University of Wisconsin - River Falls

April 21, 1996

UW-RF Gets 'Reach for the Future' Update

By Jaime Larson
UW-River Falls News Bureau

Plans to improve efficiency and quality at UW-River Falls are moving right along, Chancellor Gary Thibodeau recently told an audience of mostly faculty and staff at a Reach for the Future update meeting.

"Our Reach for the Future planning document and the structured activities that are now under way to implement that plan will position this institution to enter the next decade and next century as a positive and viable university," Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau recapped the main goals of Reach for the Future: increasing the supplies and expenses budget, which provides classroom money for the departments on campus; supporting faculty and staff development; and advancing technology.

In terms of reallocating money to where it will best serve the campus, the Reach for the Future plan is on target, Thibodeau said.

Because the state of Wisconsin is committed to cutting back on property taxes, money that would have come to the state from these taxes must be found elsewhere. Hence UW-River Falls, as well as the other UW-System schools, must give back money to the state.

UW-RF's share of the burden totals $293,000 for the 1995-96 year and $262,100 for the 1996-97 year.

In addition, the University is setting aside $250,000 to deal with unexpected needs and striving to increase the percentage of the budget that is set aside for supplies and expenses. Currently that number is 6.9 percent of the budget. In 1983, 11 percent of the budget was committed to supplies and expenses, and the University would like to achieve this level and raise it to 12 percent as part of Reach for the Future.

In the recent past, the amount of the budget spent on supplies and expenses has remained relatively constant; however, the buying power of the dollar has decreased.

"That trendline points in one direction and that's to mediocrity--no question about it," Thibodeau said. "If we don't increase the support for our programs and our people, this institution will be a mediocre institution in the decade to come. It is not an acceptable option."

Together, these goals total $2.5 million that the University hopes to raise. Through Reach for the Future, the University has raised $805,000 toward that goal.

This money has come about as a result of the work of Reach for the Future groups set up to investigate different aspects of the campus and present suggestions for ways that money could be spent more effectively and efficiently.

"This has been a year that has been packed with activity and discussion and debate," Thibodeau said. "We have had a lot of new ideas and many recommendations to sift through."

Thibodeau outlined a number of Reach for the Future items that have been researched across campus and are set to be submitted to the Board of Regents.

Some items that require the Board's approval include establishing a School of Business and Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences; changing the name of the College of Agriculture to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; assigning the responsibilities of the graduate programs to the College of Education and changing the name of the College of Education to the College of Education and Graduate Studies; and changing the name of the Graduate School to Graduate School and Professional Studies.

Other items being submitted to the Board of Regents for information include reducing the number of credits required for graduation to 120, combining the departments of elementary education and professional studies and secondary education, moving the psychology department from the College of Education to the College of Arts and Sciences, dividing the responsibilities of General Services among other administrative departments, and increasing the fundraising efforts at UW-RF.

While some of these changes probably won't provide more money for UW-RF to work with, they will still help increase the quality of education, Thibodeau said.

Some other goals Thibodeau addressed include examining workloads, scheduling and retention.

Thibodeau addressed audience concerns that efforts to save money would result in layoffs.

The University faces layoffs of three to five members of the academic staff, Thibodeau said. Letters of intent to lay off have already been mailed to four classified staff members. Classified staff includes those such as security employees, grounds crew, painters, electricians and carpenters, and secretarial staff.

Thibodeau stressed, however, that these layoffs will not necessarily result in a staff member's departure, but rather a move to another area. Another option is to use retirements to creatively move staff into new areas without hiring additional staff, Thibodeau said.

"I think and hope that we can, through our planning process, minimize the impacts on people," Thibodeau said. "I don't want to see layoffs. I want to see the opportunity to change our staffing patterns."

Thibodeau also answered questions regarding the allocation of money to different departments.

The goal is to achieve national prominence in selected areas of all three colleges at UW-RF, Thibodeau said. Groups have been studying the departments on campus through Reach for the Future to determine where money can best be spent to achieve this goal.

This effort has included input from UW-RF graduates and businesses that employ UW-RF graduates.

Though the University still has nearly $1.7 million to go toward its $2.5 million goal, Thibodeau is hopeful.

"We're on target and moving ahead," he said. "I think that our success ultimately is going to be dependent on our ability to maintain the momentum as we go forward with continuing initiatives."

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