Office of the President
September 15, 2004
Synergy 2004 Conference Remarks
Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI
President Kevin Reilly
Thank you, Virgil, for your kind introduction, and a special thanks to
you, your colleagues at UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, and UW-Stout, including
Chancellor Don Mash, Provost Bob Sedlak, and Dean Leon Zaborowski, who
have done a terrific job of organizing a truly outstanding conference.
I also want to extend my thanks and appreciation to our colleagues in the Wisconsin Technical Colleges and the PK-16 Council for their collaboration on this endeavor, and to all the conference sponsors. And, of course, I want to thank all of you for coming, and for your commitment to making the economy of these nine counties in western Wisconsin as vital and prosperous as it can be. I should mention that the UW is especially interested in your regional workforce development track because it addresses, specifically, education’s role as a solution in meeting this challenge.
I am halfway through my second week now as UW System President and it’s a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose! But, I must tell you that the job is even more exciting, challenging and fulfilling than I thought it would be. I say that not just because I get to travel to places like Hudson, and talk with audiences like this, but because when I am out and about, I get to hear first hand from people like you just how important and valuable our university is for you, your families, your businesses and your communities. I truly believe, as many of you do, that the UW is Wisconsin's premier developer of advanced human potential, of the jobs that employ that potential, and of the communities that sustain it.
I applaud all of you for your commitment to economic development, and I pledge that the university will be an engaged and effective partner in these constructive efforts. Not only do chancellors like Virgil Nylander, Don Mash and Chuck Sorensen feel this way, but so do our faculty, staff and stakeholders across the state, not to mention the members of our Board of Regents. We are united in our shared commitment to access, brain gain and economic development.
Let me just take a moment to emphasize that “brain gain” is one of our top priorities as we work with the Governor and legislative leaders to increase the number of state residents with baccalaureate degrees. It is striking that when you look across the United States – many of you here only have to look out your windows into Minnesota – to see that those states with greater than average personal incomes are the states in which a higher percentage of adults have college degrees. Illinois is another good, nearby example of this trend.
Is it important to have more skilled labor and tradespeople in our state? Yes. But it is equally important to have more college-degree holders. From a state perspective, it stands to reason that if the average per capita income goes up in Wisconsin, the greater the tax base will be. This will allow two things to happen. First, state revenue will rise without raising taxes, and second, there will be more money available to provide the state services, including affordable public higher education, that citizens want and need. If we cannot improve this equation, we will continue to struggle as a state with budget deficits, higher fees and elimination of services.
I’m sure many of you will agree that the UW does a good job of producing qualified graduates, and attracting federal and private funding for research, education and public service. Not only do these efforts improve Wisconsin’s competitive position, but they create high-paying jobs for our state – another important element of the “Brain Gain” equation. The UW is a major Wisconsin industry in and of itself. This is a great cause for university pride, but we cannot take it for granted. It is imperative that we remain competitive in this area – and that means, again, maintaining a quality university system with outstanding faculty and staff.
I am very optimistic about the future of this region (our fastest growing,
I believe), of the university and of the state, because we have a lot
going for us – and we have champions like you who want to help.
I believe in what we stand for: opportunity for Wisconsin citizens and
Wisconsin communities. We are in the “human potential” business,
and it is our job and privilege to help our citizens realize their dreams,
for themselves and their families.
This is a good business to be in, and a good time to be in it. We must work with you to keep the future of the university bright, and to extend that light to every corner of this state.
Let me close by saying I look forward to hearing from you about your
ideas on where this great university system should go, and how we should
get there. I am confident that the journey will be a rewarding and exciting
one for all of us.
Thank you, and have a very successful conference.