From Dean Scholz

Dean’s Update: August 23, 2018

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

Now is one of my favorite times of the academic year. Students are coming to campus, some for the first time, full of hopes and dreams. As a faculty member, my course-planning for the semester would be largely complete (and, more often than not, overly ambitious!) and I would be nervously anticipating the first day of class. As an academic administrator the pressures are different, but reality remains the same: Tens of thousands of students and their families have placed their faith in our ability to deliver an exceptional education. Here in L&S, I know that all of you, my outstanding staff and faculty colleagues, are committed to doing your jobs superbly to meet and yes, exceed, this expectation. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to build on our excellence as we strive always to do better.

The summer gave me (and others in L&S Administration) a chance to reflect on where the College has been and where we are headed. I have now completed five years as Dean of the College of Letters & Science. Serving in this position has been a tremendous honor. I love the job and am grateful for the opportunity to continue as Dean. That naturally raises the question, “What do we hope to collectively accomplish moving forward?” To begin, we will continue to focus on our three central priorities: strengthening the L&S budget and budgeting, which is critical to being world-class in research, teaching and learning; enhancing the post-college opportunities for L&S graduates through the Career Initiative/SuccessWorks; and improving the climate within the College. While I feel great about the progress made on budgets and SuccessWorks, and hope our attention to climate is helping to move the College in the right direction, I know we need to continue to push on all three. But I want to do more. I want all of us to work together to help others better understand and appreciate our collective strength and the value of earning a degree from this great College.

Even as an L&S faculty member and department chair, I was always concerned by a sense I had that students and their families did not understand or appreciate the strength of L&S. I detected, rightly or wrongly, a view among some that said, “This non-L&S School/College is terrific, and if this doesn’t work out, L&S will be a fine fallback location in their college journey.” Now, from where I sit as Dean, I know for certain that all objective evidence supports our assertion that L&S is the heart of this great university. But I still do not think L&S’s strength is universally appreciated. So, you will hear me talk this year and next and the year after that about L&S and our role at UW-Madison and beyond. I have been anchoring my thoughts with a tag line, “Destination L&S: Come Here, Go Anywhere.” I will be the first to admit, I have never been paid for my branding and marketing expertise. But I have been thinking about what “Destination L&S” might mean. How should the College be understood? Talk to me about this when I raise it at plenaries, breakfasts, governance meetings and other settings throughout the year. If you’d rather communicate through e-mail or phone, please feel free to contact Jennifer Noyes at or 890-0740, and she will see that your ideas get added to the mix. Regardless of how you choose to communicate, I want to hear your ideas.

On matters closer to L&S Administration, I’m thrilled to welcome two new members of the L&S administrative team. Shirin Malekpour is our new Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, starting officially on September 10, 2018. She will be taking on many of the responsibilities previously held by Nancy Westphal-Johnson. Shirin’s undergraduate degree is from Pomona College and her Ph.D. (in mathematics) is from the University of Maryland, College Park. Since 2005 she has had various teaching and administrative responsibilities related to student success in UW-Madison’s mathematics department. She has terrific accomplishments related to enrollment management, SOAR, instructional excellence, TA training, and innovation in teaching and learning. While she has been working in mathematics, Shirin is passionate about the liberal arts.

Denise Hickey joined us August 1 as our new Assistant Dean of Strategic Communications & Advancement, a position previously held by Jennifer Karlson. Denise’s undergraduate degree (in English) is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; her law degree is from Detroit Mercy Law School. After serving for 9 years as a litigator in Michigan, Denise returned to higher education where she worked for 15 years as the Assistant Dean for Alumni Relations and Special Projects at Detroit Mercy. Denise did it all in alumni relations and strategic communications in her prior position. We are extremely excited about her arrival at UW-Madison. I am grateful to Susan Zaeske for her excellent work as interim while also balancing her job as Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities.

This, of course, is an election year. I look forward to seeing the many creative classroom activities and public events that your departments and programs will develop to help education and engage our students and fellow citizens in a deep and critical understanding of how our democracy works. At the same time, I ask all L&S faculty and staff to be mindful of their personal responsibilities as state employees, as outlined in the UW System’s guidelines for engaging in political activities. Chapter 11 of the Wisconsin statutes is the source that prohibits state employees from engaging in political campaign activities on work time and using state resources. Political campaign activities are broadly defined, as you can see in Guidance Point #1. Where an activity is political but isn’t associated with a political campaign (such as advocating for or against a legislative change), the guidelines still require that employees not use state work time or state resources to engage in the political activity. Please take a moment to review the guidelines, so all are aware of what is, and is not, acceptable advocacy and political activity, while working as a state employee.

Let’s have a great year. Thank you for all you do.

On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz
L&S Dean
Nellie June Gray Professor of Economics