What we have most
to download a PDF of the Chancellor's remarks.
Thank you, Professor Laatsch,
and good morning, all. Cyndie joins me in offering
a warm welcome. We hope you had an opportunity during
the break to spend time with family and friends and
to enjoy the season to the fullest.
When we announced that we would be holding a Winter
Convocation for the first time, my office fielded numerous
questions. One of the most frequently asked questions
was: How long is the Chancellor going to speak? I told
Cyndie she could have come directly to me with that
The idea of a convocation to open spring semester came
from our governance groups. We were discussing with
them how best to improve upon our past efforts to recognize
those who have served UWGB — and served us all
- for many years.
That recognition we will do this morning. I congratulate
all of you who will receive service awards today. We
greatly appreciate what you have done over the years
in helping your University connect learning to life.
I like the idea of a Winter Convocation for another
reason: ours is a shared enterprise. Nothing is achieved
in isolation. By coming together at the start of the
term, we are reaffirming and celebrating the fact that
ours is a shared and interdependent calling.
And, we have much to
celebrate. Let’s look briefly back at some of
— We received an extraordinarily positive budget:
genuinely full costs to continue for the first time
in far too many years, tuition increases kept to modest
levels, substantial increases in State financial aid
programs, support for the Wisconsin Covenant, and tuition
remissions for veterans. And, full funding for the
There were other notable events during the semester
— We joined our partners from
UW-Oshkosh, UW-Fox Valley and Fox Valley Technical
College in opening the University of Wisconsin Northeast
Wisconsin Learning Center. This new learning center,
located on the campus of Fox Valley Technical College
in Appleton, is a model for regional collaboration
and will help us better serve adult learners.
Phoenix program continued to thrive and draw attention
from state and national audiences. Our commitment to
institutionalize the program has been carried out.
And, one state leader who recently visited the campus
said that, as he made yet another statewide award to
UWGB and Phuture Phoenix, he wished every campus in
the state had a similar program.
— We were
informed that we can expect to receive the maximum
10-year continuing accreditation
from the Higher Learning Commission. The external review
team was especially impressed with the quality of teaching
and scholarship, with the student enthusiasm for their
UW-Green Bay experience and with the support from the
community for its university. I offer my sincere thanks
to all of you who contributed to the accreditation
self-study and who made such a favorable impression
on the review team.
— As part of the self-study,
you developed and we gained Board of Regents approval
for a new
mission statement. This statement affirmed a commitment
to our core values that date to the University’s
founding while also stating concisely what makes UW-Green
Bay distinctive in the 21st century.
we opened the Kress
Events Center to outstanding reviews from the campus
and community. This magnificent facility will contribute
significantly to our ability to attract and retain
outstanding students, whatever their major.
When we met in late August for our Fall
Convocation, you heard me express frustration with
the budget process. The struggle to get to a positive
result was tortuous. I thank you for your patience.
I must confess that, at times, my patience wore thin.
Yet, with hindsight, I see positives in that tortuous
process. The UW was the “poster child,”
the example always referred to, as, across the state,
citizens, community leaders, newspaper editors insistently
and relentless called for Madison to build rather than
blockade brighter futures for Wisconsin. You and our
shared enterprise is now more clearly and tangibly
seen as part of the solution to our State’s challenges.
This I can personally testify to: led by large commitments
of the time and the talent of our Council
of Trustees, our many supporters around our region
continually let Madison know that they would not accept
anything less than full and real funding to grow their
Indeed, during all the turmoil, I fielded a phone call
from a friend of mine and of UWGB’s, a regional
legislative leader, who started the conversation by
saying, “Bruce, I am calling to give you my mother’s
phone number.” In response to my, “Huh?,”
he explained: “She is the only person in Green
Bay who has not called to talk to me about your budget.”
I, of course, apologized for the oversight.
You kept the faith. Our community kept the faith. And,
our elected officials came through.
From the start, the Growth Agenda has been a three-biennia
initiative. We will continue to work with our Trustees
and other community friends, area legislators, the
UW System and the governor to put the rest of the pieces
When I arrived here just over six years ago, I immediately
began meeting with hundreds of University and community
members to find out what they — what you —
wanted for your University. I summarized my findings
in a rather lengthy report called “Educating
the Chancellor.” One of the central findings
- in fact, THE central finding - focused on the need
for greater community engagement and the need for the
university to be more responsive to our community and
I went on to report a vision, really your vision, for
Green Bay’s University. I believe it as relevant
today as it was then. The vision is this: When anybody
in our area has a need, they think first of contacting
UWGB for help. In the arts, in local government, in
business, in teacher education, in nursing, in eco-system
management, in whatever. And they think to do so because
they have found us to provide prompt and valuable responses.
When we have not been able to achieve this vision,
the issue often has come down to size. We simply have
not had the platform to truly be — in every case
— Northeastern Wisconsin’s University of
Wisconsin. Now we have an opportunity to build a larger
One pending initiative directly serves that continuing
commitment: to take our efforts to be Northeastern
Wisconsin’s University of Wisconsin to a new
level. You will be learning more about it over the
semester ahead. For several years now, our faculty,
Trustees, and regional leaders have been developing
the concept of an interdisciplinary Management Resource
Center. Integrating the strengths of this university
- interdisciplinarity and community engagement —
the Center would focus our efforts to more effectively
help our region — public sector and private sector
- meet their challenges in a rapidly changing environment.
While much work lies ahead on the political and legislative
fronts, I would like us to raise the volume on the
campuswide discussion of where we go from here. At
the last two fall convocations, I have talked about
building “the next UWGB.” This morning,
with our resource picture solidified, I would like
to offer a few suggestions on what should come next.
We will continue to build and strengthen bridges
to the community and region. It makes political sense.
And it is the right thing to do. But we must do more.
In fact, we deny our region what it deserves if we
do not also emphasize and attain continually improving
excellence in our academic programs.
And, foremost, that is the challenge I want to place
before us this morning. Let me try phrasing it this
way. We have been focused, intensely, on a growth
agenda. We have been thinking of growth in terms
of “capacity”: our capacity to serve
students; our capacity to serve the region. Today,
I want to suggest that we tackle another kind of
growth: growing the excellence of our academic programs.
And, just as we did with the “growth in capacity”
agenda, that we now make “growing academic
excellence” a driving priority for the years
Principles that should guide us
Academic excellence has rested and will continue
to rest in the hands — and minds and hearts
— of our faculty. As documented as recently
as through the recent HLC accreditation visit, that
is a responsibility that has been superbly well fulfilled,
even in an environment of declining state support.
I will share several additional thoughts, though,
on how to build on that base.
First is the experience, over decades in higher education,
that those institutions able to move ahead, institution-wide,
do so by first concentrating upon a very select few
areas of particular strength. As eminence was achieved
in those areas, all parts of the institution flourished.
Yet, that strategy can fail, even fail disastrously,
if, as I have also seen happen, the broader campus
reaction to selected foci is to circle the wagons
... and shoot inward.
So, focus is important but will succeed only if complemented
by full appreciation of and trust in our profound
Other principles should guide us. We must look for
opportunities for quantum and not merely incremental
improvement. This means more than thinking in bigger
terms; it means thinking in different ways.
Next, and closely related, we must set the bar high.
What should be our aspirations as we select an area
or areas upon which to focus? This is my answer:
whatever may be the area selected, it becomes recognized
as the strongest available within the UW System.
Better than available anywhere else in Wisconsin,
Note, then, that by setting the bar at least that
high, we are also addressing the means by which the
next UWGB will be recognized and differentiated not
only in Wisconsin but, since the UW is a world-class
system, also, nationally and internationally.
As we seek a few areas upon which to focus, we need
to look first to areas of existing strength. We must
do so with clear and critical vision.
What are those areas of current strength upon which
we should build? I would start with these:
— Most clearly, it is our recently reaffirmed
commitment to interdisciplinarity. We have the commitment.
So do other universities. Ours is the only university
I am aware of, though, where form fits function:
where our budgets, positions, and, most importantly,
promotion and tenure decisions flow through interdisciplinary
rather than disciplinary lines.
— Regional engagement is another important
strength. It is, again, an aspiration shared with
other universities: to be, in the AASCU phrase I
love, “stewards of place.” At UWGB, though,
we are demonstrably living that mission.
There are other important strengths but interdisciplinarity
and being stewards of place must surely guide our
We cannot stop, though, after looking at strengths.
We must also look externally: where does the surrounding
environment offer opportunities to take existing
strengths and parlay them into areas of extraordinary
We must also look to areas of weakness and vulnerability.
There are a number of key items that, were this a
full inventory, would need to be mentioned. Here
I note, again, that our clearest area of vulnerability
is the current modest levels of diversity among our
faculty, staff, and students; UWGB, “the next”
or otherwise, will fail if, in the future, we are
not significantly more diverse than we are today.
And a final thought on general principles. Whatever
few foci we initially select, we should prefer those
efforts to enhance academic excellent that most widely
engage the campus. This might seem to follow from
some sort of “fairness” concern - leave
nobody out. But not really; indeed, that concern
alone could lead us astray. There are other reasons:
from the day I arrived here, I have been struck by
the pervasive professionalism and existing excellence
to be found throughout our campus; to the extent
we can fully engage these strengths, we will be more
certain of achieving our goals. And, there is the
undeniable fact that, when we attack complex matters
— would we waste our time on any other kind?
— understandings and strategies, to be fruitful,
must be holistic.
I guess all I am saying is that we not forget to
apply our honored educational mantra to ourselves:
we must engage in practical, community-engaged, hands
on problem solving, from multiple perspectives.
on excellence: illustrations
So, can I take you from such general principles to
more specific foci? Only with trepidation. But, several
examples may more clearly communicate what I have
in mind in calling for an expanded “excellence
I have already suggested one possibility: an interdisciplinary
management resource center bringing the expertise
of our campus to focus upon the needs and challenges
of our rapidly changing region. It fits the criteria
I have outlined, importantly including that of community
support for it would be funded through a combination
of the revenues it generates and philanthropically
provided academic chairs, professorships, and operating
One area of potential focus is obvious. We have a
proud tradition of commitment to environmental awareness;
have recently reaffirmed our commitments through
a variety of local, state, and national initiatives;
and have very strong academic programs in the areas
of the environmental sciences and policy including
internationally recognized faculty. We serve a region
with environmental challenges but that has also proudly
led and seeks to continue to lead in environmentally
sound manufacturing processes.
We have a profoundly important legacy, here. How
is that legacy to be handed off so that the outstanding
younger faculty in the many related areas can take
our programs, our university, our region and state
to another level? And, of course, we have the good
fortune to be asking such questions at precisely
the same time as environmental issues are foremost
on the agendas of major foundations and other funding
Let me suggest another area of focus: to genuinely
internationalize our campus, curriculum and student
experiences. Our existing international programs
have been strengthened, and I applaud our faculty
and staff for seeking out new international opportunities.
There are many academically valuable reasons for
so doing but please also note that we are not adequately
serving as Green Bay’s University of Wisconsin
if we are not effectively bringing Green Bay to the
world and the world to Green Bay.
Imagine requiring some type of international experience
for every student who attends UW-Green Bay. Universities
do that. Or, let’s get really radical. Here
I illustrate what I mean by a principle that I offered
earlier: that whatever we do, let’s engage
in thinking apart from the ways by which American
higher education traditionally constrains itself.
Imagine our faculty being so bold as to require (and
the university committed to financial supporting)
a significant international experience as a necessary
condition for receiving tenure at UWGB.
The evidence is clear: the most effective way to
internationalize a campus, its curricula, its student
body, is to expand opportunities for faculty to have
international experiences. Perhaps rationale enough
right there. But, think also about what the mere
commitment — is there another university in
the country that has such? — would say to those
we seek to attract and to keep on our faculty, as
a part of our staff ... as members of our student
Lest I mislead you into concluding that academic
excellence is relevant only to our faculty and our
academic programs, let me offer a final illustration
of a possible institution-wide “growing academic
One way to establish some degree of eminence is to
be more selective in admissions. And it is likely
that success in other parts of the agenda I have
suggested will attract better and better students.
Yet, our university, I firmly believe, must continue
its strong commitment to serving first-generation
students from diverse socioeconomic and other backgrounds.
Can we attain excellence in doing precisely that?
Today and by the traditional measures of students’
academic success and after adjusting for the demography
of our current student body, how well do we do? Middle
of the pack. Nothing to brag about.
Suppose we commit to becoming “best of class”
in terms of the academic accomplishments of our students.
We do not do so just by becoming more selective:
our excellence is grounded on the capacity we demonstrate
to move our students further along than do other
universities admitting similar students. That, of
course, requires the continuing commitments and contributions
of many across the campus importantly including those
in academic and student support services.
Growing academic excellence? You will have better
ideas. Already, we have seen the faculty and staff
step forward with a Common Theme initiative that
offers an interdisciplinary opportunity for students,
faculty and staff, that engages the community in
conversation on important topics, and that highlights
the global connections between Green Bay and the
world. You’ll be hearing more about this initiative
in the weeks ahead.
Already, also, many of you have been involved in
a series of meetings kicked off by nationally recognized
Dolence. Michael, as any faithful advisor should,
laid out our challenges and vulnerabilities directly
and forcefully. I found great reassurance in your
engaged and constructive responses. My comments this
morning obviously seek to move forward the campus
discussions initiated by inviting Mr Dolence to help
us. Having seen the work you have already begun,
I am optimistic about our ability to achieve success
with an “academic excellence growth agenda.”
My overarching point is this: with the base more
secure, it is now time to really get about building
that next UWGB, achieving areas of truly distinctive
academic excellence as our next priority.
It can be scary. Yes, other universities are seeking
to capture the same ground I have just suggested
as offering opportunities for us to plant UWGB’s
banner. There are risks. And we could fail. But,
the risks are even greater — and the collegial
intellectual satisfactions much fewer — if
we simply see our future as better managing the status
quo. Let’s ever more lead.
Earlier, I mentioned some of our most recent high-profile
achievements. We have good reason to be proud of
and to celebrate these accomplishments and their
meaning for the university of today and tomorrow.
Today, we also celebrate those victories that, in
and of themselves, may not get much attention across
the campus or throughout the community. They are
victories, though, that mean so much not only to
our students and their families, but to the future
of our community, region and state. They are achieved
through the dedication and persistent professionalism
of those we will now honor for their years of service.
As we look back in recognizing such exemplary service,
I am struck by a connection to the forward-looking
themes upon which I focused in my remarks. What
wonderful models for all of us. What substantial
foundations upon which to launch the next UWGB.