Office of the President
September 17, 2004
Hispanic Heritage Celebration Remarks
President Kevin P. Reilly
Thank you, José, for that very kind introduction. (After introduction by Jose Vasquez) Congratulations to you, the United Community Center, and your colleagues at Latino Arts for your success in bringing performances, visual arts and cultural celebrations to everyone in the greater Milwaukee community.
Before I became president, I served as chancellor of UW-Extension, where I was, in effect, José’s boss! But if you know José, you probably know that when the two of us sat down, he did most of the talking! Seriously, we are lucky to have José in Extension, and you are fortunate to have him leading this organization.
I am delighted to participate in the opening of this engaging art exhibit. The collection vividly celebrates the spirit and vibrancy of Hispanic Heritage month, and I am pleased to see strong participation by faculty and staff from UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.
Just as Latino Arts is privileged to have José Vasquez leading its efforts, the UW System is fortunate to have strong Latino leadership helping to guide the future of the university. And not leadership just at UW-Milwaukee, but also on the Board of Regents and across our 26 campuses and statewide UW-Extension, where José works.
Our governing body – the 17-member Board of Regents – greatly benefits from the wise counsel and thoughtful leadership of two notable Milwaukee Regents – José Olivieri and Jesus Salas.
José, as you know, is president of the board here at the United Community Center. He is a graduate of Carroll College, earned his law degree at Marquette University (we won’t hold that against him) and understands the importance of access to higher education for students of all backgrounds. A Regent since 1998, José has been an active participant in the UW System’s long-term plan to increase campus diversity, and the university is grateful to have his perspective and guidance as the current Chair of the Board’s Education Committee.
Regent Jesus Salas is also a strong advocate for UW students. He continually works to make the university as affordable and accessible as it can be and to ensure an opportunity for higher education for all. The UW System is proud to count him as a UW-Madison alum and faculty member in the Latino Studies Department at UWM. As a native of Texas and former migrant worker, Regent Salas also brings an invaluable and unique perspective to his work as a Regent.
Both Regents Olivieri and Salas were instrumental in assuring that the Board of Regents addressed the issue of providing resident tuition rates to undocumented students who fulfill Wisconsin residency requirements. Thanks to their efforts, the board unanimously voted in June to recommend that the Wisconsin Legislature approve such a policy.
In addition, the budget request passed by the Board of Regents last month includes measures that will mean even more access for students. The Board hopes to be able to provide financial aid that will, in effect, freeze tuition for students from families with annual incomes in the low $40,000 range and below. It would also offer working adults more educational opportunities throughout their careers – widening access to the university for students from all backgrounds.
Speaking of outstanding leadership, the university is also extremely pleased to have convinced Carlos Santiago to move from New York to take over as chancellor at the UW-Milwaukee campus. Carlos and I were colleagues in the New York higher ed system, and he will be a terrific addition to this campus and this community. So, if we break into a chorus of ‘New York, New York,” you’ll know why. Seriously, his background and expertise in economic development and in Latin American & Caribbean Studies will help UWM continue to grow in national and international prominence, and we are fortunate to have his leadership.
Chancellor Santiago has been with UWM for more than two months now, so
as far as I can tell, that makes him a veteran! Tonight marks the end
of only my third week as UW System President (it’s bit like trying
to drink from a fire hose), so I have a feeling I’ll be looking
to Carlos for some good advice.
Actually, this 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 Milwaukee 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 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.
The university has a bright future ahead. I am very optimistic because we have a lot going for us – and we have champions like you who know how to bring people from all backgrounds together to meet a common goal. And just look around the United Community Center at your achievements!
I believe in what our state’s public university stands for: access and opportunity for all Wisconsin students and Wisconsin communities. We are in the “human potential” business, and it is our job, and privilege, to help our students realize their dreams for themselves and their families.
Again, I applaud all of you for your commitment to the American Dream, and to the arts in Milwaukee. You will find the university to be an active partner in your efforts. Thank you – and congratulations!