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February 17, 2000

Harvey First of Five Finalists for UW-RF Chancellor

The first of five finalists for the position of chancellor at UW-River Falls said Friday that she sees solid strengths in the institution because of its campus atmosphere and its clear-cut mission statement of providing undergraduate education. Leah Harvey, vice president for student and academic affairs at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, spent the day meeting with students, faculty, staff and community members.

The University is seeking a replacement for Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau, who announced in August that he is leaving the position after 15 years for health reasons. A decision on the 14th leader of the 125-year-old institution is expected from the UW System Board of Regents in March.

Harvey said she was impressed with UW-RF's size of 5,700 students, its caring community that is dedicated to students and its clear mission statement which emphasizes teaching as its primary mission.

She noted, though, that the University is in the same circumstances as other public and private institutions. "There are three critical issues in higher education: resources, resources, resources," Harvey said at an open forum. "With the exception of very few colleges and universities, all institutions are stressed. In public education we see fewer dollars coming from the Legislature, and the expectation that more resources will come from our students in tuition.

"This is at a time when we know that higher education is crucial to success in life and careers. This heavy reliance on tuition disadvantages students who don't have adequate resources.

"Public higher education needs to respond by being more persuasive in lobbying legislators and in garnering external funds."

Other important issues, Harvey said, are finding a meaningful way to incorporate technology into education and to ensure students are comfortable with its use; to educate students to be articulate, critical-thinkers who are good citizens; and to make sure the campus is hospitable to diversity.

Harvey's career at Metropolitan State has been a progression of growing responsibilities, which paralleled the expansion of the university from a few hundred students to its present enrollment of 8,500. She started as a faculty member teaching statistics and program evaluation and began her administrative career as chair of the business and public administration department.

Harvey then served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Curriculum Instruction and Assessment, and served a year as Interim President.

As vice president, Harvey is the chief academic officer, and oversees student and academic support services, and directs strategic planning and cultural diversity.

She noted there are differences between the two institutions, although they are just 25 miles apart; but she said that they are growing more alike. Metropolitan State started as an upper-division institution providing courses for non-traditional commuters, while UW-RF is a residential campus predominantly teaching recent high school graduates.

Harvey noted that UW-RF is moving toward attracting more adult learners for evening classes while pursuing a diverse student body.

As UW-RF moves forward, Harvey said, she would be a collaborator seeking input from within the governance structure on campus. She added, "There can never be too much communication." She concluded, though, that as chancellor she would be willing to make the tough decisions once she has listened to varying points of view.

Harvey holds a doctorate in educational psychology with a statistics and research emphasis, and a minor in public affairs.

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