Dean's Update: March 2015

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

Please share this message with your faculty and staff.

Dean Colleagues,

March started with a couple days of warmer weather. This sign of spring, albeit an early one, makes me excited for the semester ahead.

It is a challenging time on campus, but let me first point out some of the many bright spots in our college. Just last week two particular stories featuring L&S Assistant Professor colleagues caught my eyes.

Two scholars were awarded Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships and I want to congratulate Assistant Professor Tom Ristenpart (Computer Sciences) and Assistant Professor Melanie Matchett Wood (Mathematics). I also enjoyed reading about Assistant Professor and public intellectual Thulani Davis who brings African-American history alive through the power of storytelling.

And many more L&S faculty, staff, students and alumni are featured in our weekly round-up of the latest news headlines. It’s amazing to see the breadth of expertise and the accolades earned by the L&S community in and outside of the university who advance the Wisconsin Idea.

We’re leveraging this outstanding community by publishing a special section in the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, March 22 – inside you will find a 32-page insert featuring essays written by faculty colleagues. This special section showcases our research and teaching to readers of the State Journal, but electronic links and reprints will also be sent around the state, country and world to friends of UW-Madison. I am excited to tell our story and show how we advance knowledge and discovery.

I find it helpful to think about bright spots as we navigate a challenging time. Many of you are following closely the 2015-17 budget news. As the Chancellor stated, the budget process is a marathon – not a sprint. We are still early in the legislative process and, in budgets, details matter greatly. Like the Chancellor, I am deeply concerned about the magnitude of the proposed UW System cuts and the impact it will have on our students and our educational mission.

While we wait for more information as the Joint Finance Committee takes up the bill, I want to thank the many, many members of the L&S community who attended or watched budget forums, wrote messages of support and shared their voices in the ongoing discussion.

I particularly want to note a few pieces that resonated deeply with me. Our Ambrose-Hesseltine Professor of Military History, John W. Hall, wrote an outstanding letter to the Wisconsin Assembly. And if you haven’t read pieces written by Professor Jim Baughman (Journalism & Mass Communication) or Professor John Sharpless (History), please do so. Business leaders Kevin Conroy and Tom Shannon also recently wrote an excellent piece.

Understandably, many of you are asking what you can do.

The first is to keep doing what you do every day: continue to be outstanding. Teach undergraduates, conduct research and advance scholarship, mentor graduate students, foster inclusivity among staff, and support junior faculty and all colleagues.

Our commitment to these principles is enduring and sends a signal that we have been great and will continue to lead in all the ways that put the College of Letters & Science on the map for world-class teaching, research and service.

The second is to stay informed by visiting If you are moved to exercise your voice, please also review the latest guidance for employees and lobbying activities. All of us are part of networks. Engage yours in conversations about UW-Madison, Letters & Science, and what we do.

Again, it is a pleasure to work with you and serve as Dean of the College of Letters & Science. I value your feedback and your support. These next few months will be challenging, but we will do all we can to ensure our great public research university is as strong or stronger 3, 10 and 50 years from now as it is today.

On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz, Dean
College of Letters & Science
Professor of Economics

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