The Latest From Dean Scholz

March 31st 2018

Dean’s Update: June 11, 2018

To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators

Commencement is a wonderful time to be in academic administration. Students and their families and friends are so proud of the graduate’s accomplishments (and excited about the end of tuition payments). For all, regardless of the path they took, it marks not only the end of a journey but also a transition to something new. I see hundreds of students and parents during graduation week. Overwhelmingly, they are grateful for their UW-Madison experience, sad to leave, but excited about what lies ahead. These interactions and countless others that I have throughout the year convince me that we are soundly meeting one core mission: to provide an exceptional education to those who come here.

Yet, not everyone understands the incredible work that we are doing here in L&S. Therefore, one of the most important things we can do collectively is to help others—including policymakers, businesses, alumni, parents, students, and the general public—better understand our remarkable college. Despite our best efforts, universities in general (and UW-Madison in particular) remain mysterious to many. I love two recent communications pieces that help combat this. The first results from a partnership between University Communications and the College of Letters & Science: The project focusses on the origins of the universe (with Astronomy playing a central role), origins of the earth (Geoscience), and the origins of humanity (Anthropology); it features work that L&S colleagues are doing in Southern Africa. There’s a great deal of compelling material, long-form writing and video, which may suck you in (as it did me).

The second is our fourth edition of “Fueling Discovery,” produced in partnership with the Wisconsin State Journal. This publication is explicitly designed to showcase the breadth and depth of the amazing research undertaken within the College. In addition to being included as an insert in the May 6, 2018, Sunday paper, we have sent hard copies to over 1,000 alumni and policymakers. Just this week, I received the following from an alum: “The publication is outstanding, and I enjoyed spending some time with it. It is informative. I like the short articles by young faculty that can be read and absorbed quickly. A variety of subjects were covered. Something for everyone. I’m sure others have reacted favorably, and that we’ll continue to see this. Nice partnership.” I’d say that sums it up nicely.

Commencement of course marks the end of the academic year. I surely am not alone in feeling like my “to do” list has not gotten any shorter, but I find the pace of summer is different. As a faculty member, it was a critical period for my research and a time to think. As an administrator, it is a time to focus on items pushed aside during the academic year and again, a time to think.

To that end, a lot of activity will take place within L&S Administration over the summer. We expect to fill several key vacancies in the College (notably an Assistant Dean for Strategic Communications and Advancement, a position formerly held by Jennifer Karlson, and an Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, a position formerly held by Nancy Westphal-Johnson). We plan to make progress on our communications efforts, seeking to improve information flows between L&S Administration and our departments, schools, and programs. And we will be rolling out our new human resources structure, which has been designed to better support and respond to your efforts to hire, retain, and manage highly qualified faculty and staff. More information about our internal reorganization will be shared in the coming weeks. We will be discussing all of this, and more, at our August 28 fall kickoff meeting. 

We are a remarkable university. We are a remarkable College. We successfully hired many exceptional colleagues this year. Those here, staff and faculty, do extraordinary work. We are the current custodians of one of the more improbable, successful stories in higher education: the “Madison Miracle.” Thank you for all you do. I hope you have a productive, fantastic summer. 


John Karl Scholz
Dean, College of Letters & Science
Nellie June Grey Professor of Economic Policy