Jan 12 Chamber/UW-Eau Claire Breakfast: Chancellor James Schmidt thanks the local community and looks forward to an increase of new students in fall 2021
On Tuesday, January 12 the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire hosted the annual Business Community Breakfast virtually this year. The event was streamed via Perigon at WIN Technology and included a State of the University report from Chancellor James Schmidt as well as a panel composed of faculty, staff, and students who shared details about new initiatives and plans UW-Eau Claire has for the future. During the State of the University report, Chancellor Schmidt discussed the university’s quick response to COVID, challenges the university will face in upcoming years, and a few points of pride for UW-Eau Claire.
The Chancellor began his report thanking the Chamber and the community saying, “there isn’t a single thing the Chippewa Valley can’t accomplish if we respect each other as partners and neighbors, and work together.” Through efforts such as the Chamber’s advocacy with legislators in Madison and Washington D.C., the Chippewa Valley Economic Recovery Task Force, and continued advocacy for replacing Phillips Hall on campus, he has continually seen the local community’s positivity and determination to succeed.
UW-Eau Claire's successful fall semester
This past fall saw the university working hard with the community to develop effective COVID mitigation protocols to keep everyone safe during the unprecedented fall semester. Through virtual career fairs and a team of advisors to help students navigate online classes, the university has continued to connect students to local businesses and help students develop skills for life after college. The university saw extremely high student compliance with mitigation steps on campus, making it through three months of in-person classes before moving online out of precaution after Thanksgiving break.
In addition to challenges brought by COVID, UW-Eau Claire has financial challenges to plan for. The Chancellor referenced a study from the Brookings Institute which found that not a single university saw any real growth in per-student appropriations between 2006 and 2017. In Wisconsin, state funding for higher education fell by more than 33% between 2000 and 2019. The university also expects a decreased number of high school students around the year 2025.
This decrease in state funding, tuition freezes, and prospective students has forced UW-Eau Claire to come up with new strategies to recruit and retain new students. This has involved developing a more strategic marketing campaign to reach incoming students and continuing to become a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive campus.
Science building developments
The Chancellor is also hopeful that the new science building will recruit the best and brightest students to the Chippewa Valley. Plans for the new science building to replace Phillips Hall continues to remain a focus of the university. With developments for a new science building underway and an exciting new partnership with Mayo Clinic, the Chancellor is confident UW-Eau Claire will enhance its reputation in the Midwest.
UW-Eau Claire's accomplishments
With plans to address current and future challenges in place, Chancellor Schmidt acknowledged a few of UW-Eau Claire’s accomplishments. The university was once again, named the top school in Wisconsin and Minnesota as being the best for veterans. It was also ranked number 3 in the United States and number 1 in Wisconsin as being the best school for LGBTQ students and the best in Wisconsin for LGBTQ students.
The new learning and teaching environment
The panel of faculty, staff, and students addressed the anticipated decrease in enrollment, the new learning and teaching environment for students and faculty, and the newly implemented training for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Billy Felz, the Interim Executive Director of Enrollment Management, explained that UW-Eau Claire has partnered with a consulting firm to increase and improve the university’s advertising to Incoming students by uniquely targeting students based on their personality. Applications are now up over 50% compared to last year. Lauren Becker, a student at UW-Eau Claire and Director of the Student Office of Sustainability explained that the current learning environment has seen much grace from both the instructors and the students. While virtual learning is not bad, it is a different environment than usual requiring much adjustment. Dr. Louisa Rice, professor and chair of the History department, agreed with Becker explaining that teaching during the pandemic has required faculty members to go from in-person to online, and at times, a little of both. However, Dr. Rice is proud of the way instructors have risen to these challenges and still created meaningful relationships with students.
New university developments
Members of the panel also discussed some developments going on within the university. Becker said the Sustainability and Climate Action task force has a vision to make UW-Eau Claire the most sustainable university in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Dr. Rice has been working with other faculty members to incorporate the humanities and the sciences to create a certificate on holistic medicine that would incorporate not just the science of health but also the whole person. Dang Yang, the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, explained that while equity, diversity, and inclusion training has currently been focused on faculty and staff, this training will begin for students this next fall. The university is also working with Alumni and local partnerships to extend equity, diversity, and inclusion to make the Eau Claire community more inclusive and diverse.
Chancellor Schmidt concluded the event by saying, "our community has tackled the pandemic together and we look to continue to collaborate." The interdependence between UW-Eau Claire and the local community has created a sense of unity few business communities and public universities have.
Video Recording: 2021 Chamber/UWEC Breakfast (Perigon)
UW Eau-Claire looks to bolster Blugold enrollment (WEAU 13 News)
The 2021 Chamber/UW-Eau Claire Breakfast was sponsored by EO Johnson Business Technologies, Market & Johnson, Inc., Mayo Clinic Health System-Luther Campus, McDonough Manufacturing Company, Northwestern Bank, and Perigon sponsors Prevail Bank and Royal Credit Union.
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.