Beginning April 1, Chancellor Rebecca Blank will be reducing her work hours to half days to accommodate her newfound passion for milking cows.
Sources close to the chancellor report that her interest in milking stems from her travels throughout the state over the past five years.
“In an effort to better understand the state and how the Wisconsin Idea is alive and well,” says associate vice chancellor for ancillary communications Noisette Blarney-Spehnmeister ’02, MS’04, “the chancellor’s tour stops have included cranberry bogs in Juneau County, fish farms on the Mississippi, manufacturing plants in the Fox Valley, and all 13 four-year UW campuses.”
Out of her many trips and tours, one stood out for the chancellor: a trip to the Patchouli Breeze Family Organic Dairy Farm in Vernon County.
“That day, the chancellor milked a cow for the first time,” says Blarney-Spehnmeister, who accompanied the chancellor on her statewide travels and chronicled the trips. “Just by chance, one of the cows was calving that afternoon. The chancellor, with the assistance of farm owner Paisley Dowdy-Sommers ’88, delivered that calf. I wish someone had taken a picture of Chancellor Blank holding that calf to her chest and proudly standing there in the doorway of the barn, awash in afternoon sunlight. She was just beaming.”
Apparently inspired by that experience, the chancellor began to visit the dairy barns on the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences campus to spend time with the small herd that produces milk for the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. With the chancellor’s nearly daily presence, it didn’t take long for her to start assisting the dairy staff with milking and other chores.
“She just fits right in,” said John Utterle ’x18, a dairy science major who works in the dairy. “I didn’t know she was the chancellor until reporters started showing up and asking questions about her. I wish they’d just leave her alone. It’s obvious to me that she finds some sort of escape in her work here. I get the feeling that being the chancellor could really wear someone down.”
Whatever the reason for the chancellor’s new endeavor, her staff insists that this is a temporary schedule change.
“The chancellor will return to her regular schedule at semester’s end,” said Jean-Michel Serrano-Poblano, vice chancellor of scheduling. “She has assured the board of regents that she will be present for commencement, although she is insisting on wearing coveralls. But clean ones, I believe.”