UW-W to mark 150 years of excellence, service


Kimberly Wethal

Chancellor Beverly Kopper looks out at the audience.

Kimberly Wethal, Editor-in-Chief

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper spoke to students, faculty and staff Aug. 28 about her goals for the university, its newly revised mission statement, the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration and the ’17-19 state budget during the annual State of the University Address.

“I have to say, it continues to be an absolute honor and a privilege to serve each of you and our students at our amazing university and community,” Kopper said. “Time does fly when you’re having a great time.”

Personally speaking

Kopper began the State of the University address by sharing goals she had for the upcoming year including safety, increasing communication with the campus from both her office and the offices of her cabinet members and increasing outreach to alumni.

Kopper said that having a safe campus goes beyond physical safety, but creating an environment where all students feel welcome, and continuing her cabinet’s work to end sexual assault and harassment.

Increasing the amount of communication with students and staff is important to her, Kopper said. A plan to increase the amount of communication includes continuing the “Tea with the Chancellor” events held each month, starting a new monthly newsletter to give additional updates and increasing the amount of communication students and staff see from her cabinet members.

“This year, you’ll see messages from Jon Enslin about philanthropy, messages from Dr. [Roger] Pulliam about our campus culture, messages from Paige Reed about Title IX and certainly Provost [Susan] Elrod will continue her communications about academic affairs, just to name a few,” Kopper said. “We are here to serve you.”

A revised mission

Kopper also presented a proposed version of the university’s new mission statement, as the campus heads into the 2017-22 Strategic Plan. The revised mission statement, awaiting approval from the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, includes new language about the campus’ dedication to upholding the “Wisconsin Idea,” a philosophy embraced by the Board of Regents stating the importance of university contributions to solving problems that impact the state. Additional language includes the $407 million economic impact UW-W had on the southeastern Wisconsin region as of February 2016 and the university’s commitment to diversity initiatives.

“These are the guiding principles that will keep us focused on our students and their successes, while also supporting the growth and development of our faculty and staff,” Kopper said.

Goals for the university in the five-year strategic plan include improving student access and success, transform lives and have an impact on society and deepening the relationships between the university and their partners, to name a few.

The university’s current mission statement was approved in 2005.

In the early months of 2016, the university began holding forum sessions that students, faculty and staff were encouraged to attend to provide the university feedback on how it should adapt to changing demographics and the reduction of state aid by 60 percent since the 1990s, when the first strategic plan was created for a 10-year time period.

Then-interim provost John Stone led the forums.

The process of crafting a new strategic plan was serious – with the ’15-17 biennial budget that slashed 35 percent of the state’s funding for the university, the Higher Learning Commission was concerned about the university’s ability to balance its budget as the university was soon due for reaccreditation at that time.

150 years

The year 2018 will mark UW-W’s 150th year of higher education, as it started in 1868 as the Whitewater Normal School, graduating a class of teachers for the first time in 1870.

The university will kick off its sesquicentennial celebration on April 21, 2018, the day of its anniversary, with a gala, Kopper said.

Elrod is chairing the committee that is planning the sesquicentennial events, along with assistance from University Marketing and Communications Director Sara Kuhl, along with other students and staff.

“This is a major undertaking, to celebrate 150 years of excellence of this university,” Kopper said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to set the course for our future.”

Kopper said the university will also work toward fundraising and community service goals of $15 million (or the magic number of 150, times 100,000) and 150,000 hours of community service to be completed by students, faculty and staff.

Budget yet to be set

UW-W is welcoming students back to campus this week without a finalized budget from the Wisconsin State legislature.

There are some changes coming to the university proposed by the Joint Finance Committee, if the legislature finds its way to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk in a current or similar form that it takes now.

Kopper said there was indications that the budget may be wrapped up by the middle of September, but there are no guarantees.

“We will continue to operate as planned,” Kopper said.

The first is a two-plus-two payment plan for faculty and staff, one that Kopper has been advocating for for over a year.  If the budget is approved, the payment plan would go into effect in 2018 and 2019.

UW-W will also be entering its fifth year of a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students. The two prior budgets, ’13-15 and ’15-17, froze in-state tuition at under $4,000 a semester. The ’15-17 budget also cut 35 percent of the state funding given to UW-W’s instructional budget, forcing the university to raise out-of-state and graduate tuition by a couple hundred dollars during some of the semesters.

Because of the change in UW-W’s campus demographics and a growing population, Kopper said she has also lobbied for changes in how state money is allocated to each university, stating that UW-W’s funding lags behind those of other universities in the system.

The $25 million operating budget approved by the Board of Regents looks to allocate $2.1 million to UW-W, a million more than what is usually received.

“We have served more full-time students during the last several years than any institution in the system, other than, of course, Madison and Milwaukee,” she said. “We appreciate the additional financial support and the reinvestment in our university and our students, faculty and staff. As always, we will be excellent stewards of those state dollars.”

One of the options Kopper is considering for the additional $1 million in funds would be to resume awarding raises to faculty and staff members. However, based on projections that include the incoming class of 2021’s tuition, which is expected to be 200 students lower than the prior year, the university will still fall behind on funding in relation to other universities in the system.

“We’ve been analyzing this,” Kopper said. “We’re looking at that dip, and taking steps to reverse it … you can’t hit a homerun every time you come up to the plate.”

The budget, when passed, will require the Board of Regents to adopt a policy that would allocate $26 million in incentive funding to the different UW campuses for meeting goals that the legislature sets for the universities.

For now, segregated fees are still required of every student. Segregated fees, referred to as SUFAC, is a fee students pay each semester that goes toward funding student organizations. Walker proposed the idea in his first version of the ’17-19 budget, but was later dropped by the Joint Finance Committee.

The Board of Regents has been directed to revise their policies on segregated fees.

One of those revisions states that fees can no longer be given to organizations that include for-credit opportunities, like the Warhawk Marching Band. Kopper said she has chosen to fund those organizations centrally without using segregated fees.

“This will allow our students to receive the credit that they are expecting, and will give us time to determine the appropriate action, and what we need to do going forward,” Kopper said.