Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Holiday Lobby Concert

2013 Holiday Lobby Concert (Photo by LTS student photographer Max Lee)

I was introduced today to another UW-Eau Claire tradition: The annual Holiday Lobby Concert in the Haas Fine Arts Center. What a treat to witness this concert, organized entirely by UW-Eau Claire students.

I took my place in an audience of UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff as well as community members of all ages to watch and listen as our student musicians did their thing. From handbells to euphoniums to woodwinds to a cappella vocal arrangements, we heard a delightful array of holiday tunes. What an outstanding way to spend a Friday lunch hour!

Many thanks to the student chapter of the Collegiate Music Educators National Conference for sponsoring this free event. I can't wait until next year!

Talking with a Holiday Lobby Concert participant. (Photo by LTS student photographer Max Lee)

Monday, December 9, 2013

A musical weekend

UW-Eau Claire's Holiday Concert, Dec. 8, 2013
I've said it before, but I just have to say it again: From the moment I arrived on this campus six months ago as chancellor, I've felt that UW-Eau Claire is a special kind of place. That was punctuated (with an exclamation point!) for me over the past few days, courtesy of hundreds of our musically talented students and our outstanding music faculty. The grin on my face had not dimmed even late into Sunday evening following the weekend of music my family and I enjoyed.

Starting with the Jazz Ensemble I concert on Friday, followed by the Madrigal Dinner on Saturday and then the Holiday Concert on Sunday, I was blown away by the sheer number of our students who are involved in music in some way during their time with us. I'm told we have the largest undergraduate music program in the UW System; that we have more than 40 music ensembles and organizations that offer students the opportunity to use and share their musical talents; and that our ensembles put on more than 200 performances each year in local, regional and even international venues. Many who participate are music performance or music education majors, but many come from other academic areas across campus and make music simply for the enjoyment of it.

It is impossible to be surrounded by the sounds of our student ensembles and not have it touch your soul and bring joy to your heart. This feeling is evident during a performance and it lingers with us in the days and weeks that follow. I believe that the diffusive nature of music on our campus affects the entire student body and our university culture, and is one of the reasons that UW-Eau Claire is so special.

To our student musicians, thank you for sharing your gifts with so many — from the audiences at your concerts and recitals to the roommates and other friends here at UW-Eau Claire who benefit regularly on a more informal basis. And to our world-class music faculty: Thank you for dedication to providing our students with countless opportunities to develop their musical gifts — and to share them with the world.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Inaugural reflection

My heart is full, and I am humbled.

Thank you to all who made yesterday's celebration of my inauguration and, more importantly, the celebration of the great institution of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire such an amazing event.

My heart is full as I think back now on our gathering in the W.R. Davies Student Center, where I looked about at the faces of so many joined to celebrate the history and future of our university. I am humbled as I recall the support I felt from all those gathered for the occasion: my family, friends and lifelong mentors; the talented and dedicated faculty and staff with whom I have the privilege of working every day; our university foundation and alumni leadership; our partners from the Ho-Chunk Nation; UW System leaders and colleagues; state legislators and community leaders; proud Blugold alumni; community members who love this university; and everywhere, our outstanding students.

We talked about the history that has led us as a university to where we are today. We were moved by the eloquent words of our esteemed Professor of English and Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Max Garland, as he shared with us his beautiful poem, "For a Dedication by the River," written just for the occasion. We were lifted by the music of our unbelievably talented students. We talked about the work we will do together, building on our university's tradition of audaciously serving the public good and advocating for all who seek a college education to be able to achieve that goal. And we were reminded of the joy we will find in working together to serve our mission.

Thank you to all who planned and contributed in any way to this wonderful celebration. It is a day I will carry in my heart for years to come, and I am energized to move forward together in our important work for our students, our region, our state, our nation and our world.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

UW System incentive grants go to two UW-Eau Claire-led initiatives

Congratulations to Dr. Kent Syverson, chair of the geology department, and Dr. Linda Young, dean of the College of Health and Health Sciences, for having their proposals selected for funding through the newly created UW System Incentive Grant Program!

The UW System will invest $22.5 million over the next two years in projects aimed at increasing economic growth and building a stronger Wisconsin workforce. Campuses from across the UW System submitted 56 proposals for the incentive grants, 12 of which were approved by a regent committee for funding — including two from UW-Eau Claire.

Nursing initiative
Led by UW-Eau Claire, the nursing initiative received $3.2 million to increase the number of nursing faculty at four UW System nursing programs, support nursing enrollments and mitigate projections for unprecedented shortages of registered nurses in Wisconsin. UW System schools that are part of the project include Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee and Oshkosh.

Currently, a shortage of nursing educators in Wisconsin greatly limits the number of students who can be accepted into nursing programs. In 2012-13, 50-80 percent of qualified undergraduate students who applied to nursing schools at the four UW System institutions were denied admission primarily because there was not enough qualified nursing faculty to teach them.

The newly funded project would encourage new nurses to immediately pursue their doctoral degrees and encourage established nurses to enroll in nursing doctoral programs full-time. Fellowships, loan forgiveness programs and nursing faculty summits are among the strategies that will be used to accomplish the project's goals. Nurses who receive the fellowships and participate in the loan forgiveness program will make three-year teaching commitments to UW nursing schools, which will enable those programs to enroll more nursing students.

Responsible Mining Initiative
Dr. Syverson's Responsible Mining Initiative received $451,000 in grant monies to focus on workforce development to meet the needs of the mining industry and environmental sustainability.

Modern mining is a highly complex process with a strong focus on environmental stewardship and mining practices that minimize environmental impacts. Through outreach, education and internships, the "Responsible Mining Initiative" will establish an educational program in economic mineral resources, responsible mining practices and environmental protection.

The program will prepare students for jobs in mining and environmental consulting industries as well as with governmental regulatory agencies.

It also will offer Wisconsin high school teachers summer classes that focus on the geology, resources on environmental issues in the upper Midwest and on careers in the geosciences. Seminars for high school students also will give them hands-on learning experiences that introduce them to geology, natural resources, water resources and geoscience careers in the region.

I'm proud that UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff are leading these exciting and innovative initiatives, which will contribute to our region and state's economic growth and strengthen the workforce in industries that are important to Wisconsin!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The impatient patient

As some but not all of you know, I’ve been a bit laid up for the past 2½ weeks following an unfortunate fall at home that resulted in a compression fracture in my back. I underwent successful treatment for the fracture, but my recuperation will take time – and that’s the difficult part for me. I was out of action for the first week and have been back to work in a limited capacity since, unfortunately needing to reschedule meetings and forgo attending some events to make my schedule more manageable.

I’m so thankful to many people here on campus, from my office staff for holding things together and moving forward, to those who’ve been so patient as I’ve needed to reschedule my meetings (or have arrived late because of my increased across-campus travel time!), to the many of you who’ve sent cards and words of encouragement. Your support is very much appreciated.

This time of recuperation is challenging for me. I have been an impatient patient! I’d love nothing better than to be back at 100 percent, and I know that will  happen in time. I’m very much looking forward to again being physically able to fully engage in our work together.

This campus community is an important, sustaining source of energy for me as I work to get my activity level back to normal.  Thank you for your continued understanding  as I do my best to follow doctor’s orders. And please know that we still fully intend to celebrate UW-Eau Claire in a big way when we hold inauguration festivities on Friday, Nov. 8 — please plan to attend!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Surprise visit in the chancellor's office

Fifth Element members with Kim Schmidt outside UW-Eau Claire chancellor's office
Kim Schmidt, wife of Chancellor James Schmidt, was photographed with members
of UW-Eau Claire a cappella group Fifth Element after they put on a surprise
performance Oct. 9 in the chancellor's office. Fifth Element members, from left, include
Adam VandenHeuvel, Tyler Graf, Adam Bergman, Seth Hale, Grant Nerison and Will Berendsen.
On a recent afternoon,  I heard wonderful singing coming from Schofield Auditorium and walked in to find one of our male a cappella groups rehearsing. I listened for a bit, thoroughly enjoying what I heard, and took the opportunity to have a conversation with these talented young men.

I learned they are members of Fifth Element, and they come from a variety of academic majors here at UW-Eau Claire. I'm growing to love that here: So many students take advantage of the countless opportunities on this campus to pursue diverse interests outside their fields of study. It's exciting to see them pursuing their academic and career goals while still keeping active with outside activities purely for the enjoyment of it. I'm happy to see them setting in place the groundwork for lives of balance.

Unfortunately, I missed a visit from these talented students today when they showed up at my office, ready to put on a surprise performance, and I was out. Fortunately, my wife, Kim, happened to be there and, along with a number of happily surprised staff members, was able to hear them sing. Judging from her happy face in the photo above, I missed a really good show.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The "Wow!" factor: Blugold Marching Band

The Blugold Marching Band displayed its trademark explosive energy during
its halftime show Sept. 28 at Carson Park.
One of the highlights of my weekend was seeing the Blugold Marching Band perform at Saturday's home-opener football game in Carson Park.
All I can say is WOW!

The performance was breathtaking. The band is so much fun that I wanted to grab my trombone and join them!

The students in the Blugold Marching Band completely change the game day environment. Many people on campus and off have told me they enjoy watching the band perform as much as they enjoy watching the football game itself. That's an impressive accomplishment given Wisconsin's love for football.

I was glad to see the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram give this creative and talented group of students some much-deserved attention in a recent feature story about the Blugold Marching Band.

At Saturday's game, I enjoyed talking with Randal Dickerson, director of the Blugold Marching Band. I also had a chance congratulate the drum majors: Ross Christianson, Cornell; Sean Conway, Rosemount, Minn.; and Nick Hansberry, Alexandria, Minn.

With more than 300 members, the Blugold Marching Band is the largest Division III band in the country, and larger than the marching bands at UW-Madison, the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa.

My congratulations and thanks to Director Dickerson and his talented students for representing UW-Eau Claire so well in the Chippewa Valley and during their performance tours throughout the world.

Showcase weekend for Blugold athletics

In recent weeks, I've had the opportunity to attend volleyball, women's soccer and football games, giving me a taste of UW-Eau Claire's rich Blugold athletics programs.

Already, it's clear to me why the Blugolds were ranked the 14th best athletics program out of more than 430 NCAA Division III schools in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup. The level of talent in multiple sports is impressive!

Even more impressive is that last year our 516 student-athletes earned a cumulative 3.124 GPA, and earned two National Jostens Community Service Awards. Also, 321 Blugold student-athletes were named to the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll, and 33 different Blugolds earned a total of 40 All-American honors. These are just a few highlights from a long list of honors our student-athletes received in recent months.

UW-Eau Claire Nick Hirsch makes a great catch during Saturday's Blugold
football game against Pacific Lutheran University.
These student-athletes demonstrate that athletic and academic success is not mutually exclusive. We are providing our student-athletes with the best experience possible as they pursue their athletics and academic goals. The student-athletes are learning the values of teamwork, leadership, focus, time management and perseverance. And by sharing their talents, they enhance the quality of life on our campus and in the Eau Claire community.

Saturday I enjoyed the home opener for the Blugold football team. While the Blugolds came up short on the scoreboard, it was a hard-fought game against a nationally ranked team. The rain didn't dampen the spirits of the Blugold players or the fans who gathered to cheer them on.

Blugold men's hockey team
members Andrew Wilcox,
Jordan Singer and Daniel
Olszewski sport their national
 championship rings, presented
during Saturday's
Blugold football game.
Before Saturday's football game, I had the honor of presenting the players and coaches on the 2013 Blugold national championship men's hockey team with their championship rings. It was fun to celebrate their recent success as we look forward to seeing what this team — led by National Coach of the Year Matt Loen — will accomplish in the upcoming season.

Also this weekend, we welcomed seven athletes and coaches into the Blugold Hall of Fame. As I talked with them during Saturday's Blugold Hall of Fame Banquet, it was clear that UW-Eau Claire has played an important role in the lives of these athletes and coaches.

Congratulations again to the newest Hall of Famers: Marilyn Skrivseth, former director of athletics, and tennis and track coach; Don Parker, wrestling coach; Darrel Snell, football player; Rick Dahl and Tanya (Bauer) Longo, basketball players; Kari (Albers) Madden, diver; and Jason Slaikeu, national track champion.

The newest Blugold Hall of Fame inductees (left to right): Don Parker,
Kari (Albers) Madden, Marilyn Skrivseth, Tanya (Bauer) Longo,
Rick Dahl, Jason Slaikeu and Darrel Snell.
Several student-athletes also were honored during Saturday's banquet as Super Six Salute Award winners. The university's highest athletics honor went to Sarah Bingea, a women's basketball player from Delano, Minn.; Aaron Easker, a men's track and field and cross country runner from Eland; Jeremy Kieser, a men's track and field and cross country runner from Verona; Ashlyn Mauer, a women's track and field and cross country runner from Sheboygan Falls; Erin Schoenfelder, a women's' track and field runner from Antioch, Ill.; and Jordan Singer, a men's hockey player from Lino Lakes, Minn.

Also at the banquet, Erik Strand, a Blugold alumnus and current assistant men's hockey coach, received the Joe Merten Coaching Award; Becca Bestul, assistant women's basketball coach, received the Ade & Margaret Olson Coaching Award; and former UW-Eau Claire softball player Renee (Cook) Smith received the Sandy Schumacher Courage Award.

Congratulations to all!

I hope all members of our university community will take time to appreciate the efforts of our student-athletes by taking in one or more of our sporting events throughout the year -- and join me in cheering on the Blugolds!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UW-Eau Claire and area businesses: A study in interdependence

Chancellor James Schmidt and Scott Gunderson at Great Northern Corp.

Chancellor James Schmidt with Mayo's John Dickey and Randy Linton
Top photo: Chancellor James Schmidt tours Great Northern Corp. in Chippewa Falls and discusses with Scott Gunderson, customer service manager, a packaging product the company manufactures. Lower photo: Schmidt tours a family space at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire with John Dickey, chief administrative officer, and Dr. Randall Linton, chief executive officer. Among Schmidt's other recent business and industry visits: Royal Credit Union, RBC Wealth Management and National Presto Industries Inc.

As part of my ongoing efforts to learn about Eau Claire and the greater Chippewa Valley, I have been meeting with business and industry leaders, touring their facilities and engaging in conversations about how UW-Eau Claire can provide the human capital and knowledge-based expertise they need for their enterprises to succeed. 
What I’ve discovered from the visits thus far is that this region has a highly diversified and specialized array of businesses – from health care to sawmill equipment to corrugated cardboard display manufacturing. Regardless of what they make or services they deliver, virtually all have told me they seek employees with the liberal arts-based skills our university excels at teaching: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and the ability to work in teams. 
At each and every visit, I have either met with Blugolds or heard how our graduates are making meaningful and lasting contributions to their workplaces and their communities. I have also had the opportunity to discuss my vision for how business and industry in the region can support our students through meaningful internship and workplace experiences, and have been encouraged by the initial receptivity to some of my ideas.  These visits have again reminded me of the interdependent relationship between UW-Eau Claire and the region we serve, and I look forward to the upcoming visits to more of our private sector partners. 


Monday, September 23, 2013

A historic partnership takes shape

Left to right: UW System Regent Ed Manydeeds, Ho-Chunk Nation
President Jon Greendeer and Chancellor James Schmidt during
the Sept. 23 signing of a memorandum of intent by UW-Eau Claire
and the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Today was a historic day for UW-Eau Claire and for the Ho-Chunk Nation, as we formalized our commitment to collaborate on the creation of a living-learning community at The Priory for members of the Ho-Chunk Nation. As Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer stated during our agreement-signing ceremony this morning, we are pioneers among UW System universities in this collaboration.

The living-learning community will not only  lead to more higher education options for members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, it will include an important cultural aspect through which Native American students enrolled in the program will receive an education in the Ho-Chunk language and culture from Ho-Chunk elders in residence. The beautiful natural setting at The Priory is the perfect place for this endeavor, evoking introspection and the sense of solemn responsibility for our environment that is so central to Ho-Chunk tradition.

I'm excited about the future as I think about the opportunities of this new partnership, with its promise of enrichment for the UW-Eau Claire community, the Ho-Chunk nation and the region.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Confluence: A project for the future of our city

Justin Vernon, center, Zach Halmstad and me during today's Confluence Project
panel discussion at Volume One.
I was privileged to be a part of today's Confluence Project panel discussion at Volume One with Blugold alums Justin Vernon and Zach Halmstad and the key individuals involved with the project. We had many thoughtful questions from members of the media in attendance and from the general public via Volume One's website.

Many thanks to Volume One for this outstanding opportunity to share with area residents the positive impact that the Confluence Project will have in our community. Many thanks as well to Justin, Zach and a third UW-Eau Claire alum, Ben Richgruber of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, for so articulately presenting how this project can help us collaboratively move the community of Eau Claire forward into the 21st century. I'm a firm believer that we are stronger together than we are individually, and today's event afforded us a great opportunity to provide members of the community with answers to their questions about this project that holds so much promise for our city and region.

·         View the recorded Web stream of today's Confluence Project panel discussion and join the continued discussion on Volume One's website.

·         Find answers to some frequently asked questions about the Confluence Project.

·         Learn even more about the project on the Community for the Confluence website.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hitting the airwaves with the Blugold story

I thoroughly enjoyed talking today with Rich Kremer on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The West Side” (interview link will be posted later today). This was the third in a series of recent media interviews, which also included WAYY radio last week (to listen, scroll down on WAYY's page to "UW-Eau Claire Chancellor" link under "Interviews") and WEAU TV earlier this month. I had some great questions both from my hosts and from listeners in the community and am grateful for these opportunities to share the UW-Eau Claire story.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Great week to be a Blugold

Wow – it’s been another great week to be a Blugold.

For those who haven’t yet heard, UW-Eau Claire was named (for the 19th consecutive year!) among the best public regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, AND we were recognized by two national organizations for providing our students with a high quality education at an affordable cost.

Frankly, these outstanding rankings come as no surprise to me. Since arriving here as chancellor on July 1, I’ve seen time and again that our faculty and staff are living out a heartfelt commitment to providing our students with a high quality, affordable and transformative education. And in the community, every day I’m meeting more and more Blugold alumni who are using their UW-Eau Claire education, giving back through their work and service to society and making our community a vibrant place to live. I’m so very pleased to see UW-Eau Claire being recognized for its important impact.

One day this week, I had the opportunity to grab lunch in Davies Center. I struck up a conversation with a student seated near me, and I asked him a few questions about his time so far at UW-Eau Claire. The student, a junior – so he’s been here long enough to have a time-tested opinion – was quick to share that “every single day I’m reminded that I made the best decision when I chose to come to UW-Eau Claire. I absolutely love it here.”
What wonderful words for a chancellor to hear! And I wanted to be sure to share them here, with those responsible for this student’s great experience. Congratulations to all the Blugolds who’ve had a role in UW-Eau Claire’s most recent recognitions – both those on a national scale as well as those right here on campus!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

‘One Question’ responses: Thank you!

Many thanks to the more than 40 faculty, staff, students, emeriti, alumni and friends who sent in their replies to my first "One Question" feature of the semester!
From early-morning great blue heron sightings along the river, to the life-changing experiences many of you had as undergraduates, to outstanding programming going on in all corners of our university, to the great sense of mutual respect among university employees I am grateful for so many of you sharing what makes UW-Eau Claire special to you.
I also received important insights about things we need to work on as a campus community. Thank you for your open and honest communications about your concerns. This input is important and informs us as we plan our course for the future.
My second question, posted now on my home page, seeks your examples of interdependent relationships that are working well within our university and in the community. Please take a few moments to share your thoughts on this week's topic. I look forward to your responses and more great information that will help me better share the UW-Eau Claire story.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Move-in day!

Meeting a student during day one of 2013 residence hall move-in.
I was excited to experience my first Blugold residence hall move-in day today, right along with some of our new freshmen who will live on campus this semester. Move-in is one of my favorite times of the year: It’s rejuvenating to see and feel the anticipation among new students. Today, hearing their stories about their hopes and dreams reminded me of the university community’s important role in nurturing, guiding and nudging young people as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. I love my job!

I had some wonderful conversations this morning with students and their parents about why they chose UW-Eau Claire. I even was treated to a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from some of the more than 400 returning students serving as volunteer “Hall Raisers.” Thank you for that! I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present than to meet all these outstanding members of the Blugold family. Welcome to campus, new and returning students!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A visit with an esteemed predecessor

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt and Chancellor Emeritus Larry Schnack
Chancellor James Schmidt and Chancellor Emeritus Larry Schnack

It was my great honor to meet yesterday with Dr. Larry Schnack, who served as UW-Eau Claire’s chancellor from 1985-97, and who also served here on the chemistry faculty as well as in several other leadership roles before becoming chancellor. I enjoyed conversing with an individual so respected for his contributions to our university, the UW System and higher education in general. I look forward to many more conversations, Dr. Schnack!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blugolds breaking ground

Jason Wudi, chief cultural officer for JAMF Software and a 2001 UW-Eau Claire management information systems graduate, addressed the crowd gathered Aug. 14 at the groundbreaking for JAMF Software's  new corporate offices in downtown Eau Claire.
Congratulations to JAMF Software, a company with strong UW-Eau Claire connections, on the groundbreaking for their new corporate offices in downtown Eau Claire! I had the pleasure of attending the ceremony on Wednesday.

JAMF was co-founded by Eau Claire native and 2004 UW-Eau Claire graduate Zach Halmstad, and the new corporate office is just the latest example of the company’s commitment to the city of Eau Claire.  The company has grown from four employees to more than 100 in Eau Claire alone, and their new 72,000-square-foot, $10 million building will enable them to grow their workforce here to 300 (I’m told JAMF also has about 100 employees in the Twin Cities, as well as offices in Cupertino, Calif., New York City, Hong Kong and Amsterdam). Currently, 35 percent of JAMF’s worldwide workforce are Blugolds! 

The groundbreaking was well attended, with many JAMF employees, members of the city council and business community present.  It was gratifying to hear so many of the speakers talk about the importance of JAMF’s new project to downtown Eau Claire redevelopment, and also the support expressed for the proposed Confluence Project, a $78 million public-private partnership to build a new community arts center, student housing and retail and office space at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers in downtown. JAMF has pledged $500,000 to the community arts center portion of the project and is supporting it because of the cultural amenities it will offer to employees and the Eau Claire community.

I’m proud to see Blugolds taking this important leadership role in helping to shape the future of our community!
Discussing the future of downtown Eau Claire with Blugold alumnus Jason Wudi at the groundbreaking for a new downtown corporate office for JAMF Software.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just ahead: Transition in leadership for UW System

Today, UW System President Kevin Reilly announced that he will step down from his post at the end of December to become presidential advisor for leadership with the American Council on Education (ACE) in January 2014 and return to teaching.

Kevin Reilly has worked diligently and devotedly over the past nine years to ensure access for all Wisconsin students to a quality UW System education. Thanks to his insightful, wise and dedicated leadership, the UW System remains strong and respected for its excellence both nationally and globally — as a place where students come first and as a key driver of economic growth in our state.

Dr. Reilly has worked to ensure that the UW System remains unified, while also recognizing the distinctive and important missions of the individual system campuses. He advocated for more flexibilities in the way our individual campuses are managed — advocacy that was key, I believe, in UW-Eau Claire receiving Board of Regents approval for the Blugold Commitment, a student-endorsed and -supported program that has opened up opportunities for all of our students to benefit from high-impact practices (like internships, faculty/student research and intercultural immersion) during their college experience.

As we enter this time of transition in leadership, I have great confidence in the future of our university system. I look forward to working with my colleagues from all the UW campuses to support our new president in ensuring the UW System's continued role in creating a bright future for the state of Wisconsin.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Saying goodbye to a much-loved Blugold

Dr. Chuck Tomkovick
Dr. Chuck Tomkovick
As I near the end of my first month as UW-Eau Claire's chancellor, I'm amazed at the number of proud Blugold alumni, students, faculty and staff I've had the opportunity to meet on campus and out in the community. I'm saddened, however, that I never had the opportunity to meet and get to know one recently retired faculty member to whom our Blugold community must say goodbye much too soon.

Today, many Blugolds will be among those attending memorial services for Dr. Chuck Tomkovick, professor emeritus of marketing, who passed away July 25. While I never had the pleasure of knowing Chuck, I have learned much about him through the stories of so many alumni, students, faculty and staff about how he positively touched their lives in lasting ways and made an important difference at our university, in our community and beyond.

It's people like Chuck — who so intensely lived his passion for helping students become lifelong learners — who make our university such an exceptional place. I regret I cannot be there today in support of Chuck's family and friends due to my attendance at a conference out of state. But I know his legacy is one I will witness in a big way in the days, months and years to come.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Two weeks in!

Chancellor James Schmidt with alumni Mary Durski, Sue Schleppenbach, Julie Gamm and Lynn Cook
Chancellor James Schmidt with UW-Eau Claire alumni (from left) Mary Durski '79 of San Jose, Calif.; Sue Schleppenbach '80 of Chippewa Falls; Julie Gamm '79 of Appleton; and Lynn Cook '79 of Chippewa Falls. The former UW-Eau Claire roommates get together at least once a year and came to campus to tour the new Davies Student Center. One of the alums also presented Chancellor Schmidt with a generous gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
It’s been an invigorating two weeks here at UW-Eau Claire, meeting students, faculty, community members, area civic and business leaders, and fellow UW System chancellors – and attending my first Board of Regents meeting in Madison.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting four outstanding Blugold alumni and former UW-Eau Claire roommates (pictured above) who came to campus to tour the new Davies Student Center as part of their annual reunion. To my great surprise and delight, one of these alums also presented me with a generous gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation – the first gift I’ve received as chancellor on behalf of the Foundation! We’ll be announcing more on that exciting gift in the coming weeks.

I’m looking forward to meeting many more Blugolds in the days, weeks and months to come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

State budget impact on Blugold Commitment

Governor Scott Walker yesterday signed the 2013-15 state budget into law. While Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet has kept me apprised of the potential impacts of the two-year tuition freeze, base and one-time budget reductions, postponement of implementation of the new personnel system, and capital budget reduction of $250 million, I want you to be aware of a new development that will directly impact UW-Eau Claire.

Significantly, when Governor Walker signed the budget bill, he included a line item veto that, in addition to the two-year base tuition freeze, also freezes differential tuition approved by the Board of Regents before June 1, 2011. This means the final phase of the Blugold Commitment will not proceed as planned. This will result in an approximately $3 million reduction to our budget. In light of this development, I will be consulting with student leaders, Academic Affairs and others to determine the potential programmatic impacts on Blugold Commitment plans for the coming year.

Governor Walker also partially vetoed a freeze on allocable student segregated fees that will allow those fees to increase during the biennium, if approved by students.

As you know, the budget includes a 1 percent pay plan that, while very modest, enables us to provide the first pay increases to many of our faculty and staff in five years. Still, we have a long way to go toward closing the nearly 20 percent gap in median salaries that exists between our faculty and those at peer institutions. It is imperative for our students that UW-Eau Claire attract and retain the best faculty and staff — pay is increasingly becoming a competitive challenge.  Recognizing that salary is not the primary motivator for our dedicated faculty and staff, we must do better, and I pledge to be a tireless advocate on your behalf.  

We do not yet know what impact, if any, the $250 million capital budget reduction will have on our two projects that were included in the budget — a new $35 million suite-style residence hall on upper campus and $12.4 million reconstruction/redevelopment of Garfield Avenue. As we learn more about these projects, we will keep you informed.

Greetings on Day One at UW-Eau Claire

Excited and humbled are the two words that best describe how I’m feeling my first day on the job as UW-Eau Claire chancellor. As chancellor, my first “official” actions will be to listen and learn from as many of you as possible. I want to understand what makes UW-Eau Claire the exceptional institution it is today and hear your ideas on how we can achieve our goal of becoming the premier undergraduate institution in the Upper Midwest. If you happen to bump into me this month walking the campus, you can expect me to ask you how we can most effectively work together, as our mission statement says, to “foster in one another creativity, critical insight, empathy, and intellectual courage, the hallmarks of a transformative liberal education and the foundation for active citizenship and lifelong inquiry.” I’ve already printed that mission statement on the back of all my business cards.

My summer will be devoted to getting to know the campus and greater Eau Claire community.  Today, I am talking to campus and student leaders, faculty, local legislators, community officials, key alumni and foundation supporters, and business leaders to begin building important personal relationships. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with campus shared governance representatives. Later this month, there will be a daylong retreat with the cabinet to establish “Gold Arrow” goals for the coming year. I will also be taking tours of campus and hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you personally.

I also want you to know that I have been closely following the development and enactment of the 2013-15 state budget, including the vetoes Governor Scott Walker made when he signed the budget yesterday. One of those vetoes will impact UW-Eau Claire directly and I will post a separate message here about the budget.

Finally, I want to thank Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet for paving the way for a smooth transition. True to his word, Gilles was not a “place keeper” — he championed a number of important initiatives to keep the positive momentum of UW-Eau Claire moving forward.  I am grateful for all he has done this past year and for his thoughtful, gracious guidance.  I know you join me in wishing Gilles and Debby great success and happiness as they resume their life together in Madison.