Category Archives: Madison WI

“We Must Not Accept Complacency”

   On an historic day, when the Club returned to the Park Hotel for the first time in more than a year of pandemic isolation, our speaker was fellow Rotarian Jason Fields. Jason is the new president of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership. He spoke on the topic “We Must Not Accept Complacency.” The title derives from his belief that Madison is a great place to live and work, but his mission is to give his all for everyone he deals with, always. And he construes economic development to mean “to empower people.” All people. He is motivated by the question that his wife asked him: “Yes, Madison is a great place. But for who?” He briefly referred to the statistics we all know, that Wisconsin has huge disparities between its White and Black populations. He and his wife were themselves discriminated against while seeking a home here as they move from Milwaukee. This is never acceptable. Beyond the immorality of it, we have to send a message that this will not be tolerated if we really want to be competitive in attracting talent.

   Jason mentioned several issues that MadRep will be working on. One is broadband, which is not evenly available in the state, in rural areas and among minority populations. He will also be addressing the problem of unequal access to capital by various populations. A fund is being created. There is also a tension between Milwaukee and Madison that is unnecessary and harmful to development here and should be eliminated. We should unlearn Midwest modesty and learn to brag about ourselves to attract talent from Minnesota, Illinois, and the world. Another problem we face: We tend to “sacrifice progress to perfection.” Task forces talk, and nothing gets done. There has to be a sense of urgency.

   Jason is a man of diverse experiences. He has been a politician, a financial adviser, a banker, a radio show host, and a podcaster. He is a dynamic speaker. A man with passion and an idealism disciplined by reality. He will be a valuable member of the Club and the community.

   Our thanks to Jason Fields for his presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/LBCqc9c_bcE.      

“How Can We Make Madison More Vivid?”

Zach Brandon made an inspiring presentation at our March 24th meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison.  As the president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and past Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, he is well qualified to speak to us about Madison’s present and future in his titled address, “There is Light in the Darkness.”  He structured his presentation around the intervening years since his prior Rotary presentation in 2018 which was his third.

The year 2019, as he showed, was full of positive indicators with Madison having the largest percentage of millennials moving to a new city, leading city in increased percentage of high digital skills positions and high stability in those jobs.  2020 began with more positive signs of Madison as a tech growth center in the Nation.  But then, covid-19 struck, and all conversation and attention stopped which muted the story of Madison.

Then the issue became, “How can we make Madison more vivid?”  Zach feels a part of that is to target the work force of the future in terms of gender, diversity and equity.  As he says, the data suggests the wind is still at our back, especially when national surveys consistently predict Madison to make the fastest recovery from the covid-19 down turn.

He concluded that Madison’s goal should be developing and attracting top quality workers to the right mix of jobs in the Madison economy.

If you did not attend the presentation and would like to feel good about your community, please view his presentation on our Rotary Club’s YouTube Channel.

Our thanks to Zach Brandon for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/Fp1PFHlnaSQ.

For the Love of the Games

Jess Carrier

Our Rotary speaker on February 3 was Jessica Carrier, who leads the marketing team for Noble Knight Games in Fitchburg. She spoke to us from the company’s store, and her presentation included interviews with key employees.

Noble Knight Games boasts the largest selection of table-top games in the world, including traditional board games, new releases, and rare and/or out-of-print games. They buy and sell games from individuals and manufacturers locally and worldwide. About 20 percent of the company’s business is international. Vice President Dan Leeder explained that his brother Aaron is the owner and founder of the company. In the 1990s Aaron had an assembly job in the Janesville GM plant — and a love for the game Dungeons and Dragons. He began by purchasing games in Madison and selling them on his AOL.com site. In 1997 the company had five employees in Janesville. After 20 years the company moved to a newly built, 45,000 square foot building in Fitchburg.

The new structure includes a storefront with space for a mind-boggling inventory — hundreds of thousands of games, according to our speaker — and in-store game events, which were held every day of the week before the COVID shutdown. They are looking forward to resuming in-store events in the future.

Carrier said there are emotional, mental and physical benefits to playing table-top games. Even if a game is not marketed as an educational product, youngsters learn and grow by playing. They can develop reading and memorization skills, color recognition, cooperation and important social skills such as how to win or lose gracefully. She said that playing table-top games opens neural pathways that help you learn and retain information longer. It has also been tied to a slower onset of dementia in adults.

While one’s fate in many of the traditional games may depend on a roll of the dice or a card drawn from a deck, most newer games place more emphasis on strategy and, in some cases, cooperation with others. While the goal used to be to progress on a board, amass the most money or be the last person standing, now the goal is more likely to involve the management of multiple resources.

The presentation reminded me that I used to collect baseball cards, as much for the bubble gum as the players. Getting the card of a favorite player — for me it was Rocky Colavito, who played for Cleveland — was a matter of luck. Now there are games where you construct your own deck of cards which allows you to build a winning strategy in the game.

The presentation offered some suggestions for people who might be interested in gaming but don’t know where to begin. Start by talking with family and friends about the games they enjoy. For a group of two to four people, consider Azul or Catan. People who are used to playing Euchre might want to try the Wizard card game, which has additional suits along with Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs. The Haba games are great for young children. And if you want to move your teenager away from screen time, try to find table-top games in the same genre that is your kid’s obsession online. And, of course, the folks at Noble Knight Games will be happy to help!

Our thanks to Jess Carrier and her staff for their presentation this week and to Andrea Kaminski for preparing this review article.  Our thanks also to Neil Fauerbach who assisted in editing this week’s speaker video as well as our song at today’s meeting! If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/nXLv_P2y2gw.

How to Be Curious and Why It Matters

Anne Strainchamps

Anne Strainchamps spoke virtually to Rotarians this week on January 20. As a veteran public radio host and producer, Strainchamps shared “How To Be Curious And Why It Matters.”

As a journalist, Anne said, “Curiosity is the DNA of our radio show.” She said curiosity is the key to learning, progress, invention; inventors are driven by curiosity.

“Curiosity is a habitat that can be cultivated,” Anne said. She continued, “We teach math, history, why not curiosity? It’s the one skill I value most; my job is to be professionally curious, and it’s my life’s satisfaction.”

But you can’t wait for it to strike. Anne told Rotarians to hunt for that spark and feed it by asking lots of questions. Asking good questions is a lost art. She suggested asking beautiful questions, questions that spark stories such as, “What do you treasure in your home and why?”

Science is a way of asking questions about the universe; politics is another opportunity for good questions. In today’s environment of polarization, Anne says it’s difficult to be curious and angry at the same time. She told the story of a former coworker, Barbara, who could disarm office conflict when hearing such a story by pausing…then asking, “Why would they say that?” And you would realize you were caught up in being angry or right.

Anne Strainchamps is the host of To the Best of Our Knowledge. She co-founded the show, along with Jim Fleming and husband Steve Paulson, and has been a featured interviewer on the program for more than a decade. She has worked in public broadcasting at WAMU in Washington, DC, and at NPR.

Our thanks to Anne Strainchamps for speaking this week and to Valerie Renk for preparing this review article. Our apologies for the technical difficulties during our livestreamed meeting on January 20. We have reloaded Anne’s video presentation, and you can view it without interruptions here: https://youtu.be/um27uKYTtn8.

From Washington to Wisconsin

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mike Engelberger

Jo Handelsman 2 21 2018During the February 21 Rotary meeting, we heard from Dr. Jo Handelsman. She spoke to us about her time serving in President Obama’s administration as the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in Washington D.C. and her return to Madison to become the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW-Madison. In Washington D.C., her area included the following:

  • Office of Science & Technology Policy
  • Science Division
  • Levers for Change
  • Initiatives, most notably the “Precision Medicine Initiative”

She advised President Obama about science, which he is passionate about; managed science and technology in crises, the Ebola and Zika crises occurred in her 8 years in D.C.; managed her budget; scanned for gaps and opportunities; championed new ideas; increased visibility of science and technology; led committees/task forces (26 agencies were on the Ebola task force!); and recommended candidates for the Presidential Medals for Science and Technology.

Dr. Handelsman stated how fortunate she was to work for and with John Holdren, OSTP Director, and President Obama, given both of them digest information quickly and are able to articulate it in summary form extremely well. She also shared that diversity in the agency was extremely important for better outcomes.

The levers utilized to accomplish advancements included:

  • Executive orders
  • National monuments
  • Proclamations
  • Presidential Messages
  • Presidential Speeches
  • Event Commitments
  • Federal Agencies
  • Formation of Commissions
  • Compelling Arguments + Stature of White House

Regarding the Precision Medicine Initiative: the 21st Cures legislation contained $4.8 billion for this initiative, had bipartisan support and passed both houses in Dec. 2016.

Now at the WI Institute for Discovery (WID), she is able to continue many things she worked on in the White House.  WID is currently experimenting with new ways to catalyze interdisciplinary research; generate new research collaborations across campus; and build connections with the State of WI. It is exciting to put the word out to the entire campus to obtain ideas and input on particular issues – it elevates creativity and collaboration!

WID has a “Small World Initiative” course, which is a fusion of research and education to crowdsource antibiotic research in the hopes of discovering more antibiotics. Across the world, 10K students are taking this course and providing research to solve global problems.  This includes collecting soil samples in support of developing new antibiotics. Dr. Handelsman encourages us all to visit the WID.

Our thanks to Dr. Jo Handelslman for her presentation and to Mary Borland for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Coach Healy Inspires and Motivates

–submitted by Roger Phelps; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

healy cropped

We were talking softball at the July 19 Rotary meeting.  Why?  Because our guest speaker was the UW best winning softball coach in the program’s 19-year history, Yvette Healy.  That’s why!

Coach Healy approached the Rotary podium pretty much the way she approaches her job as UW’s softball head coach – with a ton of energy, inspiration and positive thinking.

A native of Chicago, she is in her 8th year as UW Head Coach.  Prior to moving to Madison, she was the head coach at Loyola University.  Moving to Wisconsin wasn’t easy, she comments.  She was an ardent Bears and Cubs fan before arriving.  But, she’s adapting and excelling in her job.

She was hired to turn around a struggling UW softball team, and turn it around she did.  Under her leadership, the team has consistently moved up in the ranking and now eyes a Big Ten Championship ranking next year. She owes a lot of her motivation approaches to the inspiration she has gained through a handful of inspirational authors whose words echo in her coaching:  “Do something that scares you;” “Just say yes;” “Believe it;” “If you have a big enough WHY, you’ll find a way HOW;” “Take action.  Don’t fill your head with possibilities of negative outcomes;” “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough;” and “It’s not the best team that wins.  It’s the team the plays the best.”

She made a special point of citing Madison itself as one of the advantages she has in recruiting top talent to UW.  They see this special place and want to be here.

Coach Healy left her Rotarian audience with three final thoughts:  1) When asked whether you’ve accomplished something, never say no.  Say Not Yet!; 2) Show pride of the team you lead. Tell each of them you’re proud of them, and tell them why; and 3) Imagine how good things could be!

Did you miss our meeting week?  Watch the video here.