MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will hear a special presentation on Systemwide federal government relations tomorrow during its regular monthly meeting in Madison.
Steve Gunderson, a long-time member of Congress from Wisconsin’s Third District, will speak to the Board at 11:45 a.m. in 1820 Van Hise Hall. The topic of his remarks is a recent study he undertook focusing on the design of the most effective federal relations strategy for the UW System.
The study was commissioned by the UW System and carried out by Gunderson in his present capacity as senior consultant and managing director of the Washington, D.C. office of The Greystone Group, Inc., a strategic planning and communications firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Gunderson’s presentation is a luncheon session that precedes the Board of Regents’ regular committee meetings. Interested persons are welcome to attend as observers.
The University of Wisconsin System is one of the state’s major sources of federal funding. During 1999-00, for example, UW System institutions received nearly $370 million in federal grants and contracts, much of it in the form of funding for scientific and medical research at UW-Madison. Despite this, Wisconsin ranks 39th among the states in terms of federal tax dollars returned for social programs, public works, and other purposes, sending $887 more per person to the federal government in taxes than the state gets back.
At the recent, highly successful Wisconsin Economic Summit in Milwaukee, the UW System committed itself to developing a strategy for bringing more federal dollars to all of its institutions. The Greystone Group report is a component of that strategy.
“We hope to make an even greater contribution to the state in the future through increased federal support for university research,” said UW System President Katharine Lyall. “Our intent,” she said, “is to help our comprehensive campuses, plus UW-Extension, the UW Colleges and UW-Milwaukee, do an even better job of matching the academic and research strengths of their faculty with available federal grant programs.
“UW-Madison already does this extremely well. We’d like the rest of the UW System to become more competitive for grants and more aggressive about seeking them.”
While one objective of the new initiative is more federal funding for Wisconsin, Lyall noted that the UW System remains opposed to the “earmarking” of funds for specific projects. “The peer review process is the preferred way to award grants,” she said.
The new strategy will build on work already being done by UW System institutions. “Part of what Greystone did for us,” said Linda Weimer, vice president for university relations, “was to survey the campuses and UW-Extension to help assess their potential for competitive grantwriting. This may involve collaborative proposals involving two or more institutions, or it may even involve Systemwide grants. It will all depend on where our strengths lie and what the federal programs are able to fund.”
“We do not envision cloning UW-Madison,” said Lyall, “nor would we want to duplicate its nationally known research programs. We are hopeful that a strategic plan will help all of our institutions compete for a greater share of the available federal funds in their existing niche areas of expertise.”
Lyall will name a federal relations council to assist with implementation of the strategy. The council will work to establish and focus action on a manageable number of Systemwide priorities. The UW System also expects to appoint a full-time federal relations officer in the spring. This reallocated position will be based in Madison but will work closely with the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, executive branch offices, the national higher education associations, the Office of the Governor, and UW System institutions.