The Latest From Dean Scholz


Dean’s Update: January 7, 2019

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

I have three strongly held thoughts as we leave 2018 behind and embark on a new year.

First, UW-Madison is unquestionably a remarkable university. We can choose different quantitative metrics to document this: ranging from rankings, such as those of U.S. News & World Report or various versions of world university rankings, to total research expenditures or number of doctorates granted. Qualitative experiences reinforce the quantitative measures. Participate in a graduation event such as the 2018 Winter Commencement held at the Kohl Center three weeks ago: The gratitude and passion of our graduates and their families are palpable. Consider shared governance. It would not be as effective as it is on our campus if participants did not truly believe in the institution. Our performance is even more impressive when the UW-Madison’s stature is measured relative to the size of Wisconsin’s underlying population, wealth and income. It is truly special that Wisconsin citizens and our colleagues, past and present, built and sustain the “Madison Miracle.”

Second, while I know it is always dangerous to overweight the importance of any particular time or decision, the 2018-19 academic year may be a pivotal time for UW-Madison and the College of Letters & Science. Why? Thanks to an infusion of resources from enrollment expansion, revenue-generating programs and cluster hiring, we are doing a lot of hiring by historical standards. While not every department and program in the College is authorized to hire during this academic year, we are seeing terrifically strong candidates from the many that are; some of whom have already accepted our offers to come here. The fact that we are attracting tremendous talent speaks well not only for the great institution we are, but for our future. You’ve heard me say it before and I will say it again: great people make a great institution. We need the next generation of scholars, teachers, and leaders at UW-Madison to be creative, wise, driven, and as passionate as the past and current generations. Ideally, they will be even more so. As we continue to provide a first-rate environment that attracts, nurtures, builds, and supports talent, our future is exceptionally bright.

Third, I continue to be amazed by the work of the College of Letters & Science and I am confident about our future. At the core of the College, we teach; we push the boundaries of understanding and knowledge; and we engage, whether with our respective scientific communities, with policy or with other citizens. We do that very well. My “2018 in Review” highlights just a small slice of these stories.

But what about the future? Forecasting, whether the weather or the economy, is notoriously difficult. Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, for example, famously remarked that the stock market has forecast nine of the last five recessions. But I am confident that in 2019 we will successfully recruit a large number of new colleagues. We will make measurable progress in diversifying the College. We will learn from the second triennial L&S climate survey and turn feedback into steps that discernably improve the College. We will continue to tell our story to alumni, policymakers, parents, students, and colleagues throughout the university, using social media, newsletters, web, and print.

I am also confident that the students, staff, and faculty in Letters & Science will continue to amaze me with their accomplishments. We will continue to be leaders in the university. We will continue to evolve, navigating changes such as when great people, like the College’s CIO and Director of Learning Support Services, Bruno Browning, retire and transition into their next life stage.

I hope you had a chance to rest, restore, and find satisfaction and joy in the holidays, and I send you my very best wishes for 2019. Together, I look forward to making UW-Madison and the College of Letters & Science even better in the coming year.

On, Wisconsin! 

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