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Friday, September 13, 2002

"Managing for Quality"

Remarks to Board of Regents
UW System President Katharine C. Lyall

Welcome back to the new school year! This is a year in which we are all challenged to "manage for quality." This year, more than ever, we need to be focused on our goals and attentive to our students.

What does "managing for quality" mean? I would suggest three dimensions of quality that need our specific focus this year. They are directed to increasing student success in the recognition that our single most important contribution to the life and economic future of Wisconsin lies with our educated graduates. Yesterday, we heard David J Ward's presentation on the economic impact of the UW System, which showed that UW activities and graduates generate more than $9 billion annually statewide, and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity in each region of the state.

As I argued last month, the UW System can no longer expand our contributions to Wisconsin simply by growing our enrollments . . . we must focus on generating more successful outcomes for our current student body. Therefore, I propose that we focus on the following quality measures this year:

  • increasing our retention/graduation rates for students;
  • halting and reversing the erosion in support per student which currently leaves UW students $1000 per student below their peers across the country;
  • gradually restoring some faculty positions, to reach a better balance of faculty and instructional academic staff.

These goals will stretch us, especially in the face of base cuts, but they are three important dimensions of a quality education that we must sustain. I recognize that these three measures do not capture the full range of educational quality concerns, but we must start somewhere, and we must start with clearly measurable goals so that we and the public can see how the combination of state policy choices and university management decisions move us forward (or backward) on these measures.

As you know, we currently have retention/graduation targets for each campus. You have asked me to review these with the chancellors and report on any proposed revisions to you in December. I will do that.

The support per student gap is measured by comparing UW GPR and tuition support compared to our peers at four-year public universities nationally. This measure has been part of our annual Accountability Report for several years, now, and we will work to turn around this growing gap.

Restoring some faculty positions does not yet have a number attached to it, but I will be discussing this with the chancellors and expect to have a feasible target within the next 60 days. As you know, the System has lost 500 faculty positions to budget cuts over the past five years. We have coped by increasing the use of instructional academic staff (IAS), who now teach nearly 40% of all credit hours. We must stabilize our faculty ranks so that students have a core of faculty contact that guides the curriculum, participates in shared governance, and ensures continuity in academic standards.

Through our efforts to "engage Wisconsin" this year, we can make the consequences of decisions more transparent, avert "surprises," and focus our own efforts more precisely.

As the first step in this direction, I will bring to the Board next month a proposed approach and timetable for our fall 2003 admissions process. This approach will be designed to bring us to our EM21 target by the end of the 2003-05 biennium by managing the next two entering classes, as necessary, to ensure that we do not exceed 134,500 FTE students by fall 2005. As we all came to appreciate this year, different institutions serve different clientele and we must tailor the admissions policies at each campus to bring us to target without working great hardship on parents and future students. For this purpose, I propose that we stay with our current EM21 overall targets through 2005. However, should we have to absorb further significant base budget cuts before then, the Board of Regents should revisit overall enrollment levels and establish new targets.

So, we will "manage for quality" to serve our students better this year.

This was a busy summer -

The "good news" is that, despite budget problems, our faculty and staff have been actively engaged this summer contributing to Wisconsin in many ways - a sample:

  • UW scientists did key research on West Nile Virus and Chronic Wasting Disease, and modeled the risks to humans . . . a major contribution to combating these public health threats.
  • The new Mechanical Engineering program jointly offered by UW-Platteville at UW-Fox Valley is admitting its first class this fall. This collaboration will enable working students in Fox Valley businesses to obtain an ME degree and help regional businesses recruit and retain technical talent. Engineering is one of the most expensive programs to mount and the collaborative program between Platteville and Fox Valley extends faculty expertise from the southwest part of the state to the northeast. This effort also moves our Economic Stimulus Program ahead on schedule. Thanks to Chancellor Markee and Dean Perry for instituting this innovative program. Regional employers in the Fox valley have committed to funding a new facility over the next year as their contribution to this program access.
  • The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, located at UW-Green Bay, has received a new $475,000 grant to support research, student scholarships, and outreach programs related aerospace. The Consortium consists of 24 members, including Alverno and Carroll Colleges, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Orbital Technologies, BioPharmaceutical Technology Corporation, the College of the Menominee Nation, and UW universities at La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Parkside, and Whitewater, and DPI. UW-Green Bay is the lead institution. This is another visible example of the kinds of education-government-business partnerships that bring energy and financial support to Wisconsin.
  • UW-Madison Professor James Ntambi, working with colleagues at Rockefeller University, have developed a strain of mice who can "consume mass quantities" of food without gaining weight, and have begun exploring drugs that could produce the same effect in humans. Let's all cheer them on!
  • Wisconsin Public Radio celebrated the 75th year of "Chapter a Day" - a prime example of necessity mothering invention! By the way, in national polls, Americans rank public radio as the 2nd most valued expenditure of tax dollars, behind only defense.
  • UW Hospital was highly ranked nationally for its high survival rates of its liver (95%) and kidney (87%) transplant patients; in addition, Wisconsin waiting times for these organs are less than half of the times in surrounding states. This is a tribute to UW Hospital's diligence in "harvesting" donor organs, and UW-developed innovations in chemical solutions that can preserve organs longer.
  • Two UW scientists have formed Conjugon, Inc., a startup company that will use laboratory findings by UW-Madison faculty Marcin Filutowicz and Richard Burgess to develop a defense against today's resistant antibiotics used to combat staph infections and other pathogens. Such infections attack more than 500,000 hospital patients every year.
  • UW radiologist Robert Kuske and UW surgeon Eberhard Mack are international pioneers in a new breast cancer treatment (brachytherapy) that shortens treatment from six weeks to one with less damage to skin and tissue.
  • Wednesday our campuses remembered September 11 in a variety of ways.
  • UW-Stout, recipient of the 2001 National Baldrige Award, hosted a conference on Quality for Educators, sponsored in partnership with Western Wisconsin Technical College and the Hamilton School District-another example of "seamless" educational collaboration.
  • Milwaukee students in grades six through eight who described themselves as "eager readers" came to campus in August for the UW-Milwaukee Residential Reading Camp. The camp is a program of UWM's Pre-College Academy. In addition to living in the Sandburg Residence Halls, the campers participated in reading and writing classes; interactive visual art, dance, and theater experiences; career and higher education exploration; sports; field trips; and leadership skills exercises. The campers also attended the speech by President George W. Bush at UWM and were visited by several state legislators.

I am also pleased to announce that a new and improved UW System news site is being unveiled today. Along with a more streamlined look, it provides one-stop access to campus and System news. You'll find daily news highlights of interest to the UW System--including top news from the campuses--UW System headlines grouped by category, and an events calendar. You'll also be able to access Wisconsin Ideas online, budget information, legislative updates, and systemwide media contacts. Thank you to University Relations staff Erik Christianson, Acting Director of Communications, and Jennifer Moore, Web Writer and Editor, for their work in making these improvements to a vital communication tool.

To view the revised news site, go to our homepage, www.wisconsin.edu, and click on News. We hope that you will add it to your favorite bookmarks!

Finally, the summer brought:

--the sad news that former Regent Russell O'Harrow died of a brain tumor just before Labor Day. Regent O'Harrow chaired the search committee that selected a young woman from the East Coast as the Vice President for Academic Affairs twenty years ago, who, in time, became System president. Russ was a champion of students, an advocate of agriculture, and a friend and advisor to the end-we'll miss him greatly.

--and the glad news that a first grandchild, River James Locke, to Guy and Kathy Gottschalk. River James is the future UW class of 2024-he symbolizes why our work to sustain a quality university is so important to the next generation!

Congratulations! We'll be there when the Class of 2024 is ready!