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Chancellor's Blog: A great visit to UW-Barron County

| Chancellor James Schmidt

Yesterday we started the conversation with our colleagues at UW-Barron County. (You’ll recall that last week the UW System Board of Regents approved a new alignment of UW Colleges that includes joining UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County.)

On Wednesday I was on the beautiful Rice Lake campus with our shared governance and executive leaders — and I couldn’t be more excited after our meetings there.

We met with faculty, staff, students and leaders, introduced ourselves and compared notes. Turns out we have a lot in common, most importantly that we are all focused on making sure our students have the very best education possible. UW-Barron County faculty talked movingly about the close-knit community they have created because they are dedicated to helping every student succeed. “We’re a family,” they told us — and we could see that from the student art in the hallways to the welcome we were given.

One of the highlights of our visit was an hour with students — and they asked the best questions. As you’d expect, they are concerned that there will be changes to their courses, their instructors and their programs. They made very clear that they want to preserve the mission of UW-Barron County — to be accessible to students, to keep faculty quality high, to retain that feeling of family.

My job as chancellor was to listen and to reassure our newest colleagues and students that our goal is also to keep our respective missions strong. UW-Barron County will not become a little UW-Eau Claire. We have much to learn from each other. And not a lot of time to do it.

UW System has set July 1, 2018, as the official launch of the new alignment. By this December, the UW System’s central Steering Team will map out a process to address the key operational questions that need to be resolved, such as how central functions are distributed or how we will structure our shared governance. We’re fortunate that we have two representatives on the central team: Provost Patricia Kleine and student body Vice President Nick Webber (the only student on the team).

UW System’s central team will soon form a number of working groups on various topics to hash out the details — and we’ll follow a similar format on our two campuses as well. We want to form working groups with members from both campuses to help us resolve the questions that matter to us and help us keep our missions strong.

To that end, UW-Eau Claire’s University Senate, Student Senate and University Staff Council will discuss the topics our working groups need to address. The same conversation will happen next week in Rice Lake as well. We’ll compare notes and then begin to identify people willing to serve. We imagine working groups that will address curriculum issues, operations, shared governance, athletics and the student experience, to name a few.

So what do you need to do now?  Three things: 

  • Check for updates: See the UW System website for systemwide news about the restructuring. You also can read more about our partnership on our new “UW-Barron County + UW-Eau Claire” webpage, accessible under the “About Us” tab on the UW-Eau Claire homepage.
  • Reach out: I invited our UW-Barron County colleagues to reach out to departments and friends on campus with questions or to get to know us better. When they call, welcome them! We hope to schedule a campus forum after Thanksgiving and invite UW-Barron County to our campus. Watch for more details soon.
  • Serve: Think about what working group you might like to be part of, either on our campus or at UW System. Be ready to volunteer when the groups are announced, probably early in December.

There are still a million nuts-and-bolts questions that need to be settled, and there will be lots of opportunities for us to work together on them. But the big question — our mission — is already crystal clear. No matter which campus, our students are central. What a great beginning!