UW-Baraboo/Sauk County (copy) (copy) (copy)

With change comes tremendous and unlimited potential for opportunities. As chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, that is how I view the integration of our campus with UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County.

In order to thrive, collaboration is key as we enhance existing partnerships and develop new relationships with stakeholders on the campuses and in the communities. We must do what is necessary to ensure that student success is paramount and these campuses thrive.

UW-Platteville’s connections with school districts and businesses in Richland Center and Baraboo/Sauk County only will amplify the strong existing partnerships. Working together and engaging each student, I know we can do great things together. The new alignment will provide a great number of benefits for our students, faculty and staff and UW-Platteville endeavors to have all campuses thrive as a result.

I view both UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, like UW-Platteville, as stewards of place; meaning, as institutions of higher education, the campus serves the needs of the region. Many of our students are first-generation and many come from modest means. Our common mission, as access institutions, will remain and guide our discussions and collaborative efforts. All of our institutions serve an important role and that will continue and likely expand.

However, a change in structure, as proposed in the realignment, leads to many questions and a level of uncertainty. Let me reassure you, I and my team are committed to working with and communicating to the campuses and community leaders as we unravel these questions and concerns. In the coming months, I will meet and listen to these constituencies so I understand the concerns. In return, I commit to providing communication about the progress. I value the opinions of everyone involved. Together, we will develop a structure that seeks opportunities, values collaboration and develops solutions for our students’ and communities’ needs.

Engaging the community is vital. That is why I immediately scheduled visits to UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo upon the UW System Board of Regents’ vote to approve the new alignment. I, along with my vice chancellors, visited both campuses last month and had productive dialogue with campus representatives and community leaders. Open and honest conversations are crucial to the success of this transition.

We have since formed a transition team, consisting of a project team, steering committee and subsequent subcommittees of representatives from all three colleges. They will work through issues associated with structure, finance and administration, academic affairs, student success, recruitment and admissions, and external and community relations.

As we move along, my focus is in assuring:

  • Current students’ needs are well-served;
  • Faculty and staff and their governance groups will be heard;
  • I engage and am responsive to the external stakeholders in both communities who have made a significant investment in infrastructure, time and energy for these campuses.

As pioneers, we embrace this opportunity to work for a legacy where we all thrive.

To the students — your success is central to this venture. Creating academic success has been the core mission at UW-Platteville since 1866, and we want to ensure continued success for all three institutions during this transition and beyond.

Together, we will be stronger.

Dennis J. Shields is chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He can be reached at 608-342-1234 or shieldsd@uwplatt.edu.