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Chancellor's Blog: Launching a bright future

| Chancellor James Schmidt

Today marks the first day in what is going to be a bright future for UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

After months of planning and preparation, we celebrate the union of UW-Barron County and UW-Eau Claire. I am thrilled at the prospect of creating new connections as we engage with the communities, businesses and amazing people in Barron County and beyond.

We have an opportunity to create a bold new future for the students, faculty, staff and all the stakeholders in northwest Wisconsin.

We strived to be inclusive and transparent throughout this transition, and we will take the same approach as we lay the groundwork for the future of UW-Eau Claire – Barron County. We will invite the community to a conversation and a strategic planning process, “Creating Our Future,” this fall.

Students will not notice major changes in the 2018-19 academic year, but I know that with the help of campus, community and student leaders, we will create a dynamic plan for growth and opportunity.

When the University of Wisconsin System announced a plan to align its 13 two-year colleges with seven of its four-year universities, we were left with many more questions than answers. An aggressive timeline for transition was put in place, and there were many who scoffed at the idea of pulling together so many variant strings by July 1.

UW-Barron County has seen a fair amount of change in the past few years, and there was some uncertainty and trepidation at the prospect of aligning with UW-Eau Claire. I realized we had a great deal to accomplish in a short time, but I was energized during my first visit to the UW-Barron County campus in Rice Lake. I was so impressed by the can-do spirit, engagement and positive vibes I experienced while talking to faculty, staff and students. It was then I realized the folks in Rice Lake and the surrounding region have long known what an invaluable resource UW-Barron County has been.

I worked for more than 11 years at two-year colleges at the start of my career in higher education. I have always had an appreciation for UW-Barron County and its students, many of whom come to UW-Eau Claire after earning their associate’s degree. After spending some time with local leaders in the communities of Barron County as well as with the team at UW-Barron County, it was clear there is a real passion for higher education.

One of the reasons UW-Eau Claire – Barron County is so vital to the region is because it offers students access to an affordable, quality education. During my visits to the campus in Rice Lake, I have had the pleasure of talking with students who told me how they loved the small college on a beautiful campus, the unparalleled access to amazing faculty and the family atmosphere of the institution. Everybody knows everybody, and they care about each other’s success. UW-Eau Claire’s alignment with UW-Eau Claire – Barron County will ensure this important entry point into higher education remains for the residents of northwest Wisconsin.

As we move forward, we will find more ways to connect the dots between the two campuses, and we will discover how we can work together to engage students in high-impact practices and instill a passion for lifelong learning.

The UW-Eau Claire – Barron County faculty, staff and students and the communities of Barron County have supported each other and the pursuit of higher education for decades, and our team at UW-Eau Claire is proud to join in that tradition. We are excited to be part of the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County extended family, and we look forward to the bright future we will create together.

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