Major donation leads to new academic center at UW-Stout

The University of Wisconsin-Stout will use a major donation to establish the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation in fall 2017.
May 8, 2017

The University of Wisconsin-Stout will use a major donation to establish the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation in fall 2017, Chancellor Bob Meyer announced to the campus today, Monday, May 8.

Here is the text of the memorandum Meyer sent to campus this morning:

TO: Students, faculty and staff

FROM: Bob Meyer, chancellor

DATE: May 8, 2017

SUBJECT: Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation established

I am pleased to announce that beginning this fall, there will be a new academic center on campus.The Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation will be in the College of Arts, Communications, Humanities and Social Science.The director will be Tim Shiell, a distinguished professor in the college’s English and Philosophy Department.

The intent of the center is to facilitate civil and rational debate and research in the state and beyond on important civil liberty issues guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petitioning the government, and how these liberties relate to institutions and innovation in government, civic, business, social, scientific and religious settings. The center will provide programming on campus and across the state, including speakers, panels and workshops.Stipends for faculty and student research also will be available

This center closely aligns with the mission of UW-Stout, which says that as polytechnic university we have a responsibility to “serve a global society” through “applied learning, scientific theory, humanistic understanding, creativity and research…”

All support for the center will come from the Charles Koch Foundation.The initial award is $425,000 for 2017-18; the grant is renewable, subject to annual agreements, for an additional three years, bringing the potential total to $1.7 million. The Charles Koch Foundation supports research and educational programs focused on advancing an understanding of how free societies improve well-being. This includes support at over 300 universities and colleges around the country, in addition to other organizations working to advance understanding of the institutions that foster societal well-being.

The agreement among UW-Stout, the Stout University Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation guarantees complete control and academic freedom on the part of the university in the operation of the center and the programming the center will provide.The agreement states:

“The parties further agree that the academic freedom of the University’s faculty, students, and staff is critical to the success of both the University’s and the Center’s research, scholarship, educational, teaching and service mission, and the parties shall not take any action that has the effect of infringing on the independence or integrity of the University or on the academic freedom of its personnel.The parties affirm that matters of University personnel and program activities are the sole purview of the University’s faculty and administration.”

We are committed to total transparency in this matter.The agreement is available upon request from the Stout University Foundation, and a Q &A about the center is available here.

The decision to establish this center with the attendant funding was made after long and careful consideration of all the issues involved.The Stout University Foundation voted April 22 to accept the donation. Creation of the center went through the established process in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, which included consultation with the Faculty Senate.

The important issues the center will highlight will be handled in a very responsible and scholarly manner. This center will be very beneficial for our campus, the community, the state and society as a whole.

Anyone with questions about the center or ideas about potential programs or research should contact Tim Shiell at (715) 232-1490 or A copy of the agreement can be obtained by contacting Samantha Thompson at the Stout University Foundation, at (715) 232-1151 or

Editors: Reporters with questions or interview requests should contact Doug Mell, executive director of communications and external relations, at (715) 232-1198.


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