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UW-Whitewater offers hands-on learning, entrepreneurial focus (September 10, 2009)

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September 10, 2009

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
September Meeting
Day One News Summary

September 2009 Day 1

UW-Whitewater offers hands-on learning, entrepreneurial focus

WHITEWATER, Wis. – UW-Whitewater is a campus “on the move,” said Chancellor Richard Telfer, in welcoming the Board of Regents to the UW-Whitewater campus on Thursday.

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer
UW-Whitewater Chancellor
Richard Telfer

“We have made significant strides in the five key areas of our strategic plan: planning and learning; creating the educator-scholar community; diversity and global perspectives; regional engagement; and professional and personal integrity,” Telfer said.

He told Regents that four adjectives describe the UW-Whitewater mission and experience: engaged, relevant, hands-on, and entrepreneurial.

Presentations and videos describing student research projects, lively classrooms, interactions with the local business community, and future entrepreneurial opportunities gave the Regents a glimpse of how the campus puts these adjectives into practice.

UW-Whitewater student Jim Fietzer, in describing the wastewater treatment research he has been involved in, said, “The experience offered me the opportunity to run an experiment from beginning to end. Hopefully it will be a wonderful lead-in to pursuing this area in grad school.”

Professor Elena Bertozzi, who teaches students how to design video games, said, “It’s by playing with technology that you get comfortable with it.”

“We provide our students with outstanding experiences that connect them to the campus and the community,” Telfer said. “We place our students in situations where they use what they are learning in workplace situations. The curricula that they study are relevant to the current workplace, prepare them for workplaces to come, and benefit the communities that they serve now and will serve in the future.”

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HRS implementation plan recommended for approval

Following a discussion including all Regents, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee unanimously approved the Human Resource System (HRS) implementation budget for fiscal year 2010 and the overall project implementation plan. The matter now moves to the full Board for its approval Friday.

The discussion occurred amidst new uncertainty about Huron Consulting Group’s stability, after the company was forced to re-state its corporate earnings for the last three fiscal years. Addressing concerns that the company’s financial issues may affect its ability to fully support the HRS project, Regent President Charles Pruitt suggested an amendment that would provide for regular updates to the Board at every regularly scheduled public Board meeting until the project is completed. “Given the history of the first project, it’s terribly important that this Board be actively engaged,” Pruitt said. The amendment was approved.

UW System President Kevin Reilly
UW-System President
Kevin Reilly

President Reilly called the HRS project “a huge undertaking, and a vitally important one.”

“HRS is, in effect, Mission Control for many of our recordkeeping systems and business practices across the UW System.  This new system is designed to move us away from relying on an outdated and fragile hodgepodge of programs that present a growing risk of failure – one that would have enormously negative repercussions for nearly every community across the state,” Reilly said.

He acknowledged that the project’s $81.4 million price tag is high, but reiterated that “it is hardly a luxury.  Rather, it is a necessity – and one that we need to address now, not later.”

“Let me say this, I hate the notion of spending $81.4 million on this because I know what $81.4 million could do…to help our faculty and staff morale and productivity… to do things that are closer to our core mission and what we’re here for. On the other hand, we are on a train that’s going to run into a wall. It’s not a question of whether the system is going to break, it’s only a question of when,” Reilly said.

Regent Jeff Bartell, whose professional background is in corporate law and securities law, said his review of the Huron situation indicated that is involves “an arcane” accounting issue.  He told Regents that his experience suggests “it is unlikely (the SEC investigation) will seriously disable the company.”

He did voice concern about whether consultants working on the UW System project would stay on with Huron.

Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler questioned whether UW System has a “Plan B” if the SEC investigation finds something that the UW potentially finds untenable.

President Reilly said the UW has sought further assurances about Huron’s fiscal health and its ability to retain key personnel and “they have been very responsive.”

Regent David Walsh said “the most important thing is that we continue to be diligent” in getting updates and monitoring lawsuits.

Regent Tom Loftus requested that the Board be provided with a list of what safeguards have been added to the contract to protect the best interests of the university.  

The Board also heard status reports on five other major information technology projects: the students information system implementations at UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, and UW-Stout; the Identity and Access Management project; and the Legacy Budget project.  All projects are generally on target with respect to schedule, scope, and budget status.

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Wisconsin Partnership Program provides annual report

UW-Madison’s Robert Golden, Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health, presented the 2008 Report of the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) to a joint session of the Budget, Finance & Audit Committee and the Education Committee.

The report, developed annually by the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in collaboration with the Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee (OAC), describes the activities leading to the awarding of grants by both the OAC and by the Medical Education and Research Committee (MERC) for projects that advance population health in Wisconsin.

Golden said the troubled economy clearly has impacted the WPP. With a marked decline in the value of its endowment, the WPP has been forced to curtail future initiatives and existing programs, he said. 

He reported that the MERC opted to reduce existing grants and to give attention to ensuring resources for the reapplications of the core targeted grants, such as Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and Transformation of Medical Education.

The Oversight and Advisory Committee also spent considerable time in 2008 developing the Healthy Birth Outcomes Initiative with the objective of reducing infant deaths and birth-outcome disparities for African-American women in Wisconsin, Golden said. The Committee committed up to $10 million over the next five years to address this challenging public health problem, with a concentrated effort in the communities of Milwaukee, Beloit, Kenosha, and Racine, where the infant mortality statistics are most critical.

Golden told Regents, “One of the most exciting things about this program is that it’s a personification of the Wisconsin Idea.”

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Education Committee - UW-Whitewater Campus Academic Plan

UW-Whitewater’s Interim Provost Chris Clements told the Board of Regents Education Committee that the campus is an entrepreneurial, collaborative and student-centered academic community.

“It’s a wonderful place to work.  It’s a wonderful place to study,’’ Clements said.

She noted UW-Whitewater’s traditional strengths in educating business leaders and teachers and highlighted its more recent achievements in offering online undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Online education serves some students unable to travel to campus, including military people deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.

“We maintain a concurrent emphasis on flexibility and quality,’’ Clements said.

She also described UW-Whitewater’s mission to serve students with disabilities, to collaborate with regional businesses and communities and to provide accessible, relevant and hands-on education.

Clements’ presentation was part of an ongoing effort to apprise Regents of the array of academic programs at each UW System institution. 

In other business, the Committee:

  • Deferred the report on remedial education in the UW System until October;
  • Heard a status report on several UW-Milwaukee charter schools and approved a contract extension for the School of Early Development and Achievement;
  • Approved the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at UW-Madison;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s revised mission;
  • Approved two academic programs: the B.S. in Kinesiology at UW-Oshkosh and the B.B.A. in Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater;
  • Approved revised faculty personnel rules from UW-Extension and UW-Madison; and
  • Heard a report from Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin.

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Business, Finance and Audit Committee - Committee approves waiver of required doctor’s note for H1N1 flu

The Business, Finance and Audit Committee approved the waiver of required written certification from a health care provider for those with flu or flu-like symptoms during the 2009-10 academic year, in accordance with recommendations by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control.

In accordance with current policy, UW institutions usually require written certification for use of sick leave for absences of more than five consecutive full working days.

The waiver is designed to address concerns that the policy requiring written certification might discourage people from self-isolating, or staying home when feeling ill. The waiver does not preclude the UW from investigating any situation in which supervisors suspect abuse of the sick leave policy.

Update on financial aid: Associate Vice President Freda Harris reported to the committee that there are approximately 3,500 students currently on the WHEG-UW wait list. That number is projected to reach approximately 4,900.  If no additional funding becomes available, this will be the number of eligible students who receive no WHEG-UW award, which would be a significant increase compared to previous years.

The number of students who did not receive funding in 2007-08 was 277.  That number grew to 970 in 2008-09.  If the 4,900 number holds, that will be a 500% increase over last year, Harris said.

Students on the WHEG wait list can still receive a grant from the UW to offset planned tuition increases, up to $368 per year. The WHEG wait list does not affect eligibility for Pell Grants or other aid.

For 2009-10, WHEG awards range from $674 to $2,980.

Harris also provided a brief update on the bill proposed earlier this week by Rep. Corey Mason that would provide funding for job training in the technical colleges and cover the unmet need for WHEG programs.

In other business, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee:
  • Heard a regular report from Senior Vice President Thomas Anderes;
  • Received a report on quarterly gifts, grants and contracts;
  • Heard a report from UW-Whitewater on its Lean Initiative project, relating to streamlining facilities maintenance procedures and scheduling;
  • Approved a 3½-year Data Analysis agreement between UW-Madison and Pfizer, Inc.;  and
  • Approved a 3-year Data Analysis agreement between UW-Madison and Amgen, LTD.

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Capital Planning and Budget Committee - UW-Whitewater’s Campus Master Plan

UW-Whitewater campus leaders provided Regents with an overview of the university’s Campus Master Plan including recently completed and planned capital projects.

Bob Schramm, director of UW-Whitewater’s Online Education and Technology, reported that students are excited about the new College of Business and Economics building, Timothy J. Hyland Hall.  “A student came up to me yesterday on her way to class and said for the first time she’s excited about learning because of the new building,” he said. Sustainability, universal design and state-of-the-art technology are what set Hyland Hall apart from other academic buildings.  Schramm said Hyland Hall is truly “a place to learn, to relax and to study.”

Paul Plinske, director of Intercollegiate Athletics, noted that UW-Whitewater continues to invest in its facilities in an attempt to maintain its national presence and recruit high-quality students.  View his presentation.

Report of the Associate Vice President: Associate Vice President Miller reported on the August Building Commission actions, including the commission’s recommendation on project delivery method legislation.  Miller said that individual agencies will be able to choose on a project-by-project basis the project delivery method that best meets the needs and goals of the project.

In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Authorized a land use agreement at UW-Green Bay with University Village Housing, Inc. to permit the construction of two additional student residence halls;
  • Approved exercising the lease purchase option for 21 North Park Street on the UW-Madison campus;   
  • Approved the continued planning of the UW-Madison Charter Street Heating Plant, including the release of $24.5 million in program revenue supported borrowing to complete planning to the design report and purchase equipment;
  • Approved a budget increase for the UW-Madison Physical Plant Shops and Office Building project;
  • Authorized the UW-Madison East Campus Utility Improvements project;
  • Authorized leasing space for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science Fundus Reading Center; and
  • Approved seven individual maintenance, repair and renovation projects under the UW System All Agency request.

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Photo Credit: Gregg Theune, UW-Whitewater

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The Board of Regents will resume its September 2009 meeting on Friday, September 11, at 9 a.m. at UW-Whitewater's University Center



Related: Read September 11 (day 2) news summary