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February 8, 2024

Chancellor unveils bold initiatives to innovate, address global challenges

Written By: Staff

The College of Engineering will play key roles in University of Wisconsin-Madison campuswide initiatives designed to address global challenges—notably artificial intelligence and environmental sustainability.

The initiatives fall under Wisconsin RISE (Wisconsin Research, Innovation and Scholarly Excellence). The campus-level effort will help address significant, complex challenges of particular importance to Wisconsin and the world through accelerated and strategic faculty hiring, research infrastructure enhancement, interdisciplinary collaboration and increased student and educational opportunities.

Wisconsin RISE builds on UW-Madison strengths, including the university’s broad disciplinary range and expertise in key areas. It will ensure dedicated focus and funding so the university has the infrastructure and support necessary to make transformative discoveries and translate them into real-world impact. Wisconsin RISE also builds on UW-Madison’s successful track record of connecting and collaborating with communities and industry to forge solutions.

“We’re going to look at the grand challenges facing our state and the world and grow the faculty in a targeted way that builds on our existing strengths, in places where, with strategy and investment, we can accelerate discovery and world-changing research and education, innovate for the public good … and be absolutely best in class,” says Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin.

UW-Madison expects to hire between 120 and 150 new faculty through the Wisconsin RISE Initiative over the next three to five years, in addition to regular hiring. That’s approximately a 40% increase in faculty hiring.

The first area of focus under the Wisconsin RISE initiative will be artificial intelligence. AI can accelerate the pace of discovery, reflecting a seismic technological shift, but it also requires thoughtful attention to ethics and security.

Across the university, faculty, staff, and students are already unlocking new applications for AI in disparate areas—among them, agriculture and communications, medicine and materials science, and many others. In particular, College of Engineering faculty, staff and students contribute expertise in core AI and machine learning, AI and machine learning hardware and systems, and applications of AI and machine learning.

Over the next three to five years, RISE will accelerate the growth of UW-Madison’s network of AI innovators, adding up to 50 new faculty positions at all levels across campus to complement regular hiring already planned in AI and AI-adjacent areas. Wisconsin RISE stands to more than double campus investment in AI and related fields.

Building on the university’s rich history and tradition of advancing environmental sustainability, the university is also launching a new cross-campus initiative focused on environmental sustainability. The initiative centers around five goals—among them, net-zero emissions, zero campus waste, STARS Gold, sustainability education, and the launch of an interdisciplinary research hub led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Matthew Ginder-Vogel.

The new initiative reflects the university’s commitment to stewardship and to addressing challenges to the state’s natural resources and a changing climate, both of which affect Wisconsin residents.

It also represents the most comprehensive environmental sustainability initiative in UW-Madison’s history and will advance the university’s research and education while also making campus a living laboratory for sustainable practices. UW-Madison will be on a course to drastically reduce the campus environmental impact, cultivate a culture of sustainability, build climate resilience, and inspire innovations that will benefit people everywhere.

A version of this story was originally published by University Communications.