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Forums followup

Faculty, students and staff,

Chancellor Carolyn 'Biddy' Martin

Chancellor Carolyn 'Biddy' Martin

In December and January, many of you contributed ideas on how we can be a more effective and efficient university, even in this challenging economic climate.

I’m writing to provide an update on the suggestions you offered and to thank you for your thoughtfulness. Many people attended our four campuswide brainstorming sessions, and others contributed ideas on our blog.

We received dozens of suggestions, ranging from very specific ideas to broader principles for decision-making practices. All of these ideas, in the spirit of cooperation during difficult budget times, demonstrate the creativity and commitment to quality and service that are hallmarks of the culture at UW-Madison. Not all ideas are cost-saving measures; our interest was in collecting ideas to improve our institution overall. I was excited to see that the forums and Web blog generated so many great ideas.

As you might imagine, we are acting on a number of your ideas and considering future actions on others. What follows on this page are examples of the ideas that came in, with some information about what we already have under way to address some of the suggestions and what we’re doing to begin working on additional suggestions.

In addition to what we present below, know that we are working to match ideas generated at the forums and from the Web blog to priorities in our emerging campus Strategic Framework. The framework is the outgrowth of many conversations and self-study activities conducted by colleagues from across campus through the campus Reaccreditation Project. You will be hearing more soon about the Stategic Framework and the reaccreditation site team’s April visit to campus.

Please stay in touch and know that your suggestions are welcome at any time. This is an ongoing process, so I urge your continued participation. Thank you for your commitment to this amazing university.

Carolyn “Biddy” Martin Chancellor

Affordability and Access to UW-Madison

Need-based financial aid is a top priority for us. We are committed to ensuring that academically talented students from families with low and median incomes are able to attend UW-Madison. The UW Foundation has made it a top fundraising priority in its “Great People. Great Place.” campaign, and both the UW Foundation board and the UW Credit Union have been instrumental in growing need-based financial aid resources. Faculty and academic staff leaders championed the internal campaign to raise money for financial aid and will continue with a broader target audience this year, strengthening support for undergraduate and graduate student funding.

Based on your suggestions, we are also looking into increasing student employment opportunities and enhancing capacity to provide emergency financial assistance to students in need.

Streamlining and Improving Administrative Processes

We have a campuswide initiative called the Administrative Process Redesign project, which is designed to improve our processes in areas such as purchasing and grants administration. More information is available at the APR Web site.

A related area that many people identified as ripe for potential savings and improvements is information technology. You suggested rethinking or centralizing our IT structure, improving our infrastructure, standardizing systems and practices, and using technology to help streamline our processes campuswide.

Ron Kraemer, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, and colleagues across campus are developing a new information technology strategic plan. The planning process, which has engaged hundreds of people to identify needs and improvements, will be released soon. It will address many of the ideas suggested during the forums.

There is, no doubt, a need to further rethink and re-examine the balance of centralized versus decentralized functions to improve administrative processes. We look forward to future conversations about this, knowing that these conversations will not be easy, but that they are vital if we are to sustain the quality of our research and educational enterprise.

Environmental Sustainability

Many also urged a heightened environmental commitment. On this issue, we are active on many fronts. We are designing new buildings to LEED standards. New energy systems are being designed, and old systems are being refurbished for sustainability. A variety of incentives and options are being offered to encourage people to drive less. Our We Conserve program aims to reduce energy use per square foot by 20 percent by 2010. Campus units have been urged to reduce paper, printing and mailing by increasing use of electronic communication.

But we believe we can and will do more. The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies is launching an interdisciplinary effort to engage faculty, staff and students in improving the environment on campus. We also are pursuing suggestions made for closing buildings during down times, turning off computers at night, printing on both sides of paper and other measures. Competition to conserve energy may be one way to save. The Web blog contains many more specific suggestions for us to consider and act upon now.

Curricular Issues

Concerns also emerged about courses, program duplication, degrees and credits. Concrete suggestions included ideas for streamlining requirements, reducing time to degree, giving students different options, reducing the load for undergraduate courses taught at Madison and lessening bottlenecks.

We are asking the deans, the University Committee, the Divisional Committees and the University Academic Planning Council to explore these interrelated concerns and find ways to ensure quality for students and that our resources are spent wisely. Where possible, we will identify courses that can be consolidated, create increased flexibility in offerings for students and grow access for nontraditional learners. We are continuing to create more efficiencies, while improving quality, through the increased use of technology.

Enhancing Teaching and Learning

A variety of ideas emerged on enhancing teaching and learning. We’re considering expanding our entrepreneurial learning community, recognizing that our economic environment and future depends upon the creativity and entrepreneurial initiative of our graduates.

We also are adding more research opportunities to our curricular and residential learning communities, improving the quality of instruction provided by our teaching assistants, infusing more technology into our courses to improve instruction, planning new buildings with common space to encourage interaction, and making the campus a welcoming place for veterans.

We have also launched a common-book project, Go Big Read, an effort to engage students, faculty, staff and the community in a shared learning opportunity.

Textbook Costs

The burdensome cost of textbooks was also raised as a problem, and one that we are deeply concerned about as well. We are seeking more open-source and online-access learningmaterialsto reduce textbook costs. We also will digitize more learning materials to save money and protect theenvironment. Additionally, we hope to encourage low-cost textbook swap programs. As another measure, we are exploring creation of a fund to support faculty who are willing to create public-domain textbooks and learning materials.

Diversity and Climate

Increasing diversity is a top priority, and we’re working now on a campuswide diversity plan. It is imperative that we grow the diversity of students, faculty and staff and engage the entire campus in that process. As a part of the plan, we’ll assess the diversity programs currently in place, identify opportunities for improvement, and create mechanisms for measurement and accountability. We are also taking steps to ensure that LTEs are utilized appropriately, providing classified staff with development opportunities and providing training for people to work in diverse groups.

Wisconsin Idea

Some said that UW-Madison could better connect with Wisconsin citizens and address their needs. This is a key component of our mission. We are collaborating with the city of Madison to provide outreach programs; improving our communications with citizens, businesses and government leaders; increasing the number of business startups from knowledge created here — including student company startups; and connecting students with Wisconsin through research and service projects. The Wisconsin Idea Project also developed a searchable database that includes information about the many ways in which UW-Madison faculty, staff and students work with others throughout the state to solve problems and enhance the quality of life.

Other Suggestions

Finally, you also offered many specific suggestions that appear relatively easy to implement, and we are exploring many of them, including:

  • Implementing more direct deposits, and using technology versus mailings as much as possible
  • Converting from point-to-point phone lines to multi-point
  • Using technology more for learning materials and learning opportunities
  • Engaging retirees in helping with students, fundraising and other activities
  • Standardizing software wherever possible
  • Reconsidering portion sizes in food services, and adjusting costs accordingly
  • Using more local food
  • Engaging students in conservation and sustainability
  • Monitoring heating and cooling to save energy
  • Considering telecommuting and other means to minimize driving
  • Standardizing the ordering of supplies
  • Creating a system for petty cash to reduce processing time
  • Considering revenue-generating ideas
  • Encouraging student organizations to generate savings and keep a portion
  • Making it easy for people to find policies, best practices and guides