Category Archives: UW-Madison

The Rise and Decline of US Global Power

–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Alfred McCoy 4 24 2019

In an insightful and concerning presentation, UW history professor Alfred McCoy outlined some of the history and future direction of the world’s geopolitics and presented a somber view of the future of US global influence.  Since the early 1900’s, the US has steadily built up its international preeminence and paid special attention to the “Eurasian” axis, which consists of Asia and Europe, and more recently, Africa.  Due to actions begun in the late seventies and guided by Zbigniew Brzenski, National Security Advisor during the Carter Administration, the US made Eurasia the central area of concentration in order to establish and maintain its global primacy.  President Obama furthered that effort, but in the last two years, the Trump administration has reversed course on three main pillars of US primacy:  NATO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and relations with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.  This entire problem might be further exacerbated by a trade war with China.

Additional signs suggest this concern is well founded.  By 2030, projections indicate India and China will grow their Gross Domestic Products considerably more than the US, and China will become the world’s largest economy.   Moreover, China now files more patents than the US, has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, and does substantially better in its science and math education programs.  As most of us can observe at UW, the majority of technical PhD candidates are foreign born, and therefore likely to return to their home countries with their acquired knowledge.

Furthermore, China has become extremely proactive in attempting to widen its influence throughout Eurasia in a variety of ways.  This effort might be epitomized by their ongoing $1.3 trillion Belt and Road program, which cuts right through the heart of Eurasia.  In addition, they have become aggressive in taking over ports in Italy, Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and in the conversion of sand islands to military bases in the South China Sea.  Given these developments, as well as concerns regarding current US foreign policy, Professor McCoy projects that US hegemony will substantially decline by 2030.  The eclipse of US influence should give us all pause for thought, and for those interested in learning more about this critical issue, please see Professor McCoy’s recent book, In the Shadow of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.

   

An Analysis of the 2018 Mid-Term Election

submitted by Andrea Kaminski

_SHR0908UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden, on February 6, gave Rotarians an overview of the November 2018 election in Wisconsin, along with an analysis of how and why voting patterns differed from past midterm elections.

The 2018 election had the highest national voter turnout rate for a mid-term election since women won the right to vote in 1920. Wisconsin’s participation in the midterm was higher than most other states’ turnout in presidential elections. Both major political parties had turnouts above 60 percent in our state, and the overall participation was 25 percent higher than would normally be expected for a midterm.

Burden attributed the high turnout to the fact that it was an “interesting election” driven by the gubernatorial race. He recalled that his students were watching the Walker-Evers race much more closely than more nationally hyped elections, such as Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid in Texas.

The 2018 Wisconsin election ended the longest stretch of one-party control in the state since the 1950s. Burden noted that former Governor Walker has always been highly organized and disciplined as a candidate, and he is a master at fund raising. However, Burden described a shift in Wisconsin politics away from the formula that worked so well for Walker in the past toward a formula that worked well for Donald Trump in 2016. Walker was first elected Governor in the Tea Party Wave of 2010, which was a good year for Republicans. In contrast, it was clear early on that 2018 would be a difficult year for Republicans.

Democratic voters were better mobilized in 2018, and they voted in big numbers, particularly in Dane and Milwaukee counties. Although Walker won 65 to 70 percent of the vote in the Republican strongholds of Waukesha and Washington counties, neither the turnout nor the Republican edge was as strong there as in the past.

Burden does not believe Wisconsin saw a “Blue Wave” in 2018. First, the results were not particularly surprising. The President’s party always suffers losses in mid-term elections. Second, the effects of gerrymandering have proven to be quite durable.

Burden explained that until recent years, collecting more votes generally translates into winning more seats in Congress and state legislatures. According to that rule of thumb, the Democrats should have picked up 30 more seats in the House of Representatives than they actually did.

Democratic voters tend to live in densely populated cities. Burden said this presents a districting problem for Democrats even in “blue states.” The other problem for Democrats in Wisconsin and some other states is that the current voting maps were drawn by the Republicans who prevailed in the “Red Wave” of 2010.

Next year will be another exciting election year. With the Census taking place next year, the state legislators elected in November 2020 will get to draw the next set of voting maps in 2021. And, according to Burden, Wisconsin is the most competitive state in the nation and we can expect the presidential candidates to spend a lot of time and money here in 2020.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Financial Literacy for Today’s College Bound Students

submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Pete Christianson

Derek Kindle 10 31 2018

From left: Nasra Wehelie, Nick Curran, Derek Kindle and Virginia Bartelt

Rotarians celebrated Halloween on Wednesday with a topic that frightens even hardened fans of horror movies — college tuition.

Derek Kindle from the office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison administers more than $450M in federal, state, institutional and private aid annually.  While the topic is often front and center in the press and on the minds of many parents, grandparents and college students, the reality can be far more complex than just headlines.

College costs are rising while state support for higher education is on a steep decline.  Tuition and fees in the state of Wisconsin are slightly below average in the US and compared to neighboring states.  And while official data sources consistently report that those with a degree earn more on average than those without one, the question remains: How can students and families take advantage of the benefits education offers, but still manage the costs within their means.

Annual family income for 39% of the 2018 undergraduates is less than $80,000 with half of that number falling under $39,000.  While 53% of UW undergraduates graduate without debt, the remaining students have an average student loan burden at graduation of $27,138.  So, what are the steps to mitigate the burden of education costs?

Kindle says loud and clear that FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the best place to start.  The 2020 FAFSA applications are now available. The University spends considerable resources on communicating with counselors and high schools, youth organizations and directly with students across the state.  As part of that communication blitz, student aid advisors are also touting university aid programs.

New this year, “Bucky’s Tuition Promise” covers tuition and fees for Wisconsin students with family adjusted gross income below the state’s median income of $56,000.

The “Badger Ready Program” is for returning adults and veterans with 24 credits and a 2-year minimum break in attendance from an accredited institution.

How does UW look at the success with these programs?  Kindle shared two indicators: The freshmen retention rate is 95.3% and the average time to earn a degree has been lowered significantly over the last few years to 4.03 years.

Links to all the programs that were mentioned today are listed below.

Badger Promise                                    https://financialaid.wisc.edu/types-of-aid/ftb/

Bucky’s Tuition Promise                         https://financialaid.wisc.edu/btp

Chancellor’s &Powers-Knapp Scholars    https://cspks.wisc.edu/

PEOPLE Program                                 https://peopleprogram.wisc.edu/

“…Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”

submitted by Jocelyn Riley

Potter_Ken_

This week’s Rotary meeting opened with the singing of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, a suitable lead-in to UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Ken Potter’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing Yahara Lakes Flood Risk.”

Professor Potter pointed out that this past summer was the “wettest summer since I came here over forty years ago.”

He said that what he called “extreme rainfall” is only one aspect of alleviating flooding risks in Dane County.  Urbanization is even a more important factor, he said, pointing out that in 2017 there was twice as much development in the Yahara Lakes watershed as there was in 1970.  “But most of the Yahara Lakes watershed is not yet developed,” he said, and made the case that we need to oversee more thoughtful development that will improve water movement in the area.  “We are not going to stop urbanization,” he said, “but we need to find ways to plan development more strategically.”

There are some state regulations and laws in place currently that are helpful, but Dr. Potter also pointed out that some state laws recently passed undermine efforts to control flooding.

In answer to a question of what we as individuals can do to help with flood control, Dr. Potter made some specific suggestions, including constructing rain gardens and moving downspouts to send water onto grass or a garden area and not onto a driveway.  The goal should be to “keep as much water as you can on your property.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Alumni Park – A Must See on UW Campus

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Paula Bonner 5 2 2018

From left: Regina Millner, Jeff Bartell, Roberta Gassman, President-Elect Jason Beren, Paula Bonner, Angela Bartell, Kristen Roman and Steve Wallman

Paula Bonner, former Wisconsin Alumni Association President and CEO, stepped out of retirement May 2 to talk to Rotarians about Alumni Park. This new lakefront gateway has had more than 21,000 visitors since it opened last October. Its purpose is to be a welcoming green space for students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members. It is not a big space but it features several distinctive and attractive exhibits that tell alumni stories. Bonner is particularly inspired by these in a challenging time for higher education.

The park is a gift to the University from its alumni and friends, Bonner said. More than 150 years after the University’s first campus master plan called for a green space in the area, the park completes the recent East Campus Mall development. It replaces an ugly surface parking lot between Memorial Union and the Red Gym. The land was initially part of the Ho Chunk Nation, which was recognized at the opening ceremony. Bonner thought of the development of the park as the reverse of the old Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, with lyrics that said, “They paved paradise and put in a parking lot” – and that became a marketing theme for the venture.

Approaching from Langdon Street, a visitor first sees the backlit granite fountain where water falls over ripples carved in stone. Then there’s the 80-foot long Badger Pride Wall depicting stories – some well-known and others quirky – from UW and state history. The Wall was designed by Nate Koehler and made in Green Bay. The Alumni Way exhibit has five 18-foot panels representing the five pillars of the Wisconsin Idea – service, discovery, tradition, leadership and progress. Alumnus William Harley (1908) is recognized with a sculpture of a vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle that visitors can “ride” for a photo. The multi-media Bucky Badger sculpture by artist Douwe Blumberg is contemplative yet still whimsical, said Bonner. At night it is lit from within.

The park is designed to celebrate Wisconsin. It has 75 trees and plantings of many native species. To the extent possible, the exhibits feature Wisconsin materials crafted by local artists. For example, Bonner recalled a cold February day when she went shopping up north for a big limestone slab, which was then carved by Madison’s Quarra Stone Company.

Information about the park, the exhibits, and upcoming educational and celebratory events can be found at www.alumnipark.com.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

  

Korean Culture Night for Rotarians & Guests

submitted by Sharyn Alden; photos by Donna Beestman

Korean Night Photo 4  Korean Night Photo 5

On March 22nd, Rotarians convened at the beautifully appointed Gathering Room at Nolen Shore Condos for “Korean Night,” a Cultural Awareness Fellowship event. Cocktails were served, complements of our hosts, Soyeon Shim, Dean of UW School of Human Ecology, and Christopher Choi, UW Professor, Biological Systems Engineering.

We were treated to a bountiful buffet of Korean dishes catered by Sol’s on the Square. The challenge was not to overload each plate as the choices were intriguing and many. When Soyeon gave us a preview of the menu, she noted table-top cooking is common in Korea. I heard diners rave about the sweet potato noodles, a seafood, pancake-like presentation with soy sauce, bean sprouts and spinach steamed with sesame oil, and a wonderful surprise –potato salad with cucumbers.

Not surprising, but equally inviting, was the dish that most of us knew at least by name –kimchi a traditional, somewhat spicy Korean dish of fermented vegetables, often including cabbage and daikon radish.

At the end of the meal, another surprise:  a plate full of delicious cream puffs, made by our event organizer, Majid Sarmadi, was the perfect touch!

The after dinner program was a thoughtful, insightful “storyboard” culled from about 80 slides highlighting Korean culture. It was presented by our hosts who met in the U.S., but each was born and raised in Korea.

We learned that South Korea, about 30 minutes by air from Japan, is surrounded by “big power.” Soyeon’s mother lives within about 20 miles from North Korea, but the hosts said people in South Korea, for the most part, go about their daily lives without constantly looking over their shoulder.

The country which is about the size of Indiana has the 11th largest economy in the world. “We don’t have any natural resources,” Soyeon said. “Our resources are human resources.”

She illustrated that by noting that 80 percent of high school grads go on to college. “The country is obsessed with education,” she said. But that level of stress comes with a price. Of the 35 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea is No. 1 in suicides.

For those thinking of visiting South Korea, photos of the country’s beautiful landscape were stunning, magical and alluring.  First-time visitors might also see people bowing to each other. “This is one way we show respect for each other; in business and in personal relationships,” said Soyeon.

So much to learn in an evening, but it was a great start to discovering the intricacies of Korean culture.

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.