Dean’s Update: November 23, 2015

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

Dear Colleagues,

Thanksgiving seems like a very good time to re-start the monthly messages that always remind me of the tireless dedication and outstanding scholarship that makes L&S such an amazing place to study and work. I have much to be thankful for. Letters & Science continues to be the foundation of the undergraduate experience at UW Madison. Official information on credit hours is not available until December, but enrollments appear robust. All the anecdotal evidence I’ve received, mostly from parents and students, suggests that our teaching remains exceptionally strong. Even more gratifying, there’s a hunger across the college to do even better. Whether it is departments or colleagues participating in the REACH program, developing and articulating learning outcomes in courses, supporting the MTLE, or just doing the essential semester-by-semester work of developing, updating and improving our students’ learning, I am thankful to be part of this great College.

Our colleagues continue to be recognized for outstanding scholarship. The list of people I could and should acknowledge is very long, including John Hawks, Alia Gurtov, and Caroline Van Sickle for their work discovering and understanding Homo Neledi. Melanie Matchett Wood from Mathematics won a distinguished award from the Packard Foundation and the Department won a generous award from the Clare Booth Luce Foundation to hire an outstanding female Assistant Professor. And we celebrate transitions, as Professor Ron Wallace retired from the English department and the creative writing program after 46 years. Professor Wallace is the father of creative writing at UW Madison. We go forward trying to live up to the remarkable people who preceded us.

Two surveys are out in the college right now. If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes to complete the climate survey, developed by the Letters & Science Climate Committee. The survey should not take long to complete and we are hopeful that the responses will help us better understand areas for improvement in climate around the college. We have also asked each Department and School to provide information about the placement of their PhD students over the last 5 or 10 years. The results will provide information about the markets being served by our PhD programs and will provide additional evidence about our quality.

This year has been a busy one for retentions in the college. One clear result of last year’s battles over budget and ongoing conversations about tenure and shared governance is that it fueled the perception by other institutions that UW-Madison is prime territory for recruiting talent. In the college, we’ve had 42 retention cases already this academic year. In a typical year we have roughly 30 for the entire year. I am pleased to report that of the 16 cases that have already been resolved, 14 colleagues have decided to stay at UW Madison. I believe this is an important indicator of future trends. 14 colleagues who have had great opportunities at outstanding competing institutions have voted with their feet, so to speak, to invest the next several years of their careers at UW-Madison. Truly, I am thankful for this.

We continue to make progress on reinventing career services for our students. We have had, or will soon have, site visits from colleagues from the Universities of Michigan and Illinois. These visits give us even greater confidence that we are creating something noteworthy at Wisconsin that will serve as a role model for public universities around the country.

Looking toward the next decade (and beyond): we are working hard to make the College a robust part of All Ways Forward, the fourth concentrated fundraising campaign in the university’s history, which will support the research and infrastructure in the College. We are committed to developing sensible policies to support our graduate students. And we continue to support great advising, teaching and learning in L&S.

I have listening sessions for university staff at 10am on December 2 (121 Psychology) and for academic staff at 11am on December 10 (B371 Chemistry). I host a plenary for department and program Administrators, Directors and Chairs at 3pm, December 14. I look forward to seeing you at one of the sessions. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful to be Dean of the College of Letters & Science.

Thank you for all you do. All Ways Forward and On, Wisconsin!

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

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