Chancellor Shields urges campus to dig in for 2018

February 2, 2018
Chancellor Shields

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields has been a leader in higher education for 35 years, and one thing he learned is that every year presents its own set of unplanned challenges and opportunities. When the UW System announced its restructuring plan in November 2017, the chancellor realized the integration as one of the things that will dominate 2018.

“Every year in higher education, something happens that was unexpected,” he said during his State of the University addresses. “Last year it was working with our legislators and advocates for the building projects. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else, so we embrace the challenges.”

UW-Platteville is in the process of a collaborative integration with two-year colleges UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and UW-Richland. Chancellor Shields delivered his annual address at all three campuses this week.

“We’re in the midst of this collaborative integration process,” he said. “We have some answers, and we are working through the issues. The spirit I am getting from the steering committee and the deans at UW-Platteville is that we are very excited about the opportunities.”

The merger, which officially occurs July 1, was one of three main topics the chancellor covered, with the other two being strategic planning and budget/enrollment updates.

“The great news is we are in pretty good shape,” said Chancellor Shields, who is in his eighth year at UW-Platteville. “We have challenges ahead, but I am confident we will address those challenges and continue to thrive as an institution.”

The UW-Platteville leader detailed the 2017-18 work plan initiatives that support the university’s strategic plan. They include important topics such as:
• Improve student learning
• Data-informed decision making
• Budget and planning
• Student success: retention
• Student success: recruitment
• Campus climate

In a year’s time, a new strategic plan will be drafted that not only incorporates UW-Platteville but UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and UW-Richland as well as the work plan that will guide the priorities.

“Part of my message is that I am taking this very seriously and I will be responsible,” he said. “We’re going to do this in collaborative manner, and we will control our own destiny.”

An example of controlling destiny comes from recruitment of prospective students, he said. Chancellor Shields pointed out that tuition (32 percent) and auxiliary services (25 percent), such as housing and dining, make up well more than half of the university’s operating budget. State aid now accounts for 12 percent.

“That shows how much we are driven by enrollment. For UW-Platteville and the two-year colleges, we have to drive our own revenue,” he said. “We have to be concerned about enrollment. All the other issues are smaller compared to this one.”

Chancellor Shields urged the university community to put the same efforts into the 2018 challenges as it did towards the 2017 building projects, which brought an unprecedented $95 million in capital projects to the university. The state legislature and Gov. Scott Walker approved plans for a new engineering building – Sesquicentennial Hall – as well as an addition to Williams Fieldhouse and renovations to the life science building, Boebel Hall. Chancellor Shields pointed out the collaborative efforts that engaged the campus community, alumni, business leaders, elected officials and more.

“That’s the approach we will use to make this university survive and thrive,” Chancellor Shields said. “We’re going to dig in and do that.”

Written by: Paul Erickson, Director, Communications, 608-342-1194, pr@uwplatt.edu

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