Chancellor's Address

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

August 26, 1996

Chancellor Outlines Academic Year Prospects

Optimism tempered by realism were the watchwords as faculty and staff at UW-River Falls were welcomed back for the start of the academic year Monday.

Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau, in his annual address that opens the school year, told some 400 faculty and staff that they face an academic year that looks more promising then the previous two.

During that time period UW-RF experienced a $750,000 base budget reduction as its bill to help fund Wisconsin's property tax relief efforts.

The impact of that cut, Thibodeau said, was blunted by the University's Reach for the Future strategic planning process that is intended to shift nearly $2.5 million from salaries to classroom support by the year 2000.

"Can you imagine the trauma of accessing that money without a well-thought-out, exceptional strategic plan?" Thibodeau asked. "It could have rent the academic excellence of this institution."

This year the campus strategic plan will continue to reallocate resources parallel to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents' budget request, just approved last Friday, for the next biennium. That will include $52 million for new initiatives in information and instructional technologies, as well as academic advising support to help students more quickly complete their college educations. Further, the Regents requested $59.5 million in new funding to pay for continuing costs such as health care premiums and construction debt service.

"We all have good reason to be positive about UW-River Falls," Thibodeau said. "It is a University with a strong academic reputation and an institution that is growing in national stature.

"True, we have pressing resource needs, we must work hard to implement difficult strategic planning initiatives, and we must become more proactive and successful in advancing the priority of higher education in Wisconsin and nationally. But the fact is that what we experience here at this University on an ongoing basis-the quality of our academic life and work-is the envy of many working professionals, including a vast majority of our higher education colleagues at colleges and universities throughout this country."

Thibodeau noted that the budget request, while seeking limited new dollars "will, if approved, both stabilize the System and allow us to grow in very important areas. I sincerely believe that the next legislative session will enable us to reverse the cut mentality and stop the fiscal hemorrhaging experienced by the System during the last four years."

A "cause for celebration," Thibodeau said, was UW-RF's continued success in advancing bricks and mortar proposals. He noted that the Regents approved and forwarded to Gov. Tommy Thompson a request for a $2.8 million Dairy Science Teaching Facility at the Mann Valley Farm to replace the aging plant on Laboratory Farm No. 1.

That follows more than $27 million in on-going or planned building projects that include the nearly completed remodeling of the Chalmer Davee Library, groundbreaking next spring of the new Ames Teacher Education Center, a ventilation remodeling project for the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building, classroom expansion in South Hall, remodeling of Stratton Hall, campus wiring and classroom technology projects.

Reviewing the previous year's accomplishments resulting from its strategic planning process, Thibodeau said, it was "the incredible intellectual resource base" of faculty and staff that helped the University to make progress during a time of "serious threats."

Among the achievements Thibodeau cited were:

  • Welcoming its students for the first day of class on Sept. 3, that includes 1,200 new freshmen who are among the best prepared in the institution's history and who have made UW-RF their first choice for college.
  • Reducing the number of credits for graduation to 120 for many programs.
  • Establishing an office of institutional research to accumulate the data needed for sound decision-making.
  • Increasing by nearly one percent, to 7.8 percent, the portion of tax dollars allocated to classroom expenses.
  • Establishing a School of Business & Economics despite predictions from other institutions that it was unlikely to be approved.
  • Expanding the name of the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences to reflect its expanded academic offerings.
  • Consolidating the Graduate School into the College of Education and Graduation Studies.
  • "It is important to emphasize that our strategic planning efforts this past year have sharpened and will continue to sharpen our educational focus," Thibodeau concluded. "UW-River Falls is fully committed to its long tradition of providing truly exceptional educational experiences to its students. That will not change."

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