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UW-Eau Claire, UW-Barron County realignment approved

| Julie Poquette

A realignment that will partner University of Wisconsin two-year colleges with nearby four-year UW campuses across the state — including joining UW-Barron County with UW-Eau Claire — was approved today by the UW System Board of Regents. The realignment will take effect July 1, 2018.

“We look forward to the many opportunities presented by the new relationship between UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County that the UW System Board of Regents approved today,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “While the realignment of the UW Colleges officially takes effect July 1, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County are beginning now to learn about each other’s strengths and assets — and the ways each of us can enrich the other for the benefit of students and the communities we serve.”

That process will officially begin Nov. 15 when Schmidt, along with UW-Eau Claire leaders from Academic Affairs and representatives from the University Senate, University Staff Council and Student Senate, will visit the UW-Barron County campus in Rice Lake to meet with their counterparts and other faculty, staff and students there.

“There are many unanswered questions about how this new partnership will work, and we’ll be working collaboratively to answer those questions and find a path forward together,” Schmidt said. “Listening and working together through this is very important, and we’re ensuring that all are represented in the conversation.”

Schmidt also published a blog post today regarding the integration of UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County, which is available on the UW-Eau Claire website.

Schmidt also is planning meetings for later this month between representatives from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County and community leaders in the UW-Barron County area, as well as additional meetings between leadership, faculty, staff and students from both institutions.

Jeff French, Barron County administrator, said he is pleased to be a partner in the transition for UW-Barron County and UW-Eau Claire.

“I look forward to working with UW-Eau Claire to ensure the future success of UW-Barron County, its students and our region,” French said.  “We will be stronger together, and it is vital that we continue to provide people in our region with access to a University of Wisconsin education.”

Evan Weiher, chair of UW-Eau Claire’s University Senate, is among the UW-Eau Claire shared governance representatives who will participate in the Nov. 15 meetings at UW-Barron County.

“I am glad that no decisions have been made regarding how this transition will go before wider discussions are held, and I am pleased that we’ll be holding our meeting next week and starting that discussion with shared governance representation at the table,” Weiher said.

UW-Eau Claire Student Senate leaders agreed that continued conversations and open channels of communication between the two campuses will be important going forward, with students’ education kept at the forefront. UW-Eau Claire Student Senate representatives recently had preliminary conversations in Rice Lake with their counterparts from UW-Barron County’s student government and with a representative from UW-Barron County’s student affairs division.

Martin Sandberg, a senior at UW-Eau Claire who transferred there after graduating with an associate degree from UW-Barron County, was among the Student Senate leaders who made the visit to UW-Barron County. Sandberg, who chairs the Intergovernmental Affairs Commission of UW-Eau Claire’s Student Senate, also served as UW-Barron County’s student body president when the UW Colleges underwent a restructuring in response to 2015 state budget cuts.

Sandberg said he is “acutely aware of how challenging a restructuring can be.”

“I believe this pairing of two-year institutions with a parent four-year institution is a necessary remedy” for the situation that has evolved in which enrollment at UW Colleges has declined by more than 30 percent, Sandberg said.

“I am both proud and excited at the opportunity for UW-Eau Claire to be paired with UW-Barron County, which shares the same fundamental commitment to excellence and places the students’ needs above all else. Going forward, it is imperative that students’ voices are heard and utilized, to ensure that this restructuring is successful and time-withstanding.”

Katy McGarry, UW-Eau Claire student body president, said representatives from both institutions who attended their preliminary meeting expressed the desire for a collaborative process.

“I am excited for the possibilities for both of our institutions going forward under this new alignment,” McGarry said. “We were able to have great conversations with UW-Barron County leadership, talking about our future collaborations. I am looking forward to the opportunities to best represent all students on both campuses.”

Nick Webber, UW-Eau Claire Student Senate vice president, said the alignment joining UW-Barron County and UW-Eau Claire has significant potential for their respective communities, institutions and, in particular, students.

"Through this alignment, student governments from both institutions plan to build off of the strengths of both the two- and four-year institutions in order to enhance the university experience on both campuses," Webber said.