Dean’s Update: December 2017
To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators
For me, as for most people, the end of a calendar year is always a time for reflection. The sentiment I feel most strongly this year is gratitude. Here are a few reasons why:
I am grateful for our wonderful faculty colleagues. To highlight just a few, Scott Straus won the Grawemeyer Award for ideas improving the World Order (previous winners include Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev). Amy Barger (Astronomy) and John Berry (Chemistry) were named Fellows of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science and Steve Nadler (Philosophy) coauthored a book on the beginnings of modern philosophy in comic-strip format that has been reviewed favorably by outlets ranging from Nature to The Atlantic. Professor Nadler was also just appointed as the new Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, beginning next academic year.
I am grateful for all the contributions of our fantastic university and academic staff colleagues. Many of them serve on L&S committees, whose members take up important issues and provide thoughtful recommendations after months, or even years, of work. My monthly meetings with the University Staff Issues Committee and the Committee on Academic Staff Issues offer valuable insight to me. The College Climate committee, made up of staff and faculty colleagues, is among the most engaged committees in the entire university. I also learn from the academic staff and university staff listening sessions. There can be raw moments in each of these settings: I am still thinking about our Fall University Staff listening session, where our conversation about purchasing cards (P-Cards) revealed frustrations that were important for me to hear. Change is slow at times, but thanks to this conversation, we will have, at a minimum, better communication about P-Cards. If, within rules imposed by the State, System, and Campus, we can do better, we will. There is no way to get better if people do not share their thoughts. I am grateful for the dedication to excellence of the people in L&S and the desire to always improve.
I am grateful for new colleagues in L&S administration. Jennifer Noyes has joined us as Chief of Operations and Staff. In January, Gloria Mari-Beffa will begin her service as the Associate Dean for Physical, Mathematical, and Biological Sciences. I miss my colleagues who have retired or transitioned into other positions, but I am excited about the opportunities to work with highly-qualified new colleagues and to improve the College and how we communicate.
I am grateful for our inspiring students. A Dean’s Prize winner from 2016, Phoenix Rice Johnson, was just awarded a Marshall Scholarship, one of 43 students from around the country. At a Board of Visitors meeting last Spring, I asked my colleagues to organize a panel of L&S students who could share “day-in-the-life” anecdotes about navigating their UW journey. Their stories of selecting majors, preparing for the future, overcoming adversity (including being asked to leave the University) were amazing. We are kidding ourselves if we think every student has an ideal experience at UW-Madison. But from thousands of interactions with students, parents, and alumni, I am confident that we are doing an excellent job. And there is an ongoing hunger to do better. That hunger inspires me as well.
I am grateful for our new career space, SuccessWorks in the College of Letters & Science, located on the third floor of the UW-Bookstore on Library Mall. If you have not yet visited, swing by when you’re next on the Mall with five minutes to spare. You can get a free coffee, admire the fiberglass Bucky cow (whose head might bring good luck if patted) and learn about our collective efforts to help our students define what success means to them.
Of course, I am extremely grateful for our alumni, whose support enables us to attract and retain fantastic faculty, push the boundaries of research, enhance our students’ Wisconsin experience, and prepare our undergraduates for life after college. We could not do it without them.
I am grateful for one of the best budgets the university has had in the last 12 years. This has allowed us to invest in all of this outstanding work being done within and on behalf of L&S by all of you. While compensation remains one of the most pressing challenges in the University, we again have had compensation increases for a portion of our staff and faculty colleagues and a significant increase in Teaching Assistant compensation.
And finally, I am grateful every day for the opportunity to be Dean of Letters & Science. We are the heart of our great University. This would not be true without the collective efforts of amazing people across the College.
Have a wonderful, joyous holiday season!