The Malcolm Baldrige Award
with UW-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen
The University of
Wisconsin-Stout, located in the western Wisconsin city of Menomonie, is
the first institution of higher education to win the U.S. Department of
Commerce's Malcolm Baldrige Award. UW-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen
explains what it took to be recognized as America's premier university
for performance excellence and quality achievement.
Why did UW-Stout apply for the Baldrige Award?
CS: Very simply, we felt that
we fit the criteria rather well. For at least three decades, UW-Stout
has focused sharply on databased decision making-something reinforced
by the UW System. Since the Board of Regents officially adopted the Baldrige
criteria in 1990, we took the next logical step and applied. We believed
we were always strong in the area of performance, and this provided an
opportunity to go through a rigorous application process, have the application
reviewed by examiners for approximately 1,000 hours, and then undergo
four days of intensive on-campus interviews by seven site visitors. Winning
proves what we always knew-that we practice performance excellence here
and our processes demand continuous improvement.
What type of effort went into preparing for the competition?
CS: We worked with a consultant
to review our practices against the Baldrige criteria, and once we decided
that they did, we moved forward. We first adopted the Baldrige criteria
for the campus. The Faculty Senate did voice some concern, but we guaranteed
that we would not change what we do to apply for the award, nor would
we create a new office of quality for UW-Stout. We first applied in 1999
and achieved consensus status, meaning that we made the first cut but
did not receive a site visit. In 2000, we received a site visit, the first
university to do so. Then in 2001, we received the award. In each year,
we used a similar process. We assigned a team to each of the criteria
made up principally of members of the Chancellor's Advisory Council. While
each team member had a role to play, each team had a primary contact and
a primary writer. We worked closely with a consultant familiar with the
process. In 1999 and 2000, we used the extensive feedback reports to analyze
where our application needed to be strengthened. More importantly, we
analyzed where we could improve our processes or where new processes were
necessary to support our data. In each of our two site visits, seven examiners
spent four days on campus in a very intensive discussion on the application
to clarify what we stated and to verify that what we put in the document
How can other institutions of higher education benefit from your experience
in preparing for and winning this award?
CS: There are some very straightforward
ways other institutions can benefit. First and foremost, we are now a
benchmark university so others have a model to follow. During our application
process, we realized that there were not such universities in that category
since no awards had yet been given. So, we first relied heavily on comparing
UW-Stout to other UW schools. When that was not acceptable to the examiners,
we searched for national schools with similar missions or similar programs.
For the most part, we had to compare ourselves to major research schools,
not state universities. Now, we do provide benchmarking data, which should
assist others as they apply for the award. Second, we have demonstrated
that the Baldrige criteria do apply to higher education and can be used
effectively to demonstrate performance excellence. At a time when states
are demanding more accountability, this is clearly a way to demonstrate
that we are accountable. Third, we have shown that it is possible to win
the award and not make fundamental changes in the way we behave as an
Overall, what does this award mean for UW-Stout?
CS: The award will have a significant
impact on UW-Stout. We have already received a great deal of national
attention from professional educational organizations, local and state
news media, national media, such as USA Today, and state quality councils.
As the first university to receive either a site visit or the award, we
are in a unique position to serve as a role model in how we apply quality
performance standards to public higher education. We have always had strong
partnerships with business and industry, and this will clearly strengthen
those ties. More companies will seek our students. We expect corporate
giving to increase; we expect that we will have an easier time in recruiting
in key areas; and we expect we will receive more applications to attend
UW-Stout. Perhaps the greatest benefit will be the recognition that faculty,
staff and students will receive. In my opinion, the Baldrige criteria
will change in a fundamental way how colleges and universities are accredited.
We are in the vanguard of that movement.
What does this award mean for UW System?
CS: While this is an institutional
award to UW-Stout, it reflects the strength of the UW System. As part
of the application process and the on-site review process, we discussed
real advantages of being part of a nationally recognized system. Support
from the System and from the Board of Regents is fundamental to our overall
success and critical to permit each campus to fulfill its primary mission.
Clearly, the UW System played an important role in this award process,
and the entire System benefits from it.
Charles W. Sorensen
is the sixth person to head UW-Stout, having been appointed chancellor in
1988. He previously served as a teacher, historian, academic dean and academic
vice president. A native of Moline, Ill., Sorensen received a bachelor's
degree in history and political science from Augustana College, a master's
degree in history from Illinois State University, and a Ph.D. degree in
American history from Michigan State University. He has also attended the
Harvard University Institute for Educational Management.