University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Last updated: Friday, 21-Feb-2003 19:45:53 CST

Aug. 25, 2003


UW-RF Assembly Hears Vision for 2020

As UW-River Falls opens the upcoming academic year by absorbing one of the largest budget reductions in its history, it also will be challenged to envision what its educational and service role should be through the next two decades.

Chancellor Ann Lydecker on Monday outlined her expectations for UW-RF during her opening address to about 400 faculty and staff in a speech that signals the start of the school year. Classes start next Wednesday.

Also addressing the assembly was UW System Regent Guy Gottschalk, the former chair of the Board of Regents and a liaison this year between the campus and the board.

Also during the session Virgil Nylander, vice chancellor for administration and finance, described the fiscal impact on UW-RF as Wisconsin lawmakers struggled to eliminate a $3.2 billion deficit.

To UW-RF, it means a reduction this academic year in state funding of $1.54 million and nearly 18 positions. Nylander noted that while the UW System was cut 650 positions in the current biennial budget, the corrections department will add 528 positions.

He also predicted that with veto actions by Gov. James Doyle on the current budget, and the state's continuing fiscal crisis with a projected deficit of $711 million for the next biennium, the University will see continued reductions for the next several years. "It is a decreasing linear trend and we will need to find creative ways to offset the lack of public funds."

Gottschalk noted that Wisconsin is moving slowly in coming out of its fiscal hard times. "To tell you the truth, the Regents don't have the answer on how to deal with this" as continued reductions affects public higher education.

The Regent explained that as a result, the Board has launched an intensive study of what the UW System should look like in the year 2020. He indicated that change may be transformational rather than incremental. Even so, he said, the final product must continue to emphasize teaching, research and public service to all state residents. He said it must be one that both university staff and state decision-makers are happy with.

Lydecker devoted her speech to outlining what the campus must look to as core values as it sets a course for 2020. She noted that for the past two years the campus has extensively reviewed on campus and with its external partners the UW-RF mission, vision and strategic objectives for the next several years.

"This year truly will not be 'business as usual, and trend lines tell us' … the future will never again be 'business as usual,' " Lydecker said. "We must identify our strengths and build on them, relinquish areas that are weak, adapt to demands for altered delivery of courses and programs, and maintain the currency and relevance of our offerings. We must meet the needs of our constituents."

Lydecker said that with the current reduction in resources "to be frank, we have to set aside our years of thinking as academics and put on our entrepreneurial hats, even though entrepreneurship may initially seem antithetical to access and to quality higher education at UW-River Falls."

The chancellor said that visioning the University should start with a core value of "public engagement" described in the higher education study "Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place."

She noted that at a recent retreat by UW-RF senior administrators, their discussions "made it very clear to me that public engagement is a key ingredient in a university’s ability to address its own future, as well as the future of the region. We have a critical role to play in the development of the greater St. Croix River Valley. We cannot ignore our public responsibility. The demographics, economic trends, and environmental issues confronting this region provide numerous 'real-life' opportunities to engage our students …with us…with our communities."

Key to this, she said, are four points:

Lydecker outlined an ambitious vision in which the University seeks opportunities to partner for mutual benefit, and to communicate those successes on campus and in the region.

She noted, " The majority of our students come from this general geographic region — the greater St. Croix River Valley and areas south and east of here. They come to learn from us, to learn with us. They are preparing for our future as well as theirs. They will be the government, business and education leaders as we move into later phases of our lives. We have multiple reasons for having a vested interest in their personal success… the private benefits of their education —but we also have a vested interest in the public return on their education as they contribute to their local communities and to the greater society."

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