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UW System gives Wisconsin competitive edge as future innovation hub (day 1 news summary) – University of Wisconsin System

Thursday, December 9, 2021
MADISON, Wis. – University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson called on the UW System and the State of Wisconsin to join forces to compete for anticipated federal funding to support regional research and innovation hubs to help the United States stay competitive on the global scene.
“Wisconsin needs to be in this game – and the University of Wisconsin System is key to why this exciting collaborative effort between the university, the private sector, and government partners should work,” Thompson said. “Our two public R-1 universities – UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee – are major R&D players with deep expertise in areas such as biotechnology and genomics, advanced manufacturing and sustainability, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, among others.”
Thompson also pointed to the significant expertise and experience at UW’s comprehensive universities in areas including health care, engineering, and logistics.
The United States Innovation and Competition Act recently passed the Senate. A similar House bill known as the Endless Frontier Act was considered in the last session of Congress. Both approaches promise delivery of as much as $250 billion to invest in the study of new technologies.
Thompson added the UW already has a strong track record of successful collaborations with industry.
“Wisconsin is the perfect place for these research hubs to thrive,” Thompson said. “With our universities and business partners serving as a foundation, Wisconsin has the capacity to co-invest in a way to spark innovation and raise the state’s attractiveness for creating these academic-industry partnership hubs. And I have no doubt our private sectors would be eager to join. In fact, many of them have told me so.”
A 2019 report by the Brookings Institution ranked Madison #1 and Milwaukee #17 in its list of the top 35 markets identified as key locations for federal investment to support the growth of technology and innovation.
In his report to the Board, President Thompson said the UW System will continue to provide COVID testing to the people of Wisconsin into Winterim and through the spring semester to meet ongoing need. He said the UW is in discussion with the state for reimbursement of testing expenses, which includes staffing. Reimbursement for tuition rebates the UW has been providing to students who are helping to provide health care support at a time when hospitals are stretched thin for resources is also being discussed.
Thompson expressed gratitude to UW-Eau Claire alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag for their recent $40 million donation to help build the new multi-use Sonnentag Complex in Eau Claire, which will host events and performances, athletics and the arts, health and wellness activities, and a Mayo Clinic location.
The Sonnentags have given a total of $70 million in land and money for the project, which is the largest donation in the history of UW-Eau Claire. “It’s a truly remarkable reflection of their great love for the university,” Thompson said.
On the legislative front, Thompson said several bills supported by the UW System are gaining momentum in the state Capitol. Assembly Bill 714 would allow UW System to administer the tuition reciprocity agreement with Minnesota, and retain more of the tuition dollars earned by the universities. Senate Bill 557 would expand the Board of Regents’ investment authority to the entirety of the System’s working capital, which is currently limited to revenues from gifts, grants, and donations.
Thompson said the UW System is still awaiting action on both the pay plan and Joint Finance Committee supplemental funding.  The 2021-23 state budget included funding and approval for a 2% pay increase for all state employees, including UW System employees, in each year of the biennium. Thompson said the UW is still hopeful JFC will act in December so the pay plan can go into effect in January as planned, but it’s possible the committee will not meet until January.
With the recent announcement of the departure of Warren Anderson, UW System’s first Senior Equity, Diversity & Inclusion officer, Thompson said the UW will aggressively work to identify a successor through a national search which he expects to be launched soon. “Ensuring that we provide a supportive environment for all members of our university community is vitally important work and it’s a high priority for the UW System,” Thompson said.
Finally, Thompson offered early congratulations to the approximately 10,000 students all around the UW System who are expected to receive degrees this month.
Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III told the Board that the current search for the next President of the UW System is on schedule and making good progress. He noted that the Search and Screen committee recently forwarded a list of candidates they believe merit further evaluation to the Special Regents Committee.
Manydeeds, who chairs that Special Regents Committee, said the group will meet tomorrow to begin their preliminary review of candidates in advance of interviews. “If all goes as planned, I hope this committee will have a candidate to recommend to this Board for approval in the near future,” he said.
In his update on the search for a successor to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Manydeeds told Regents that the recently announced 21-member Search and Screen Committee will be chaired by Regent Vice President Karen Walsh with Professor Susan Hagness, department chair of the  UW-Madison department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, as vice chair.
“The committee includes a broad cross-section of campus faculty, staff and students, alumni and community members, and Regent representatives who will keep the best interests of the university and the state in mind,” he said.
The search and screen committee will identify and interview candidates and then forward recommended candidates to a Special Regent Committee.
The Education Committee approved extending the suspension of requirements that freshman applicants to UW universities must submit ACT/SAT scores as part of the admissions process through 2024-25. The requirement was originally suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it has become an increasingly common practice within higher education not to require these test scores for admission.
UW System’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs is engaged in a formal research study to (1)  determine the degree to which the ACT/SAT score accurately predicts the academic achievement of UW students; (2) evaluate long-term consequences of permanently suspending the standardized test requirement or going test-optional; (3) identify if there are other means of measuring a student’s readiness for college; and (4) understand national trends and context among other universities.
In other business, the Education Committee:
The Business and Finance Committee approved proposed tuition increases for non-resident undergraduate and graduate school students for seven UW System institutions: UW-Madison, UW-Eau Claire, UW Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout, and UW-Whitewater. The proposed increases, effective for the 2022-23 academic year, represent inflationary adjustments to maintain price competitiveness relative to peer institutions.
The use of the resulting revenue varies by institution, but includes enhanced student services, lab and technology upgrades, program expansions, and offers to general cost increases, among other initiatives. These tuition increases do not affect resident undergraduate students.
In other business, the Business & Finance Committee:
The Capital Planning and Budget Committee approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to execute the remainder of the design contract and construct the Engineering Hall Chemical and Biological Engineering Instructional and Research Lab Renovation project for an estimated total cost of $14,427,000 gift/grant funds to renovate instructional and research laboratory space in Engineering Hall.
These improvements address the bottleneck students currently face when scheduling their required laboratory courses and are critical to the recruitment and retention of faculty and researchers in biological research.
In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:
Steven Hopper, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer, and Angela Ryan, Director of Risk Management, presented an overview of UW System’s digital infrastructure risk management.
The Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) program focuses on the following key risks for digital infrastructure: the historically decentralized nature of IT throughout the UW System which makes information security a challenging and expensive proposition; the accumulation of legacy applications for over 30 years in tandem with IT budget cuts and staff reductions which has yielded a high degree of aging technology that is expensive to maintain and poses information security risks; increased reliance on digital technology and the associated competition with private businesses which make it increasingly difficult to hire and retain the in-demand technical skills required to manage complex IT environments; and increasing cost of technology solutions.
The IT as a Service (ITaaS) program is UW System’s overall IT strategy, building on the principle that the scale of UW System is an asset, not a liability. High-priority projects to leverage this scale to mitigate risks include: a Student Information System consolidation; consolidation of data center infrastructure into a hybrid cloud environment with full disaster recovery capabilities; cyber defense services; and consolidation of identity and access control across UW institutions.
In other business, the Audit Committee:
Regents in the REDI Committee heard a presentation led by Steve Ackerman, UW-Madison’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, on the university’s cutting-edge biomedical research driving health care advances in cancer and in fighting the COVID-19 virus. Presenters included David Beebe, the John D. MacArthur Professor and Claude Bernard Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and David O’Connor, UW Medical Foundation Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Dr. Beebe spoke about his cancer research which is focused on using primary cells taken from the patient’s own tumor tissue to help personalize treatment for each patient to reduce side effects, increase treatment response, and improve patient outcomes. The same technologies are being applied to improve COVID testing (in collaboration with O’Connor), which has led to the creation of a start-up company developing a novel mobile COVID testing laboratory.
O’Connor, who is a leader in HIV vaccine research and also leads the UW’s Zika project, spoke about using advanced genomic tools to track the COVID-19 virus through space and time, and which helped provide reassurance that hospital PPE effectively protects healthcare workers from infection.
In other business, the REDI Committee:
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents will resume its meeting at 8:45 a.m. on December 10, 2021, in Madison.
 
Friday, December 10, 2021
Friday, December 10, 2021
Thursday, December 9, 2021
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