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Chancellor talks salaries, enrollment, learning

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Chancellor Tom Harden touched on University-related news, achievements and challenges in opening the academic year with remarks at the annual August convocation of faculty and staff on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Chancellor Tom Harden, Fall Convocation 2013During his presentation to an audience of about 500, the chancellor showed a five-minute video (see video) summarizing the many highlights of the 2012-2013 academic year.

While acknowledging budgetary and other challenges, he urged employees to take pride in making a difference in students’ lives: “We’ve had a great year, and I’m fully confident we’ll have a great year coming up.”

He addressed the 50 or so new employees by noting that he, too, made a conscious choice only a few years ago with his wife, Cathy, to join the UW-Green Bay and Green Bay communities — a choice he has never regretted. “I want to tell you that you’ve chosen a phenomenal institution with wonderful people,” Harden greeted the newcomers.

He then shared observations on:

Employee compensation — Harden said recent steps to adjust salaries for the UW-Green Bay employees with the largest gaps from the medians in their respective fields was “the right thing to do,” and a move in the right direction: “It’s not all we will do, as time goes on, but it’s a really good start.” The University awarded modest increases to about 40 percent of its workforce, with recipients identified through a comprehensive review by an outside consultant. Harden says the institution will seek to address those next in line for adjustments over the coming year. UW-Green Bay and its employees had seen at least five years pass without a pay plan increase — a stretch broken by this year’s 1% raise from the state — with relatively few individual market adjustments awarded during that time. The result, both statewide and here, is a UW System workforce compensated, on average, nearly 20 percent below peer institutions. Harden says finding the money for the raises is a challenge, requiring reallocation of existing resources, but “we have to do it, so we can pay people.”

Enrollment — The Chancellor said UW-Green Bay officials have long anticipated that the recent demographic trend of smaller high-school graduating classes would have an impact. This fall, with a projected final enrollment of around 6,500, the total headcount will be 4 percent below last year’s total. While it’s his impression that some other colleges and universities are also experiencing declines, UW-Green Bay’s is significant. A smaller pool of high school grads is only one factor, Harden said, noting that UW-Green Bay has had record success over the last few years in graduating students. (Good news, but the unprecedented large graduating classes require a corresponding gain in new freshmen and transfers just to stay level.) Harden said the Admissions Office will adjust its recruiting plans, the institution must work to increase the “capture rate” for Green Bay-area students who enroll elsewhere, and a summer planning retreat yielded positive strategies.

Diversity — Harden reported a bright spot regarding enrollment: UW-Green Bay will enroll the most diverse freshman class in its history. About 13 percent of the new freshmen are students of color.

Branding and marketing — “The branding initiative has been a positive,” Harden said, referencing both anecdotal response and data showing the “360° of Learning” message is resonating. “It’s still early … obviously, because of when it started, it wasn’t going to have much influence on the (fall 2013) class … I’m optimistic it will have a huge impact as we move forward.” He said the University would pursue a more integrated approach to institutional marketing and communication. He offered a look at short promotional clips already being seen in the Madison, Milwaukee, Appleton and Green Bay markets. The videos will be projected 7,200 times at movie theaters across the state over the next few months, appearing pre-movie along with the trailers and other messages.

Capital campaign planning — The UW-Green Bay Foundation Inc. is functioning effectively in only its second year, Harden said, and board members are knowledgeable about the University’s needs and supportive of its priorities. Plans for a capital campaign — which will include an academics and scholarships component, long-term support for the revitalized Weidner Center, and a revamp of outdoor recreation facilities — are beginning to take shape. The Chancellor noted that some of Green Bay’s leading civic and industry figures have committed to assist. “I have no doubt we will meet our goals,” Harden said, adding, “The (community) people who are involved in this … whenever they’re involved in something, it’s successful.”

New programs — There’s a stereotype — not always inaccurate — that change in academia arrives at a glacial pace, but Harden said an objective review of the last few years at UW-Green Bay would show significant changes in curriculum, learning technology and approaches to teaching. He pointed to a recent example, the entitlement to begin new programs in engineering technology. He praised the Faculty Senate for supporting the programs, pending further input as funding, logistical and curriculum issues are resolved and the multi-institution partnership moves forward. “This has great potential for Northeast Wisconsin,” Harden said. “Business and industry people are excited about this.”

Harden opened his remarks by reminding employees of the essential value of their work with today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders.

He quoted the proclamation signed by every UW-Green Bay chancellor, and stored as a scroll inside the handle of the ceremonial mace (www.uwgb.edu/inauguration/mace.asp) used at commencement and other special academic functions:

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is dedicated to the idea of an educated person as one who is guided by the love of learning, committed to inquiry, creativity and scholarship through interdisciplinary and disciplinary approaches to defining and solving problems, and who is an active citizen providing service to the community.

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