MADISON, Wis. – The Universities of Wisconsin today presented Regents with a $32 million proposal to develop more engineers, nurses, data scientists, and business and finance leaders to continue the UW’s emphasis on meeting workforce needs.

The proposal comes in response to the 2023-25 state budget, which assigns $32 million to the UW pending a plan to use it to address workforce issues. The proposal was approved by the Board of Regents.

“Each UW university has identified opportunities to increase capacity and develop additional talent in one of more of the high-demand fields identified, both for now and in the future,” said Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman.

“The Universities of Wisconsin are an extraordinary asset for all Wisconsinites,” he added. “As the legislature looks for opportunities to address our significant workforce challenges, we hope to be its partner and believe these proposals can help add capacity where Wisconsin needs it most.”

Rothman will now deliver the proposal to the Joint Committee on Finance, which according to the budget must approve the plan for the funding to be delivered to UW.

The plan calls for UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee to receive approximately $2.5 million each and the remaining 11 universities to receive approximately $1 million each annually for the biennium. Each university will tailor the funding to educate more students in some or all of the four key areas: engineering, nursing/health care, business/finance, and computer/data science.

Regent Ashok Rai, chair of the Business & Finance Committee, presented an overview of the proposal to the full Board, telling Regents that the plan was developed following thoughtful analysis of Wisconsin’s workforce needs.

“By 2032, our state will need another 5,200 computer scientists, 5,500 business and finance professionals, 9,700 nurses and other medical specialists, and 2,800 engineers above and beyond what we currently graduate. While workforce shortages exist across multiple industries, these four fields are the focus of the UW’s workforce plan,” Rai said.

Rai added the end result is a well-conceived plan that plays to the unique strengths of each university.

Once fully phased-in, these initiatives are projected to provide the Wisconsin workforce with an additional 9,350 graduates over a five-year period across these high-demand fields.

Regent President’s Report

Regent President Walsh updated Board members on the search for Chancellor Joe Gow’s successor at UW-La Crosse. The national search officially opened earlier this week and the deadline to submit nominations and applications for full consideration is Jan. 2, 2024. Listening sessions will be held at UW-La Crosse next week, providing campus and community members to offer feedback on what qualities they’d like to see in the next chancellor. Regent Ashok Rai chairs the search & screen committee with Dr. Enilda Delgado, a professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, as vice chair.

President Walsh also reported on the presentation of two more Regents Business Partnership Awards, recognizing how UW universities are building strong relationships with businesses in support of students and communities. The most recent honorees included UW-Green Bay and the Capital Credit Union; and UW-Whitewater and Mercyhealth.

Walsh reported that she, Regent President Amy Bogost, and President Rothman recently attended the Seven Generations Inter-Tribal Leadership Summit hosted by the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University. “It was a wonderful learning experience,” Bogost said. “We’re building on our relationship with the tribes, focusing on workforce and economic development and how we can support one another.”

Finally, Walsh drew the attention of the Board to the recently released Universities of Wisconsin Counseling Impact Assessment Report and the Services for Students with Disabilities annual report for 2022-23. These reports continue to highlight the increasing number of students accessing services, despite enrollment declines, and outline the critical positive influence they have on student success and wellbeing – and ultimately retention and graduation.

Both reports also identify a troubling trend that has emerged: high staff turnover and smaller recruitment pools. This trend also applies to other student services areas.

“As our universities continue to experience budget challenges, it is imperative that we remain aware of the very real impacts this is having on students and the staff and services that support their success,” Walsh said.

UW President’s Report

In his report to the Board, Universities of Wisconsin President Rothman told Regents that the recent name and brand change “are intended to help highlight the enormous value that all of our UW universities offer the state of Wisconsin.” He noted that University of Wisconsin System continues to be the legal name, as dictated by state statute.

“Rebranding is intended to highlight both the pride Wisconsinites rightfully have in our 13 universities and the opportunities those universities present for students seeking to build a stronger future for themselves,” Rothman said.

One of the ways the new Universities of Wisconsin brand is being shared is by taking it directly to university communities across the state as part of the ongoing OpportUWnity Tour. With visits this past month to UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, UW-River Falls, and UW-Whitewater, the tour has now had stops at eight universities.

Rothman also addressed the current withholding of the proposed payplan for Universities of Wisconsin employees as part of an effort to compel the universities to eliminate all diversity and inclusion positions. That payplan was previously approved by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

“Given the great work our people do, and particularly in an inflationary environment, the withholding of compensation is just plain wrong,” he said. “I am deeply troubled by our faculty and staff being stuck in the middle of this dispute. While the lawsuit recently filed by Gov. Evers is not our lawsuit, it’s time for this whole ordeal that is blocking pay for our employees to come to an end.”

Rothman called Regents’ attention to the recently released 10-day enrollment numbers, which show that 162,528 students were officially enrolled for the Fall semester – the first increase in headcount enrollment since 2014. He acknowledged, however, that ongoing declines in enrollment at the two-year campuses “will require us to realign our work there to best meet market realities and prepare for the future.”

Finally, Rothman noted that the U.S. Economic Development Administration recently announced that the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub has been selected from amongst hundreds of applications to be one of just 31 tech hubs in regions across the country.

The initiative is designed to drive regional innovation and job creation by strengthening the region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy technology that advances American competitiveness.

The Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub will receive a $350,000 planning grant and can now apply for up to $70 million in federal funds to develop a network of companies, universities, investors, and economic development agencies to accelerate advances in biotechnology and personalized medicine.

The Universities of Wisconsin Administration and UW-Madison are members of a biohealth consortium that was formed to seek the Tech Hub status. Rothman said UW-Madison’s internationally recognized biohealth expertise was essential to Wisconsin achieving this designation. He also gave a shout-out to Idella Kangas, the recently appointed Director for Economic and Employer Engagement for the Universities of Wisconsin, who played a key role in making this happen.

Supporting Student Veterans

Joe Rasmussen, Director of University Veteran Services at UW-Madison, provided an update on universities’ ongoing efforts to meet increasing demand and provide high-quality services to student veterans.

While Wisconsin provides some of the most robust educational benefits to military veterans and their families wishing to attend college during or after their service, many challenges remain, Rasmussen said.

Accessing benefits can be complicated and student veterans often can have trouble fitting in on a college campus where their life experience can be so different from those of many of their peers. “Someone might look like a junior but it might actually be the first time they’ve set foot on a college campus,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen noted that changes in recent years in the administration of veterans’ benefits have greatly increased time spent on bureaucratic matters, often at the expense of spending time with student veterans. “We know that the more time our student veterans spend with the university’s veterans’ staff and students the better,” he said.

UW 2023-28 Strategic Plan Updates

President Rothman called on two Universities of Wisconsin vice presidents – Johannes Britz, senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, and Jeff Buhrandt, vice president for University Relations – to provide the Board with status updates on the UW’s strategic priorities.

Among the multiple initiatives currently being implemented, Britz and his team offered overviews of progress in four specific areas: direct admissions; dual enrollment; internationalization; and the program array planning dashboard.

From the Division of University Relations, Buhrandt and members of his team provided an update on the branding initiative and public advocacy efforts, as well as more detail on the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub developments.

In other action, the Board of Regents:

  • Extended condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of UW Oshkosh’s Martin Rudd, who passed away unexpectedly in mid-October. After serving various faculty and administrative roles within UW Colleges over 20 years, Rudd was named assistant chancellor in 2018 for UW Oshkosh’s access campuses at Fond du Lac and the Fox Cities;
  • Extended condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of emeritus professor and former provost of UW-Madison, Paul DeLuca, Jr. who passed away in late October. DeLuca’s tenure at UW-Madison spanned more than 40 years, including serving as chair of the Department of Medical Physics and vice dean for research and graduate studies for the School of Medicine. An esteemed researcher himself, he was dedicated to advancing the research and teaching mission of UW-Madison;
  • Approved two five-year contracts – one on behalf of UW-River Falls and the other on behalf of UW-Whitewater – with Shorelight, LLC. Shorelight provides services as an international recruitment agent aggregator, engaging with agents to identify and recruit international students to these universities;
  • Approved a resolution to rescind, update, and consolidate seven Regent policies related to tuition and fees into a single Regent tuition policy. Substantive changes include:
    • Reclassifying institution-wide differentials as base tuition starting in the next academic year;
    • Continuing to allow for program-specific tuition rates, while allowing but not requiring student involvement;
    • Removing two current Tuition Policy Principles – one that is under the purview of lawmakers, the other that is more appropriately tasked to management;
    • Modifying language to better reflect provisions in state statute;
  • Heard a report on the Intermediate Term Fund from Chief Investment Officer Charles Saunders of the Office of Trust Funds. This fund was established to increase revenue-generating opportunities for cash balances through intermediate term investments;
  • Approved a new Regent Policy Document, “Intermediate Term Cash Management Fund Investment Policy Statement: Key Elements and Review Process.” The policy sets forth key elements to be incorporated in the Investment Policy Statement, including investment objectives and policies, the roles and duties of those responsible for its management, and reporting obligations to the Board of Regents through the Business & Finance Committee; and
  • Heard a Quarterly Investment Report as of June 20, 2023. As of that date, Trust Funds assets totaled $580.1 million. For the quarter, the Long Term Fund increased in value 2.37%, slightly outperforming its benchmark. The Income Cash Fund gained 1.24% for the period.

The next meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will be December 8-9, 2023, in Madison.