MADISON – Looking forward, the University of Wisconsin System has long-term ambitious goals to maximize student success at all UW institutions, but attention must be paid to the “vital signs” that track the university’s progress in meeting those goals, the UW System Board of Regents heard Thursday.

Mark Nook, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, reported that UW System’s overall first- to second-year retention rate, four-year graduation rate, and six-year graduation rate – key vital signs – are on target to meet the UW System’s More Graduates goal of boosting the number of undergraduate degrees conferred by a cumulative 80,000 by 2025. Indeed, the number of undergraduate degrees conferred is currently 1,097 ahead of the planned trajectory.

The UW System has also reduced the gaps in retention rate and 6-year graduation rate between underrepresented minority (URM) students compared to non-URM students, Nook said. However, comparable gaps between Pell Grant recipients compared to non-Pell Grant recipients have increased.

“It has a lot to do with the economy,” Nook said.

Sharing the UW-Milwaukee perspective, Chancellor Mike Lovell told Regents that the UWM student population has several unique characteristics, including more Pell Grant-eligible students, more in-state students, and more enrolled veterans than UW System averages. To meet its own improvement targets in six-year graduation rates, the university is focusing on scholarships, building retention programs, and engaging students of color, Lovell said.

Lovell pointed to the story of recent UWM graduate Jake Klipp – an Iraq veteran who took 12 years from start to finish to earn his degree – to show how conventional “success” markers may be misleading. “By some definitions, this guy’s a complete failure; but for us, we consider him a great success,” Lovell said.

·         See UW-Milwaukee PowerPoint pdf

There is no “magic bullet” to improve student success and retention, UW-Superior Chancellor Renée Wachter told Regents, noting that her institution sees the greatest impact from using multiple strategies. “Different kinds of students are going to require different kinds of interventions,” Wachter said, adding that it often requires a confluence of strategies.

She began by noting UW-Superior’s unique demographic profile – where nearly half its students are Pell Grant-recipients, half are first-generation college students, almost one-third are non-traditional students, and almost half are transfer students. Wachter explained how those demographics have an effect on standard measures of success. Higher numbers of part-time and non-traditional students, for example, might skew six-year graduation rates.

Regent Mark Bradley acknowledged that it’s hard to compare disparate institutions within the System, and hold them to the same standards.

Regent José Vásquez expressed his frustration at the slow rate of progress, particularly with students of color. Chancellor Lovell pointed out that a university’s challenge in meeting the needs of its students often may be attributed to shortfalls in students’ college preparation. “If we can help get the pipeline problem solved, we are going to see those (achievement) rates go up,” Lovell said.

UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson told Regents that part of the problem has become the accepted popular expectation that it’s going to take five or six years to graduate, not four. “Changing the culture is part of the solution,” he said. “I had never even heard the term ‘super-senior’ before I came to Wisconsin.”

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells countered that expecting today’s students – many of whom are required to work many hours outside of the classroom – to fit into the four-year model “just isn’t realistic.” “When you come to UWO, that’s not who our students are,” he said.

Nook reiterated that each of the UW institutions has a different mission, not just in the degree programs they offer but in the different student bodies they serve. “All of our institutions are moving toward being more economically and racially diverse…and still hitting their missions,” Nook said. “What we’re going to see, if we move through difficult economic times, is that institutions are going to show different (success) rates depending on the student bodies they have.”

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer reminded the Board that the current graduation rates, while below the UW System’s goal, are still significantly higher than in the past. “We have to understand that this is a process, and across our system we have made dramatic progress,” he said.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly, putting the drive for more college graduates in perspective, reiterated the direct correlation between more college degrees and higher per capita income and re-emphasized the need to expand the college population pool to meet the System’s More Graduates goal. “We’re working like the devil to get there because we know how important it is for the state and the country that we get there,” Reilly said.


Business, Finance, and Audit Committee discusses recent HRS issues

Michael Morgan, UW System’s Senior Vice President for Administration and Fiscal Affairs, provided the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee with an update on UW System’s investigation into recently identified problems in the HRS human resource and payroll system that was launched in April 2011, as well as the measures being taken to correct those problems and forestall future issues.

As part of its 2012 annual financial statement audit, the Legislative Audit Bureau had reported HRS overpayments and other internal control findings.

“I don’t expect this Committee to feel comfortable with where we are today, because we have much work to do,” Morgan said. “But my hope is that after this session today, the committee will agree we have the right team in place, with a good work plan, to lead us to good solutions to our HR challenges.”

President Reilly described UW System’s three-pronged approach to the situation, including an internal audit led by Elizabeth Dionne, Office of Operations Review and Audit Director; an external risk assessment by an independent outside expert; and full cooperation with the Legislative Audit Bureau.

Reilly told the Committee that all three lines of inquiry will look at the interconnected challenges that arose from the implementation and use of a very large, very complex payroll and benefits system.

Echoing President Reilly’s testimony before the legislature’s Joint Audit Committee on Jan. 22, Morgan reassured the Committee that HRS is working, but not without considerable challenges. He reiterated that “we are not talking about a single problem, nor are we talking about a failed software implementation. We are talking about a major new HR system that has required significant time and effort to make it run properly.”

“We have taken immediate steps to address known areas of concern, and we’ve begun looking under every stone for additional weaknesses,” Morgan said. He told Regents that a risk-based approach is being employed, focusing first on areas with the greatest financial exposure and the largest potential impact, in terms of both dollars and employees. Four key areas will be the focus of the comprehensive review: technology, processes, policies, and people.

Morgan spelled out for the Committee the high level of internal expertise being directed at the HRS issue. Elizabeth Dionne, Office of Operations Review and Audit Director, will lead the internal investigation and she outlined the goals and objectives of the risk assessment that will be undertaken by the UW System. UW Service Center Director Larry Henderson also provided an overview of efforts that are underway in the area of reconciling benefits accounts and process improvements.

Morgan acknowledged that as comprehensive reviews move forward, additional challenges will likely be discovered. Those findings will be shared with the Business, Finance, and Audit committee and the full Board of Regents, Morgan said.

“The No. 1 priority in the Office of Administration and Fiscal Affairs is to resolve existing HRS challenges, mitigate ongoing risk, and promptly confront any additional challenges that might surface during our investigations,” Morgan said.

Regent Jerry Whitburn, the committee chair, reiterated that Board leadership views the HRS issues as “a very serious matter.” “Is it catastrophic? No. Should we be going through this? Absolutely not. So people are going to have to have their act together going forward,” Whitburn said.

He acknowledged that the University is finishing what is probably the most complicated HR system implementation anywhere in the state of Wisconsin, public or private. “Nonetheless, the public’s expectations with regards to professionalism in university operations are very high,” Whitburn said. “The Regents now expect the President and senior staff to get their arms around this ASAP and get it straightened out.”

Regent President Brent Smith told the committee that he feels confident knowing that every resource is addressing the problem and there is a plan. He added that board members are “not quite comfortable” with the likelihood that additional problems may still surface. “But for right now, we’ve got to identify every potential issue out there and I’m confident we have the team to do that,” Smith said.

While some in the public have suggested that the HRS maybe went live earlier than it should have, Regent Mark Bradley recalled that there was some urgency about the go-live date because of fears about the old system. Morgan noted that the HRS system had 50,000 hours of testing prior to being launched.

Regent Gary Roberts expressed concerns about the apparent lag time before the magnitude of the problem was identified as well as the possibility that there may still be significant other issues yet to be uncovered.

Whitburn closed by saying the situation is “serious,” and “There’s broad, universal concern around Kevin’s team, and they have their marching orders.”

In other business, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee:

  • Received information regarding a pending purchase of 50% interest in Chartwell Wisconsin Enterprises, LLC, a provider of home infusion therapies. The remaining 50% interest is currently owned by the UW Hospital and Clinics Authority, which is the quasi-public organization responsible for oversight and management of the UW Hospital and Clinics;
  • Approved the proposed 2013 Operations Review and Audit Plan, including audits of benefit eligibility and compliance with continuation of health coverage (COBRA) requirements);
  • Heard a report from Director Doug Hoerr on highlights of the 2012 Annual Trust Funds Report (the complete report is available on the Trust Funds site);
  • Approved a Regent Policy Document which requires a managed travel program covering all university employees while traveling on university business;
  • Heard a report regarding UW System Strategic Plans for large IT projects;
  • Heard an update from Director Elizabeth Dionne of recently completed and on-going projects along with information on current activities of the Legislative Audit Bureau impacting the UW System;
  • Heard a summary by Associate Vice President for Financial Administration Julie Gordon of the UW System’s 2012 Annual Financial Report. The report includes an “unqualified” audit opinion from the Legislative Audit Bureau along with standard higher education financial statements (the complete report is available in the Annual Financial Reports archive);
  • Heard State Auditor Joe Chrisman’s presentation of the auditor’s opinion on the financial statements; and
  • Heard a report from Senior Vice President Morgan, including an update of UW System’s procurement of network services; an update on the 2013-15 biennial budget process; and the status of implementation of audit recommendations related to reporting crimes against children.

Knowledge Powers Wisconsin update

David Giroux, Executive Director of UW System’s Communications and External Relations team, provided Regents with an update on the “Knowledge Powers Wisconsin” branding campaign, including ways that UW institutions are already utilizing the new message framework and contributing a variety of success stories to the website.

The campaign taps into social media capabilities whenever possible, Giroux explained, leveraging the power of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google Plus networks to spread the UW story.

On the social media front, Giroux told Regents that a brand new “@UWpowersMe” project will kick off on Feb. 11 with UW-Platteville student Jamie Procarione telling the Pioneer (and larger UW) story. He said the campaign of recruiting students, faculty, staff, and alumni from all institutions and “giving them the keys to our Twitter account to tell in their own words how knowledge is powering them” conveys the UW experience more directly and more powerfully.

Also upcoming, UW System has agreed to join with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) as a sponsor of “WisconsinBiz,” a statewide economic development publication produced by BizTimes in Milwaukee. The publication will feature eight pages of dedicated UW content, providing an opportunity to further spotlight “Knowledge Powers Wisconsin” success stories and demonstrate how UW’s public universities, colleges, and extension networks are major economic development assets for the state.

Future opportunities to spread the “Knowledge Powers Wisconsin” brand include UW System’s 10th annual Posters in the Rotunda event on April 17 at the State Capitol, showcasing “The Power of Undergraduate Research.” The “Knowledge Powers Wisconsin Tourism” theme will be featured at the upcoming Governor’s Tourism conference.

Chancellor Wells outlines ‘big challenges, big changes’ at UW-Oshkosh

As part of an ongoing series of reports to the Board from UW institutions on their strategic goals, Chancellor Richard Wells unveiled UW-Oshkosh’s 2011-2012 Strategic Plan Update and Annual Report, telling Regents that UW-Oshkosh is serving as a catalyst in the community, a national leader in sustainability, and a pioneer in the reinvention of general education.

Wells’ presentation also examined the “Big Challenges and Big Changes” UW-Oshkosh is recognizing and confronting in its work to increase student success rates and close student achievement gaps, improve the affordability of college, and provide competitive compensation and support for the development of faculty and staff.

Wells told Regents that while UW-Oshkosh has significantly increased both its enrollment and number of degrees awarded, “There are still some challenges that remain, and it’s going to demand big change,” he said. “We need to create team around every student.”


Education Committee

In a unanimous vote, the Education Committee approved the proposed Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Career and Technical Education at UW-Stout. This is the first professional doctorate in Education at a UW System comprehensive institution.

Interim Provost Jackie Weissenburger told Regents that the program is a career-oriented doctorate – sometimes referred to as a “workforce doctorate” – that fits in well with UW-Stout’s career-focused, polytechnic mission. The three-year, 60-credit program will be geared toward working professionals who need an advanced degree to take on leadership roles in career and technical education, said Weissenburger.

“From the technical colleges’ perspective, this (program) is needed. I encourage strong support,” said Regent Mark Tyler, who is also president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Two technical college presidents added their support. Dr. Bob Meyer, president of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College – the state’s largest technical college in terms of geographical range – emphasized how much the program is needed in western Wisconsin. Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College in southeast Wisconsin, told his personal story of having to commute weekly to the University of Minnesota over a period of seven years to earn his Ed.D because the degree was not offered in Wisconsin. He said he had a “deep respect for a hybrid program” that would get students through in three years.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Approved the B.S. in Accounting at UW-Parkside;
  • Approved the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at UW-Stevens Point;
  • Approved the Bachelor of Science in Nursing@Home (BSN@Home) at UW-Stevens Point;
  • Approved a request by UW-Milwaukee Office of Charter Schools for contract renewals at two charter schools, the Bruce Guadalupe Community School and Woodlands School, and the authorization of a new charter school, Woodlands East Charter School, a replication of the Woodlands School;
  • Heard the first reading of UW-Platteville’s proposed mission change; and
  • Heard a report from Senior Vice President Mark Nook, including an update on the UW Flexible Option.

UW-Oshkosh highlights its economic development programs for the REDI Committee

In a presentation for the Research, Economic Development and Innovation Committee, UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells highlighted efforts by UW-Oshkosh, the UW-Oshkosh Foundation, and public and private partners to seed the City of Oshkosh and the surrounding region with collaborative, catalytic projects that will help invigorate the economy, create jobs, and give students high-impact, hands-on educational opportunities.

Those projects range from the $15-million-plus Foundation, City of Oshkosh, and private-partner investment in downtown Oshkosh’s riverfront hotel and convention center (just two blocks from the UW-Oshkosh campus), to three waste-to-energy biodigester projects on campus as well as at large and small dairy operations in the New North. The group also outlined developing plans for a new aviation business accelerator in Oshkosh, an initiative combining the expertise and investment of local, state and federal governments, economic development agencies, aviation-industry leaders and the University and its Foundation.

In other business, the REDI committee:

  • Heard a progress report from Reed Hall, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, on initiatives designed to strengthen relationships between the university and Wisconsin business. Vice President Lisa Johnson presented an overview of WEDC programs that support innovation and entrepreneurship; and
  • Heard a report from Associate Vice President for Economic Development David Brukardt, highlighting the implementation of key aspects of the economic development action plan. He discussed elements of the road map designed to strengthen the UW System’s overall contribution to the economic development of the state.


Capital Planning and Budget Committee

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Heard a report from Associate Vice President David Miller on December Building Commission actions and an overview of the capital planning cycle;
  • Heard the annual UW Colleges Report on City and County Financial Support;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to expand a parking lot onto a site where two vacant houses will be demolished for the development of additional temporary surface parking;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to seek the release of $89,000 Building Trust Funds for the purpose of hiring consultants to prepare a farms master plan for UW-River Falls and a space plan study for UW-Waukesha;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval of 10 All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects on seven campuses totaling about $14.5 million. The requests include exterior envelope repairs, residence hall remodeling, and a steam distribution system replacement at the UW-Superior campus; and
  • Approved UW Colleges’ request for authority to construct a $3.7 million Multiple Building Energy Conservation Project at UW-Waukesha County.



The UW System Board of Regents will resume its meeting at 9 a.m., February 8, 2013, at Van Hise Hall, Madison.

Related: February 8 (day 2) news summary