Members of the UW System Board of Regents heard from top university officials Thursday (Sept. 6) regarding an ambitious planning initiative to address how the UW System can use its resources to “advantage Wisconsin.” Regent President Mark Bradley opened the discussion by noting that the university has received a wealth of support for its proposed growth initiatives.

“Most people, as they have responded to us, seem to be asking whether we can afford not to do this for the prosperity of the state,” Bradley said.

UW System President Kevin Reilly outlined the process for creating a strategic framework. Reilly said the university has been engaging faculty, staff and students to best ascertain the steps it can take in formulating this plan, adding that the framework is not meant to be implemented by each UW System institution in the same way.

“This is a system-wide framework, a strategic framework designed to guide the motion of the entire System with all its moving parts in the right direction, and to provide us … with a shared context for decision-making,” Reilly told the Regents.

Reilly then detailed the goals of this planning initiative, which include increasing the education level of Wisconsin’s citizens, and making the state more attractive for both businesses looking for a location and the young people and families that would work there. At present, the state is lacking in all three areas, especially when compared to neighboring states like Minnesota, Reilly said.

President Reilly emphasized the need for a strong investment in the UW System in order for this and other crucial developmental plans to come to fruition, saying reductions to the university’s operating budget will only add to the challenges he mentioned earlier.

“If our strategic plan as a state is that we’re going to cost-cut our way to success, we won’t be successful,” he said. “We need to fully leverage those UW assets across the state to advantage Wisconsin in the 21st century knowledge economy.”

In the coming months, the UW System will work to promote liberal arts and science education, multicultural competencies and practical knowledge, as well as grow financial resources by diversifying sources and increasing collaborations both within the university and with outside firms.

UW System Executive Senior Vice President Don Mash suggested the university formulate a five-year strategic framework that would be updated every two years, where campuses can contribute to the enhancement of an existing plan by incorporating their successful initiatives.

Regent Danae Davis was one Regent who emphasized the need for affordability for students when crafting a strategic plan.

“If we can really, in a bold and out-of-the-box way, attack this issue of ensuring that we are affordable to all and finding alternative resources to offset the significant threats to financial aid and sources of aid for those who can’t afford [college expenses] on their own, I think that needs to be a very high priority in the enabling strategy,” she said.

Ultimately, according to Regents Tom Loftus and David Walsh, the UW System’s strategic framework must be tied to how the university goes about crafting its budget in order for it to be successful.

“In short, this plan is going to direct dollars, so if people want to be a part of where we’re directing dollars, they should be a part of this,” Loftus said.

“It has to be wrapped in money, it has to be wrapped in economics, and you need to get all the stakeholders involved,” Walsh added later.

The strategic planning initiative will initially consist of seven “think tanks” comprised of some of the university’s best minds that will formulate suggestions. Regents will hear the results of the think-tank process at a future meeting, President Reilly said, at which time they will have the opportunity to vote on specific measures that will be crafted in the coming weeks.

View the Advantage Wisconsin presentation pdf

Other business

As part of a Physical Planning and Funding Committee meeting, the full Board heard a presentation on UW-Stevens Point’s campus master plan from Chancellor Linda Bunnell and other campus officials. Bunnell outlined the three-phase plan, which includes the construction of a student services building, residence hall, academic and athletic facilities, a child care center and the addition of more green space in order to improve the campus’s self-sustainability.

In a separate session, the Physical Planning and Funding Committee also approved a resolution that granted UW-La Crosse the authority to seek a waiver to accept a single prime contractor bid, approved the design report and gave the campus authority to adjust the project budget and construct the new stadium and fields project. The Board’s Business, Finance and Audit Committee heard an update on campus banking and all-in-one ID card programs from Ruth Anderson, UW System assistant vice president for procurement, and Julie Gordon, UW System director of operations, review and audit. After an initial review at the Committee’s July meeting, Anderson and Gordon appeared again this month to answer additional questions about the programs.

Anderson noted that the two institutions that partner with UW System to offer these ID/Debit card programs charge the same overdraft fees to all of their customers, a point of inquiry during the Committee’s July session. Gordon reviewed for the Committee the disclosure statements used by the campuses that offer the ID/Debit card programs, and said unlike many outside institutions that were examined, the UW System campuses have strong student involvement in the implementation and direction of these programs.

The Business, Finance and Audit Committee also:

  • passed a resolution that approves changes to the university’s strategic asset allocation and reconfirmation of its spending plan;
  • heard an update on the state of WiSys Technology Transfer, Inc. and its plans for the future (View the WiSys presentation pdf );
  • heard a quarterly audit status update;
  • heard an update on the status of Wisconsin’s 2007-09 biennial budget;
  • outlined the committee’s goals for the upcoming academic year;
  • heard a report on the most recent meeting of the UW System’s financial aid directors to implement a new policy regarding the university’s relationship with private educational lenders;
  • heard an update on a UW System initiative to control textbook costs on its campuses; and
  • heard a report on the tuition and financial aid work group.

Members of the Education Committee also met to discuss the committee’s priorities for the 2007-08 year.

In other business, the Education Committee approved the following resolutions:

  • UW-Green Bay’s revised mission statement;
  • authorization to expand UW-Stevens Point’s Board of Visitors;
  • amendments to faculty personnel rules at UW-Eau Claire;
  • amendments to faculty personnel rules at UW-Milwaukee;
  • authorization to recruit a provost and vice chancellor at UW-Parkside; and
  • authorization to establish the Academic Staff Regents Award for Program Excellence

Each of the resolutions will be brought before the full Board for approval at its next meeting on Sept. 7 in room 1820 Van Hise Hall.


The Board of Regents will resume its September 2007 meeting on Friday, September 7, at 9 a.m. in Van Hise Hall.

Related: Read Sept 7 (day 2) news summary