Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just ahead: Transition in leadership for UW System

Today, UW System President Kevin Reilly announced that he will step down from his post at the end of December to become presidential advisor for leadership with the American Council on Education (ACE) in January 2014 and return to teaching.

Kevin Reilly has worked diligently and devotedly over the past nine years to ensure access for all Wisconsin students to a quality UW System education. Thanks to his insightful, wise and dedicated leadership, the UW System remains strong and respected for its excellence both nationally and globally — as a place where students come first and as a key driver of economic growth in our state.

Dr. Reilly has worked to ensure that the UW System remains unified, while also recognizing the distinctive and important missions of the individual system campuses. He advocated for more flexibilities in the way our individual campuses are managed — advocacy that was key, I believe, in UW-Eau Claire receiving Board of Regents approval for the Blugold Commitment, a student-endorsed and -supported program that has opened up opportunities for all of our students to benefit from high-impact practices (like internships, faculty/student research and intercultural immersion) during their college experience.

As we enter this time of transition in leadership, I have great confidence in the future of our university system. I look forward to working with my colleagues from all the UW campuses to support our new president in ensuring the UW System's continued role in creating a bright future for the state of Wisconsin.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Saying goodbye to a much-loved Blugold

Dr. Chuck Tomkovick
Dr. Chuck Tomkovick
As I near the end of my first month as UW-Eau Claire's chancellor, I'm amazed at the number of proud Blugold alumni, students, faculty and staff I've had the opportunity to meet on campus and out in the community. I'm saddened, however, that I never had the opportunity to meet and get to know one recently retired faculty member to whom our Blugold community must say goodbye much too soon.

Today, many Blugolds will be among those attending memorial services for Dr. Chuck Tomkovick, professor emeritus of marketing, who passed away July 25. While I never had the pleasure of knowing Chuck, I have learned much about him through the stories of so many alumni, students, faculty and staff about how he positively touched their lives in lasting ways and made an important difference at our university, in our community and beyond.

It's people like Chuck — who so intensely lived his passion for helping students become lifelong learners — who make our university such an exceptional place. I regret I cannot be there today in support of Chuck's family and friends due to my attendance at a conference out of state. But I know his legacy is one I will witness in a big way in the days, months and years to come.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Two weeks in!

Chancellor James Schmidt with alumni Mary Durski, Sue Schleppenbach, Julie Gamm and Lynn Cook
Chancellor James Schmidt with UW-Eau Claire alumni (from left) Mary Durski '79 of San Jose, Calif.; Sue Schleppenbach '80 of Chippewa Falls; Julie Gamm '79 of Appleton; and Lynn Cook '79 of Chippewa Falls. The former UW-Eau Claire roommates get together at least once a year and came to campus to tour the new Davies Student Center. One of the alums also presented Chancellor Schmidt with a generous gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
It’s been an invigorating two weeks here at UW-Eau Claire, meeting students, faculty, community members, area civic and business leaders, and fellow UW System chancellors – and attending my first Board of Regents meeting in Madison.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting four outstanding Blugold alumni and former UW-Eau Claire roommates (pictured above) who came to campus to tour the new Davies Student Center as part of their annual reunion. To my great surprise and delight, one of these alums also presented me with a generous gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation – the first gift I’ve received as chancellor on behalf of the Foundation! We’ll be announcing more on that exciting gift in the coming weeks.

I’m looking forward to meeting many more Blugolds in the days, weeks and months to come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

State budget impact on Blugold Commitment

Governor Scott Walker yesterday signed the 2013-15 state budget into law. While Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet has kept me apprised of the potential impacts of the two-year tuition freeze, base and one-time budget reductions, postponement of implementation of the new personnel system, and capital budget reduction of $250 million, I want you to be aware of a new development that will directly impact UW-Eau Claire.

Significantly, when Governor Walker signed the budget bill, he included a line item veto that, in addition to the two-year base tuition freeze, also freezes differential tuition approved by the Board of Regents before June 1, 2011. This means the final phase of the Blugold Commitment will not proceed as planned. This will result in an approximately $3 million reduction to our budget. In light of this development, I will be consulting with student leaders, Academic Affairs and others to determine the potential programmatic impacts on Blugold Commitment plans for the coming year.

Governor Walker also partially vetoed a freeze on allocable student segregated fees that will allow those fees to increase during the biennium, if approved by students.

As you know, the budget includes a 1 percent pay plan that, while very modest, enables us to provide the first pay increases to many of our faculty and staff in five years. Still, we have a long way to go toward closing the nearly 20 percent gap in median salaries that exists between our faculty and those at peer institutions. It is imperative for our students that UW-Eau Claire attract and retain the best faculty and staff — pay is increasingly becoming a competitive challenge.  Recognizing that salary is not the primary motivator for our dedicated faculty and staff, we must do better, and I pledge to be a tireless advocate on your behalf.  

We do not yet know what impact, if any, the $250 million capital budget reduction will have on our two projects that were included in the budget — a new $35 million suite-style residence hall on upper campus and $12.4 million reconstruction/redevelopment of Garfield Avenue. As we learn more about these projects, we will keep you informed.

Greetings on Day One at UW-Eau Claire

Excited and humbled are the two words that best describe how I’m feeling my first day on the job as UW-Eau Claire chancellor. As chancellor, my first “official” actions will be to listen and learn from as many of you as possible. I want to understand what makes UW-Eau Claire the exceptional institution it is today and hear your ideas on how we can achieve our goal of becoming the premier undergraduate institution in the Upper Midwest. If you happen to bump into me this month walking the campus, you can expect me to ask you how we can most effectively work together, as our mission statement says, to “foster in one another creativity, critical insight, empathy, and intellectual courage, the hallmarks of a transformative liberal education and the foundation for active citizenship and lifelong inquiry.” I’ve already printed that mission statement on the back of all my business cards.

My summer will be devoted to getting to know the campus and greater Eau Claire community.  Today, I am talking to campus and student leaders, faculty, local legislators, community officials, key alumni and foundation supporters, and business leaders to begin building important personal relationships. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with campus shared governance representatives. Later this month, there will be a daylong retreat with the cabinet to establish “Gold Arrow” goals for the coming year. I will also be taking tours of campus and hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you personally.

I also want you to know that I have been closely following the development and enactment of the 2013-15 state budget, including the vetoes Governor Scott Walker made when he signed the budget yesterday. One of those vetoes will impact UW-Eau Claire directly and I will post a separate message here about the budget.

Finally, I want to thank Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet for paving the way for a smooth transition. True to his word, Gilles was not a “place keeper” — he championed a number of important initiatives to keep the positive momentum of UW-Eau Claire moving forward.  I am grateful for all he has done this past year and for his thoughtful, gracious guidance.  I know you join me in wishing Gilles and Debby great success and happiness as they resume their life together in Madison.