Chancellor begins with students as top priority
September 23, 2005
After decades of successful academic, international and leadership experience, Don Betz has been welcomed as UW-River Falls’ 12th chancellor.
Betz comes from the University of Central Oklahoma where he served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. His resume also includes academic and diplomatic visits to over 80 countries, authoring declarations, statements and communiqués accepted at United Nations conferences and several awards for excellence in service and teaching.
Betz said he and his wife Susanne spent the past five years looking for a school that they felt would be a perfect fit. He said they found River Falls to be a unique community with a student world they want to be a part of.
“This is an institution with a strong tradition of focus on learning, undergraduate research and a broad global perspective,” he said. “I look forward with unbounded affection to meeting the students who make up this community.”
Not only does Betz plan to familiarize himself with students as he begins his work here, but will continue to be a presence as people enroll, transfer, graduate and become productive members of society.
“As a university, we will be judged by what kind of people our students become,” he said. “If we can prepare them for the inevitable changes in life, it’s worth every dollar the state gives us.”
As chancellor, Betz said he would like to enhance the many positive aspects of UW-RF and center around people, not just academics.
“You will see a focus placed on building qualified citizens by providing the tools to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn again,” he said. “Helping students to become adaptive to changes will give them the confidence to meet the challenges of the future.”
With his years of academic experience, Betz also holds a more realistic view of student academics that often parallels with their own.
“I know students will forget some of the facts they learn in class but they will always remember the commitment of the faculty and educators and the values they espouse,” he said. “I can promise you that the values will be reinforced and made real by what we do and not just what we say.”
One thing Betz said he will stress is the importance for students to have a global perspective because they “can’t be ignorant of the dynamics of the world and be successful.”
He also plans to incorporate the skills he acquired after years of administrative accomplishments in Oklahoma into his position as Chancellor.
“I am a strong believer in service leadership,” he said of his commitment to helping students recognize civic responsibility. “I have been involved in leadership all of my life and those habits are not going to change.”
Betz said while UW-RF already offers wonderful programs, he plans to implement a leadership class as well as training opportunities for staff.
“We will see, over the next few years, that leadership will become a defining value here in all parts of the institution,” he said.
Outside of academics Betz said he looks forward to exploring student life.
“We’ll be regulars because I’m Chancellor, but also because we would anyway,” he said, adding that he and Susanne plan to become familiar faces at sporting events, performances in the arts and all other aspects of campus life. “I’m interested in people thriving, not just surviving,” he said.
When asked what it means for students, staff and the people of River Falls to have Betz as Chancellor, he said, “They will decide. I have every intention of embracing the community – you will see me because I won’t be a stranger and you will hear me as I will speak often.”
While he offers a new perspective to UW-RF, Betz said transformations will not occur without the support and best interest of the community.“I am in a position of leadership, but will not be at the top of the pyramid or the center of the circle,” he said. “We’ll write this story together.”