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Fall 2002 Campus Letter

Dear Colleagues:

As we start the fall semester, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all new faculty and staff, to reflect on the past year, and to outline Academic Affairs’ agenda for the coming year.

We learned in 2001–02 that UWM is highly valued for both its past achievements and for its great potential. Despite a roller-coaster year of budget allocations followed by hiring freezes and threats of cutbacks, UWM emerged at the end with a budget infusion of $11 million in the 2001–03 biennium—a landmark accomplishment that supports the addition of approximately 80 new faculty and staff to implement UWM's Action Plans. It is exciting to see this public recognition that Wisconsin’ s long-term economic vibrancy and quality of life are linked to UWM’s continued growth.

For exemplary contributions this past year, I’d like to thank the following groups: the Black and Gold Commission for their proposals to improve student success and satisfaction; Search and Screen Committees, whose efforts brought a talented and diverse group of new colleagues to UWM; the Faculty Senate’s Research Policy Committee, the deans, and the associate deans, who together helped bring about the Chancellor’s Graduate Student Award Program, which provided over 250 awards to the most sought-after graduate students (thereby increasing our scholarly capability, as well); the Office of Human Resources and Climate for Women Implementation Teams, who are off to an excellent start in improving the campus climate for all of our employees; faculty and staff engaged in the Milwaukee Idea initiatives, which are strengthening UWM’s connections to greater Milwaukee and to Wisconsin; OASIS Project implementation teams, who have successfully launched most of the PeopleSoft student records system; and all faculty and staff for their continued dedication to high-quality undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs.

While we have these accomplishments to take pride in, there is still work to do in advancing UWM’s status as a premier urban research university. Our priorities for 2002–03 will further develop existing strengths and improve our performance in areas where we are not meeting our goals.

Key Themes for the Coming Year
Through our joint efforts, Academic Affairs will focus on four areas this year:

1. Supporting scholarly excellence;
2. Achieving a more student-centered university;
3. Becoming more self-sustaining financially; and
4. Committing to effective stewardship.

Supporting Scholarly Excellence
Academic Affairs will increase support for basic and applied research and creative activities at UWM. We will pursue high-prestige and high-overhead federal funds more aggressively, and we will provide more comprehensive assistance in proposal preparation. Last spring, UWM successfully pursued a federal earmark for water security research, capitalizing on our institutional strength in water-related research. Continued focused effort should yield more federal funds for UWM.

As we recruit new faculty members this year, we should continue to actively seek individuals who show the promise of being exceptionally productive scholars or who have a record of high productivity.

Achieving a More Student-Centered University
As recommended in the Black & Gold Commission’s Final Report, we will work this year to achieve the four broad recommendations outlined in the Report: adopting a more student-centered culture throughout UWM, organizing for student success, maximizing student learning, and increasing connections/ investing in diversity.

For example, one result we’re aiming for is a better retention rate for our students. While one-year retention rates of new freshmen have increased from 69% for the fall 1998 class to 74% for the fall 2000 entering class of freshmen, UWM continues to lose over 25% of its entering freshmen by the second year. Progress also is needed to erase the differences in graduation rates among racial and ethnic groups. The percentage of new freshmen not returning rises to over 35% for new Latino freshmen and 45% for new African American and international students.

Becoming More Self-Sustaining Financially
In a continuation of a long-term downward trend, this year’s state General Purpose Revenue support of higher education fell to its lowest level ever, roughly 31% of the UW-System’s total resource base. While we have seen significant increases in absolute dollars coming to UWM, the importance of other revenue sources such as grants, federal earmarks, and tuition has increased as GPR levels have decreased.

We’ve already made good progress in attracting more students, including a 10% increase in freshman enrollment this fall. For us to progress beyond this point we need to add new programs from the undergraduate through the doctoral levels. We must also explore new instructional delivery models such as e-learning and off-site instruction. Enrollment growth should not unduly add to the numbers of students coming to campus on weekdays during prime hours.

Committing to Effective Stewardship
Our ability to meet our goals is directly tied to human capital. A high priority for this year will be continued implementation of the recommendations of the UWM Task Force on the Climate for Women. The Second Annual Campus Climate Forum will be held later this fall, and I encourage you to attend to learn more about the many climate-improving activities currently in progress.

Effective stewardship entails more than fostering a good campus climate, however. It’s recognizing when our actions are falling short of our goals, assuming responsibility, and then taking corrective action. It means having the data to answer the following questions: Are our actions having the intended effect? Are student learning outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction in line with our expectations? Helping us with these questions will be the responsibility of the director of institutional research and analysis, a newly created position that will provide analytical support in assessing progress on institutional goals.

To communicate our progress, we are developing a Web-based UWM Report Card, which will display Investment Plan implementation data and our success in meeting critical accountability measures. I also plan to meet with governance groups and the faculty and staff of each school and college to discuss progress on the Investment Plan. Committing ourselves to accountable and transparent stewardship of the University will keep us on track with our institutional plans and our upcoming North Central Association (NCA) accreditation site visit.

The individual aspect of stewardship is also very important. Each one of us is responsible for living up to our dreams for UWM, and each one of us can make UWM a better place for our students, for one another, and for the communities we serve.

Best wishes for a successful school year,

John Wanat
Provost and Vice Chancellor