A new grant writer was hired to increase our grant capacity especially with large institutional grants.
- A number of new graduate programs were deployed and others are in planning.
The work of faculty and staff in the academic programs is outstanding.
- The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences under the leadership of Dean Scott Furlong:
- It is important to remember that Dean Furlong and his colleagues initiated the Engineering Technology program and the Medical College of Wisconsin partnership prior to the establishment of the four colleges. This is extremely important work and we thank Scott for his leadership.
- A new on-line program in Psychology was deployed.
- We received accreditation approval from the National Association of Schools of Arts and Design.
- The Summit on the National Assessment of Psychology (SNAP) was hosted on campus. This national meeting brought the best scholars in the field to UWGB. Psychology also hosted the Excellence in Psychology Instruction Conference (EPIC) for local area high school teachers.
- Forty-one of their students presented original research at the Midwest Psychology Association meeting in Chicago.
- Once again, the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation and the United Way have contracted with UWGB Center for Public Affairs to conduct the community Life Study. This work is foundational to our communities work to solve social and educational challenges in the area.
- UWGB musicians sang with Barry Manilow during his concert at the Resch Center. Theatre, Dance and Music also presented numerous student concerts and performances including the presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life on the Weidner main stage.
- Last year we celebrated the 30th year of the Historical Lecture Series created and organized by Harvey Kaye. Speakers included Richard Brookheiser (The National Review) who will return to UWGB in October. And John Fugelsang (host of Tell Me Everything).
- And we should not leave the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences without celebrating the work of Dr. Sawa Senszaki who was given the Future 15 Young Professional Award, a community acknowledgement of service and leadership. Congratulations!
- The College of Health Education and Social Welfare under the leadership of Dean Susan Gallagher-Lepak:
- This year the college will launch a solo Masters of Social Work program after several years of partnership with other universities in the system. Enrollment in the first cohort exceeded expectations.
- The MSW program received initial accreditation from the Council on Social Work Accreditation. The program received a perfect score in the process.
- The Social Work Department launched a new on-line training program for member counties that provides certification for Comprehensive Community Services.
- A new Nursing 1-2-1 program starts this fall with an enrollment of 24 students in the first cohort. This is a partnership with NWTC.
- Approval was granted for an collaborative on-line Masters of Science program in Health and Wellness Management to begin this fall with Parkside, Stevens Point, River Falls and Superior.
- The Education Department implemented a new articulation agreement with NWTC to allow students who have completed the Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education to transfer easily to UWGB.
- Education recently received a Wisconsin Early Childhood Association grant to develop an on-line Bachelor of Science program.
- The Education Department is busy building our first doctoral program in First Nations Studies.
- College of Science and Technology under the leadership of Dean John Katers.
- I have already mentioned the great enrollment numbers for Engineering Technology and our partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin.
- EMBI along with the Center for Public Affairs was awarded a $450,000 grant from Great Lakes Higher Education to support student internships over the next three years.
- As part of the 50th year anniversary, EMBI honored UWGB founding faculty members in environmental sciences at the annual Earth Caretaker Awards ceremony
- The UWGB Biodiversity Center continues to thrive. Last year the Center employed 41 undergraduate and graduate students conducting hands-on research projects supporting a total of $300,000 in grant funding. Scientists in the Center continue to publish ground breaking work with collaborators around the world including the University of Minnesota, the Smithsonian Institute, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and universities from every continent except Antarctica. Congratulations to Bob Howe and his great team!
- The Natural and Applied Science faculty continue to lead the university in extramural funding for research receiving a number of large grant awards last year. One of these was a $200,000 award From NEW Water-Great Lakes Restoration Funds to Kevin Fermanich, Patrick Forsythe and others.
- The College experienced significant growth in its on-line collanorative MS program in Sustainable Management and Data Science
- For the second year in a row all Human Biology majors that applied for dietetic internships were accepted.
- The Cofrin School of Business under the leadership of Dean Doug Hensler:
- The School developed a new emphasis in Supply Chain Management which is of high interest to a number of large companies in the community.
- Four new faculty members were recruited to the School to replace retirements. These new members bring exceptional records of research, teaching and service.
- The College has been extremely active in recruitment efforts participating in events in a number of high schools and technical colleges.
- Our partnership with the local company InitiativeOne continues to grow under the leadership of David Radosevich. Our work with InitiativeOne places us as a business partner in their growing Sports Division which provides transition education to professional athletes.
- The Cofrin School held an extremely successful Business Week event this year which included participation and sponsorship by most of the leading companies in the area.
There is much, much more to say. Let me end with this.
One of the most special opportunities Georgia and I have is to be with students in a wide variety of settings on campus and in the community. The majority of our students are the first in their family to go to college. They represent the future of this region. They understand the promise of the college degree in today’s world.
What we see are thoughtful, creative and optimistic people. They understand the world is complex. They understand solutions to today’s great challenges are not simple. They are strong communicators and deep thinkers. They don’t take their education for granted because they struggled to get it. They do not know this nor do they care but they are the interdisciplinary thinkers and doers that we dare to wish for at UWGB.
These are your students. Be proud of them. Celebrate them. Because of you, they have learned more than we can imagine, they will do more than we can imagine and they have become more than we can imagine.
Thank you all!