Michael H. Schill
Michael H. Schill meets with faculty, staff and students during his public reception at the Chazen Museum of Art on March 7, 2013.
In his own words:
It is a privilege for me to write about why I find the opportunity to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison so compelling. As a former dean at UCLA, I am passionate about public higher education and the values that are reflected in our great land grant institutions. Wisconsin is the quintessential public university whose mission embodies not only path-breaking research and extraordinary teaching, but also a concern for access, diversity, service, shared governance, transparency, and accountability. While many educational institutions share some or all of these values, at Wisconsin they are the core of the university’s DNA.
As a first generation college student, I know how important and transformative an extraordinary, affordable college education can be. My father worked in a factory and my mother was a nurse. They had high aspirations for me, but limited resources. As is true for many Wisconsin students, I could never have gotten a great liberal education if I had had to pay a high tuition. The future of our nation, the health of our polity, and the key to our competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our citizens. Therefore, the commitment of the university to maintain access for all citizens of the state, not just the wealthy, is of paramount importance to us all.
Diversity is another public value of tremendous importance. A truly great liberal education allows students to transcend their backgrounds and learn about other people — their cultures, perspectives and concerns. One way this happens is through an education rich in the humanities and social sciences. However, in our increasingly multicultural and global world, it is also vital that this education take place in university settings through face-to-face interaction. Like all great universities, Wisconsin’s efforts to achieve diversity are a work-in-progress. Nevertheless, its commitment to bringing together people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, socioeconomic groups, sexual orientations and political ideologies is something to be celebrated.
Perhaps no value is more central to the identity of the University of Wisconsin and more important to me than the concept of the “Wisconsin Idea.” The Wisconsin Idea recognizes the central role that the university plays in the life of the citizens of the state. The university exists to serve the needs of the people of the state, the nation and world. It is and must remain the institution that trains the state’s workforce and the engine that powers its economy. Faculty research in the sciences, health sciences, and engineering promotes human betterment, drives innovation, and feeds entrepreneurial activity. Liberal arts instruction trains young people to be engaged and thoughtful citizens. Health care, legal aid, and the multitude of services contributed by students enrich the lives of all citizens and serve their needs.
A fourth core public value is participation. One of the many things that makes the university so exceptional is its system of governance. Decisions are not solely vested in the chancellor. Instead, a variety of stakeholders have vital roles in determining its future, including faculty, staff, students, the Board of Regents and the governor. While the process of consultation can sometimes be a bit messy, if embraced by the chancellor it should ultimately result in more thoughtful and robust decisionmaking.
A fifth value is transparency and accountability. The citizens of Wisconsin have built a great university system, provided it with ongoing financial support, and entrusted their children to it. They have a right to expect that the Madison campus steward their investment with care and, wherever possible, cooperate and achieve efficiencies with the other wonderful schools in the system. More than any university system I know, the University of Wisconsin is open and transparent, inviting anyone with an interest to peer in and ensure that it is fulfilling its obligations. This transparency should be embraced as a virtue and be used to broaden support for the university among the citizens of the state.
Nothing is more important to the future of our nation than the education we provide our children and the knowledge that we produce for future generations. For over 164 years, the University of Wisconsin has delivered extraordinary education to literally hundreds of thousands of students. The intellectual contributions of faculty in the sciences, arts, social sciences, humanities and professions have been every bit as breathtaking. To me, what is truly extraordinary and particularly exciting is that the university does all of this while simultaneously manifesting a deep and abiding commitment to the public good. It is hard to imagine a more worthwhile human endeavor or a greater personal privilege than helping to lead such a great institution into the future.