Water quality task force stops at UW-Stout; staff, students benefit from activities, programming

On Wednesday last week, UW-Stout was privileged to host the penultimate hearing of the state Legislature’s Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.  This is an important effort designed to find bipartisan efforts to improve water quality in Wisconsin.

One of the invited speakers was Scott McGovern, a senior lecturer in the biology department, who has been working for a long time on plans to clear the algae and restore the balance to Dunn County waterways. 

During my welcome to the task force, I indicated that I believed that the water quality issue is very important in Menomonie as evidenced by the lack of use of Lake Menomin in the summer. That stands in sharp contrast with the lake my wife and I used to live on in Bemidji, Minn., which was busy all year round.

I also mentioned the many projects and efforts underway at UW-Stout to try to get a handle on water quality issues, including the LAKES Research Experience for Undergraduates research project that is intended to gain better insight into the causes of phosphorous pollution and to identify potential solutions. One of the faculty researchers, Tina Lee, answered some questions at the task force meeting. 

I also highlighted the UW-Stout Center for Limnological Research and Rehabilitation in the Discovery Center that focuses on eutrophication issues in freshwater systems, as well as our impending participation in the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin to work across the UW System on freshwater issues.

I was impressed with the number of local legislators who attending the hearing. State Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, is a member of the task force, but others who attended including state Sens. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, and Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire; and state Reps. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, and Warren Petryk, R-Eleva.

I want to thank everyone in the student center for making this visit a success, as well as Dianne Sinz of my office, who worked on the arrangements.

Picnic helps minority faculty and staff feel comfortable at UW-Stout

A lot of events are associated with the early days of the new academic year, and a special one for me was the second annual Minority Faculty, Staff and Friends Picnic. This year’s picnic, held last Wednesday just south of the Memorial Student Center, was attended by 44 faculty, staff and their families. 

It is intended to make our minority employees feel comfortable as they settle into their roles at UW-Stout. The organizers introduced a new peer-to-peer mentoring program to match new minority faculty and staff with seasoned minority faculty and staff (mentors and mentee met each other for the first time at the picnic).

Two community organizations, Menomonie Cares and Spindle Tree, spoke about their organizations and their community efforts. I enjoyed the camaraderie at the picnic, as well as the great food, and would like to thank the sponsors: the Diversity Bridge Team, the Intercultural Development Ambassadors and the Baldrige Valuing People subcommittee.

AODA coalition a true campus-community partnership

One of the truly unique efforts at UW-Stout is the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drugs, a long-time group of campus and community members who meet once a month to discuss strategies for combatting high-risk drinking and drug use.

The coalition is chaired by Nate Kirkman, assistant dean of students. I attended my first meeting last Friday and was extremely impressed by the knowledge, passion and insight that the members of the coalition brought to the table. It is clear that addressing the issues caused by high-risk drinking and drug use takes a coordinated response by campus members, the community, health care workers and law enforcement. This coalition is a great way to bring about that collaboration, and it has my full support.

MentorLink helping freshmen become successful students

I’d also like to draw your attention to a relatively new effort at UW-Stout designed to help our first-year students succeed in and out of the classroom. This fall, the Enrollment and Retention Services office rolled out MentorLink to all freshmen.  The program matches first-year students with a volunteer upper-level student peer mentor. So far, more than 800 mentees have been matched with more than 235 mentors.

I want to thank Aaron Aure, executive director of Enrollment and Retention Services, for bringing this program to campus and the program’s coordinator, Darren Ward, who is a first-year student adviser. A news release with much more on the program, which is unique in the UW System, is available here,

Letter seeks protection for ‘Dreamers,’ help for international students

Finally, I wanted the campus to know that I recently signed a letter with scores of other chancellors and university presidents across the country that calls on congressional leaders to pass legislation giving permanent protection for the so-called “Dreamers”:  young, undocumented individuals who were brought to this country as children.

The letter states: “We respectfully urge you to come together on a bipartisan basis to address this challenge by doing the right thing for these outstanding young people and for our country.” The letter is addressed to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, and the effort was organized by the American Council on Education.

Another letter, signed by UW System President Ray Cross and system chancellors, asks federal lawmakers to help international students overcome delays they are encountering in getting visas processed. The letter states: “As the 116th Congress moves forward, we ask that you take action and closely monitor the administrative actions and policies that are impeding the free flow of students and scholars upon which our campuses depend. We appreciate your work on these issues and hope that you will continue to facilitate the valuable participation of our international students and scholars in our University of Wisconsin campus communities.”

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