University of Wisconsin Stout | Wisconsin's Polytechnic University
That’s how employers describe UW-Stout graduates. Our innovative, career-focused degrees combine applied learning and the liberal arts.
That’s how employers describe UW-Stout graduates. Our innovative, career-focused degrees combine applied learning and the liberal arts.
Doug Mell: Welcome to another edition of About Stout. I am joined again by Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen. Welcome, Chancellor.
Chancellor Sorensen: Good to be here.
Mell: Later we’ll be joined by Diane Moen, UW-Stout’s vice chancellor for Administrative and Student Life Services. I thought we’d start today by talking about a new agreement that we are entering into with University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Northwest Wisconsin Technical College. It’s a very innovative program; it’s to provide our manufacturing-engineering program over in the Fox Valley. Do you want to talk about that briefly?
Sorensen: I do. I think it’s a good example of collaboration between the tech system between the two UW System schools like Green Bay and Stout. We know there is a demand over there in the manufacturing sector.
Mell: What exactly is manufacturing?
Sorensen: Well typically we think of the Rust Belt manufacturing, we think of the old auto companies, but manufacturing is very high tech and everything we use and is manufactured in some way. Well they have a lot of manufacturing over there, both traditional and high-tech and they need engineers to understand those processes. They don’t have a program there, they don’t have any engineering in that area. So we have agreed to work with the technical college in Green Bay to provide the first two years of the program, the pre-engineering-.
Mell: They’ll provide the basic stuff.
Sorensen: The math the calculus, the general education. Then we’ll move in the last two years and actually send people over there and staff the program so a person can complete the program in the Green Bay area, and not have to travel to UW-Stout. It’s a good example of what ______ and _______ is talking about, the growth agenda, providing the opportunity to grow with jobs; the governor with his vision for Wisconsin is the very same thing and we’re a part of that as every other school is, so for us to reach out beyond Menomonie, Dunn County, the region to serve that, I think it’s very, very important.
Mell: And that’s part of our mission. It’s always part of the UW’s mission as well, the whole idea of the boundaries of the UW are the boundaries of the state of Wisconsin, but this is going to be a stretch for us. This is going to be something new, correct?
Sorensen: It’ll be new. We’ll be 200-300 miles away delivering the program. We’ll have staff over there. We’ll also use probably an interactive television hour, probably use virtual classes once in a while. There’ll be a combination of delivering systems; it’s two years out right now, so we have a lot of time to plan this, but we’ll deliver it there so they need not come here.
Mell: They will be UW-Stout students?
Sorensen: Yes they will be.
Mell: And you’re going to have to go over there and give them their diplomas? (Laughing)
Sorensen: You bet I will. We’ll invite them back; we’ll invite them back. I go to a Packer game, give them diplomas, the whole thing.
Mell: And there is demand- I would assume that they came to us and said that they need to provide these services, this engineering program and how can you do it?
Sorensen: That’s right. The industrial people came to the UW and the tech school saying how do you help us here? We have a need for engineers, we have qualified people in-house to take those courses, we have 18-year-olds who want to stay here and become engineers in Green Bay, how do we do this, so it’s unique; it’s different. It’ll be a stretch, but clearly we’re up to it and clearly this program is needed over there.
Mell: And I assume it’s also good for the two institutions over there; they keep those students at home rather than those students having to come here.
Sorensen: Well the whole idea-
Mell: Or go to Madison or somewhere else.
Sorensen: That’s right; it’s brain gain; I mean they go to school there, chances are that these are the young people who want to stay in the Green Bay area to work, raise families etc., so it’s good for the Green Bay area too.
Mell: Well that’s good. I thought we’d also talk a little bit about next month is our one year anniversary of the polytechnic designation. March 9 of last year was when the Board of Regents designated us Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. We talked a lot about that, but we do have a celebration planned for on campus for March 11 which is just on the other side of the designation date. Can you talk a little bit about, looking back last year, we’ll devote About Stout to solely in about a month, but how you’ve used this designation to promote the university?
Sorensen: Well it’s really interesting because we spent a lot of time vetting this on campus, a lot of discussion on this, a lot of open meetings, a lot of questions we had to answer in a positive way and we did, and it’s good for who we are. We’ve used this, number one I think now, framing ourselves differently. We’re using this as a prism to look at the future, so our planning process is all something ends of a polytechnic, so we want to, we have at least four major legs to a stool. One is a research center- we’re looking for funding for that, the discovery center. We’re beefing up the honors program, we’re going to have a bigger honors program than we’ve had before, a lot of money in that program. We’re looking at an ethic center; we’re an inch away from having a very good endowment for a center for the study of ethics, and we’re looking at continuing the incubation center for new program ideas. So that is the framework for the polytechnic. Then beyond that, you’re very involved with this, developing new materials for marketing, for advertising, for branding; I’ve just talked to the Outreach staff today; we’re putting together a national conference of polytechnics for either summer or sometimes after September, I’m not sure which. We have a half a dozen polys throughout the country who are interested in doing this; they’re buying into this, we’ll have maybe the beginning of a national-.
Mell: And that organization doesn’t exist?
Sorensen: Doesn’t exist now and we have Arizona State in partnership with us, our IT in partnership with us. We have two or three others, well-known polys, small groups that get together and say why should we meet? How are our needs different than other schools? And how do we really vet those issues clearly? So all of our new publications that will be coming out now will all be the polytechnic designation. We are seeing increased interest in this for donors to our campus, so the whole thing is now taking legs, so it just takes a while to get this off the ground, but from now on there’s a lot of momentum on this; you see a lot of changes now taking place.
Mell: One of the things I’d like to talk about is the recently implemented realignment plan, and it’ll take effect officially on July 1, but obviously you’re very involved in the buildup to that. Can you talk a little bit about how that’s going? Some of the nitty-gritty behind it?
Sorensen: As we talked about the polytechnic, we began to talk about program realignment, and we had talked about program alignment on several occasions before the polytechnic came along, but here was a chance to look at how does this differ than it did before, and there are differences. You know, we’re looking now at, real focused on engineering and science, how the two relate, collaborative programs like cognitive neuroscience. We’re looking at biosomething, we’re looking at nanotechnology and biotechnology. We’re looking at new programs in social sciences, a new MFA program, we’re looking at a lot that encompasses the polytechnic university and goes beyond that to broader course offerings. So I believe that indeed, this is going to be a road to our future, a very healthy one, a very exciting one, and a lot of buy-in on this stuff right now.
Mell: Well that’s good. How this search is coming-.
Sorensen: One more thing about the realignment though, what we have done is not dramatically different. We’re going to have a STEM college which will be science, technology, engineering and mathematics, so that’s a different alignment. We’re going to have a college of management- a different alignment.
Mell: Something you’ve wanted for a long time.
Sorensen: A long, long time. We’re going to have a College of Education and Human Sciences, and a College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. But within that, we’ve aligned programs that should have been aligned a long time ago that have curricular coherents together, and within the colleges we’ll be able to really focus sharply on our real strengths. Within a college of STEM, have a school of engineering perhaps. Within management have a school of hospitality and tourism to really highlight those uniquenesses that we should really brag about and highlight that’ll help us in fundraising, that’ll help us to gather, or rather to recruit students, to recruit faculty and staff. You mentioned (9:11 on CD) fundraising and that’s a nice segue to my next question. You obviously have a new vice-chancellor for the advancement of marketing. His job is to raise money…
Sorensen: Big money.
Mell: How’s that effort going, and are you pleased with the progress we’ve made?
Sorensen: Well first of all, I am pleased, number one. But Dave Williams is a consummate professional. He worked here about a decade then left right after I arrived here in 1988, went to Ripon College as their vice president for advancement , became interim president for a while, then to Mankato and back to us. So he is truly steeped in fundraising activities. He’s very professional. He understands donor relationships, he’s cultivating those already. And I’ve challenged Dave to go out and seek a lot of money. I’ve challenged him to raise our endowment from about $30 million today to $75 million in 2015. That’s a stretch goal, but a good stretch goal. We have identified clients out there who are willing to really give us a lot of money. And we’ll be announcing within- this is February 13, probably within a month of at least three gifts worth $5 million, and that’s cash, those aren’t second life annuities. That’s money in the bank.
Mell: Promise money.
Sorensen: Yup, no this is real money. And I think that’s just the beginning of what we can expect to see over the next five years in fundraising. What we’ve discovered is, and we’ve all known this for a long time, the generation of wealth out there that can be transferred is enormous, and we’ve identified some donors now that have that kind of wealth that can reshape the school significantly.
Mell: And obviously a large part of that is just because of the kind of graduates we have, where 97 percent of our graduates go out working right away in very successful careers, over time they’re going to build that kind of equity-.
Sorensen: Well Doug, I got a letter yesterday from one of our graduates. He’s a professor at a western school and his family has given us money for scholarships, but he wrote to me saying you’re on the exact right track for the polytechnic, and I’m going to dedicate more of my family wealth to support UW-Stout in the future. And that’s the kind of support we have out there, those who like what we’re doing know the future is in this direction for us. They are willing to step up and help us develop that dream.
Mell: Okay, the last thing I’d like to talk about very briefly is the visioning session that we have scheduled for July. This is all part of our strategic planning process to establish new goals. What do you hope to- talk a little bit about what the visioning session is and then briefly, what you hope to come out of it.
Sorensen: Well first of all, we have a very robust planning process, the most robust planning process I’ve ever seen in higher education and we do a lot of consulting because of the Baldrige and we have the most comprehensive and probably the best. Secondly, this is our second major external stakeholder visioning session.
Mell: So people come in here.
12:15 Sorensen: They come in here; we’ll invite about 120, hope to get 80 to 100 in all walks of life. Our graduates, politicians, we have eight or nine educators, etc. Our students will be involved; our faculty will be involved. What we hope to come out of this is, are we in the right direction? Have we identified the right tracks for Stout in the future? We’ll share with them what we’re talking about doing, share with them the ideas of the polytechnic where we are going on in the new program ideas and ask the question, “how would you modify this?” Or “how would you add to this or subtract from that?” And these are sharp people. They’re bright; they’re professionals; they’ve been out in the world for 20, 30 years and they’ll give us very good advice. What we hope to come out of this is sharpening our focus on where we’re going as a campus, and I think we will. It worked in 2001 and it’ll work this time as well, but it’s great to see external supporters who come and give us a different look at who we are- different eyes looking at us and saying “yes” or “no” or “maybe” or “change this” or “add that.”
Mell: Well thank you. We’re going to take a short break and then we’re going to be joined by Vice Chancellor Moen.
Mell: We’re back with the second half of the show; this time we’re joined by Vice Chancellor Diane Moen, and I thought briefly, why don’t you talk a little bit about how long you’ve been at Stout, you know, what offices you have held, some of your background; why don’t you tell us a bit?
Diane Moen: Well Doug, today is my 30th work anniversary.
Mell: Well happy anniversary.
Moen: Yes, I started in 1978 fresh out of college.
Mell: Seems just like yesterday, doesn’t it?
Moen: Well I couldn’t believe it was 30 years, but I started in the budget area and really have stayed in that. I’ve been the controller at Stout, been the assistant chancellor for budget and planning and now the vice chancellor, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to be a part of fun changes here at the university and seen some exciting things going on.
Mell: Over 30 years. Wow. Why don’t you talk a little bit about- you have a lot of departments under you, a lot of areas that you’re concerned with- why don’t you talk a little bit about some of the main areas that your office oversees and that kind of a brief description of those?
Moen: Well we have six major units in Administrative and Student Life Services and kind of what we say in our division is if we’re doing our job right we’re kind of the invisible services there.
Mell: Kind of like a baseball umpire right? You don’t want to be noticed.
Moen: If we’re doing a good job, we’re not noticed; that’s right. 15:00The units we have are budgets planning and analysis. They do all of our operating budget we have for the university, which is very important as well.
Mell: They’re involved in the visioning session we talked about in the first half.
Moen: They will coordinate the visioning session. They help graduate and undergraduate students with their research projects if they would like that type of help. They work on our capital projects, so when the chancellor talked about Jarvis project a few weeks ago, they helped us get authorization for that project. The business office also reports to me, and that’s the office that pays our vendors so that our services continue-; our lights stay on, that type of thing. And then they also collect tuition from the students.
Mell: That’s also very important.
Moen: And we collect about $40 million in tuition each year, so it’s a major part of our budget. Human Resources reports to me, so that’s who pays us, the payrolling, the issuing of contracts.
Mell: That’s extremely important. (Laughing)
Sorensen: She’s critical.
Moen: So we have about 1,100 student employees on campus. It’s almost equal to our faculty and our support staff. And of those 1,100, about 900 of them work in my division, primarily in dining services or residence halls, so we do provide a lot of support to students through the payroll system. We have the health and safety department, which is student health, police services. Again, an area that has growing importance dealing with some of the drinking issues on campus, the mental health issues, that type of thing.
Mell: And also, in something I’m involved in, the emergency planning area; obviously in the wake of Virginia Tech, that’s a major concern. Actually we’re planning a show in a couple of months just to talk about that and what we’ve had planned with the new person we hired.
Moen: We are going to be testing in the next couple of weeks using our e-mail system to see if we can get an emergency message out to all staff and students on campus, and what kind of response there is to that, so I think that’ll be interesting to see. Physical Plant is the people who take care of the grounds, the buildings, kind of the engineers on campus, develop the CADs, that type of thing. Then finally we have Student Life Services which is housing, dining, the Memorial Student Center- really a lot of those kinds of living arrangements that our students have here, so a lot of important kind of functions, but they are definitely behind the scenes.
Mell: Do you ever feel overwhelmed? I mean, that’s a lot. I mean, if you don’t do your job well, there’s a lot of areas on campus that suffer.
Sorensen: She always wants more.
Moen: Well, it’s really critical we make good hires and we’ve talked about that a lot, finding people with both experience and education to do their job. And I should mention one of the new functions the chancellor gave us this past year was the environmental sustainability half-time position. The chancellor signed the President’s Commitment on Climate and so we’re really, we’ve got a steering group18:17 going on campus; there’s a lot of interest from faculty and staff on how we can be more sustainable.
Mell: A lot of people don’t know; we’re the most energy-efficient campus in the system.
Moen: And have been for two decades.
Mell: Why do you think that is?
Moen: Our physical plant is very attuned to maintaining equipment, sealing windows if there’s issues with that, trying to keep our energy management system up to speed. We’re requesting a digital system now, so that’ll make us even more energy efficient. The people at Madison say that the employees and the students at Stout care about this campus, and therefore we’ll see people who will turn off the lights when they leave a room or make sure a door is shut, and for the number of buildings we have, that’s critical. It makes a lot of difference.
Mell: How has your particular job changed over the years? I assume it hasn’t gotten less complex, has it?
Moen: You know, I shouldn’t admit this, but when I started at Stout, there was no such thing as desktop computers.
Moen: Unfortunately, one of the ways my job has changed is technology.
Mell: You don’t go back to the abacus.19:31
Moen: I don’t know how to use that thing, no. Or a slide rule.
Mell: Or the cards you put into the computers.
Moen: That’s true. How my job has changed is now what it’s about is building relationships on campus and really finding out ways to work effectively with the leadership team to get things done. Always keeping in mind what the priorities of the campus are; we’re all tuned in to the poly initiative- the initiative of really using technology. We want to make sure that’s in our division as well so students can pay for their tuition online. We have our shops at Stout, online store, which are coming up selling different products. So that’s a major change. I think, you know, it’s just really changed from having a job to do that was very detailed, to be more involved with people and learning how to motivate and get things done.
Sorensen: I’ll just add that you have to have a person like Diane on campus because the budgets are tight, and I think since I’ve worked with you, over 10 years or something like that, she’s been very creative in trying to find ways to maximize how we spend money, maximize our relationship with the UW System to set targets that are realistic for us with the UW, we have been very fortunate too, in a very creative way, it’s a very creative division over here, to find new sources of money that we can utilize for the entire campus.
Mell: And I imagine how you interact with that office has changed over the years, too, as budgets have gotten tighter, but also, running the university has gotten more complex.
Sorensen: I just say Diane, I need more money for this project. Where do you find it?
Moen: I think the converse is true, too. The chancellor understands the holistic view of the campus that there is more than teaching. Obviously, that’s the most important part, but he is supportive of Physical Plant so that we can remain energy efficient, and supportive of the environmental sustainability and other types of social issues, so that’s very important to us.
Mell: Talk a little bit about how the budget process- you talked before about the budget and the chancellor’s talked about the tight financial times which we always seem to be in- but how the budget process works, and how decreasing state aid has affected that.
Moen: Well, when I started here, and up to about a decade ago, the state provided us about 50 percent of our funding for the campus. That was kind of the rule of thumb, when we looked at all the different funding sources, and now we’re down around 25 percent state funding. So that’s a big gap and I don’t think that that’s going to go away, so as the chancellor has said, we have to look for new revenue sources which might be the customized instruction, taking that and delivering it off site. He was talking about some of that in the earlier segment. Unfortunately, we’ve seen tuition go up, probably not unreasonably. We’re still very affordable compared to other states, but the students have had to pay more for their tuition. Because when you look at the funding sources for our campus, it’s primarily tax dollars and student tuition. Obviously, foundation is very critical to that for scholarships, grant writing is very critical.
Mell: But the foundation doesn’t help keep the lights on.
Mell: You can’t call Dave Williams up and say I need $2 million, because that’s not what donors want to give it for.
Sorensen: They provide that margin of excellence for us- things we couldn’t do without private dollars.
Moen: So, we’ve had to become more efficient as a campus. Our administrative efficiency has always been low. The chancellor asked that we keep that low. We have looked so that, again, our charges to students have not gotten out of line with other campuses. But certainly we’ve had to give up doing some things we’ve done in the past. We used to have staff devoted to optimal health activities, for example, and now that’s done through volunteers on campus. Using technology; we’ve mentioned that. That’s just critical. I can’t imagine we could provide the services we do on this campus if we didn’t have the support for technology.
Mell: Everyone likes to build new buildings, and we talk here all the time about the new buildings we’re getting, but one of the big areas is maintaining the buildings that we do have. I mean, that’s actually probably more important than building the new ones. How big a job is that on a campus this size, and how do we make sure that we keep everything maintained well?
Moen: Well, we are a mini-city, even though we are located in the city of Menomonie; we have our own little city. We have about 120 acres that we maintain for this campus. We have miles of sidewalk that we’re responsible for, over 50 buildings, so it really is a big job. I think, I was told there are about 10,000 doors on our campus, so we have a locksmith and he is very busy fixing locks and getting people into doors and out of doors, that type of thing. Our physical plant has custodians and carpenters and plumbers and HVAC workers, and they are, again, through technology, people submit work orders about what’s wrong or what needs to be done, and then they’re deployed out around campus to get those jobs done and that’s a big deal. And then the state gives us additional money for what they consider small projects and those types of projects are usually outsourced to the private sector, so we also have some vendors come in and do work for us. But it’s really no different than running the city of Menomonie or any kind of multi-facility operation.
Mell: One of the big changes the chancellor made is that he transferred the administration of the athletic department to your division. How is that going, and do you like being czar of athletics?
Moen: I do! It’s going very well. I think that happened on July 1 and we were so fortunate that Joe Harlan was appointed as the athletic director. One of the reasons it works well in our division is because we have the Student Life Services organization, which is very similar to athletics.
Mell: And it’s also modeled a lot of other campuses…
Sorensen: That’s right.
Mell: …being in that division.
Moen: So, we’re able to give them some support for budget and planning, management of contracts, and really letting Joe kind of focus in on stabilizing that athletic organization, taking a look at the support for the different programs. He’s going to get out and is doing a lot of public relation work, hope to get more into fundraising. I’ve been very pleased with the drug-testing program; that has gone very well. The students are supportive of it, so it’s been very pleasant to have them on board and we’re pleased with it.
Mell: You’re happy with the progress?
Sorensen: Oh very much, I am.
Mell: That’s good. The last the chancellor asked me to talk a little bit about is Price Commons. That just got a boost last week from the Board of Regents. It’s going to go forward. What’s that going to mean for students?
Moen: It’s really an upgrade of the second floor of the Commons facility. So it’s going to give it that “wow” factor, as they say. They’ll have different stations for different types of food items.
Mell: It’s been a long time since that ever has been upgraded.
Moen: Yes, yes. So infrastructure updates, just making it appealing to students.
Mell: It’s got to be hard to kind of stay on top of student tastes. I mean, every decade is different.
Sorensen: That’s right.
Moen: Well, our students are very involved. They actually fill out a survey on the type of cereals they like to eat and the type of meals they like, so I think our dining director understands their customers and she needs to keep them satisfied, and it’s part of retention.
Mell: Well thanks. That’s going to bring us to the end of this show. Thanks for watching this edition of About Stout. We’ll be back in about a month with another show. Thank you both.