MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System is working to collaborate more closely with Wisconsin’s Tribal Nations to help more Native Americans access and succeed in higher education.

The Board of Regents welcomed leaders of several Tribal Nations Friday to discuss development of a formal consultation policy between the UW System and its institutions and the Tribal Nations, both individually and collectively.

“The main goal is to get more Native students here, to keep them here, and to graduate them. I want us to all work together to achieve that goal,” said Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III. “We want to make sure we can get your input, experience, guidance, and expertise to find out what we can do.”

“We want to reach out much more than we ever have before,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “We are extending our hands with a sense of humility, honor, dedication, and friendship. We want to be your partners.”

Over the past decade, about 2,000 Native American students have enrolled in the UW System, representing about 1.7% of Wisconsin resident student enrollment. Over the same period, UW System awarded 2,653 undergraduate degrees to Native American students.

Gunnar Peters, chair of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, said he appreciated the opportunity to provide testimony and input to a tribal consultation policy. “I am very proud of the commitment by the UW System to reevaluate its policies, its communications and engagement,” he said. He noted that 20 members of his tribe received degrees this past year through the UW System. “That brings our total to 57,” he said. “I think we can do better.”

Peters added that programs like the PEOPLE program (Pre-College Enrichment Program for Learning Excellence) can be important assets in preparing Native students for college success.

Jared Blanche, education director for the Red Cliff Nation, told Regents that making campuses more welcoming environments for Native American students is vital in helping to address retention challenges. Going from a small, closely-knit tribal community to a UW campus can be “a bit of a cultural shock,” he said. “I had a lot of friends who couldn’t adapt to what was being asked of them. Many friends dropped out.”

Sasanehsaeh Jennings, hired as UW System’s first Native American Student Success Coordinator and Tribal Liaison in 2018, provided an overview of the need for a consultation policy that recognizes the unique culture, traditions, beliefs, governance processes, tribal laws, codes, regulations, and protocols of the different sovereign Native Nations.

“Tribal consultation is an enhanced form of communication that emphasizes trust, respect, and shared responsibility,” Jennings said. “It is an open and free exchange of information and opinion among parties, which leads to mutual understanding and comprehension.”

Shannon Holsey, chair of the Stockbridge-Munsey Band of Mohicans, said a consultation policy addresses the issue of “no decisions about us without us” and offers valuable continuity and consistency in the longer-term relationship between the UW System and the Tribal Nations.

“We have a lot to learn,” said Regent Bob Atwell.

UW System presidential search launched

Regent President Manydeeds announced that he has appointed a 19-member Search and Screen Committee to help identify the next UW System President.

Current President Tommy Thompson has been serving in an interim role since July 1, 2020. He replaced Ray Cross, who retired after a 42-year career in higher education, including serving as UW System President from February 2014 to June 2020.

Regent Vice President Karen Walsh, who will chair the committee, saluted the extraordinary efforts of the UW System community, its leadership, faculty, staff, and students, to continue to move the UW forward over the past year despite unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The best way we can honor that work is to come together and identify a new president who will lead us with vision into the future,” Walsh said.

Walsh also noted the committee’s membership has broad representation from across the UW System. “We wanted to have as many voices at the table as we could from different walks of work,” she said.

The Committee is expected to convene in August.

UW System offers expanded Summer Bridge programs

Dr. Warren Anderson, UW System’s Senior Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer, said the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as unsettling social issues that emerged this past year across the nation highlight the need for universities to provide students with additional support.

The UW System’s Summer Bridge program is designed to assist incoming freshmen in making a successful transition to college life.

“This is something that is our responsibility as a System,” Anderson said. He noted that the reason many students, particularly students of color, don’t finish their degree rarely has anything to do with academics. Instead, it’s often students’ emotional, mental and behavioral health, social issues, financial concerns, or other factors that become barriers to completion.

Anderson said students of color comprise the population of potential largest growth in higher education. “If we’re not doing the work to prepare them, we’re skirting our responsibilities,” he said.

“These two to six weeks (in a summer bridge program) can determine how successful students will be in their first four years of college,” Anderson said. “We need to support students from the door all the way across the stage.”

It is expected that the number of students participating in this year’s Summer Bridge Program around the UW System will be more than double the usual enrollment, with latest estimates at 2,600 students.

UW System announced in March that it would be seeding the expansion of summer bridge programs across the state with an initial $1.3 million investment.

Board welcomes new colleague

The Board welcomed new Regent, Dr. Jill Underly, who earlier this week began her term as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, succeeding Regent Emeritus Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

Underly has a deep background in public education, most recently serving for six years as the superintendent of the Pecatonica School District in southwestern Wisconsin. She received her master’s degree in educational administration and a doctorate in education leadership and policy analysis from the UW-Madison.

“I am looking forward to my service on this Board,” Underly said.

Board honors former colleagues

The Regents presented resolutions of appreciation to recognize two colleagues whose service on the Board is completed.

Regent Becky Levzow, chair of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, served the past two years. Drawing on her unique service on three educational boards – UW System, WTCS, and her local school board in Pardeeville – she called on Regents to expand dual credit and advanced placement opportunities for high school students to provide a jumpstart on their educational journey.

“These classes demonstrate to students they can handle college class and succeed at a college level. It builds confidence for knowing college is possible,” she said. Levzow also urged colleagues to not overlook adult learners.

The Regents also recognized Regent Emeritus John Behling, who served on the Board from 2012-2019, including two years as President. His recognition had been postponed due to the pandemic.

Behling said the size and scope of the UW System – 165,000 students and more than 40,000 employees – presents the board with great challenges but also great opportunities.

He thanked Regents and System and campus leadership for investing in Wisconsin and investing in students through their work.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved the corrected 2021 report on faculty promotions, tenure designations, and other changes of status;
  • Approved a contract between UW-Madison and the National Football League, which will support the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health’s 4-year multi-site, longitudinal, multi-discipline investigation involving the development and validation of new technologies toward muscle injury risk mitigation in collegiate football players;
  • Approved an amendment to RPD 25-4, “Strategic Planning and Large or High Risk Projects”;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to proceed with a project to replace the electronic door access system on its campus, which has been designated as a large or high-risk information technology project;
  • Approved UW System’s 10-year master service contract with Workday, Inc. for contemporary cloud-based enterprise resource planning software as a component of the Administrative Transformation Program;
  • Approved the UW System Semi-Annual Status Report on Large/Vital Information Technology Projects;
  • Approved a bookstore and textbook rental services contract between UW-Eau Claire and Follett Higher Education Group, Inc.’
  • Approved two additional one-year extensions to the current contract between UW-La Crosse and Compass Group USA, Inc. for dining services operations;
  • Approved two additional one-year extensions to the current contract between UW-River Falls and Compass Group USA, Inc. for dining services operations;
  • Approved two additional one-year extensions to the current contract between UW-Superior and Compass Group USA, Inc. for dining services operations;
  • Approved a standard research agreement between UW-Madison and Galilei Biosciences, Inc., which is sponsoring a two-year research project involving the biochemical and cellular characterization and validation of small-molecule compounds that are important in cancer and other research;
  • Approved a master clinical trial agreement between UW-Madison and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, replacing a previous master clinical trial agreement that recently expired;
  • Approved amendments to RPD 17-4, “Equal Employment Opportunities,” to update the policy to comply with federal law, and state law and executive orders;
  • Approved amendments to Regent Policy Document (RPD) 4-12, “Academic Program Planning, Review, and Approval in the University of Wisconsin System,” to incorporate provisions requiring institutions to review credit requirements of degree programs that require more than 130 credit hours to complete;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in Bioinformatics;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request to establish a Master of Science in Sport Administration;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for a fully online Master of Science in Marketing;
  • Approved the Fiscal Year 2022 Compliance Plan;
  • Approved the chief compliance officer reporting line and an update to the Audit Committee charter.
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request to lease student athletics, events, and recreation space within the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex. It also approved a new segregated fee that will be applied towards the lease of the facility;
  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s request for authority to exchange a Board-owned parcel of land on the south side of campus for one owned by University Village Housing, Inc. on the east side of campus to facilitate construction of a new residence hall closer to the center of campus;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the Kohl Center Addition and Renovation project to provide additional space for strength and conditioning, sports medicine, academics, and administrative functions;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct a Minor Facilities Renewal project to replace the plumbing riser in the south tower of the Gruenhagen Conference Center at UW-Oshkosh and renovate restrooms to meet current ADA accessibility requirements;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct three All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects: Replacing the roofs on the Allen Center and Watson Hall at UW-Stevens Point, and upgrading/replacing the central heating plant controls and upgrading exterior light fixtures, both at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct a 2019-21 Classroom Renovation/Instructional Technology Improvement Program project to renovate space in Mitchell Hall at UW-La Crosse to better serve the university’s nationally accredited athletic training programs; and
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to authorize the previously approved $6,645 Program Revenue-Cash for the outstanding debt payment required to facilitate the transfer of 91 acres of land and improvements from the Department of Public Instruction to the Board of Regents be revised to $113,322.41 Program Revenue-Cash.

The next meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will be October 7-8, 2021, hosted by UW Oshkosh.