Tag Archives: UW-Madison

Fostering Ethical Decision Making

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photos by John Bonsett-Veal and Mike Wenzel


Almost 250 11th grade students from 20 different Madison area high schools met for the 16th annual Rotary Club of Madison Ethics Symposium on Friday, Feb. 19 at Monona Terrace in Madison, affirming at the culminating luncheon the need not just for adolescents but all of us to “think all the way through decisions.” This kind of thinking, the students expressed, could be enhanced by discussing dilemmas with others including those whom we do not know and those who are different than us.

“Discussing issues with others can broaden your viewpoint,” said Katie Feller of La Follette High School. “It’s interesting to see how people can change their view (by thinking and talking it through),” added Liz Dominguez of Marshall High School.

DSC_0012The five-hour symposium kicked off with real-life reminders that ethical decisions abound throughout history and contemporary life. Steve Johannsen, the 2016 Rotary Ethics Symposium Chair, reminded students that the day was a significant date in history as US President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, authorizing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. “It is a decision that is still being discussed today,” he said, leaving “tacit” the current political dialogue on the Syrian refugee crisis and immigration.

DSC_0069   DSC_0079   DSC_0049

It was a group of UW students by name of “First Wave Hip Hop Theater” that in the opening session framed and underscored the importance of ethics by its artistic representations of the Holocaust, slavery (particularly vivid  and thought-provoking through a simulation of a public whipping of a slave), police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement with particular reference to the Madison protests in the wake of the March 5, 2015, police shooting of 19-year-old Tony Terrell Robinson, Jr. First Wave is comprised of a diverse group of UW students, all of whom are part of the first university scholarship program in the U.S. centered on the spoken word and hip-hop culture. The group’s performance helped the assembled 11th grade students indeed grasp how ethics not only shape individual lives but instead entire cultures and societies.

IMG_0492   DSC_0099

In three separate breakout sessions of about 20 students each, the high school students with the aid of a Rotary facilitator discussed the ethical implications of adolescent alcohol use and the potential for drunk driving, affirmative action directed toward youth of color, and the use of a locker room by a transgender student  who has not had gender reassignment surgery. Many of the students remarked not only how timely these topics were, but also incredibly important for them to discuss.

The three sessions not only provided rich dialogue among the high school students, but also introduced them to a hierarchy of moral and ethical thinking. Students initially were challenged to record their gut decision, and subsequently made decisions through the lens of “egoism” (What Action Will Benefit Me the Most?); “social group relativism” (What Action Do My Friends or Group Members Think I should Do?); Utilitarianism (What Action Would Produce the Greatest Amount of Good and the Least Amount of Harm?); and the “Right Approach” (What Action Will Best Respect the Rights and Dignity of Each Person?).

DSC_0022   DSC_0024   DSC_0023

Photo 1: Denis Collins & Melanie Ramey; Photo 2: Mike Casey and Rotary District Governor Mary Van Hout; Photo 3: Karen Christianson & Ben Hebebrand

“We want the students to think about these stages. Our goal is to lead them toward the Rights Approach,” said Denis Collins, who, as a Business Ethics Professor at Edgewood College, has lent his expertise to the symposium since its inception. “Creating a forum and a framework in a safe setting with new acquaintances,” is what defines the essence of the symposium, according to Johannsen. Affirming the sense of safety was a student speaker who proclaimed that “sometimes, but not today, our opinions get discounted.”

The sense of safety is no accident. All Rotarian facilitators underwent a five-hour training session, stressing ground rules best summarized by the mandate that participants need to “treat every single person with complete and unconditional respect.” The training for the facilitators included a presentation by local psychologist Dr. David Lee on “LGBTQ Discussion on Transgender and Identity Issues.”

The symposium also offered accompanying teachers and principals the opportunity to ponder possibilities to introduce further outlets for students to discuss ethical dilemmas. Rotarian Bob Shumaker pointed out that often it is the kids who bring back to their schools the need and desire for further ethics education. “Belleville High School kids created an Ethics program,” he said. “The kids created and gave their teachers ethical dilemmas relating to student discipline and assessment of student work.”

DSC_0107   DSC_0113  DSC_0117

Education, including learning about an ethical framework for decision-making, is of course enlightening. Thomas Mulholland of East High School summed it up this way: “Apathy is dangerous; ignorance is more dangerous.” Equally uplifting was an impromptu remark by a student during the public comment session that “after today, we can still have faith in humanity.”

What is the Value of a Liberal Arts Education?

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Stacy Nemeth

Scholz KarlIn a lively presentation, UW-Madison College of Letters & Science Dean John Karl Scholz made the case for a liberal arts education, especially when it comes from UW-Madison. However, he stressed that the University needs the input of employers and alumni to make it happen.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly earnings of people with less than a four-year degree dropped between 1979 and 2014, while those of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose 14.1 percent. Scholz was proud to report that the median student graduating from UW-Madison has no student debt. The almost 50 percent who do have student loans graduate with an average of $27,000 in debt. While that can be a significant factor in a new graduate’s life for several years, Scholz (an economist) compared it to an average return on investment of $500,000 to $1 million in additional earnings over a lifetime.

There are 35 departments in the College of Arts & Letters, encompassing the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities. The College offers nearly 60 percent of all credit hours at UW-Madison, according to Scholz. He noted that employers are looking for the skills and qualities that students gain in the College: a broad knowledge base, problem-solving skills, communication skills, especially writing, and critical thinking.

A recent survey of alumni who are one year out of college, or eight to ten years out, found that in general they have been successful in getting jobs. Their earnings are good, and 90 percent said they use their liberal arts education in their professional work. Scholz highlighted two recent graduates who have excelled: one becoming a Rhodes Scholar and the other a Marshall Scholar.

Outstanding research in Letters & Science includes the discovery of a new species of humans in our evolutionary history, and research projects examining the origins of the universe and international humanities. Scholz also noted that the UW Geology Museum is a gem which is visited by more than 50,000 school children per year.

Metrics for student success are good, including an average time-to-degree completion rate of 4.13 years and a 95.8 percent retention of freshmen. UW-Madison is rated ninth in the nation for best value for students.

But academic triumph has to be matched with cultivation of job and life skills in order to make students successful in their careers, particularly for first generation college students. That is why the College has launched the Letters & Science Career Initiative, which applies dedicated faculty and staff to work with alumni, employers and students. A new course for sophomores will help them reflect on their skills, define their aspirations and build on their strengths. Students will learn how to write a top-notch resume and build a professional network.

Another program, Career Kickstart, will create an immersive, residential learning community for 600 sophomores, with onsite academic advising and mentoring.

Scholz noted that no one is in a better position to help students build their professional network and succeed in a career than past graduates of UW-Madison who have done just that.  Alumni will be active in mentoring, doing informational interviews and offering internships. Scholz envisions that, through outreach and partnerships with employers, there will be more opportunities for students. UW Letters & Sciences seeks to be a “go-to place” for talent in the job marketplace.

Scholz was asked what we, as Rotarians, can do to help, and he asked us to help project the University’s success story throughout the state and beyond. He noted that state legislators will take note if they hear positive news about the university from “unexpected sources,” i.e., not university administrators.

CLICK to watch the video on our YouTube channel.

CALS Dean Tells Club of Today’s Impact and Tomorrow’s Challenges for Wisconsin Agriculture

–submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Jeff Smith

Pictured from left: Club President Tim Stadelman, Dean Kate VandenBosch and Rotarian Mary Kaminski

Pictured from left: Club President Tim Stadelman, Dean Kate VandenBosch and Rotarian Mary Kaminski

Kate VandenBosch, Dean of UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, presented a brief but far-ranging summary of Wisconsin agriculture to Club members on January 28.  She noted the efforts of Governor William Hoard to promote the dairy industry in the 1800s and the contributions of Professor Stephen Babcock who developed the butterfat test for milk in the early 20th Century.  The economic impact of agriculture in Wisconsin is huge; it composes 11% of the state’s economy, with 78,000 farms producing $88 billion in total sales. Beyond dairy products, Wisconsin agriculture is a leader in production of cranberries, potatoes, corn, snap beans and other fruits and vegetables.  Our largest agricultural export is ginseng root. Most farms in the state are family owned and operated.

As to the future, Dean VandenBosch noted the “modest goals” were to achieve greater productivity, increased nutrition, and greater variety of foods to help feed an expected world population of about 10 billion people by mid-century, while maintaining environmental stability and animal welfare.  She noted the likelihood of an increased emphasis on genetically modified crops in future years and gave examples of CALS staff and programs working toward better agriculture such as developing meats “beyond brats” to go with Wisconsin’s special artisanal cheeses and the “field to food-bank’ program that delivers surplus food to the needy.  She concluded with examples of efforts by CALS faculty and staff to improve food production and security around the globe.

The talk surely left Club members impressed with the current state of Wisconsin agriculture and the ongoing efforts to maintain and possibly improve the industry’s vitality and contributions to the state’s well-being.


Rotaract Tour and Supper, 12.01.11

Dan Larson, Chair and Jacqui Sakowski, members of the Rotaract Advisory Committee, accompanied students from Edgewood College and UW Madison on a tour of Full Compass Systems and to supper at The Imperial Garden Chinese Restaurant.

Roxanne Wenzel, VP Sales & Marketing, left above, guided the party through showrooms, recording studios, the colossal 80,000 sqaure foot warehouse and the a la carte bistro.

Johnathon Lipp, founder took the students through the history of the firm to the present day. The students were truly inspired to learn how Full Compass had bucked the recession and grown dramatically by doing the opposite of conventional business wisdom.

During a half-hour Q&A session Johnathon shared some of the downs as well as many of the ups, so everyone left with a taste of success underpinned with a good sense of the reality of managing a growing business in a fast changing industry.

Cool space, fast growing, hi-tech, rewarding, inspiring, were the words much used over a luscious buffet style meal at The Imperial Garden Chinese Restaurant.

Many thanks to Full Compass Systems and to Imperial Garden Chinese Restuarant for their time and contributions to this fun evening.

The Full Compass goody bags and cartons of Chinese food were enthusiastically apprreciated by our group.

The Rotary Club of Madison has 500 members from business, academia, healthcare and public and community service. It is one of the ten largest Rotary International clubs in the world and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013. Rotary International is a service club with local and global reach. It’s 34,000 clubs in over 200 countries have 1.2 million members who meet weekly to develop friendships, learn, and work together to address important humanitarian needs.

Outstanding Fall Semesters at UW_Madison and Edgewood College Rotaract Clubs

Outstanding September meetings of Edgewood College and UW-Madison Rotaract Clubs, have set the stage for a great fall on our local campuses.

These informative and engaging meetings, are open to all Rotary Club members, and District officers, and we can all benefit from attending.

The meetings on the two campuses are slightly different in format, although both run from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

At Edgewood they generally have quite a bit to share about their volunteering activities before a 45-60 minute presentation from a professional from the community who challenges the audience to think differently about how they go to work. In September students and guests heard from an entrepreneur who had taken the risk of trying new ventures, she took the lessons from each as she drew a curtain over the past and moved confidently and more aware into her future, with plans not to repeat her past mistakes.

On UW- Campus  a short update on volunteering, is traditionally followed by a 10-15 minute presentation by an international student, who will share about the culture of their home country.  In September, Erman bought our friendship with Turkish Delight, which he passed around the group as he spoke. He definitely left the podium with many many new friends!  UW students were challenged to think a little less selfishly about their networking agenda in their professional presentation, and they very quickly realized that the more they serve, the more they will be served by the people in their lives.

With first class speakers, and students who lap up every drop of experience and wisdom we can share, these meeting should be unmissable.

Fall Schedule:-

UW-Madison – Grainger Hall

October 25th – Ralph Kauten, Biotech Entrepreneur, founder of Promega, PanVera, Mirus Bio and  Quintessence BioSciences.

November 15th – Ken Waysalik, International Business Consultant who works with US companies to expand their businesses into global markets.

December 6th – Tom Guerin , VP of Research & Development for Kerry Ingredients & Flavors, Americas, who travels the globe to ensure that products fit the markets they serve.

Edgewood College – Predolin Hall

October 19th – Carmen Porco, a member of our Rotary Club who will discuss community issues and answers in the works.

November 9th – Moses Altsech,  Rotarian and Edgewood College faculty will provide a workshop on creating a great resume.

November 30th – Annemarie Spitznagle, will share lessons learned in founding and operating Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton, WI.

The Rotary Club of Madison has 500+ members from business, academia, healthcare and public and community service. It is one of the ten largest Rotary International clubs in the world and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013. Rotary International is a service club with local and global reach. It’s 34,000 clubs in over 200 countries have 1.2 million members who meet weekly to develop friendships, learn, and work together to address important humanitarian needs.