Chancellor Biddy Martin returned Sunday from a four-day trip to the east coast where she addressed University of Wisconsin happenings and goals for supporters of the university.
“The purpose was really to get to know people and let people know what is going on here at the university and what we hope to achieve,” Martin said. “(There were) really big crowds at the alumni events and lots of enthusiasm for the university. There was a lot of support so it was really interesting.”
Martin spent the four days visiting Washington, D.C., New York and Boston where she met with alumni and other supporters of UW. Also on the agenda were meetings with the Washington Post and the editorial board for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Martin said at Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting that she spoke with “every alumnus and every friend I could find.”
“It’s part of my larger effort to improve communications about the university and for the university,” Martin said.
A major topic discussed on the trip was the Wisconsin Idea, a UW System tradition that states that the influence of its universities should reach to all parts of the state.
Martin addressed her thoughts on the Wisconsin Idea at Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting
“I think we need to focus the Wisconsin Idea on specific projects … to do the most good in helping the state, the nation and the world,” Martin said. “[We should invest in] health, environment, culture and energy, governance and education. We can keep doing a trillion things but we ought to invest our resources in impactful ways.”
She added the university needs to set priorities and improve infrastructure to achieve its goals.
Martin further pursued her increased communication agenda Monday night when she invited Wisconsin’s 132 legislators to Olin House, her official residence, for a casual get-to-know-you session.
Assistant Director of State Relations Don Nelson said this is the first time in many years a chancellor has hosted this kind of event.
“A lot of times in the past, legislative relations have been a little pretentious and she really wants to break down some of those barriers,” Nelson said. “She wanted to get to know them on a personal basis and that was very important.”
The Olin House meeting was a precursor to what Nelson said will be one-on-one meetings with legislators to discuss university and state relation issues such as how UW fits into larger budget problems.
He said these meetings will allow Martin to get to know legislators better and size up their priorities when it comes to higher education. “This is a part of a larger effort by the chancellor to ensure that legislative relations are done in a very pragmatic fashion,” Nelson said. “She wants to get a chance to understand where they are coming from and give them a chance to see where she is coming from.”