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Things I have learned — 30 years at WAICU

This is the 120th––and last––“Independent Insights” I will have written for WAICU’s newsletter, the Wisconsin Independent. Higher education is built on free and independent debate, but, equally important, it is built on our responsibility to advance knowledge. Over the course of the last 30 years I have had generous and engaging responses from our readers––but never a single bitter or intemperate message. The “Independent Insights” that generated the biggest response was the one I wrote about 9/11. I wrote in response to Stanley Fish’s statement that the terrorists were “just as educated” as anyone else. I argued that it is not a true education if it does not include the development of principled and moral understanding.

Recently, I was asked for some “last-minute advice” for Wisconsin’s private colleges and universities. As I think about it, my advice is, and always has been, rooted in what I have learned from the college and university presidents who constitute the WAICU Board. I learned: Stay focused on the mission. WAICU’s mission is “Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities working together for educational opportunity.” I can say that not a day has gone by in the last 30 years in which I have not thought of and been influenced by this mission. I learned: A critical factor in WAICU’s success is the willingness of WAICU members to be bold and take risks. In this period, more than 45 cost-saving initiatives have been undertaken by WAICU, with cumulative savings of $250,784,747. In the same

period, Wisconsin Grants totaling $681,405,467 were awarded to 301,145 Wisconsin students. I learned: if you think big, you have the opportunity to accomplish big things. Finally, I learned: Nothing that has been accomplished would have succeeded to this extent without leadership. The presidents and administrators of WAICU-member colleges and universities stepped out of their comfort zone and encouraged their colleagues to do the same. WAICU staff also worked long and hard––and smart––in making these visionary programs a reality.

One more thing I learned––from my parents–– is to say thank you. THANK YOU!