Chancellor’s Blog: Moving forward for our future

| Chancellor James Schmidt

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to meet with literally hundreds of you to talk about a proposal to strengthen our university by investing in our faculty and staff.

This proposal, which will help us serve our students better, is just one way in which our university is looking forward together. This year we are working on our 2025 strategic plan and will also begin developing the next EDI plan, under the leadership of a new vice chancellor I hope to announce in the next week or so. Creating both of these plans — in addition to updating our Academic Master Plan and our Facilities Master Plan — will involve our entire campus as we think about the future we want together. It’s a future that I’m very optimistic about and that I know will put our students at the center.

As we look ahead to 2025, I want to start our planning with a positive investment in faculty and staff. As I outlined at the campus forums, I am proposing $4.1 million in base investments over the next three years, including $1.6 million for faculty and staff instructional positions for course availability and new programs. I’ve already authorized $250,000 in base funds to Academic Affairs for this purpose. Also included in these investments will be $1 million toward our pay plan and $400,000 to provide additional merit and equity adjustments for faculty and staff. We will fund these investments by improving student retention by 2% each year (a total of 138 additionally retained students over three years) and growing enrollment by 405 students.

Shared governance support

This proposal will require the support, creative energy and contributions of the entire campus community, in support of our students. To that end, all three of our shared governance organizations — the University Senate, the University Staff Council and the Student Senate — have passed resolutions in support of the proposal to invest for our future. I am encouraged by their resolutions and will continue to work closely with them as we refine and implement the proposal.

Moving Forward: Transfer Task Force

And we are moving forward. We can grow enrollment by creating competitive new programs and attracting new transfer students. To that end, I have formed a Transfer Student Experience Task Force, chaired by College of Business Associate Dean Jean Pratt. I want to thank everyone who volunteered to serve on this important task force, and I am looking forward to the recommendations that the group will bring forward to me in the spring. Please see the names of the task force members at the end of this blog post.

Moving forward: Grow co-curricular activities

Another way in which we will be able to reach out to new students, including those beyond our state, is through co-curricular programs that have already proven they can attract and retain Blugolds. Today I will join Provost Patricia Kleine, Blugold Marching Band Director Randy Dickerson and Athletics Director Dan Schumacher — along with alumni and community supporters — to publicly announce our academic investments and additions to both the BMB and our athletics program.

We have hired assistant band director Sharon Laird to support our goal to grow the BMB membership to 500 students. We’re well on our way, with almost 75 new students this year, bringing us to 475 musicians — the second largest collegiate band in the nation! Or should I say, “in the world!”

Our athletics program, with a three-year average second-year retention rate of nearly 90% among Blugold student-athletes, also will provide the means to support our enrollment goals. With Vice Chancellor Albert Colom’s support, I have directed A.D. Schumacher to begin the process of reinstating men’s baseball for the spring 2021 season; to add women’s lacrosse for the spring 2021 season; and to add men’s soccer for the fall 2021 season. The process for hiring coaches will begin immediately, and baseball alumni and friends are actively raising funds to support facilities and operations.

When operating in 2021, we expect these sports will bring 94 new students to UW-Eau Claire and provide resources in excess of operating costs that will be reallocated to instruction.

UW-Eau Claire has an exemplary athletics program, ranked 10th in the nation in the NACDA Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup standings this past year. That makes us the highest ranked public institution out of 440 Division III athletic programs in the country. More important, our student athletes succeed in the classroom. Expanding our programs will help us reach our Guidepost Goals and attract more future Blugolds to UW-Eau Claire.

To read more about additions to our athletics program and growth of the BMB as part of our recruitment and retention efforts, please watch for a university news release to be posted on our news site this afternoon once our public announcement is underway.

Moving forward

Even as we explore ways to reach out to new students, we will continue to support our current efforts to attract and retain students. Our investment of more than $500,000 in our EDI initiatives is helping us to see improvements in the numbers of students of color at UW-Eau Claire — now at 11.1%. I am also encouraged by the many thoughtful discussions I am hearing around how we can retain our enrolled students. From on-campus student employment programs to department conversations for the student success plans, we are being focused and intentional about our commitment to helping all our students succeed. I look forward to continuing to work with all our faculty and staff on this important initiative for our future.

Transfer Student Experience Task Force members:

  • Jean Pratt, College of Business, chair
  • Christina Bichner, student
  • Mike Carney, Academic Affairs
  • Jennifer Dahl, Chemistry
  • Dale Fenton, Advising, Retention and Career Center
  • Shana Germane, Residence Life
  • Amanda Hopkins, Athletics
  • Maggie Jensen, Student Support Services
  • Matthew Lewellen, Admissions
  • Rachel Merkel, Nursing
  • Nichole Miller, Advising, Retention and Career Center
  • Crystalina Peterson, student
  • Alex Smith, Mathematics
  • Jason Spraitz, Criminal Justice
  • Jamie Tester, Social Work

View more Chancellor's Blog posts.