UW System News
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Contact: Doug Bradley
Reilly announces "brain gain" for state & students as top priorities
MADISON—In his inaugural address as president of the University of Wisconsin System, Kevin P. Reilly outlined his immediate priorities for the UW System Board of Regents on Thursday.
Reilly noted that he has already been visiting campuses throughout the state talking with students, faculty, staff and Wisconsin citizens.
"I have come away from my visits and meetings feeling that there is strong consensus for the budget you passed last month," Reilly told the Regents. "The priorities we've identified ―rebuilding quality, remaining competitive, keeping college affordable, maintaining and, we hope, enhancing access ―resonate out there."
Reilly outlined four priorities for his presidency this fall: to work with the Governor and the state to increase "brain gain" and raise the percentage of Wisconsin residents with a college degree; to work more directly with the students of the UW System; to make the UW System's operations more transparent and more efficient; and to be a strong ambassador and advocate for the UW System and its 15 institutions.
"I intend to eat a lot of 'rubber chicken' over the coming months as I talk about the UW and our priorities," he said. "I pledge to be open and forthright with our colleagues in the press and I will hold regular sessions with our higher education reporters to discuss what's on my mind and theirs."
Reilly characterized these as "Running Conversations with Reilly," and said he intended to take that to a literal level, inviting press members to join him in a monthly jog, during which they would have "unfettered, heavy-breathing access" to the president.
He also inaugurated Thursday a new practice of broadcasting the Board of Regents meetings live over the Internet so "people across the state can hear the business of the Regents from meeting to meeting."
Reilly said he found it "unacceptable" that the UW System has nearly 9,000 more students and close to 700 fewer faculty than it did a decade ago.
"Quality is in jeopardy when 40 percent of our credit hours are taught by nonfaculty, no matter how talented and dedicated they might be," he said. "Our success depends on our students having access to the best teachers and practitioners."
Recent reports, he said, indicate that state personal income is projected to grow 5 to 6 percent over the next year or two, and "our workforce must stay competitive with that market."
Reilly also put a high priority on efficiency. He noted that by national measures, the UW System is the most efficient in the nation, "but that doesn't mean we can't do more."
He announced to the board that he has already launched two studies to increase UW efficiency. Reilly has asked Harry Peterson, former president of Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., and a former UW administrator, to study the UW System Administration, to compare its structure to that of other higher education systems, and to suggest ways the UW System might be better organized to serve the campuses, Regents and the state.
He also has asked leadership of UW-Extension and the UW Colleges to find ways over the next two months to increase administrative efficiencies between those two unique institutions.
"This will in no way jeopardize access to these two premier statewide institutions," he said, "but rather will investigate how their administrative units in Madison might work together to achieve greater efficiencies. We owe it to Wisconsin taxpayers to be as thrifty with their dollars as they themselves would be."
To accomplish the university's goals in the state's present funding climate will require some "fresh thinking" and "new approaches," he said.
"I am very optimistic about the future of the university and the state because we have a lot going for us ―a lot of champions who want to help us," Reilly said. "I believe in what we stand for: opportunity for Wisconsin's citizens and Wisconsin communities. We are in the ‘human potential' business, and it is our job to help our citizens realize their dreams for themselves and their families."
Following Reilly's address, the Regents approved the submission of its 2005-07 Program Revenue Operating Budget request to the state Department of Administration. It included a projected a $20 million average annual increase (5 percent) in gift, grant and trust funds. Noting that these are not state tax or tuition dollars, Reilly characterized this as "good news" for Wisconsin.
"These are dollars we bring into the state economy that ripple out in our communities. These funds represent the research and services that we provide to our students and state citizens," he said.
University-generated funding, known as program revenue, excluding academic tuition, now represents more than 50 percent of the UW System's total budget.
More information can be found in the Regents news summary for Sept. 9, 2004