Dean’s Update: September 2016

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

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the start of the 2016-17 academic year. It is a wonderful, exciting time on our beautiful campus!

I was amused this morning to find a student, walking in circles, far, far from the Social Science building where she needed to be for her class. I walked her over there, seeing a bit of my daughters in her.  If I closed my eyes a moment longer, there I was, many years ago, wondering whether I could do it, whether I was in the right place. It reminds me again of what an awesome privilege it is watch loved ones take these first, giant steps toward adulthood. Families place their trust in L&S , and the university, to help students make this transition. Never forget that this is a vitally important part of the work we do every day.  And we do it very, very well.

Before looking forward, let’s pause a moment to look back. We weathered a challenging year. In a few places we got stronger. With the hiring freeze and budget pressures, we lost some ground in other units. But I am very proud and grateful for the care colleagues throughout the College took to meet these challenges as sensibly and efficiently as possible. We have retained great colleagues. We have preserved much of what is critical about our programs and degrees. We remain one of the finest public universities in the country. The College of Letters & Science Annual Review, which I love, is one way we try to tell our story. And we are focused, every day, on getting better.

Now for the good news! There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future.  We had a great summer and we are gearing up to do even more next summer. We will be hiring across all three of our Divisions (Humanities, Social Sciences, and Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences). Hiring will be supported by state dollars, gift dollars, foundation grants, and entrepreneurial (“131”) efforts. This reflects the emerging fiscal reality: to thrive we must continue to diversify our funding streams. And we are doing so.

Central campus is providing money for targeted pay increases for University Staff, Academic Staff and Faculty. Budgets remain tight and we do not yet have a broad-based salary exercise. But available funds will support pay increases for roughly one-third of the university and academic staff in the College, and increases for about one-fifth of the faculty. There is also a very modest allocation available to the College for one-time performance bonus payments. We will provide additional information, including implementation details, in the coming weeks. Everyone on campus understands these measures do not solve our compensation challenges. But they are a start, more than what we have been able to do in recent years, and for that we are grateful.

I am excited about the year ahead. We reaffirm our commitment to creating an environment where every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We will work to reduce grade and graduation gaps for students from historically underrepresented groups, while at the same time, enhance the diversity of our faculty, staff and students. We will hold a series of workshops this academic year aimed at instructional academic staff and faculty, designed to help create an inclusive, welcoming classroom experience. We have increased training efforts for our Teaching Assistants, and created a community of practice for those responsible for TA training and professional development. The College is leading a review of the ethnic studies requirement and the ethnic studies course array. The Center for Academic Excellence and Student Academic Affairs in the College will continue their innovative efforts to enhance the climate and academic success of students from historically underrepresented groups. And I look forward to working with the College’s Equity and Diversity Committee to guide the College in our efforts.

The L&S Climate Committee wrote an excellent report over the summer, based on the L&S climate survey conducted last Fall. Please read the report at https://kb.wisc.edu/ls/page.php?id=18983 (once at the page, please click the underlined “L&S Climate Survey Final Report 2016”). I expect the committee to continue their terrific work in the coming year, starting with a series of open forums to discuss the committee report and its recommendations.

We have many new things to talk about in the months ahead, including excellence in teaching and learning, exciting Career Initiative accomplishments and changes in L&S Career Services, and wonderful, new communications initiatives from our advancement team. New budget debates will be upon us soon. We need to continue to tell the story of all the great things we do, especially the ways we engage students, businesses, and communities all across Wisconsin. Please continue to send your news and background items to Mary Ellen Gabriel.

I am remarkably fortunate to be surrounded by talented, dedicated colleagues doing all they can to make L&S great. Working together, our future is bright. Thank you for all you do.

Regards,

John Karl Scholz
Dean and Nellie June Gray Professor of Economics
College of Letters & Science