Chancellor’s remarks touch on variety of topics

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Thomas Harden opened his annual address to faculty and staff members at the 2011 fall convocation by reminding the nearly 500 employees in attendance their work is highly valued.

Chancellor Thomas Harden, convocation address“I often talk to students, and if you don’t think they understand how important you are, and how hard you work, come talk to me,” Harden said. “I can tell you stories of how much they deeply appreciate what you do, both faculty and staff.”

A brief video highlight reel of the University’s 2010-11 accomplishments was screened just before the Chancellor began his remarks.

Those many successes, Harden commented, demonstrate the benefits of remaining resilient in the face of serious institutional challenges.

“I’m very proud of this institution… we’ve come through some very tough times.”

He referenced the state of Wisconsin and UW System budgets. Cuts to education funding resulted in a $2.5 million base-budget reduction, about 11 percent, for UW-Green Bay. Through good fiscal management, new tuition revenue and timely application of reserves, however, a worst-case scenario will be avoided.

“Difficult, yes, but we are going to be able to handle the budget cuts without layoffs and loss of positions, which was a priority,” Harden said.

Harden spoke without a script and covered a wide range of subjects in his informal, 40-minute talk. Among the topics:

• He thanked those who supported the UW System’s call for greater management “flexibilities,” which ultimately won approval from the Legislature and governor. A block grant approach should be a plus, and the statutory $12,000 “overload cap” for faculty will be lifted a the end of the current biennium.

• Divisional and unit plans have been received and are being incorporated into a dynamic, Universitywide strategic plan.

• He said the University would begin immediate implementation of some of the recommendations of this year’s Graduate Education Task Force. While UW-Green Bay’s priority will continue to be undergraduate education, Harden said, the task force was on target in identifying reasons the current offerings are limited — not in quality, but in size and scope — and in suggesting possible avenues for expansion.

• The University must address head-on the community perception that the Weidner Center closed six years ago when the institution stepped back from being the primary programmer. “The Weidner Center didn’t ‘close’… we had 115 ushered events there last year,” Harden said, “but that’s the perception.” UW-Green Bay is working with consultants and stakeholders to develop a strategic plan to better maximize use of the facility.

• He invited faculty and staff members to participate this fall, as invited, in branding and marketing strategy sessions facilitated by the national firm Stamats. By better identifying its brand and unifying marketing efforts across the campus, UW-Green Bay should profit in the long run.

• The state’s new concealed-carry statutes permit schools and universities to prohibit weapons in campus buildings provided proper signage is posted. The University, as is likely at most if not all UW System institutions, intends to post such signs before the Nov. 1 effective date of the legislation.

• Harden said the institution would organize an internal “enrollment summit” to address changing demographics and college-going patterns among potential future enrollees.

• He suggested faculty and staff members would do well to familiarize themselves with negative critiques of higher education currently gaining traction in the popular press. Increasingly, critics are arguing against the value of four-year degrees, and questioning the ability of academia to deliver in efficient and effective fashion. The words “accountability” and “assessment” will be heard only more frequently.

There were also lighter moments during the Chancellor’s talk — at one point, he brushed away a single, persistent fly near the lectern, saying “This reminds me of what Kermit the Frog once said, ‘Time’s fun, when you’re having flies,’” — and he read a few items from the humorous Beloit College “new-freshman mindset list.”

The annual convocation included introduction of new employees and the presentation of the 2011 Founders Association Awards for Excellence.

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