State Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, was among the speakers Sept. 17 at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery for the official launch of the new UW-Madison School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences. The event also included an announcement of a campaign to raise $225 million for a new building to replace outdated current facilities. Feyen is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Tech Caucus, a bipartisan, informal group of lawmakers who follow developments in the tech-based economy.

Senator Dan Feyen Thank you for having me today!  I am State Sen. Dan Feyen from Fond du Lac and the proud father of two UW Madison graduates.

I am excited for the opportunity to speak at the unveiling of the new UW-Madison School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences. This school is the first of its kind in the country, providing a unique opportunity for the university, and the state of Wisconsin to excel in the technology sector. UW-Madison should strive to be No. 1 in this field and the new CDIS School will put the University, and Wisconsin, in a league of its own.

In the Legislature, I chair the Senate Committee on Economic and Workforce Development, as well as co-chair the Technology Caucus, a newly created bipartisan caucus on emerging tech issues. Additionally, I am on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Board. My policy background and reason for running for public office was economic development, which quickly turned into workforce development. The positions I have held throughout my tenure in office have solidified to me the connection between workforce development and economic development.

Prior to my tenure as a State Senator, I worked in production management at a printing company in Fond du Lac for 30 years.  While there, I realized that Wisconsin has a stark need for workforce development. Workforce development directly influences economic development. It is impossible to have economic development without first having a strong workforce. The UW School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences, will assist in developing and diversifying our state’s workforce in much needed areas, which will lead to ingenuity in economic development.

I am so glad that this school has finally come to fruition. In 2017-18, there was legislative discussion about creating a computing sciences branch of UW, either in the form of a School or a College. I was a strong supporter of this initiative and am excited that it has finally happened!

There is a strong need for graduates with backgrounds in the technology sector. Technology does not just refer to digital technology, though that is a component of it. Technology refers to the innovation and discovery in all sectors that spurs economic development.  As the university aptly put it, this school will “connect ideas, data, and people – to work at the intersection of technology and humanity to solve society’s greatest challenges.” Economic development is not a partisan issue, it is extremely bi-partisan and helps the entire state.

We can all agree that this newly created school is a fantastic endeavor and will provide a great benefit to Wisconsin. Ninety percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin at least five years after earning a degree. This new school will go a long way in attracting talent to Wisconsin and growing our state’s workforce. In addition, the CDIS facility being constructed will be able to accommodate significant growth in the school and will be a center of tech innovation and research.

The School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences will generate excitement amongst students, faculty, and the public at large. With the current workforce shortage, the creation of this school will send a positive signal to the business community that Wisconsin is committed to diversifying and developing the workforce.

The education and research opportunities this school provides will aid Wisconsin for years to come. Graduates will have a unique perspective on the issues Wisconsin faces and have distinctive solutions to these problems. The UW School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences will be a great asset to our state and spur needed economic development.

Thank you again for having me today and On, Wisconsin!

Also, see a prior Inside Wisconsin column by Tom Still on the UW-Madison School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences.