I hope that you have been able to take advantage of the summer to spend time with family and friends and to enjoy our beautiful campus. I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on some projects at home and enjoy my sons’ activities.
I’ve also had the thrill of throwing out the first pitch (a strike!) at a recent St. Paul Saints baseball game. I was there with representatives of 11 area businesses and organizations to invite graduates in the Twin Cities to consider “coming home” to Eau Claire. More than 200 alumni joined us to hear about the changes happening in the area, our great schools and quality of life, and the jobs available for talented Blugolds. According to the business leaders who joined me, they were thrilled with the response of our alumni and the chance to talk up our great community.
I’ve had lots of opportunities to talk about our university, not only with alumni but also with our business and civic leaders. You can check out recent interviews with WAYY Radio and WEAU TV where I shared the impact of the budget reductions and how we are continuing to serve our students well.
You may also have seen the June 30 issue of TIME magazine, which featured a full-page spread about the transformation of Eau Claire and the great things happening here. The article, by alumnus Stephen Koepp, profiles our graduates, Justin Vernon, Zach Halmsted and Nick Meyer, and singles out the important role UW-Eau Claire has had in creating a vibrant musical culture and quality of life. The more I talk with people in Wisconsin and around the country the more I see how unique we are and the truly exciting changes that we are helping to make possible.
Word is spreading — and more students want to be Blugolds. The latest numbers from Admissions predict an entering class of about 2,300 students — potentially our largest class in more than 30 years! Recruiting a strong class is important because we also are seeing more students graduate within four years, a core guidepost goal.
But the entering class is only part of the good news story. This summer the academic deans and department chairs have worked closely with Provost Kleine to make sure our entering frosh will have the courses they need to start strong. This has taken a lot of extra work to open additional sections in math and writing, and to assure available courses for our new Blugolds.
UW-System’s one-time give-back of $813,000 has been earmarked in its entirety to address course availability and provide bridge staffing for the fall and spring semesters. Twenty-eight tenure-track positions will be filled this coming academic year, based on highest department need and student demand, across all colleges. The deans and provost have worked hard to make difficult decisions about which positions can be filled and I want to thank them and the chairs for their work this summer.
There are many other people who deserve our thanks and I hope you’ll do so when you see them over the summer. Congratulate the many staff involved in Orientation and in the youth programs and camps that bring young future Blugolds to our campus. From basketball and gymnastics to materials science and summer writing, it’s good to see students of all ages learning with us.
It’s also good to see the dust settling over the moves many of our colleagues have experienced this summer. There will be more to come, but for now, be sure to commend the facilities and LTS teams that have kept everything on track, led by Rene Strehlau, Charles Probst and Chris Hessel. The Facilities construction crew has laid new carpet, installed electrical, painted surfaces, set up work stations and prepared new work areas.
It continues to be a busy summer, and this July you’ll find me making the rounds to service groups to encourage everyone to support UW-Eau Claire. Best wishes for a good summer.