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May 4, 2000
Contact: Jonathan Henkes (608) 263-3362


PLATTEVILLE -- As Wisconsin's economy eyes a very different future, the UW System today unveiled a plan to concentrate new initiatives where the state has the greatest need -- increased economic growth through workforce development.

In reporting to the UW Board of Regents today, UW System Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David J. Ward said, "the national and global economy is rapidly changing. What this means for Wisconsin is that our traditional reliance on manufacturing and agriculture must be supplemented by opportunities that are knowledge-based, global in scope, electronically interwoven and entrepreneurial in nature. Wisconsin's future economy will depend on a constant and growing infusion of innovative ideas and processes into the marketplace."

In the past, whenever Wisconsin's economic base has changed, the UW System has provided the graduates, the research, the expertise and the access to new educational programs that eased the transition. Said Ward, "we are now prepared with a plan to help Wisconsin respond to and capitalize on the opportunities of the 'New Economy' and enhance our existing workforce."

Generally, the plan focuses on four key areas of resource investment:

  • Building the skilled workforce of the New Economy, resulting in the creation of high-wage jobs for the future and Wisconsin's improved competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  • Improving access for adult learners, resulting in a gain in needed "brain power" to fuel the jobs and businesses of the 21st century and raise family income;
  • Enhancing IT (instructional/information technology) opportunities for students, faculty and staff, so that graduates are well equipped to compete and succeed in Wisconsin's high-tech workforce.
  • Opening new avenues for international education, to provide the state's economy with knowledgeable, experienced graduates and assist companies to become global competitors.

Specifically, the plan includes the following collaborative and institution-specific endeavors:

1. The New Wisconsin Economy Initiative. Included are several UW comprehensive campuses, UW Colleges and UW-Extension. This is a systemwide strategic approach that capitalizes on institutional strengths, while targeting regional needs.

  • Chippewa Valley: UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire will partner, along with the Chippewa Valley Technical College, to develop collaborative, state-of-the-art curricula and just-in-time programs to meet the education and training needs of the regional workforce. Credit transfer among the three institutions will be improved, as well as outreach to the business community on emerging applied research needs.

The Chippewa Valley is a growing high-tech corridor with unique workforce needs. The Stout-Eau Claire plan capitalizes on the strengths of each institution, together with the local technical college, to offer a comprehensive set of services to area employers via a seamless approach to workforce development. These institutions enjoy shared facilities and will have a presence in existing research and industrial parks in the Valley's four economic hubs: Menomonie, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Rice Lake.

To directly serve the needs of technology employers, UW-Eau Claire will offer expanded degree programs in computer science and management information systems, and will provide high-tech laboratories for software design and systems control. UW-Stout will focus on just-in-time training and skilled employee retention needs of area employers. The campus also will deliver market research to meet industry training needs in the region, as well as strengthening its degree completion program for technical college graduates.

  • Along Wisconsin's western border, UW-La Crosse is working to meet the demand for allied health graduates and services throughout the region. The hub of this activity is the La Crosse Medical Health Science Education Center -- a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility. Maintaining access for students in academic programs with high regional demand will require permanent funding to support the operation of the center.
  • To benefit the Fox Valley, UW-Platteville -- in partnership with UW-Oshkosh -- will provide its bachelor's degree in engineering via a combination of on-site instructors and distance learning technology. The Fox Valley requires a large number of engineers to support its industrial-manufacturing base. This continuing education initiative will be a key retention tool for these employers.
  • In southeastern Wisconsin, UW-Parkside will partner with Abbot Labs to implement a certificate program in molecular biology and bio-informatics. The plan also calls for the development of non-traditional programing and business incubator space, created in partnership with local communities and business, as well as additional computing and business degree graduates to meet the needs of area employers.
  • In central Wisconsin, UW-Stevens Point will add a Computer Information Systems major, and a Technology and New Media Arts Major. Certificate programs will be created in Health Promotion/Safety, Medical Technology, Computer Mediated Communication, and Computer Science.
  • Along the northern border, UW-Superior will fully implement its bachelor's degree in Transportation and Logistics Management -- increasing the number of available slots from 10 to 80. This program, one of only a few in the nation, will serve regional and statewide transportation industry worker needs.
  • UW-Whitewater's contribution to building the state economy will be expanded student slots in a number of high-demand programs, including: management computer systems, computer end-user technology, the Internet MBA, and technology-oriented teachers for urban school districts.
  • Statewide, the UW-Extension and its Small Business Development Centers will implement a technology-oriented strategy that establishes three regional technology business specialists. These high-tech individuals will provide free one-on-one business counseling to help emerging state-based businesses bring new technologies to market. Another emphasis will be to facilitate venture capital investment and government contracts.

Three proposals will help to better serve adult students statewide:

    1. The UW Colleges will improve adult access to higher education via: expanding the collaborative four-year degree program, providing general education courses via distance education, expanding adult-focused evening and weekend courses, expanding hours of computer labs and libraries, and offering assessment services for adult students.

    2. One-stop adult student centers would be created at all UW institutions.

    3. UW-Oshkosh will develop lifelong relationships with area adult students and create a model of best practices in adult education. The Oshkosh model will be disseminated systemwide. Among its goals: to build strong relationships with area employers; to develop responsive and need-based programs; to provide individual educational planning for adult student; to create flexibility in services and course access for adult students.

Two additional statewide initiatives will target learners at early ages. The STEP (Summer Technology & Engineering Preview) pre-college program is open to all students, while encouraging girls and students of color to consider engineering and sciences majors. The national model for this innovative program resides at UW-Stout and would be replicated systemwide as an early workforce development strategy. A second program, Youth and Families, is a research-based statewide infrastructure that assists community coalitions and agencies that serve Wisconsin's children, youth and families. Its goal is to increase the number of youth who become productive members of the state's economy, and to limit youth-related community disruptions, thereby allowing adults to be more productive in the workplace.

2. The Madison Initiative. This is the 2nd phase of a four-year public-private investment plan to enable UW-Madison to continue providing students with an outstanding education and to help Wisconsin maintain its competitiveness in the global economy. It includes a biotechnology component that builds upon Governor Thompson's $317 million BIOSTAR proposal to build four new cutting-edge biotechnology research centers. The biosciences are one of UW-Madison's fastest-growing research and teaching areas, comprising more than 800 faculty across 60 departments, and generating more than $200 million a year in research funding. The Madison Initiative also includes plans for the targeted hiring of key faculty, broadening student learning opportunities, maintaining affordability for students through increased financial aid, and enhancing Wisconsin's economic development.

3. The Milwaukee Idea. This initiative was introduced to the Board of Regents in March. It builds UW-Milwaukee's response to regional and statewide economic development in three programmatic areas: economic development, environmental health, and education. Highlighting the initiative are plans to create a high-tech businesses incubator and offer cutting-edge technology and business services to Wisconsin corporations. To directly impact the projected shortage of "knowledge workers," the campus would graduate 20,000 more students over the next five years -- targeting the fields of information technology, health care and the training of teachers for Milwaukee's K-12 schools. For more information on The Milwaukee Initiative, please see the Internet page at:

4. Green Bay Idea. This initiative would offer accelerated inter-disciplinary learning opportunities for students. Graduates would enter the workforce with advanced problem-solving skills, intensive internship experience in the public and private sectors, teamwork expertise, and enhanced technological literacy.

Ward introduced specifics of each of the four initiatives within the overall plan by telling Regents that "responding to Wisconsin's economic challenges is the top priority of every UW institution. The research, adult access, job training and skill development investments included in this plan will strengthen our manufacturing and agriculture base, while transitioning Wisconsin into the New Economy."

The plan is the latest in a continuing series of discussions and presentations leading up to the August meeting of the Regents, at which the board will finalize its 2001-03 state budget request for the UW System.