As UW System takes steps to fine-tune its chancellor selection process, the key question is how to get the most accurate picture of each finalist.

The Board of Regents took up that issue Friday, and discussed options including visits to finalists’ home campuses, using a “blended” search committee that involves Regents earlier in the search process, clarifying the responsibilities of all involved in the search process, and the best ways to check references.

Providing multiple opportunities and avenues for gathering information on prospective candidates can only benefit the process, according to Regent Michael Falbo.

“I’ve found that I didn’t feel capable of making a decision after spending a half hour or 45 minutes with each candidate one right after another,” said Falbo, adding that tapping into other information sources to round out the picture is both helpful and instructive.

The Regents’ discussion drew on the findings of a report prepared by Steven R. Portch, Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Georgia and an 18-year veteran of the UW System.

UW System President Kevin Reilly said it was worth noting that Dr. Portch called the UW System policies and procedures “sound, thorough and specific” but that “the changing search environment suggests some revisions may be helpful and timely.”

Reilly stressed that it’s important for all parties in the selection process to have a clear knowledge and understanding of their role and responsibilities.

“By more clearly spelling out which reference checks are to be performed by the campus search committee, the external consultant, and the UW System President, and how that information is shared with others, we’ll make it more likely that any information gaps will be closed or at least narrowed,” Reilly said.
Regent David Walsh reminded the Board that while fine-tuning the process is valuable, it’s also important to keep things in perspective. “We’ve done well,” he said. “We’re really talking about this because of an aberration.”

While acknowledging that visits to the campuses of prospective finalists could be costly in terms of both time and money, Regent Michael Spector said such visits also could offer insights that might be difficult to otherwise obtain. “In my experience, you gain information in face-to-face meetings that you can’t get over the telephone,” he said. “We shouldn’t rule it out if there’s any uncertainty.”

As an additional opportunity for Regents to round out their knowledge of a candidate, Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler suggested that perhaps they should more regularly attend public presentations and other local events when chancellor finalists visit a Wisconsin campus during the final stages of the search process. This suggestion drew broad agreement among the Regents.

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow underscored the critical role that references play in the process, and that search committee members asking the questions must be alert for subtle cues.

“People who are leading those searches must listen carefully when people express concerns,” he said.

Walsh added that the role of consultants in the vetting process should be weighed. “We need to spend more time doing our own due diligence, not getting it from a consultant.  At the end when it’s our responsibility, we’ve got to take more time doing it.”

It was suggested that sitting chancellors might provide valuable input into the process.  UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells agreed.

“The Chancellor and President position is hugely unique and very rarely do you have people on the search committee who have actually done the job. It’s a very special kind of position. … I think it would be a very good idea to consider adding chancellors as non-voting members of the search committee,” Wells said. “That’s something my colleagues and I would be happy to do. We have a vested interest in the selection.”

Reilly said any revisions to the process would be incorporated into the two chancellor search processes currently underway – at UW-Green Bay and UW-River Falls – as well as the renewed search at UW-Parkside expected to start soon.

Bradley updates Board on System outreach

In his regular report, UW Regents President Mark Bradley updated the Board on UW System’s ongoing outreach efforts as it moves forward with engaging support for the Growth Agenda.  Bradley briefed the Regents on a trip that he and President Reilly recently made to Washington, D.C., to visit with Wisconsin Congressional delegates.  Among the varied issues discussed were funding for provisions authorized in the America COMPETES Act, which calls for increasing federal research investment in physical sciences and engineering, as well as the University’s part in the state’s workforce development.

Connection Program expands

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Rebecca Martin reported to the Board on the expansion of the UW-Madison Connections Program, as part of her regular report on Growth Agenda Action Steps.

The Connections Program provides a pathway for students who are academically qualified to be accepted at UW-Madison but cannot be admitted directly because of freshman class size limitations, to earn their degree at UW-Madison after spending their first two years at another campus.

The program, which previously included all 13 two-year UW Colleges, three Wisconsin Technical Colleges and the College of Menomonie Nation, has now expanded to include UW-Green Bay. Starting in fall 2009, four more institutions — UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout – will also participate.

“This is a promising way to ensure that Wisconsin will enroll more of its best students and graduate them with baccalaureate degrees, as well as enhance access to the sought-after Madison campus,” said Regent Danae Davis, chair of the Education Committee.

KnowHow2GO gets involved in Higher Ed Day

With Higher Education Day coming up on Oct. 7, President Reilly told the Board that the UW System is aiming to have a bigger role. This year, for the first time, the KnowHow2GO campaign will be actively participating in the day’s activities. KnowHow2GO is partnering with EdVest, the state’s 529 college savings program, to present a video contest for Wisconsin students in grades 7 through 10. Students will create videos dramatizing one of the four KnowHow2GO steps to college.

UW System has also joined with our Higher Education Day partners to produce a presentation about higher education opportunities in Wisconsin that can be used by school guidance counselors around the state in their conversations with students and families.  This presentation not only provides information about Wisconsin’s post-secondary institutions, but also gives a general overview of what students need to do to succeed in achieving their college dreams.  The presentation will be available year-round on the Treasurer’s Higher Education Day Website.

Reilly shares ‘Good News’ from around UW System

Along with other news, President Reilly reported to the Board that:

  • UW-Parkside is actively working to get students involved in the fall’s electoral action.  Parkside’s student government recently launched its V.I.P. project , the “Voter Initiative: Parkside” project.
  • UW-Whitewater is welcoming its largest international population ever, with more than 150 international students this fall, coming from places as far-flung as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.
  • UW-Richland has announced a new educational alliance with the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Spring Green, allowing students who earn a two-year degree at UW-Richland to apply to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture as juniors.
  • UW System is participating in the Wisconsin Transfer Equity and Accountability Study, a new study looking at ways to increase the number of minority students who transfer into baccalaureate. This is a collaboration between the UW, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education, funded by the Ford Foundation.
  • UW-Oshkosh art professor Richard Masters’ design featuring Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin was selected as one of four designs for a new U.S. penny.  Dr. Masters’ design represents Lincoln’s humble beginnings in Kentucky. The new coins will be released on Lincoln’s 200th birthday, on Feb. 12, 2009

Other Business

In other business, the Board:

  • Approved the draft rule revisions of the Chapters 17 & 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code be forwarded to the Wisconsin Legislative Council for a review of form, style, and technical adequacy;
  • Approved the reappointments of Philip Farrell, David Kindig, and Gregory Nycz to the Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Partnership Program;
  • Accepted eight bequests with a total value of $2.8 million;
  • Approved goals and targets for the 2009-11 biennial budget performance measures;
  • Approved authority for UW-Stevens Point to adjust the budget of the Waste Management Center project;
  • Approved the design report for UW-Stout to adjust the project budget and to construct the Hovlid Hall renovation and addition project;
  • Approved authority for UW System Administration to construct seven maintenance and repair projects through the All Agency program at four different institutions;
  • Approved authority for UW-Whitewater to construct the Vansteenderen Softball Complex bleachers portion of the Multi-Sport Phase III project as a separate project; and
  • Presented UW-Stevens Point with a resolution of appreciation.


The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting Nov 6, in Madison


Related: Read October 2 (day 1) news summary