Chancellor's Blog: Investing for Our Future

| James Schmidt

For the past two weeks I have been meeting with shared governance leaders, students, our deans and, on Thursday and Friday, more than 200 faculty and staff who attended my informational forums. The purpose of the meetings has been to share my proposal to invest in faculty and staff in order to position our university for future success. More important, the meetings were designed to help me refine and improve my proposal. I truly believe that we’re better when we work together — which was proved again with the thoughtful comments I received. Thank you.

Investing for Our Future — in a nutshell

We know that after 2025 the Midwest will see 93,000 fewer high school graduates annually —which will directly impact our student enrollment. As I see it, we have three choices in the face of that downturn. First, we can do nothing — and just watch our enrollment and quality erode. Second, we could intentionally get smaller — and cut programs, faculty and staff. Third — and this is the choice I believe we need to make — we can use the next five years to strengthen our university so we are prepared to not only enter 2025 with strong enrollment but also to thrive in the years that follow. To do that, we must invest in our faculty and staff, who together will help improve student retention, create new programs that can attract students beyond the Midwest, and strengthen our reputation — nationally — for excellence and student success.

To that end, 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. We will fund that investment by improving our student retention by 2% each year (that’s a total of 138 additionally retained students over three years) and growing enrollment by 405 students to get us to our 2010 enrollment level. We can grow enrollment by attracting new transfers, creating new programs that will be competitive nationally, and expanding co-curricular programs. You’ll be hearing more in the next few days about a new program called Launch that will connect new students at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County with our campus.

Transfer Student Experience Task Force: Call for nominations

I’d like to get started with this proposal, so I am forming a Transfer Student Experience Task Force to propose specific, actionable recommendations for improving the transfer experience. I have asked for a report by February 2020. I am looking for faculty, staff and students from across the university to serve. Please read the full charge to the task force, and if you are interested in serving, please submit your name and a brief description of your interest to Jennifer McGeorge at mcgeorgj@uwec.edu. Nominations are due by Sept. 30, 2019.

An audacious opportunity

We have an opportunity now to make the investments that will position UW-Eau Claire to enter our future strong, serve our students well and compete nationally. It’s an audacious strategy that will require our collective commitment. I believe this choice is the right one for UW-Eau Claire. We must become 2025 ready — for our students and for this university.

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