Regents approve new five-year strategic plan for UW System (day 1 … – University of Wisconsin System

Thursday, December 8, 2022
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today approved the UW System’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan.
“The plan before you is premised on the fact that the status quo is not sustainable,” said UW System President Jay Rothman, in presenting the plan. “The UW System is positioned and has the responsibility to the people of Wisconsin to address some challenging issues.”
As previously shared with Regents at their November meeting, Rothman pointed to data about demographics; wealth distribution; equity, diversity, and inclusion; public perception of higher education; workforce demand; and educational attainment trends that in the aggregate “pose an existential threat to our state’s long-term economic viability.”
Rothman said the plan’s targets are “reasonable but also aspirational.”
“We have not set targets that are slam dunks,” Rothman said. “Nor are there necessarily clearly defined pathways to reaching all of our targeted levels; rather, we have challenged ourselves to attain goals that will require substantial effort on our part and will require us to be innovative and creative.”
Rothman said it is essential the UW System produce more graduates at universities to support the needs of Wisconsin employers, which is why the plan sets forth a success measure of increasing by 10% the number of graduates on an annual basis to 41,000 by the end of the five-year term of the plan.
Further, the plan calls for enhancing the stature of UW System universities in the field of research and creative activity, including increasing the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) ranking of UW-Madison to number six from its current position at number eight.
“Why are research and creative activities important? They are important because they lead to new knowledge and new discoveries that improve the quality of life for our people, propel additional new innovations, as well as drive economic growth,” Rothman said.
He added that the UW System also wants to support the employer community in Wisconsin by providing reskilling and upskilling educational opportunities for their employees.
Rothman said the plan’s aspirations are “consistent with living that noble mission of the Wisconsin Idea.”
Rothman added that achievement of plan’s goal will require a lot of hard work as well as securing resources to invest in the plan. “Some of those resources will come from internal prioritization and cost efficiencies, but we also will need support from other sources, including from the state of Wisconsin,” he said.
Regent Bob Atwell, who abstained from voting on the strategic plan calling it “not a no and not a yes,” said he thought the plan “falls short of a response to the critical situation we find ourselves in.”
“Any strategic plan needs to take a deep look at the competitive environment it operates in and identify the competition we face both as a system and as universities. I don’t see that in the report yet,” Atwell said. “We are having trouble looking in the mirror and having deep reflection on where we allocate resources and how to allocate differently.”
Regent Jill Underly, the current state superintendent of public instruction, said with resources available at the state level to invest in education, “we could have gone deeper,” but she looks forward to the positive impact of the plan. She also urged more connections with K-12.
Regent Edmund Manydeeds said he had “no problem supporting this plan,” adding that it followed a shared governance approach and wasn’t the Regents telling others what to do. “It’s not a plan to fix everything that’s wrong with the system, the state, and the country. It’s a plan of how we’re going to proceed in the future,” he said.
Regent Mike Jones also supported the plan as a step forward, noting there will still be “the need to be agile and to course correct.”
“This isn’t the 10 Commandments written in stone,” said Regent President Karen Walsh. “It’s a living document that requires all of our taking responsibility.”
With the Board’s approval of the plan, President Rothman said the focus now will be on “assembling work plans to implement the strategies and appointing accountable leaders to start our journey toward the achievement of our success measures.”
He assured the Board he plans to regularly report on progress.
Following post-election tradition, Governor Tony Evers briefly addressed the full Board. He thanked everyone for their hard work during the pandemic and acknowledged the difficult decisions that needed to be made along the way. “At the end of the day, following science, it saved lives,” he said. He noted that supporting students’ continued mental health concerns may require additional resources, and he welcomed that discussion.
Turning to upcoming state budget discussions, Evers told chancellors they must be active in the debate. “Based on my experience as governor and as a board member, when chancellors are involved that creates an accountability that just doesn’t happen when you’re not involved,” he said. “My advice to chancellors is take a lead on this.”
As state superintendent of the state’s Department of Public Instruction, Evers served on the Board of Regents from 2009-2019.
Regent President Karen Walsh provided Board members with updates on two current chancellor searches.
The UW-Platteville search officially opened on Nov. 11, she said, and the application deadline for assured consideration is Jan. 17. The Search & Screen Committee, chaired by Regent Cris Peterson, will consider feedback from the Platteville campuses as they prepare to select candidates for semifinalist interviews in the spring.
At UW-Whitewater, on-site visits by the five finalist candidates are currently under way, Walsh said. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members have the opportunity to hear from each finalist in open forums. After reviewing campus feedback, President Rothman and the Special Regent Committee – comprised of Regents Amy Bogost (chair), Ashok Rai, Jill Underly, and Kyle Weatherly – will interview the finalists and recommend a single successful candidate to the Board for approval.
President Jay Rothman, in his regular report to the Board, updated Regents on his recent directive to Chancellor Tammy Evetovich to end in-person instruction at the UW-Platteville Richland campus effective the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year.
“Our commitment to our critical access mission continues, and the Richland campus is being re-purposed to better serve the needs of the community – as well as to maintain our fiduciary responsibility of ensuring that university operations are financially sound,” Rothman said.
Noting that about a dozen students from the Richland campus as well as county officials were attending the meeting, Rothman said he appreciated “their passion and their advocacy.”
Enrollment at the Richland campus this had fallen to 60 degree-seeking students. “That is not financially viable nor do these conditions afford students the college experience they deserve,” Rothman said.
He told Regents the intent is to provide a sustainable UW presence at the Richland campus, which may include enrichment programs, online reskilling and upskilling instruction for adult learners, and more. The UW System expects to work closely with Richland County government officials as well as business and community leaders to ensure the UW presence on campus continues to meet regional needs.
Current students at the Richland campus will be offered the opportunity to complete their degrees at UW-Platteville, its Baraboo campus, or other UW System schools. UW-Platteville will also develop individual plans for faculty and staff currently employed at Richland.
Rothman also updated Regents on strategies being discussed to help the UW System develop the talent needed to meet strategic goals and ensure a strong economic future for Wisconsin. He noted the Education Committee had hosted presentations focused on Credit for Prior Learning to (Re)Engage New Traditional Learners and Dual Enrollment at its morning meeting. In previous meetings, Regents had discussed the new Wisconsin Tuition Promise scholarship program as well as direct admissions.
Turning to efforts to enhance the digital learning experience, Rothman told Regents UW System is responding to results of student surveys administered by the universities in the wake of the pandemic and forced transitions to largely online learning.  There were three key takeaways: providing closed captioned on all course videos; providing faculty with a tool to check the accessibility of their Canvas courses; and providing a search function for students to better locate course files and materials.
In recognizing several notable accomplishments around the UW System, Rothman told Regents UW-Madison’s Bucky’s Tuition Promise scholarship program is now in its fifth year and has awarded scholarships to nearly 5,000 students overall. Bucky’s Tuition Promise covers tuition and segregated fees for Wisconsin students from families whose annual household adjusted income is $60,000 or less.
This year’s class of 937 Bucky’s Tuition Promise recipients represent 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Rothman said, and make up one in five of all new freshmen and transfer students from Wisconsin on campus this fall.
“This kind of opportunity is too good not to share,” Rothman said, and that’s why UW System announced last August that it is launching a similar scholarship program at all of its other campuses – the Wisconsin Tuition Promise – to start in the fall of 2023. “The success at Madison is encouraging,” he said, “and we look forward to expanding those benefits around the System.”
Rothman also recognized the $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant program that will provide scholarships for the next three years to lower-income students at UW-Stevens Point to advance careers in STEM fields. Highlighting students helping other students, Rothman pointed to the new hydroponic garden at UW-Eau Claire, which is donating all of its produce to the university’s Campus Harvest food pantry. He also thanked UW-Platteville for its recent dedication of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor 12 UW-Platteville students and alumni who were killed in action in the Vietnam War.
Finally, Rothman offered congratulations to the nearly 10,000 students all around the UW System who are expected to receive their UW degrees in coming weeks. “The education they received at one of our UW universities has prepared them well,” he said.
The Business & Finance Committee approved a proposal by UW-Madison to adjust tuition rates for the next two academic years for certain graduate and professional degree programs, including business masters, law, doctor of medicine, health professional program, and doctor of veterinary medicine. In addition, the School of Pharmacy’s move to a tuition model that charges a flat rate across all four program years was approved.
These increases either reduce existing gaps or maintain price competitiveness with peer institutions.
The Education Committee heard a presentation on “Dual Enrollment: Landscape, Lessons, and Opportunities to Grow the Student Pipeline” Participation in dual enrollment programs, which offer high school students the opportunity to take college classes and earn college credit while still in high school, has grown significantly over the last decade.
As part of the presentation, the Department of Public Instruction explained the dual enrollment program options, structures, and differences in student participation. Regents also heard a report from UW System on overall data and demographics of high school students earning UW credit, explaining how funding and other differences can impact student participation rates. UW Oshkosh, UW-Superior and UW-Green Bay each shared their experiences with dual enrollment programming and offered recommendations on how to expand access.
The Capital Planning and Budget Committee approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget for the Computer, Data, and Information Sciences Building project by $37,200,000 for an estimated total cost of $267,200,000 Gift/Grant Funds.
Bids were opened in November and exceeded the previously approved budget. Unprecedented increases in materials costs, supply chain disruptions, and an increasingly tight labor market over the last year have made for a volatile bidding climate. After weighing the pros and cons of the situation against the continued volatility of the construction market and the ever-increasing inflation, UW-Madison believes the best course of action is to accept the current bids.
The Audit Committee heard the Annual Report of Regent Policy Document 4-21, “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.”
With the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and academic freedom considered essential components of higher education, UW System and its universities engage in and offer a wide variety of activities and events throughout the year that educate, inform, and discuss the topics of freedom of expression and academic freedom for their campus communities and beyond.
The presentation by Chief Compliance Office Paige Smith included an overview of the 2022 Annual Report as well as additional ongoing efforts to promote and encourage civil discourse and freedom of expression for UW System students, faculty, and staff, as well as local communities.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting will resume at 9 a.m., December 9, 2022, in Madison.
Friday, December 9, 2022
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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