I am always optimistic at the start of a new semester, but this year I am more encouraged than ever about what lies ahead for UW-Eau Claire.
With strong support from all our shared governance groups, we are implementing our foremost goal for 2017: our equity, diversity and inclusivity plan. The EDI Implementation Team, under the leadership of our EDI Fellows Melissa Bonstead-Bruns and Jeffrey Goodman, are continuing pilots of professional development for students and for faculty and staff. Next month we will be kicking off the first Circles of Change — intensive discussion groups involving people from our campus and the community. Under the leadership of Audrey Robinson, we already have 19 facilitators ready to lead the conversations. And we are beginning a search for an assistant chancellor for EDI to help lead all our efforts. I am very encouraged by the support I have seen across our campus and for the work already underway.
Within the coming weeks we will know more about the Governor’s proposed budget. While there are no guarantees, I am heartened by comments from our legislators and the business community in support of a pay plan and for further investment in higher education in Wisconsin. In fact, our business and civic leaders will be headed to Madison tomorrow for the annual Chippewa Valley Rally, and their number one request is for our elected leaders to invest in the UW System!
Our student recruitment and retention efforts are also strong this year. We are on track to meet our first-year student class this fall. In fact, we have received 300 more first-year applications at this time compared to the last five years. Please be sure to continue to welcome students as they tour on campus this spring and join us for our Admitted Student Days in February and March.
I know the past year has seen a lot of changes around campus as we consolidated units, and we are already seeing significant positive results. The ASK Center, which supports faculty and staff, has a 100 percent same-day response rate — if you’ve got an administrative challenge, they will help you. Blugold Central has already assisted students with more than 34,000 transactions — and that doesn’t include the thousands of phone calls they’ve answered. And the new Advising Retention and Career Center has helped encourage 83 percent of our frosh to be on track to complete 30 credits or more their first year — a big improvement and one of the best ways to assure graduation in four years. These numbers don’t tell the whole story about the major changes our new centers have accomplished, but they do demonstrate the results of the hard work that faculty and staff are doing to contribute to our guidepost goals.
Last week I had the opportunity to welcome to campus our newest students, including a contingent from abroad. Their excitement at being here reminded me so vividly about the strong reputation you have all helped to create for our university. What a privilege it is to see the excitement in the eyes of our newest students and to know we each have a role to play in their success. Thank you for being part of this special campus community, and best wishes for a good semester!