Tag Archives: UW System

UW System Moving Forward as Wisconsin Recovers from Pandemic

Photo of Tommy G. ThompsonInterim UW System President Tommy Thompson spoke about exciting initiatives designed to make the University even more vital as Wisconsin recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It won’t be cheap. Thompson said he has submitted a very aggressive budget request for the next two years. He said he’s “done apologizing” for the money the System needs to continue to excel and grow. After all, the UW is a pipeline for Wisconsin businesses, with 19 percent of its graduates remaining in the state for five years. The University is an “economic engine” with a $24 billion annual impact in the state. Now, he said, the UW could do much more, for both the students and the communities in which they study.

Thompson wants to expand the Wisconsin Idea so people in communities across the state will think of the University as a problem solver. Some of the initiatives in his budget request include: allowing some low-income students to attend the UW tuition-free; graduating more teachers to address the current shortage in our state; offering a stipend and other incentives to students to choose teaching as a career; expanding online education at all levels; expanding freshwater research; and supporting agriculture in the state so that it can grow and be profitable. He has also proposed turning one of the state’s prisons into a school under the UW System where offenders can continue their education, earn a degree and get a job when they are released. He believes this will reduce recidivism, benefit the affected individuals and families, and boost the state economy.

Thompson said the UW System’s “problem solver” role also applies to the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Face masks are mandated on all campuses. While he admits the University got off to a somewhat rocky start when students returned to campus last fall, he now believes its testing program is second to none. He said its positivity rate for COVID-19 testing was less than two percent by the end of the year, while that of the state in general was closer to 25 percent. The UW System negotiated to receive 220,000 rapid COVID-19 tests a few months ago and just got 150,000 more. Nursing, pharmacy and other healthcare students are giving COVID vaccines, and if they put in 16 hours they receive a $500 rebate on their tuition. The tests and vaccines are not only for people on campus but also for community members.

After his pre-recorded presentation, Thompson joined Rotarians for a live (and lively) Question & Answer session via Zoom.

Our thanks to UW Interim President Tommy Thompson for his presentation this week and to Andrea Kaminski for preparing this review article.  We also thank WisEye for co-streaming our guest speaker’s presentation.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/HOLTmwx8pM4.

UW System President Ray Cross: The Importance of the UW System to the State of Wisconsin

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Valerie Renk

Ray Cross 1 8 2020UW System President Ray Cross gave an impassioned talk about the past and future of the UW System, and the role it has played in the development of the state and impact on the world.

With his impending retirement Cross spoke openly about the challenges the University System and state face together and the successful partnership the two have employed to create opportunities and real growth for both.  That partnership embodies the philosophy and values of the Wisconsin Idea in the truest sense.

He made the observation the people of Wisconsin often do not understand or appreciate the significant historical impact the University has on the economic and agricultural development of the state.  For context, Cross related how University faculty and research was critical to navigating difficult times from the mid-1800’s to today.  Without knowing where we have been and how we got to the present there is little appreciation for the foundation we have today.

With the rapidly growing over-65 demographic and the nearly flat growth of the working-age population, one of the most pressing challenges is to have adequate human resources to meet future employment needs.  The quality of a University of Wisconsin education attracts students from across the country and the world.  A huge opportunity for attracting a qualified and talented workforce is to create opportunity that retains UW graduates that are already here for an education.  While there are programs to attract people from Illinois and veterans, little is being done to retain UW educated talent with the result that only about 15% of the out-of-state graduates remain in the state after graduation.  He encouraged the UW and businesses to work more proactively to welcome and attract students to remain in the state.

Another challenge the University is positioned to have significant impact on is improving access to clean, fresh water.  This is important to quality of living issues as well as manufacturing, agriculture and recreation.  Almost every campus in the state has some program on water quality, management, or research.  From agricultural effluent to lead contamination to invasive aquatic species to pollution, the University has the locations, experts and laboratory resources to partner with local and state government and industry to solve problems that threaten future water resources.

His last challenge to consider was for us, as citizens of the state, to support deeper and stronger ties to the University.  At a time when the knowledge and expert resources of the University are needed most there is a skepticism, negativity and distrust toward academics, intellectuals and learning.  Problematically, the Internet allows access to great volumes of information but also has allowed citizens to cherry-pick what to believe.

With the outreach and engagement embodied in the Wisconsin Idea, the UW System remains positioned to help Wisconsin (and the world) navigate the challenges and create opportunities.  The UW and the people of Wisconsin need each other.  Continued support for the University will drive future capability to meet the challenges and create opportunity for citizens of Wisconsin and improve the human condition beyond state borders.

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

UW System: The University for Wisconsin

–submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

photo (2)In a presentation packed with insight and ideas, UW System President Ray Cross closed his presentation by asking his audience of Rotarians and guests to “think of us not just as the University of Wisconsin but as the University for Wisconsin.”

Cross referenced the statutory mission for the university and its charge to “educate and improve the human condition” by relating ways in which this can best be done when the State and University are partners.  A serious challenge is to get more students into and through the System and keep more of the graduates here to leverage economic success.

Looking at higher education as an investment, Cross cited statistics which speak to the need to think of the UW System as bringing a return on the investment.  Developing the state budget is a difficult process and the System is not exempt from hardship.  However, he described ways in which the university can and should be viewed as a long-term partner, not another state agency or expense.

A veteran of Rotary meetings, Cross divided clubs into three categories:  singing, non-singing, and singing but should not.  He did not say where our club should be classified, but he broke into song himself with a brief rendition of “Que Sera, Sera.”  For those not familiar with Doris Day’s philosophy of “whatever will be, will be”, it definitely does not describe the need Cross sees for the University to be nimble, flexible, and engaged as a partner in securing a bright future for Wisconsin,

As UW System President, Cross leads a workforce of some 40,000 faculty, academic and classified staff, and graduate assistants.  There are approximately 180,000 students participating in the colleges and universities and more than one million Wisconsin citizens are reached through outreach, public broadcasting and continuing education programs.  As he begins his second year as System President, Ray Cross exhibited why he was selected by the Board of Regents to lead Wisconsin Forward.  (Singing not included.)