A Calling Together

From the phone, to my son’s late-night waking when he was young, to my chosen profession, I have answered countless calls – literally and figuratively – in my lifetime. Now, each fall I am privileged to answer a new call – a calling together in which I join others in ceremoniously welcoming our newest students to this campus community. In my brief time serving as Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police here, I have quickly come to appreciate the cyclical nature of the academic year and our celebration of scholarly beginnings, and endings, which in turn lead to new beginnings. We celebrate these entrances and exits because students are what call us together here in the service of a common purpose – one that holds all the promise of the future. As I sit among my robed colleagues at convocation, I am proud to be a part of this team dedicated to welcoming, nurturing, guiding, teaching, and supporting these newest students and all our students.

At first glance, a police chief sitting next to deans, chancellors, and other campus administrators at a ceremony to welcome incoming students may seem incongruous. Instead, it is representative of the comprehensive approach to supporting students to which the University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed. Here we recognize that a healthy and safe student is more likely to be a successful student. The UW-Madison Police Department (UWPD) most certainly does not come first to the minds of students, faculty, or staff when considering all that contributes to a positive campus life experience. Yet the men and women of UWPD engage daily with our many campus partners and work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to collaboratively ensure safety through education, prevention, intervention, and resolution. Contrary to what many believe, police are not merely reactive, answering calls for service as they arise. While this constitutes a portion of the services we provide, the majority of the work we do focuses on prevention, education, awareness, and problem-solving efforts. From our Emergency Management Unit, to our Community Officers, to our Infrastructure Security Unit, to our Field Services Unit, to our Investigative Services Unit, to our K9 Unit, to our Lake Rescue & Safety Unit, to all the departmental support systems behind these varied and specialized services, as leaders in innovative community-oriented policing, UWPD proactively works to promote campus community wellbeing through collaborative approaches to ensuring safety. We serve in partnership to support and facilitate the educational mission of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and seek to cultivate a campus environment in which all students, faculty, and staff are safe.

To this end, UWPD initiatives such as Badger Watch, our Threat Intervention Team, our annual sexual assault awareness campaigns, such as Tell Us or Don’t Be That Guy, as well as various alcohol education and interdiction programs, and most recently our leadership in developing campus guidelines to protests and demonstrations are but a few examples of the ways in which we collaborate with our campus partners from the Division of Student Life, Housing, University Health Services, and others to ensure safety and contribute to a positive campus life experience for students, faculty, and staff. In addition, UWPD hosts biannual campus community forums, has established a Police Advisory Council comprised of various and diverse campus stakeholders, engages in relevant shared governance forums, and strives each day to build community relationships not only here on campus, but throughout Madison, Dane County, the State of Wisconsin, and across the country. Why? Because we are committed to our campus community, to the mission of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and to The Wisconsin Idea, and to always Reaching HIGHER.

Each new beginning brings with it possibility and hope. As we enter into this new academic year, I welcome our newest students and the many opportunities we have as a department to develop positive relationships with all students, faculty, and staff. And it is my hope that we are not only called together as a campus community for convocation or commencement ceremonies, but that we carry with us throughout the year the shared commitment that calls us together for such celebrations – a commitment to a lifelong process of learning that takes us time and again through an endless cycle of beginnings and endings, and out of which the greatest potential for connection, growth, and change exists.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
     – Nelson Mandela