A message from Lori Berquam: Life is short … follow your dreams!

Dear Campus Community,

If there is one thing that cancer has taught me is that life is short and you have to follow your dreams. The experience has given me so much perspective and I’m grateful for the support and kindness that has helped me persevere. I’ll admit, it’s been quite a year, but I’m relieved to share that my treatment will end this April. Not long after graduation, I plan to visit Peru and climb Machu Picchu and in July, I will travel to Florence, Italy to race a dragon boat with other breast cancer survivors. What I’ve learned this past year is that there is so much to look forward to and so much life to live and I plan to take full advantage of every opportunity.

With that said, it’s with both a heavy heart and renewed energy that I announce my plans to leave my dean of students position to participate in a fellowship through the American Council on Education (ACE). This opportunity is a natural next step, both professionally and personally, and I feel honored to take on this new role in higher education. But I won’t lie, it’s going to be hard to leave the students, friends, and colleagues at UW-Madison, and I will greatly miss the community I love. The fellowship will begin in August and an interim dean of students will be announced soon.

Dean of Students Lori Berquam meets with Wisconsin Union Council at fall football game.
Dean of Students Lori Berquam meets with Wisconsin Union Council at fall football game.

You may ask, why now? To be honest, this process with ACE started almost one year ago. It was around the same time I was diagnosed with cancer, so for me, I’ve had some time to reflect on this new step and what it means for me and for campus. However, I do understand this announcement may come as a surprise for some people.

As dean of students, I encourage Badgers to take their Wisconsin Experience outside the classroom and try new things. I promote the importance of facing what scares you and to stretch yourself, which can be uncomfortable, but also helps you grow. The perfect time to take a leap is when you feel comfortable and successful in your work, and that is what I’m doing.

In the past ten years as dean of students I’ve watched Badgers grow into young professionals. I’m also very proud of the work done by my colleagues and staff who make our campus a place where all students can thrive. I am also pleased with what we have built within the Division of Student Life. We have been at the forefront for providing support for our students, helping them on their journey to transform themselves from students of today to leaders of tomorrow. Our division is a relatively small staff, but our footprint is large, focusing on all facets of campus life with a goal to support student success, and I am confident that philosophy will continue.

Lastly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you to the Division of Student Life staff: I’m honored to say that our team has made campus a better place where our students feel welcome, supported, and like they belong.  Thank you to my colleagues across campus: Your partnership helped serve our students in ways not possible without collaboration and teamwork. And most important, thank you, students: Because of you I’ve been inspired to live life with purpose and follow my passion. Thank you for pushing me – You’ve motivated me to take the leap into the unknown and follow my dreams. You’ve taught me that regardless of age or stage in life or career, it’s important take a chance and follow your dreams.

Life is short, make the most of every minute.

Keep in touch (after all, you know I’m a tweet or email away) and as you live your life with humility, curiosity, intellectual confidence, and purpose, always remember: “What you are to be, you are now becoming.”

With gratitude,

Lori Berquam
Your Dean of Students
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs