Office of the President
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Good evening, everyone, and thank you, Chancellor Shepard, for that kind introduction.
It is a great pleasure for me to be in Green Bay tonight. This city is has much to be proud of, from its strong industrial base, to its excellent public schools, to this world-class university. I also caught wind of some kind of professional football team that plays here… something about a bloke named Bart Favor?
I want to thank Chancellor Shepard and his colleagues for the invitation to be here tonight. As many of you might know, Bruce will be celebrating his fourth anniversary as chancellor of UW-Green Bay on November 1st, and what a four years it has been! Chancellor Shepard is a persuasive (and pervasive) advocate for UWGB and the UW System, and he has put much of his time and energy toward creating strong connections between this campus and the Green Bay community. So here’s hoping the coming years will be as fruitful as the last four!
Please join me in thanking Chancellor Shepard with a round of applause.
Also with us tonight is Regent Judy Crain, another Green Bay resident I have the great pleasure of working with. Judy has been on the Board of Regents for just a few short months, but she has already proven to be a thoughtful steward of this public university! And as some of you will undoubtedly have noticed, she’s aged considerably during her brief period of service! Not at all – just kidding, Judy – not a good thing to say to your boss!
Before becoming a Regent, Judy served as president of the Green Bay Board of Education from 1997 to 2002, and had been actively involved with the board for some 30 years. To put it another way, Judy has been involved in education long enough to see the Packers go from the top of the pile, all the way to the bottom of the basement, and back to the top again. And she didn’t even let it hinder her performance. And let’s hope the Packers are back up at the top again!
In addition, Judy is very active in the Green Bay community, giving her time to numerous groups, including Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Club. In fact, Judy has been recognized as an outstanding volunteer by no fewer than 11 different organizations. Judy’s willingness to volunteer her time to make other people’s lives a little bit better is something we should all emulate, and that fact alone is worthy of recognition.
Thank you, Judy, and I look forward to working with you in the coming years.
Let me also add my thanks to Jim Prast, who has been a terrific host this evening. I’ve learned that under Jim’s leadership, the Founders Association has experienced some of the largest-ever increases in both new Founders Donors and Dollars. And even though he graduated from St. Norbert College, I can hardly hold that against him. Jim, thank you for dedicating so much of your time and energy to this great university.
Robert Maynard Hutchins, former president of the University of Chicago, once said that a university administrator has at least five constituencies: the faculty, the trustees, the students, the alumni, and the public. Hutchins said a president could profitably spend all his time with any one of the five, but what a president actually does is spend just enough time with each of the five to irritate the other four. Fortunately, I believe most, if not all, of these constituencies are represented here tonight. Much like the Packers this season, it appears that higher education in Wisconsin is going to need some help to realize the kind of success it has achieved in the past. I can think of no group better equipped to make that happen.
We’ve had several valuable reminders in recent months of the need to remain true to our core missions of teaching, research, and public service. I also believe we have a responsibility to develop the potential that lies in the people and places of Wisconsin, and to do our part in advancing Wisconsin’s competitive position and quality of life. Most importantly, we are committed to putting students first in everything we do.
Groups like this UW-Green Bay Founders Association are instrumental in generating the sort of backing, both financial and moral, that the University of Wisconsin System needs to meet these goals. And in today’s era of diminishing state support for higher education, what you do is even more crucial to the continued success of UW-Green Bay, and, in turn, all of the UW System campuses.
Yours is an especially meaningful association because it draws upon those whose lives have been touched by UW-Green Bay — from alumni, to university employees, to community leaders — to enhance the academic mission of this university. Since the early beginnings of this campus, the Founders Association has given UW-Green Bay an extra edge through this collective support, and I applaud your efforts to bring so many friends together as champions of this university.
When I became UW System president last year, I said one of my top priorities would be to strengthen the relationships between the university and its stakeholders. Your work to build greater support for UW-Green Bay is exactly what I had in mind. You are either very good listeners, or you have some sort of mind-reading device tucked away on campus. Either way, I cannot offer you enough praise for your efforts on behalf of this university and UW-GB students. Please, give yourselves a round of applause.
Years ago, groups like the Founders were the "icing on the cake" of the UW System’s financial support. While past state budgets still left the UW with needs that private support could help fill, the state, for the most part, provided the UW System with the funding we needed to thrive as a top-tier institution.
However, the state’s commitment to higher education in Wisconsin has dropped precipitously over the last half-decade in relation to other state priorities. This decreased state support has made your collective role as financial advocates for UW-Green Bay and the UW System a lot more crucial to this university’s continued success, and let me tell you why.
Many of you may have heard me say that I believe that our job as a public university is to be Wisconsin's premier developer of advanced human potential, of the jobs that employ that potential, and of the flourishing communities that sustain it. That’s my vision for the System – let me repeat it. Our job as a public university is to be Wisconsin's premier developer of advanced human potential, of the jobs that employ that potential, and of the flourishing communities that sustain it.
What many do not fully understand is that when the UW System loses state fiscal support, not only is the university limited in what it can do for students and local communities, but the entire state of Wisconsin is inhibited from reaching its full potential.
The economic make-up of this state and this nation, and of the entire world, is shifting. We are seeing the growth of a new "knowledge economy," and the UW System can be a major provider of the well-educated employees who must be ready to take these reins, especially once the baby-boomer generation begins to retire in a few short years. With your support, we can help UW students — these future workers — develop their advanced potential.
Attracting high-paying, knowledge-economy jobs will be important if Wisconsin is to keep pace with our neighbors in terms of per-capita income. It’s simple: States with a higher percentage of citizens with four-year college degrees have higher per-capita incomes. Some 80 percent of the UW’s 30,000 annual in-state graduates who start as Wisconsin residents stay in Wisconsin to live and work, but budget cuts have forced us to raise tuition, shutting the doors to some of the students who, with a four-year degree, would further contribute to the state’s economy. With your support, we can help Wisconsin develop its full economic potential.
UW-Green Bay has several close-to-home examples of how it is helping this community develop its full potential. By locating both the Paper Technology Transfer Center and the Downtown Learning Center in the heart of the city, this campus is proving its commitment to a vibrant community. By inviting 850 fifth-graders for a day on campus, UW-Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program is giving students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to develop their potential for future learning and life.
It is creative thinking like this, in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, that will allow this university to fulfill its mission to serve the state, while we work to reverse the trends of dwindling support.
I spent this morning at UW-Marathon County in Wausau, where we launched the UW Central Wisconsin Connection, a dynamic partnership among UW-Stevens Point and our two-year colleges at Marshfield and Marathon. The collaboration will not only facilitate the ease of transfer from the two-year colleges to UW-SP, but will dually admit qualifying students from the Marshfield and Marathon campuses to Stevens Point, thus establishing a seamless transition to a four-year degree. Students can also stay with Marshfield or Marathon to complete a baccalaureate degree. Initiatives like these demonstrate how our campuses can work together to find creative solutions to meeting the needs of our students, and reflect our commitment to increasing the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin.
We’ve launched programs like UW-Oshkosh’s "Graduation Project," which invites students who have left campus to come back and complete their degrees. Thirty-six students participated in last year’s initial pilot, and 12 have already graduated. More than 250 returning students are expected to participate this coming year.
At the system level, I have announced plans to work with UW-Extension and our UW Colleges to do more to help working adult students continue their education at one of our campuses. Through our new Adult Student Initiative, these statewide institutions will be first points of contact in connecting adult students with the academic programs that best meet their educational needs. Utilizing their statewide connections, and virtual and physical locations, Extension and the Colleges are preparing to find, advise, and support students who are interested in pursuing a college degree by building a recruiting network at the county level.
We’ll also help qualified adult students earn credit for prior learning — helping them build on what they can demonstrate they already know — regardless of where they learned it — as they progress toward earning a bachelor’s degree.
The Adult Student Initiative is a direct response to what we learned from a year-long study in cooperation with the Wisconsin Technical College System, and to what we now know can get more working adult students in UW classrooms, help more students earn their bachelor’s degrees, and help create the kind of workforce that can attract knowledge-economy businesses to Wisconsin.
UW-Green Bay has also stepped up to the plate with its innovative Adult Degree Program. Through distance learning and alternative schedules, this program serves adult students who would not have other opportunities to earn a college degree. This year, the campus awarded $3,500 in scholarships to assist these adult students.
These programs are a great start, but we can only do so much without proper funding. A high-caliber university system needs high-caliber faculty and staff. Unfortunately, the same budget cuts that have reduced student access have affected our faculty ranks as well. Talented UW faculty members are systematically being poached by other universities that can afford to pay them higher salaries. And despite a small increase in faculty and staff salaries this year, we still do not have the funding necessary to keep a competitive pace. This cannot continue.
If we are to indeed be the state’s premier developer of advanced human potential, we need the highest-quality teachers to assist our students and help them become the leaders of tomorrow. We simply cannot do this "on the cheap."
Some of those who backed cuts to the UW System’s budget remain critical of how the university operates, and yes, regrettably, the many accomplishments and contributions of our 160,000 students and our 30,000 faculty and staff have been undercut by attention to the unfortunate mistakes of a few. You and I know that we shouldn’t slaughter the hen because of a few bad eggs. I want you to know that the chancellors, the Board of Regents and I are working to make sure our public institution is efficient, effective, open, and accountable. I welcome your thoughts on how we can do that even better.
As you’ve heard, your help will be invaluable in future months and years to make certain the UW System is able to fulfill its core missions of teaching, research, and public service. The students, faculty, staff, and leaders of our university make world-class contributions every day, and they need your support to fully realize their potential. We must ensure that everyone who wants a degree from a UW campus, and is willing to work hard at it, can get one, and we must be able to provide those students with the highest-quality instructors.
In closing, I ask you to imagine a Wisconsin – and a Green Bay – without the Packers. Without the green and gold, this community would lose much of the character, the luster, it derives from all those tailgate parties, cheese heads and, win or lose, all the spirit that comes with backing the Pack. While we might see reduced caloric intakes, we would also see reductions in the benefits Green Bay receives from the home team and its fans. What if this city were to lose one of its most lucrative economic engines?
Now imagine Green Bay and Wisconsin without its public university. A state and a city without those bright minds and creative talents and innovative ideas and spin-off businesses and local collaborations – not to mention the jobs and buildings and athletics. I submit that Wisconsin without its public university system would be less competitive, less attractive, less productive, and, well, less fun.
This state with a University of Wisconsin reduced in stature would be less of all those good things we want to be — we need to be. Unless we reverse the state’s withdrawal of resources from the UW, that’s where we’re going. That’s where our children and grandchildren will be. Or for some of them, maybe not, because they’ll be in Minneapolis, or Chicago, or New York or California, or somewhere else where they’ve figured out how to use their public university to generate the knowledge-economy talent pool, and the high-paying jobs those folks fill in a successful 21st century economy.
We can do that here, with the wonderful platform of UW-Green Bay and the UW System that generations of Wisconsinites who have gone before have bequeathed to us. But it will take an application of will to reinvest in the university that we have not lately been able to muster.
Pardon me for preaching to the choir. You’re here tonight because you already know much of what I’m saying. But we need you to sing this tune not only to yourselves, but to others who have not heard it, or who are skeptical, and to our legislators and the Governor. Groups like this, I truly believe, will make or break the future of Wisconsin, depending on your success as that kind of choir.
Many, many thanks to each of you for all the efforts you already make as supporters of this university, and thank you for listening tonight. I’ll turn it back to Chancellor Shepard for the next part of the evening, in which I think we’ll have an opportunity for conversation with you.