MADISON, Wis. – At today’s Board of Regents meeting, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman called Regents’ attention to the new Wisconsin Online Portal, which revamps the UWs’ previous online presence to provide a one-stop shop for existing online efforts at all 13 UW universities.

“This new portal gathers all the more than 200 full online programs offered at the UWs in one location,” he said. “It is designed so students can search for programs by program level, area of interest, or by campus.”

The site also has information targeting international students, military students, prospective undergraduate and graduate students, and transfer students.

As the workforce continues to change, so will the delivery of education, including online, Rothman said. Looking ahead, Wisconsin Online plans to expand its program array with certificates, microcredentials, and other innovations.

Rothman noted the new portal aligns with the UWs strategic plan’s commitment to support student success by enhancing the UW online educational opportunities and expanding access to the UW universities.

Rothman recognized all those who participated in the nearly nine-month effort, which was overseen by executive sponsors UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone, UW-Superior Chancellor Renée Wachter, Sr. Vice President Johannes Britz. He also thanked the implementation team, which includes representatives from UW-Milwaukee and UW Oshkosh, UW Extended Campus, and UW-Whitewater Provost John Chenoweth.

Regents approve revised application fee structure

Regents in the Education Committee approved modifications to the undergraduate application fee structure for all UW universities except UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, and UW-Madison. The resolution comes before the full board on Friday.

The approved resolution rescinds a fee structure that allows for three free applications and $25 for each subsequent application for all UW universities except UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Madison. That structure was adopted in July 2023, responding to a desire to reduce the number of students who apply to an excessive number of universities without a substantial interest in attending most of them. Data analysis shows it is working, as overall applicants are not declining, while the number of super-appliers is.

The approved structure will take effect on August 1, 2024. It returns to a free application for all applications submitted to all UW universities except UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Madison, which will continue to charge undergraduate applicants their current fees of $25, $25, and $70, respectively. All institutions would retain the right to waive undergraduate application fees for those students who meet the conditions of financial hardship previously.

Factors influencing the return to the previous structure include the substantial number (350) of high schools participating in the Direct Admit Wisconsin program; Guaranteed Admission, which is part of a UW agreement with the legislature that is currently moving through the legislative process; and the ongoing UWs commitment to access and affordability.

President Rothman addresses future of higher ed

Amid an ongoing and persistent national narrative questioning the value of higher education, President Rothman told Regents he would invite skeptics to take a closer look at what’s actually being done within the Universities of Wisconsin.

“As I hope we’re making clear by our recent actions and the strategies we are implementing for the years ahead, we have a well-thought-out plan to ensure our universities are in a position to be vibrant and sustainable for the future and future generations,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring that we continue to serve our students both now and going forward, while at the same time serving some of the most pressing needs of the state.”

Pointing to the many ambitious initiatives within the strategic plan, Rothman noted, “We value and safeguard our legacy of excellence and our commitment to serve. We are also taking a clear-eyed look at the future and preparing our people, our universities, and our state to meet the challenges ahead, whether big or small, whether known or unknown.”

Rothman also referenced a recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum indicating that “data show a continued shift in Wisconsin toward higher-paying occupations that tend to require more education.”

“Our mission and our commitment to the state is to make things better – and that’s precisely what we’re doing,” Rothman said.

UW-Madison committed to innovation for public good

In the host-campus presentation to the Board, UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin told Regents her university will build on its 175 years of excellence with several bold new initiatives designed to address global challenges, notably artificial intelligence and environmental sustainability.

She said the university remains deeply committed to its ideals around inclusion and belonging, free expression, and student success, while advancing its teaching, research, and outreach missions.“We have a lot to be proud of,” Mnookin said. “My job – our job – is to make this institution even a step stronger, by building on this excellence and also by thinking in big, bold ways about where we can take a quantum leap forward to serve this state and the world on a whole new level.”

As part of a wide-ranging look at UW-Madison’s recent successes and plans to continue innovating, Mnookin told Regents that the Wisconsin Research, Innovation, and Scholarly Excellence (RISE) Initiative is designed to help address significant, complex challenges of particular importance, with artificial intelligence being its first focus.

UW-Madison expects to hire between 120 and 150 news faculty through the Wisconsin RISE Initiative over the next three to five years, in addition to regular hiring, reflecting around a 40 percent increase in faculty hiring.

Update on Student Success Efforts

As part of regular progress reports on the UWs strategic plan, Monica Smith, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity, and Belonging (EDIB), provided Regents with an update on ongoing efforts to ensure all students feel included and have sense of belonging.

Smith noted that all goals in the overall strategic plan focus on student success, directly or indirectly – and that includes its attention to EDIB.

Smith said linking together all aspects of the student experience are necessary to strengthen students’ academics, social life, well-being, and career readiness.

Smith told Regents that EDIB efforts focus on the whole student, rather than focusing on a single identity characteristic such as being first-generation, low-income, or from underrepresented student populations. Multiple characteristics and approaches may need to be taken into account to best ensure student success.

“We need to recognize the entire campus is the learning environment … with multiple touchpoints to experience inclusivity,” Smith said. That calls for infusing strategies for developing and enhancing cultural competencies in curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs.

Report of Board President

Regent President Karen Walsh provided Board members with an update on the ongoing search for a permanent UW-La Crosse chancellor, noting that the search and screen committee – led by Regent Ashok Rai with Professor Enilda Delgado as vice chair – is preparing to interview semifinalist candidates later this month.

She added that the Special Regent Committee, which includes Regents Angela Adams, Evan Brenkus, Jim Kreuser, and Joan Prince in addition to Regent Rai as chair, will then select the candidates who will be invited to visit the UW-La Crosse campus as finalists in early March.

Walsh reminded Regents that two chancellor investitures are upcoming: UW-Whitewater Chancellor Corey King on Feb. 23 and UW-Platteville Chancellor Tammy Evetovich on April 4.

She also urged Board members to “save the date” of March 6 for the 20th anniversary edition of Research in the Rotunda, a signature event celebrating undergraduate research for the Universities of Wisconsin.

“(This event) reflects a number of our key priorities in the Strategic Plan – including being a global leader in research, scholarship, and creative activity, as well as ensuring our undergraduates get hands-on experience in finding solutions to problems,” she said.

Report of UWs President

Leading off a legislative update, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman told Regents it has been a very active legislative session and the legislature is moving forward on the actions called for by the agreement approved by the Board in December.

Rothman said JCOER’s approval on Dec. 19 of the UW pay plan retroactive to July 2, 2023, is “so important for our hard-working employees and we appreciate the work done to finalize those increases.”

The Reciprocity bill – unanimously approved by the Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday – will ensure that UW campuses can retain the tuition differential when accepting reciprocity students from Minnesota, instead of those dollars going into the state’s GPR fund, which was the case previously. “These additional funds will be a huge asset for our universities, especially those on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border,” he said.

The 2023-25 capital budget amendment bill, heard in JFC last month and approved on Wednesday, includes $699.7M in capital funding under consideration by the legislature. Projects impacted by the bill include, among others, the new UW-Madison engineering building, UW-Whitewater’s Winther Hall and Heide Hall renovations and replacements, and planned demolitions at many campuses including Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, and Platteville. The bill also will affect utility projects across the UW as well as residence hall upgrades at UW-Madison.

Both the reciprocity and capital budget bills now must be approved by the full legislature before going to the Governor.

Rothman noted guaranteed admissions is another legislative step still being discussed. The proposed bill would ensure Wisconsin’s top students have a clear path to attend one of the UW universities. “Aligning with our strategic plan, it’s believed this would help keep more Wisconsin students in-state for college and hopefully upon graduation,” he said. The bill currently needs to be voted on by the Senate and concurred in as amended by the Assembly.

In activity not included in the December agreement, Rothman told Regents a National Guard Reimbursement bill is in the works. The bill would allow National Guard members to receive their tuition grant up front when it’s due, rather than having to wait for reimbursement of paid fees after the end of the semester. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now awaits a vote by the Assembly.

Following on Wisconsin’s designation as a Regional Tech Hub for biohealth and the Universities of Wisconsin named a member of the consortium, as mentioned at the December board meeting, a Tech Hub bill currently being considered in the legislature provides $7.5M in state funding for a grant to Bio-Forward, Inc., the lead member of the consortium. The bill was recently voted out of JFC and moves next to a vote by the Assembly and the Senate.

Reiterating how the priorities of the strategic plan are reflected in so many actions by the UWs, Rothman also pointed to the two Board presentations at the February meeting. A presentation by Monica Smith, associate vice president for equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, highlights efforts to increase access to UW universities and to foster a sense of belonging for all students.

A UW-Madison-convened panel on the importance of strategic alliances and maximizing federal funding opportunities through public-private partnerships, to be held Friday, aligns with the strategic plan’s commitments to focus on being a global leader in research, scholarship, and creative activity, as well as knowledge dissemination that benefits society, Rothman said.

Rothman also highlighted some major accomplishments from around the UWs. He recognized the three recipients of UW Innovation Grants, who will each receive seed funding totaling up to $175,000 split over two years.

  • The UW Oshkosh College of Nursing proposed to develop and integrate curriculum to educate current and future nurses on the use of telehealth to improve rural chronic illness outcomes.
  • Five faculty members at UW-Stevens Point and a collaborator at UW-Madison earned a grant to improve Wisconsin soil by using hemp and alfalfa to remove PFAs, the manmade chemicals that have been correlated with health problems.
  • A team from UW-Stout and a faculty member from UW-River Falls are developing a low-cost, wireless sensor network to monitor farm fields for temperature, humidity, wind, soil moisture, heat, and more, to support farmers’ decision-making.

Rothman offered a shout-out to UW-Milwaukee, which recently announced that its UWM Foundation has received $1.2 million from Microsoft to support the university’s Connected Systems Institute.

He also congratulated the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health for its $150 million award from the National Institutes of Health for a nationwide research initiative to investigate the neurobiology of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. The five-year grant is the largest funding award from the NIH in the history of UW-Madison.

Education Committee

UW-Madison’s Provost Charles Isbell and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning John Zumbrunnen, along with UW-Stout Provost Glendalí Rodríguez led a discussion on the evolving impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the educational mission of the Universities of Wisconsin.

Chat GPT is a chatbot and generative AI language tool launched by OpenAI in November 2022. The wide availability of ChatGPT beginning in fall 2022 sent reverberations across higher education. Though automated data processing has been widely present in computing for some time, easy access to large language models raised significant questions for many on UW campuses about the future of their core academic activities.

Following a general overview of developments in AI, the discussion focused on how AI is transforming the work to support student success, career readiness, academic integrity, and the craft of teaching.

In other news, the Education Committee:

  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies. The program will provide a flexible and intentional degree completion option for students with either a technical associate degree, at least 30 credits and work experience, or significant university credits in a traditional degree area. The program builds on these experiences—providing depth in the general knowledge, critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills and understanding and appreciation of global and U.S. cultures associated with a liberal education;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Design, Innovation, and Society. The program will bridge the existing academic offerings within the Department of Design Studies, emphasizing robust transdisciplinary collaboration to address the complex challenges of the 21st century. The existing Certificate in Design Strategies has realized 192% growth over the past three years. U.S. job postings specifically seeking design thinking skills have increased by 153% in the past year and by 637% compared to five years ago;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for a Master of Social Work, an addition to the existing accredited Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSW). Graduates of MSW programs are prepared for advanced social work practice, leadership roles, and advocacy in a variety of social work fields such as hospital, community, education, or clinical settings. The 100% online program will attain and maintain accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE);
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E) in Reading Instruction and Dyslexia Intervention. This new M.S.E. brings together the graduate programs in reading and special education for a single and comprehensive degree opportunity. Students will complete requirements to obtain the Wisconsin Reading Teacher and Wisconsin Reading Specialist Licenses, while also completing the Certificate in Dyslexia and Language Based Learning Disabilities, bringing highly qualified reading administrators and coaches into Wisconsin public schools; and
  • Heard a presentation by UW-Madison on “Undergraduate Research: Opportunities and Impact.”

Business & Finance Committee

Vice President Sean Nelson provided Regents with an informational update on the engagement with Deloitte Consulting to conduct financial and operational reviews of 12 UW universities (all except UW-Madison). Nelson presented a project overview and a timeline, noting that staggered engagements with the universities are anticipated to continue into June, followed by an assessment of UW System Administration to begin in July.

Nelson said that Deloitte’s experience in higher education across the country is providing very useful perspectives and insights.

He added that enrollment headwinds and lagging state support really accelerated some of the structural deficit issues on campuses. “But we have really moved the needle in the last year,” he said. “We ratcheted up the attention and we need to.”

In other business, the Business & Finance Committee:

  • Heard a UW-Madison presentation, “Investing in Innovations for the Public Good.” Vice Chancellor Rob Cramer and Associate Vice Chancellor David Murphy provided an overview of UW-Madison’s fiscal position, and offered examples of how new revenues generated by the university are being strategically invested to promote their research, education, and service missions;
  • Approved two agreements that extend current relationships between UW-Madison’s Department of Athletics and its retail partners for an additional eight years each. First, Fanatics Retail Group Fulfillment will continue to operate the official online store, Bucky’s Locker Room dot com. Terms of the agreement include an increased revenue share that is expected to net $3.75 million to UW-Madison. The second agreement is with Gold Country for operation of the brick-and-mortar stores within Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center. Contract provisions include a $400,000 capital investment in the stores, and an estimated $4.5 million in revenue to UW-Madison over its term;
  • Approved an agreement on behalf of UW-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute, which was awarded federal funding through the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Invasive Species Program. With a combined budget of $2.2 million, UW-Superior will work with its subgrantee, the Interlake Steamship Company, on projects that use their vessels to conduct research on the effectiveness of various ballast water filter solutions;
  • Approved the UW System Status Report on Large or High-Risk Information Technology Projects. The report, provided by Chief Information Officer Steven Hopper, details the status of nine major IT projects across the system, including one new project to significantly increase the security posture at UW-Madison through the consolidation of Active Directory environments. Other project updates include the completion of Phase One of UW-Madison’s Campus Access Controls Replacement, and the continued expectation for the Administrative Transformation Program to go live in July 2025. The total project portfolio is $260 million, a 1.2% increase compared to the July 2023 report; and
  • Approved the annual report on the Strategic Plans for Major IT Projects. The report provides an inventory of all ongoing and new projects, both enterprise-wide and institution-specific, and includes information on each project’s business need, impact, staffing requirements, and budget. Both reports will be submitted to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology, pursuant to state statute.

Capital Planning & Budget

The Capital Planning & Budget Committee approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for authority to sell a 0.48-acre parcel of land improved with a single-family home located at 3435 N. Lake Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The resolution goes before the full Board on Friday.

The chancellor’s residence was purchased in 2012 by the UW-Milwaukee Real Estate Foundation for $955,000 and then transferred to UW-Milwaukee for $645,000. UW-Milwaukee used the proceeds from a previous chancellor’s residence and donations to fund the purchase.

This sale is part of UW-Milwaukee’s larger effort to reduce costs and divest itself of properties that are no longer serving the university’s best interests. Upon approval to sell, a public Request for Qualifications will be issued to solicit a realtor who will list the house for sale. As per Board policy, two appraisals have been ordered.

In other business, the Capital Planning & Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to sell 514 SF of vacant land adjacent to the road right-of-way near the intersection of S. Whitney Way and Mineral Point Road for $5,400 based on an appraisal. This fee simple sale of property occupied by UW-Madison will facilitate a traffic lane expansion for the Bus Rapid Transit system. In addition, a Temporary Limited Easement will be granted to aid construction and maintenance. This small parcel is part of a larger strip of land remaining from the sale of land from the Board of Regents to the developer of the Hill Farms neighborhood;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various all agency maintenance and repair projects at an estimated total cost of $4,094,400 ($2,965,300 Segregated Revenue and $1,129,100 Cash):
    • At UW-Stevens Point, the Science Building Roof Replacement replaces approximately 55,800 SF of roofing system, related flashings, and insulation on designated portions of the Science Building. The roof sections are more than 20 years old. Recent site inspections staff determined that these roof sections require replacement to address current leaking, weathered, worn, and/or damaged sections. These repairs will extend the life of the roof sections and prevent moisture from penetrating the building envelope.
    • At UW-La Crosse, the Recreational Eagles Center Climbing Wall Replacement project replaces the climbing wall located in the Recreational Eagles Center (REC) facility. The wall was originally built approximately 23 years ago, and the climbing surface is essentially at the end of its useful life. The project will build a new climbing wall that meets current industry safety standards and extend it into an under-utilized racquetball court to increase the number of climbing lanes provided;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct a minor facilities renewal project at an estimated total cost of $7,397,000 General Fund Supported Borrowing:
    • At UW-Madison, the Multi-Building Repairs and Renovation project renovates Birge Hall, Brogden Hall and the Integrative Biological Research Building for the animal research program. The College of Letters and Science (L&S) animal vivaria require modernization to support research, ensure animal welfare, and expand the types of research that may be conducted in the facilities.
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for approval to lease 154,372 square feet of space at Haymarket Landing apartment building for the purpose of student housing. UW-Eau Claire has an existing capacity of on-campus housing for 3,611 students. Enrollment of first- and second-year students is more than 4,400 students, leaving a shortage of beds to meet their needs. Until the end of August 2023, the Department of Administration (DOA), on behalf of UW-Eau Claire, had a lease with Haymarket Concepts, LLC to occupy the 410-bed apartment building for use as a residence hall. The original 5-year lease term and all available renewals have ended. As per DOA policy, a competitive bid process was performed to execute a new lease. The only respondent to the bid process was Haymarket Concepts, LLC;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the Camp Randall Sports Center Replacement and the demolition of the McClain Athletic Facility for an estimated total project cost of $285,163,000 ($50,000,000 Segregated Revenue, $120,000,000 Existing Program Revenue Supportive Borrowing, and $115,163,000 Program Revenue-Cash). This project replaces the Camp Randall Sports Center (CRSC), commonly referred to as “The Shell,” with a new indoor football practice facility on the same site, demolishes the McClain Athletic Facility, and renovates lower-level spaces in Camp Randall Stadium. It also constructs new infill athlete performance and treatment space between Camp Randall Stadium and the new indoor practice facility. UW athletic facilities need to close the gap in training facilities available to remain competitive with peer institutions for new recruits and to retain current student athletes;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for approval to increase Segregated Fees for the construction of Champion’s Hall Renovation and Addition project. The project will construct an addition to Champions Hall with modern spaces to meet program needs. Its design will encourage student interaction and reflect the University’s Healthy Communities Initiative, while also addressing the facility’s deteriorating conditions, inadequacies, and deficiencies. The proposed fee increase for this project is $24.68 bringing the total fee for the Champions Hall project to $299.64 per year. Due to the Department of Administration’s change in the bond schedule, from a 30-year bond to a 20-year bond, fees to support this project had to be revised;
  • Heard UW-Madison’s presentation, “Progress Through Challenges: Transforming the Built Environment.” The presentation provided an update on advances and challenges, improvements, and insights, and how innovations and support of research benefit campus, Wisconsin, and beyond; and
  • Heard a report from Senior Associate Vice President Alex Roe.

Audit Committee

Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh led a presentation providing Regents in the Audit Committee with UW-Madison’s NCAA Division I Athletics annual report for 2022-23.

McIntosh told Regents the Badgers’ 2022-23 athletic season featured a number of outstanding team and individual accomplishments, headlined by the women’s hockey program’s seventh NCAA title.

The annual budget for the Athletics Department supports 23 sports and more than 800 student-athlete participation opportunities. The Athletics Department employs nearly 400 full-time staff.

The Athletics Department hosts more than 1.8 million spectators each year and its economic impact has been estimated at $757 million annually, with nearly 5,600 jobs supported and created.

UW student-athletes carried a 3.31 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) at the end of the Spring 2023 semester. Between Fall 2022 and Spring 2023, a total of 382 student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.

In other business, the Audit Committee:

  • Heard a report from Chief Audit Executive Lori Storz on the Fiscal Year 2024 Audit Plan Progress Report;
  • Heard a report on the summarized results of audits recently issued:
    • Concussion Protocols Executive Summary
    • General Ledger Clearing Accounts Follow-Up Audit Executive Summary;
    • NCAA Athletics Division I Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagement Executive Summaries for UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee;
    • Payroll Bi-Annual Audit (April-September 2023) Executive Summary;
  • Heard an update from Chief Compliance and Risk Officer Paige Smith on the Universities of Wisconsin Risk, Compliance, and Audit (RCA) pilot program;
  • Heard an update from Smith on Youth Protection and System Policy 625 Compliance; and
  • Heard an update from Smith and Edward Murphy, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, on the Universities of Wisconsin Cyber Insurance Policy renewal.

The Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents meeting will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, February 9, 2024, at UW-Madison