Miller Convocation remarks: Challenges await but ‘the future is ours’
Chancellor Gary L. Miller painted a realistic yet forward-looking picture of the challenges and opportunities facing UW-Green Bay during his Mid-Year Convocation remarks Thursday, Jan. 22.
Speaking before faculty and staff members who assembled for the annual winter gathering, Miller offered updates on a variety of University activities and initiatives; addressed a bleak state budget picture; spoke about the future of shared governance and tenure; and concluded with a short-and longer-term look ahead.
“I am so excited about this place and its future,” Miller said. “The power we have to create our future through innovation, to transform the lives of many more students in this region by inviting them to join the extraordinary learning community, and to change this place to improve the human condition are limited only by our imagination. It is a great privilege to be your partner in this wonderful journey.”
Among the issues addressed:
Review of Activities and Initiatives
— Miller welcomed Provost Stephen Fritz, who began his new role in January. Praising Fritz’s academic and leadership background, Miller expressed confidence in the provost’s ability to lead during what will be an important time of transition for UW-Green Bay.
— The enrollment issue continues to be a challenge for UW-Green Bay, Miller said, but he praised progress that has been made (and thanked the majority of people present for their efforts in just a few short months) in analyzing enrollment’s effect on the budget; addressing various enrollment needs; and partnering with the Green Bay community. “We have much to do about enrollment,” Miller said, “and we’ll continue to look at this process. I’m very excited about where we are versus six months ago.”
— Miller also addressed his “Invent the Future” transition initiative and lauded the work of faculty and staff members who comprise its steering committee and working groups. The process will conclude during spring semester, leaving leadership with “a deep catalog of innovations and recommendations upon which we can draw as we shape our future.”
— Continuing with the theme of looking ahead, Miller spoke about the University’s new planning process, which will be guided in large part by the University Planning and Innovation Committee (UPIC). During spring semester, this group will take on an “ambitious curriculum” of learning about budgets, enrollments, the regulatory environment, athletics and other areas in an effort to inform better planning and allow the University a better strategic position in the years ahead.
The State Budget
Miller offered a sobering assessment of the state budget, noting that while concrete information is lacking, the UW System is likely to face a significant and potentially painful cut during the next biennium. Even as specifics remain unknown, Miller emphasized the need for a “strong, transparent and inclusive budget reduction and reallocation process.”
That process will be spearheaded by Provost Fritz, who will organize the development of recommendations for reductions and reallocations based on advice from numerous leaders and stakeholders. The UPIC will vet those recommendations before they are submitted to the Cabinet and ultimately himself, Miller said. Regular town hall-style meetings will be held to communicate activities, answer questions and get ideas.
“The coming round of reductions,” Miller said, “will not diminish this University or alter our course to greatness.”
Shared Governance and System Flexibility
Shared governance and tenure are likely to be moved from state statute, Miller said, with the authority for both transferred to the UW System Board of Regents. And while he said such a move is neither optimal nor desirable, Miller reiterated his steadfast support for both provisions and expressed his confidence that the change would not diminish shared governance or threaten tenure.
“These institutions are part of the higher education systems in all 50 states,” Miller said, “and continue to survive attempts to alter or dissolve them, primarily because everyone understands they are both essential to the capacity of this great enterprise.”
The chancellor also addressed efforts to secure increased flexibility for the UW System, clarifying certain aspects of the proposal while inviting those assembled to ask questions if they seek additional information.
Additional flexibilities won’t prevent drastic state budget cuts — “the fact is, the state budget’s in extremely bad shape,” Miller said — but it will be beneficial in the long term as the Board of Regents, not the Legislature, guides UW System recovery and growth in the future. Miller is a “strong supporter” of obtaining the additional flexibilities, he said.
‘The Future is Ours’
Miller concluded his address on a high note, reiterating the powers of transformation, innovation and place and looking ahead to UW-Green Bay’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
“The excitement of this celebration is what will take us into the next half century,” Miller said. “The thrill of designing a future for this University. The possibility of even greater things to come. These are the things I think about every day, and when I talk to you, this is what I hear coming back from you.
“And I am so fortunate to be with you on this great journey. Let’s have a great year — it’s a New Year — and Go Phoenix!”