MENOMONIE – A Wisconsin partnership charged with improving public health in communities across the state is making “unprecedented” progress, the Board of Regents learned Thursday during meetings on the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus.
The Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future was created following the 2000 conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a for-profit stock corporation. At that time, proceeds from the sale of stock were distributed to the UW Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin to improve the health of the public. Thirty-five percent of the funds were allocated for public health initiatives and sixty-five percent for medical education and research initiatives.
In introducing the fund’s 2004 annual report on Thursday to a joint meeting of the Board’s Education, and Business and Finance Committees, Board liaison and Regent Emeritus Patrick Boyle said the report “reflects tremendous progress that we’ve made over the past few years.”
UW Medical School Dean Philip Farrell said the Wisconsin Partnership Fund has meant “unprecedented” opportunities to work with Wisconsin communities on research and education programs that will lead to health improvement.
Farrell said the fund’s Oversight and Advisory Committee evaluated 225 proposals from community organizations, ultimately funding 33 community projects and four community-based initiatives with $8 million from the Community-Academic Partnership Fund.
Farrell noted that more than 100 faculty will be involved with these initiatives focusing on health disparities in urban and rural areas, and public health education and training, such as preventing disease, and promoting health in children, adolescents, women, and minority populations.
The projects will also address urgent healthcare needs, such as healthy birth outcomes, safe neighborhoods, healthy lifestyles for children and families, and training the public health workforce of the future. The grants also fund several statewide projects benefiting rural communities through initiatives that will improve access to healthcare.
Bringing together the goals of education research, and community involvement, Farrell also outlined the Medical Education and Research Committee’s $7.1 million in 2004 awards for initiatives in five areas:
- Innovations in Medical Education
- The Wisconsin Population Health Research and Clinical Trials Network
- Disease Genomics and Regenerative Medicine
- Molecular Medicine and Bioinformatics
- Emerging Opportunities in Biomedicine and Population Health
Farrell said these initiatives will utilize statewide distance education networks. He also reminded the Board that the UW Medical School is working to transform into an integrated School of Medicine and Public Health. This will mean efforts to merge medicine’s traditional focus on individual illness and injury, with goals for improved public health and a focus on healthy people and communities.
In response to a question from Regent Gerard Randall of Milwaukee, Ken Mount, assistant dean for fiscal affairs at the UW Medical School, explained that 65 percent of grant funds are devoted to medical education for any given project, while 35 percent of funds are reserved to administer the initiatives.
Regent Randall also inquired how the Partnership was working to “grow our own, including people of color who are Wisconsin residents.”
One example, Farrell said, is a grant program that funds scholarships.
“Diversity is one of the factors for recruiting,” Farrell said, noting that the pipeline for interested students begins in middle school.
Members of the Board’s Education and Business and Finance committees voted Thursday to approve the fund’s 2004 annual report. The item will be considered by the full Board on Friday.
Business and Finance Committee
Tuition funding options, as well as the potential to join a multi-state student exchange program, topped the discussion for a wide-ranging agenda before the Business and Finance Committee on Thursday.
Following up on a discussion about tuition funding possibilities from a previous meeting, the Regents had asked UW System administrators to bring back for review a two-year-old study that contrasted six options for financing tuition.
The study, which was conducted during last year’s “Charting a New Course for the UW System” exercise, outlined six possibilities: per credit tuition; cohort tuition that would change with each new freshman class and follow those students through a traditional academic career; progressive tuition that increases tuition rates for all students and gives more aid to the neediest students; self-supporting tuition for professional programs; tuition based on the ability to pay, which assesses higher rates for wealthier families to reduce rates for lower-income students; and a single-rate tuition for both resident and non-resident students, with generous grants and scholarships to resident students.
Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville, who joined the committee hearing, noted that the discussion was particularly timely because of discussions in the Legislature on capping tuition.
Axtell lamented what he described as “misinformation” that suggested Wisconsin resident students are unfairly experiencing tuition increases at greater rates than out-of-state students. He noted the Regents previously substantially increased non-resident tuition at the urging of the Legislature.
Responding to a question by Axtell, Freda Harris, UW System associate vice president for budget and planning, noted that in recent years those students have experienced increases of 12 percent and 15 percent.
“We recommended that this not be done,” Axtell said. “We told the Legislature that we could be pricing ourselves out of the market, and low and behold, we did. We lost over 400 students and more than $4 million in revenue. It’s really discouraging when you hear misinformation on a topic that is so sensitive.”
Regent Charles Pruitt of Milwaukee agreed that discussion should regularly occur on the level and choice of tuition.
“It is a touchstone of access to the UW System,” he said.
Lynn Paulson, assistant vice president in the UW System Office of Budget and Planning, reported on the potential for the UW System to join the Midwest Student Exchange Programof the Midwest Higher Education Compact.
Currently participating in the program are the states of Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.
Paulson reported some 130 higher education institutions belong to the program, with about 2,600 student participants. He said some six UW System campuses are interested in joining the program. UW System President Kevin P. Reilly offered that the program is permissive, and would be voluntary for campuses and departments to participate.
In response to Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler of Oshkosh, Paulson said the program would fill only those seats in robust academic programs that would remain empty. The campuses would decide the eligibility levels for admissions. Out-of-state students would pay 150 percent of the cost of resident tuition. The program’s advantage is that it would attract bright students from other states, and potentially lead to a brain gain.
Regent Gerard Randall of Milwaukee said he is not yet convinced that the program would work to the advantage of meeting UW System priorities of increasing the numbers of students of color.
He noted that students from the Milwaukee Public Schools are leaving the state to attend colleges that offer more generous grants and lower tuition. Opening the door for Wisconsin students to attend institutions in other states “could perpetuate the brain drain,” he said.
“It also sends a message to those that we are aggressively recruiting (in Wisconsin) that we are not going to grow our own, but that we will go somewhere else,” he said. “I think it’s a strategy that may not be sending the right message.”
In other business, the committee heard:
- A report from UW-Stout on its student-centered business services. Addressing the Regents were Lucy Nicolai, associate director of University Centers; Joe Krier, director of technical resources, budget and operations; and Jane Griffith, bursar.
- They reported on UW-Stout’s efforts to shift student services into an electronic world. Among the activities students can now perform electronically are paying tuition online, purchasing food services, or filing a request for maintenance work in their residence hall room.
- Krier related that a campus e-commerce student identification card that performs six functions was the first of its kind in the nation and now is a model for 22 other institutions.
- Heard a report on global tactical asset management for UW System funds. The report was the last in an information series leading to an expected future decision on the most effective investment program.
- Heard a report on current audit areas both within the UW System, as well as by other state agencies. Currently, the UW System is completing reports on or anticipating studies in such areas as safeguarding Social Security numbers; policy and security operations; return-to-work efforts; oversight of student organizations; tuition waivers; student health insurance and academic fees. They also accepted an audit report on special course fees.
- Accepted a program review of “Occupational Health and Safety Training for UW Employees.”
The Education Committee on Thursday tabled a resolution to eliminate the College of Education, Exercise Science, Health & Recreation at UW-La Crosse.
UW-La Crosse Chancellor Douglas Hastad noted administration, faculty, staff and students were all involved in the decision to eliminate the College during an eight-week period in discussions about looming budget cuts.
But David Glisch-Sanchez, academic affairs director for the United Council of UW Students, told the committee that the student organization is concerned the College was eliminated without shared governance. In her capacity as state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Regent Elizabeth Burmaster expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed elimination on teacher education and licensure.
Following discussion, the committee approved a motion from Regent Gregory Gracz of Milwaukee to place the resolution to eliminate the College on file. The committee agreed that the matter will not come up again until the chair has a chance to do research on the matter and brings it back to the agenda. However, committee members agreed that this matter should move quickly, and noted that tabling the motion was not a way to micromanage what UW-La Crosse is doing in response to state budget cuts.
The Education Committee also heard from UW-Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen and Provost Robert Sedlak, as well as faculty from UW-Stout, on the university’s e-Scholar program. The presentation focused on the effects of the e-Scholar program on student learning, as well as teaching methods used in the classroom.
UW-Stout was the first public university in the state to become a digital campus, and starting in the fall, the program will be fully implemented, with every student possessing a laptop computer.
Sedlak described that technology through the program has expanded what students are able to do, and faculty are assessing learning differently than they did previously. He said the program is not solely about the laptops; instead the laptops are simply a tool that needs the infrastructure supplied by the faculty to make the program work.
Data suggests that faculty are seeing improvements in student work, students are using the laptops more than they expected before entering the program, and fewer students are dropping courses they otherwise would have.
The committee also heard from Hollace Anne Teuber, of UW-Stout’s speech communication, foreign languages, theatre and music department, who has been named the university’s outstanding woman of color. The committee also heard from Sue Harrison, the outgoing faculty representative from UW-Eau Claire, on her reflections of her time on the shared governance panel.
Cora Marrett, UW System senior vice president for academic affairs, reported on the Higher Learning Commission’s decision to create a task force on accreditation. The committee also heard updates on transmittal letters prepared to accompany the submission of two statutorily required reports, the Annual Minority & Disadvantaged Student Report and the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Report.
In addition to approving the minutes from the committee’s April 7 meeting, the committee also approved two items for consideration by the full Board:
- The proffer from the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate for support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences and music.
- The Board of Regents Health Policy Revision (RPD 78-9), which outlines health-care services that must be made available to students at four-year UW campuses.
Physical Planning and Funding Committee
The committee opened Thursday with a UW-Stout report titled “Technological Change Through Time: The Fantastic Voyage,” which traced UW-Stout’s history of technological evolution.
Bob Meyer, dean of technology, engineering and management at UW-Stout, told the committee that the campus is well positioned to make major contributions to “Technology Valley,” a part of the “IQ Corridor” that runs from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, to Eau Claire, to Milwaukee.
Meyer said in a century of evolution, UW-Stout has applied, designed, commercialized, and managed technology to develop exciting programs that now serve as “catalysts for Wisconsin’s economic growth.” New programs have emerged in nanotechnology, material engineering, bioinformatics, and computer, electrical, and polymer-related engineering, he said.
John Murphy, dean of arts and sciences, said these kinds of programs will further the contributions Wisconsin can make to the state.
“It’s a strong multifaceted partnership among Stout, the Board, the UW System, the technical college system, and business and industry to grow Western Wisconsin and the rest of the state,” Murphy said.
Murphy told the committee that a planned addition and remodeling project for the Jarvis Science Wing was crucial to the development of new technology-related majors.
“The renovation will create a 21st century building that is state-of-the art, flexible and able to meet the needs of the new sciences,” he said. “State funds, along with funds raised from business and industry partners, as well as university contributions from our operating budget, allow us to provide a premier active-learning environment.”
David Miller, UW System assistant vice president for capital planning and budget, reported that the project has received strong support from the State Building Commission.
Miller also updated the Committee on the participation of Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) firms in UW building projects. While the statewide target for MBE participation is 5 percent, Miller explained that 10.3 percent of the total amount budgeted for project design was paid to MBE firms. However, only 3.4 percent of the total amount budgeted for construction of those 13 projects was paid to MBE firms. He said that the Division of State Facilities continues to seek greater MBE firm involvement in all aspects of its building and construction contracting.
In other business, the committee:
- Approved renaming the UW-Madison Social Science Building the “William S. Sewell Social Science Hall” in honor of the former UW-Madison chancellor and long-time educator.
- Approved acquisition by UW-Platteville of two parcels of land in the city. The land contains a hotel and convention center needed by the university for student housing and to replace an existing convention center which is being remodeled. Chancellor David Markee said the property would be “a tremendous addition to the campus.” He said acquisition of the building received no opposition at public meetings. Approval of the project came with a number of contingencies, including resolution of the environment concerns.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will reconvene its May meeting on Friday (May 6), at 9 a.m. in the Memorial Student Center on the UW-Stout campus in Menomonie.
Related: Read May 6 (day 2) news summary