Neil Heinen

Heinen: Embracing the inevitable change

Life is change.

The constancy of change as a theme in the reality of life can seem cliché. Life is change. But some changes are bigger than others, and it feels like we are in the midst of significant change right now. Madison is changing. America is changing. The world is changing. There is considerable tension between those who are embracing the change and those resisting it. But change is inevitable. There is no turning back.

In America, but also in Europe, we are becoming more multi-racial and multicultural. In very short order, white people, primarily of European descent, will be the minority in countries where they have been the majority for centuries. This is apparently a very tough thing for many people to get their heads around. And some are pushing back in every way possible. They are expressing their fear and anger on social media and more and more through actions. They are electing or accepting leaders they believe will prevent change from happening but who in reality have no chance of doing so. They are building walls both physical and figurative. At their worst they are fomenting hate.

Then there are those who are embracing this change. In it they see new possibilities, new ideas and the promise of an even richer and more meaningful human existence. They see the ability to change how we think, even if it means overcoming deeply ingrained assumptions and biases that presume white people alone determine what is acceptable culture, as arrogant as that sounds. The United States is again going to be a melting pot — more mixed and diverse in many ways. Why have we decided this has to be feared? Why are we so desperate to preserve something that, to be honest, isn't really working very well anymore, if it ever did?

On Sept. 3, Madison College formally opened the new Goodman South Campus at the intersection of Badger Road and South Park Street. Any major new education facility in a community is a big deal. But this new college campus is, in my mind, a direct response to and anticipation of the changing Madison we are watching unfold. It is welcoming and accessible. It is quite beautiful and comfortable. And it is strategically brilliant. The architecture and the learning environment it creates is state of the art. It is intentionally multi-cultural, part of its welcoming feel and a reflection of the input from Greater Madison's African American, Latinx, Hmong and Native American communities. 

But here's where it becomes a model of Madison 2020 and beyond. It's open seven days a week with classes starting as early as 7 a.m. and ending as late as 9:20 p.m. It has a good library and the latest computer technology, thanks in part to a partnership with Cisco Systems. The initial enrollment of 1,650 includes 500 brand new students to Madison College and a cohort of Madison public school students earning college credits in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. There are 61 full-time faculty members. Shuttle busses will stop in neighborhoods like Allied Drive and Meadowood to address transportation needs. There's a high school completion center, resources including legal services for English language learners and recently released offenders, classes in industrial maintenance and training labs for nursing students. And virtually every element of the two-story facility is designed to be accessible to the entire community.

This is more than the creation of a space to accommodate a diverse student population. This is College President Jack E. Daniels III and his team realizing where this community is and where it's headed. It is the most visionary new development in Madison in decades and it is a model for the future of change.

A 35-year vision

Combat Blindness International is a world leader in alleviating avoidable blindness. We take great pride that this extraordinary nonprofit provider of low-cost eye care — particularly cataract surgery — founded by University of Wisconsin–Madison Ophthalmologist Dr. Suresh Chandra and run by his daughter Reena Chandra Rajpal, is headquartered here in Madison. This team has had a profound impact on tens of thousands of lives in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world by restoring sight and hope. 

October marks the 35th anniversary of CBI and there's a celebration Thursday, Oct. 10 at Monona Terrace. Tickets are still available at combatblindness.org.

McCabe to Lead ‘We Are Many'

It's hard to think of a better choice than Mike McCabe to lead the well-organized and increasingly influential statewide organization fighting bigotry and racism, We Are Many — United Against Hate. Founder Masood Akhtar's nonpartisan nonprofit has grown significantly in a very short period of time and was in need of full-time leadership.

McCabe brings his experience in politics, journalism, nonprofit leadership and public sector management — including a background in farming and a run for governor of Wisconsin — to the expanding mission of WAM-UAH. We see big things ahead.


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