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Sunday, 26 September 2021

For the Record: UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields

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For the Record: UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields
For the Record: UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields

UW-Platteville has undergone tremendous new growth under the leadership of Chancellor Shields with his focus on building industry and corporate relations, collaborative integration, and offering outstanding academics in a small friendly environment.


>>> we now present for the record with neil heinen.


>>> a conversation with university of wisconsin platteville chancellor dennis shields is next on for the record.

I am neil heinen.

Dennis shields is in his 12 here is chancellor at platteville, and a lot has gone on.

There been mergers and innovations and changes and uw-platteville has responded and is responding.

I welcome the chancellor of uw-platteville, dennis shields.

>> thank you.

>> thank you for coming on.

>> my pleasure.

>> you are the first guest on the new set for for the record.

What an honor!

>> thank you so much for know, for the people who don't know that have not been to grant county in a while, grant county itself has changed a lot in the last decade, but, platteville in particular has done a lot of growing.

So talk to us about the growth.

>> will this predates, from to thousand one to about 4045 students to almost 8000.

My predecessor david marquis had great success in building a new student center, and engineering hall, and also after i arrived, we built two residence halls and added a thousand mins, so physically it looks a lot different.

>> was added 8000 when you started?

>> no, it was about 6800.

>> okay.

>> yeah.

And part of what has worked as a number of wisconsin residents that has enrolled here grew fairly significantly, but also, students from iowa and illinois, we had a tri-state program that made this a very attractive place for them to come, so a lot more students from out-of-state than 15 years ago.

>> so is it a little bit of everything, chancellor?

The changing demographic, the number of kids who are looking for college, the additional facilities and college atmosphere, majors?

>> well, engineering exploded, a huge need for engineering.

>> yeah.

>> we have a long-standing program that springs from the mining school.

>> yeah.

>> from over one century ago, great leadership in that school.

And a great demand for our graduates, in business and industry, because of the hands-on learning experience that they have there.

Criminal justice grew significantly, and agriculture.

A lot of people don't know that we have a farm.

A four acre production form with 200 dairy cows, a lot of pigs.

I'm a small-town iowa kid but i did not grow up on a farm.

I grew up in farm country in iowa, so this is one of the first places i visited when i came to platteville was a farm.

>> now several years ago, we had on the dean from the uw-platteville, and it was fascinating, the modern technology plays a role in that is fascinating.

>> it is not just actual farming, but agribusiness.

And a lot of our students come for that experience, and the hands-on opportunity they have to work with our faculty and industry.

>> right.

Now there is a pretty good broadcast engineering component to the school there isn't there?

>> that had shrunk considerably.

That was one area that has not seen the growth, although, i know every time i have spent the last four years visiting a lot of the cities and towns in southwest wisconsin, at every radio station in newspaper, they are all populated by pioneers.

>> that probably makes sense because what used to be broadcast engineering is probably more like information technology and computer-based a.

>> right.

We have great social media training.

We were talking before i came on about the impact of that.

>> yeah, so there has been construction, right?

New dorms, but also, the last couple of budgets?

>> we were the only institution in the system in the last buy in to get a new building approved, so what we are calling centennial hall, we are going to add a new modern $55 million engineering facility, and we are very much a stem school, so chemistry and biology, our building was 40 years old, again, getting a $23 million makeover that will start this summer.

And the facilities are part of the dynamic in higher education, this is a dynamic time with a lot of changes and challenges, but creating flexible space for students to collaborate and work together, a space that you can adjust, that's really important.

These two projects give us an opportunity to upgrade our facility in a couple of areas in core with our academic mission.

>> and i want to get your perspective on how the other campuses in platteville are responded to the challenge but maybe we could talk about the collaborative innovation plan which was in response to the the biggest thing is that there are things that survey track, much rely on a majority of the budget with the tuition that we attract.

We still get a significant amount of money from the state but more than 65 percent of our budget is directly tied to what level our enrollment is.

Now the collaborative integration came along because the two your campuses, many of them were really struggling with enrollment.

The idea was that by affiliating them with some for your campuses, we could do things that will strengthen the enrollment and other things that are relevant to those goals.

At platteville, i remember that ray cross first called me well before there was an announcement and felt me out about that and said, what you think?

Actually works pretty well because we had been to richland center several times in the preceding three years talking with local business and industry and elected officials.

>> both of those are two your campuses, right?

>> yes, for our purposes, for the campus at platteville so we have made connections there in significant numbers of alumni in those areas, so, i was pretty optimistic about our ability to actually come and do some really helpful things on those to campuses.

Now, none of this is ever easy, but is actually gone relatively smoothly.

We have been well received by the two communities in campuses.

We are developing programming that is specifically relevant to the areas, the richland center is substantial in the aggie industry areas we are developing program of the great need of business and industry her other aspects like banking and trading, and certainly in baraboo, is just over the hill from that, a billion-dollar tourist industry, so our business there for wisconsin del, they were very excited about becoming engaged with us on a lot of different fronts.

So, i am sure that there will be bumps on the road along the way but i am very pleased with how it has rolled out so far, is a great tribute to the people in those communities in the great team that we have a platteville.

>> well when we come back, i want to talk about enrollment and then the five-year strategic down the drain?ing mony -well, i just got my wireless bill.

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>>> mimecast is dennis shields, the chancellor of uw-platteville.

And we are talking about a pretty significant growth over the last few years that chancellor shields has been on the job.

We were talking about enrollment.

It struck me that last year you said all other issues are smaller compared to this one?

>> yes.

>> that enrollment was the biggest issue.

Now with the collaborative innovation, has that eased somewhat or does that continue to be a major priority?

>> oh no, it is a major priority.

What we are facing is a demographic challenge and that there are fewer high school graduates coming out every year.

Last spring, i was invited to go and give the commencement address at a high school in rural wisconsin, and it was great fun, and actually, the student speakers were much better than i was, but their graduating class was about 120 students, the other end of the pipeline, first-graders, 60 students.

So that is what we are facing over the next 5 to 15 years.

>> the urban areas are tending to grow but the rule areas are facing real challenges that way.

This collaborative innovation gives us an opportunity to help address that.

We cannot create more students but we can do things that i think, working closely with k-12, to encourage a larger share of the students to pursue higher education, whether that's a two year campus, a four-year campus, or a technical college, as we have talked to business and industry, there's a great need for a workforce across his full spectrum from technical to bachelors trained professionals.

So, this gives us an opportunity to try to influence the system to be supportive of k-12, to help them be a school of education.

Part of our role is a comprehensive campus is to be stewards in place which means we should be helping the whole region thrive.

If there are issues that the region is facing, >> like a teacher shortage?

>> the teacher shortage.

Part of the challenge now is the digital revolution, getting it in the technology out into the rule areas to address these things.

>> yes.

>> you travel around the region, it is amazing, the business and industry that is present in rule wisconsin.

>> in addition to agriculture.

>> right.

>> it is not just agriculture.

>> right.

All of the businesses need a workforce.

And i am stunned at how international they are.

I visited a seed manufacturer in a neighboring community, and they grow their seeds in the winter in chile, so that is part of what we need to do.

In part if that is communicating with students prospective students, just a fabulous opportunity that is available that they're not even aware of in their own regions.

>> yes.

>> i think that it is fair to say that every college and university is thinking strategically about how to address these issues that you brought up.

>> right.

>> you know, stevens point got a lot of attention for their approach, which had to do with the curriculum, not offering certain majors.

Give me your perspective on that, chancellor, and how that has influenced your thinking of what you are doing at platteville.

>> well, i think every institution has to be thinking not just about next year, the year beyond, but how will they position themselves five and 10 years out?

And it would be malpractice not to be looking at the array of programs your offering and tweaking them.

Sometimes, is tweaking them just by the way that you describe them, because of students don't understand what that is and they are not >> we have one of those on my campus, a really scary name, engineering physics, it just would scare me.ard.

>> but employers love it, and the students were involved in it love it.

It is some engineering, it is probably simpler than it sounds, right?

>> why don't know about simple but it is desperately needed.

>> yes.

>> so we have to both market our programs in ways that make sense to this generation of students, we have to tweak the programs to meet the needs of business and industry.

Now, that does not mean that we won't teach history because that is important.

We will have foreign languages and philosophy.

I'm a lawyer and have a real appreciation for what i learned from philosophy, and how to think through the issues that are in front of us.

So enrollment is one of the major issues that we are addressing and with any strategic planning process, this is a continuum.

In our strategic process were not creating all new things.

Several things we have been working on up to this point.

For example, we make a tremendous investment in attracting students, we want them to stay in graduate.

So for the last three years, we doubled our effort to understand the hurdles the students have to overcome.

Some of them are academic.

While there not been retained, are they not smart enough?

>> well, they're smart enough but they are working 20 or 30 hours a week or their family issues, or nutrition issues pretty big issue in higher education is that we are discovering that a lot of students don't have resources to eat the way that they should.

>> food insecurity, right.

>> now, we have a lot of resources in place to address those challenges, but, unless we know when those challenges are confronting students, then they can slip through the cracks.

So we have spent a lot of time on developing the processes and programs to address the needs.

That is a part of our strategic plan that is building on a foundation that we have already late.

We need to always be monitoring our academic programs but have been studying that for two or three years now, looking at data, looking into the future as to what the market needs are out there, and have begun to make those adjustments moving forward.

Also, keeping in mind the needs of the region.

A little over one year ago we had a healthcare provider summit where we try to get all of the hospitals and clinics from the region in the room to talk to us about, what do they think their needs are?

Now, we are developing programming to address that.

If you can be relevant to business and industry and communicate that to students, then the enrollment will follow.

But part of the real challenge is deciding, so, what is the sweet spot?

If you think we will be 8000 and you build out your program for 8000 students but 6000, while that is a problem.

So part of what we are working with for our strategic plan is what size will we be?


>>> i am back with dennis shields, the chancellor of the university of wisconsin platteville.

You were talking, chancellor, about the healthcare summit you had that was a success, and a couple of weeks ago, the wisconsin bankers association came to campus?

>> yes.

>> and i believe that that was the best attended event that they had had on a uw campus, and i found that to be very interesting.

>> will we have been working very hard to develop a function that you typically don't find on a campus like ours, the corporate relations function where we have been reaching out intentionally to get businesses more engaged on our campus.

It is something that folks might not be aware of, but many of the community-based banks historically were led by graduates of platteville.

So we have a strong connection with the banking industry in the state so i was not surprised that it was well attended.

Now as we talk about strategic planning, i like to talk about it in a couple of ways like first of all, what is the process of the end goal?

One is you put all of this effort into it and you get this nice binder, and when you're done it goes on a shelf and nobody looks at it.

I am committed to say, we want a more living document, one that actually guides where we go, so, the process started about one year ago were my senior team sat down and sort of said, what are some of the major things that we should be addressing?

Let's frame it up.

Now we are in a stage where we are soliciting community and campus-based stakeholder input on those things, maybe we missed them, and we need that feedback.

>> i thought that i saw about a dozen hearings?

>> yes, so were going to get as much input as we reasonably can and then, develop it from there.

We do have some things.

We are obviously an academic institutions we want to address that and the campus climate, what kind of experience are our campus in university community having?

Corporate relations, we are continuing to build on the ground work we have done to build strong ties with business and industry across the state, so we do have those things, and then most importantly, we want to figure out how can we measure whether or not we are making progress on this five-year plan?

And, actually review that fairly regularly, probably campus wide, once or twice a year, but in terms of the leadership, the vice chancellor's and the dean's, the other leaders on campus, actually talking about those every month, just saying, are we tracking this?

Is the strategy that we developed working?

If it is, great.

If it is not, we need to readjust.

So a big part of it is developing the metrics that will measure whether or not we are achieving what we set out to do, and in this era in higher education, i think it is really important to understand where you want to be in five years?

And what is your path to getting there?

>> that makes all of the sins of the world.

Having a plan is so important but today, it feels like five years is such a long window of time and an unpredictable window of time.

>> i have been a platteville for nine years and it feels like i just got there, that is how fast it goes.

Understand that one of the best things about being on campus is the way that it changes.

So, three generations of students have proceeded through their in the nine years that i have been there, which is also a part of the dynamic.

It is not static, it's always changing.

Now we have had other challenges.

You asked about the turnover that there has been, those the thing is we have to understand, how do we keep the talent in place to deliver what we need?

>> it is a competitive environment.

>> yes it is, and how do we grow talent?

How do we bring someone in the door and bring them up to be a chancellor someday?

>> we do have about one minute left, so are you optimistic?

This feels like a challenging time for higher education.

>> well, i am an optimistic person.

I don't think you should be in the business unless you think that you can fix it and do things that are positive.

The state faces a lot of challenges like teacher shortages, figuring out larger issues with the university, continuing to try to do everything we can to remain relevant.

I think part of the bumps of the road that we had four or five years ago is operating our own silo, so to speak, or we assume that everybody knows the value that we add, but that doesn't work.

You have to be out in front of people telling them, asking them questions and showing how you can support them and that kind of thing.


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