Students reflect on Chancellor Mnookin’s first semester at UW

New chancellor focuses on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, Bucky’s Tuition Promise

· Feb 9, 2023 Tweet

Caroline Crowley/The Badger Herald

Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin completed her first semester on the University of Wisconsin campus in December.

In her first semester, Mnookin focused on observing the university’s culture and supporting the Wisconsin Idea, according to UW Director of Media Relations Kelly Tyrrell. To achieve this, Mnookin met with various student groups, helping her better understand the perspectives of the students she serves.

But one of Mnookin’s primary goals in all of her work is to encourage civil dialogues and respectful discussion across all different viewpoints and ideas, Tyrrell said.

In promoting this open dialogue, Mnookin has gained support from students, according to UW Hillel Campus Partnership Interns Caroline Krell and Sammy Angelina.

Krell and Angelina were especially impressed by Mnookin’s quick response to antisemitic chalkings targeting Jewish students on campus found on the first day of fall classes.

Shortly after the incident, Mnookin invited Jewish student leaders to meet with her providing them the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their experiences, Angelina said.

“I’m a senior and this isn’t the first time this type of thing has happened, but it is the first response that I’ve been aware of,” Angelina said. “That made me feel really good — to know that even though this kind of thing isn’t new, this is the first time I’ve seen this type of action being taken.”

During the meeting, Mnookin listened to concerns from Jewish student leaders and was eager to discuss potential solutions moving forward, Krell said.

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In addition to working with students on campus, Mnookin is working to ensure that future students can attend UW with fewer barriers.

Mnookin has focused on giving students the opportunity to graduate debt free, ultimately ensuring every student has every chance to succeed, Tyrell said. In doing this, Mnookin is focused on ensuring the Bucky’s Tuition Promise program continues to succeed.

“What has really risen to the top for her are issues of access and affordability,” Tyrrell said. “She talks about the fact that about 60% of UW students graduate debt free, which is a really remarkable statistic for any university. But she wants to continue to make sure that students who come here, come here because they can afford to do so.”

Other areas of importance for Mnookin include providing strong mental health services. In the fall, Mnookin hired more mental health providers of BIPOC and LGBTQ identities, according to a roundtable discussion with student journalists.

Additionally, Mnookin is focused on increasing staffing for survivorship services — an action that aligned with the goals of the student organization Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment.

PAVE Communications Coordinator Maggie Kahn believes that Mnookin diversifying her staff is a step in the right direction for the university. Kahn is hopeful for the chancellor’s future at UW. 

“I think we just want to see her uphold the beliefs that she came into this position with,” Khan said. “Making sure that the DEI efforts are a big part of what she’s implementing.”

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Moving forward, the needs of students on the UW campus will continue to change, but Mnookin has made it clear to students that she is open to discussion, Angelina said.

One area where students may like to see change is in regards to the lenience towards religious holidays and observances.

Angelina recalled when UW scheduled the first day of classes on Rosh Hashanah in the fall 2021 semester. Moving forward, Krell would like to see more accommodations being made for students in regards to religious holidays.

“We should have a more set procedure for holiday observances, and not just in the Jewish community,” Krell said. “We have class off for Christmas, so making sure that it’s easy to observe other religious holidays too is a big one in the Jewish community and the non Jewish community.” 

In her first semester, Mnookin focused on listening and learning. But as she begins her second semester, she will continue to observe the community while beginning to set plans into motion, Tyrrell said.

“I think she’s been really successful at building relationships and learning a whole lot about UW and the Wisconsin Idea, getting to know students and getting to know faculty,” Tyrrell said. “I think she’s had a lot of success, really turning the things that she’s been listening and learning about into really solid ideas for UW-Madison, about our community and about the things that maybe she can look toward in the future.”

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This article was published Feb 9, 2023 at 12:00 pm and last updated Feb 5, 2023 at 2:23 pm

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