Chancellor’s Update: Creating Positive Change In An Uncertain Time

Dear Faculty and Staff,

What a time of momentous change the last year has been. In the recent two weeks, I have given several major talks about disruption and change in higher education, including to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, UWM Board of Visitors, and at our Oct. 27th virtual town hall meeting for faculty and staff. In the same period, I have shared with regional and national audiences how we are responding to these changes.

Even before the pandemic, chronic environmental forces requiring different approaches in higher education were well documented:  Demographic changes underlying declining enrollments, state funding cuts, tuition freezes, costs of college and concerns with the overall direction of higher education were just a few of those forces. Today, we recognize greater uncertainty about physical and mental health and safety, further increased costs, needs to align with student and employer needs, and major societal inequities and unrest, among other things.

Accordingly, the future of higher education will be shaped by actions in four areas as shown below in one of the slides I have been sharing with internal and external constituents.

We Determine Our Own Future
While some may look at these challenges and despair, I ask you to join me in recognizing that while COVID-19 has created a new world, one full of change, there are also opportunities that can be seized. As I have said many times, UWM’s future – yours, mine, and our students’ and communities’— will be shaped by how we address the pandemic and decisions we make about what UWM will be in this new world.We are ahead of the game in many ways thanks to your hard work, perseverance and forward-looking efforts. The outlook we face is challenging but we have the right people to tackle the changes needed to thrive in a forever-changed world.Take a look at what we have done already. This is no small list of accomplishments and work that is underway.
  • Knowing significant change was needed, we launched Think Tank 2030 with recommendations created last year, and the Implementation Team’s work is underway as I write this. Co-leads Kathleen Dolan and Mark Harris shared the first of what will be many regular 2030 Implementation Team updates. Dr. Dolan is a Distinguished Professor, Political Science in the College of Letters and Science, and Chair of University Committee. Dr. Harris is the Vice Provost for Research, Office of Research.
  • As an important Think Tank goal, we are creating a radically welcoming culture for students.
  • We have taken action on an array of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts: listening sessions, mandatory antiracism and anti-bias training, Region of Choice commitment, processes to enhance selection, retention and development of diverse staff, and UWM diversity history book.
  • We have bolstered partnerships by leading or co-leading the Higher Education Regional Alliance, M-cubed and creating new ones, like Moon Shot for Equity.
  • We have greatly advanced and enhanced our already prevalent online delivery.
  • We have raised and distributed greater amounts for emergency funds and increased need-based financial aid for students.
  • We are reviewing our academic alignment and structure.
  • We have prepared personalized responses to concerns.
  • We are implementing robust efforts to retain and recruit students; intensive relationship-building is underway.
  • And, we are launching intensified student recruitment and targeting non-traditional learners.

Your efforts matter on a very large scale. Wisconsin needs UWM more than ever as we emerge from this pandemic. As the most recent example of our impact and value, our facilities, police, safety, health, student services and administrative staff have pulled together in little more than a week to provide coronavirus surge testing to all students, employees and community members. Facing the most severe public health emergency in a century, UWM stood up to make a difference and save lives.

What you do every day bolsters the core of democracy. Our faculty and instructors create a citizenry that thinks critically. Our researchers solve societal issues. Our advisors and many others help prepare our students for highly-skilled work, filling the state’s talent pipeline. Countless individuals do their part to preserve our dual mission and advance our collaborative work. Yes, the outlook we face is challenging but it’s clear to me that we have the right people to tackle the changes needed to thrive in a forever-changed world.

I’ll continue to provide updates, as will the Provost and the 2030 group, and there will be ample opportunity to share input during the implementation phase of the plans. In the meantime, I encourage you to listen to my November Chancellor’s Report radio show on WUWM about our progress with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus. Joan Prince, Vice Chancellor for Global Inclusion and Engagement joined me for this important update to our communities.

Best Regards,

Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee