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Chancellor reflects on career at UWRF

March 29, 2007

Reflecting on his second year at UW-River Falls, Chancellor Don Betz said he is proud of accomplishments he has made so far and greatly appreciates the help and support s received from students, staff and faculty.

The students, staff and faculty have worked together toward common goals, which is both effective and inspiring, Betz said.

This collaboration has helped Betz pursue and accomplish many things during his past two years as the 16th chancellor of UWRF. He began his job in July 2005 and was inaugurated in April 2006.

Since Betz became chancellor, he set forth the mission and values of UWRF. The University’s mission is to “help students learn so that they are successful as productive, creative, ethical, engaged citizens and leaders with an informed global perspective.”

The core values are integrity, academic excellence, inclusiveness, community and continuous improvement.

“[A big accomplishment] is the undertaking and completing of the University’s mission and values and the writing and approval of strategic planning,” he said.

He is working on writing a series of columns for the RiverTown Newspaper Group, which includes the River Falls Journal and the Hudson Star-Observer, on each of the 10 strategic planning goals.

The strategic planning process describes the University’s goals and gives each goal a priority rank. It also describes tasks to be completed under the goal and when they are to be started.

Betz’s most recent achievement is the approval by the State Building Commission of the health and human performance (HHP) advanced planning recommendations.

He said once the Wisconsin legislature provides the money, the University can begin planning for the construction of the new HHP building and apply for grants.

“UWRF has been working on the project since the early to mid 1990s,” he said. “After 15 years, it has been approved. It has been a team effort.”

Other developments Betz is pleased with is the completion of the South Fork Suites and the University Center; the new Dairy Learning Center at Mann Valley Farm is under construction.

“The opening of the University Center is one of the highlights of my career,” Betz said. “The building is an example of sustainability and the involvement of our students. It was paid for by students. It’s what students wanted and they made it happen.”

Betz said if the costs of all four buildings were added up, the total investment they have brought to the area is nearly $100 million.

“We are a major economic engine for St.Croix Valley and western Wisconsin,” he said.

In addition to the construction of these buildings, Betz has been a strong advocate for the globalization of the campus. The University has signed agreements for student and faculty exchanges.

“We have signed or affirmed agreements with Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and Bolivia,” he said. “There are also opportunities to sign agreements with Dubai and Estonia.”

Betz also started the Chancellor’s Global Leadership Colloquium, which is a course providing students with an opportunity to study abroad and teaches the skills necessary to be effective leaders from a global perspective. The first course was held last August in Scotland. It will be in China this year, Betz said.

While Betz said he feels good about what he has pursued, he is pleased with the accomplishments the campus community has made.

He said he has been happy with the commitment of students, staff and faculty to service learning and civic engagement.

They have been active in helping with Hurricane Katrina efforts and other service learning opportunities, such as the Destination program, both in and out of the River Falls community, he said.

“I think we are becoming an institution that is assisting the St. Croix Valley communities into becoming a collaborate region focusing on common issues,” Betz said.

Other things he said he is proud of is increasing enrollment. In fall 2006, the University had its largest head count for enrollment. UWRF’s homecoming spirit was also revived last fall.

Former Student Senate Representative Maggie Huppert said during the semester she spent on Student Senate, Betz did a good job working closely with students.

“I think he’s been really good at willing to listen to students about issues and he is really active with the Student Senate,” Huppert said.

Administrative Assistant Dianne Monteith works in the Chancellor’s office and has worked closely with Betz.

“He is extremely committed and passionate about our students and their success,” Monteith said. “His passion for learning spills over into all he does, from the time he spends with students, staff and faculty, to reaching out to the community and to the global world.”

While Betz said he has benefited from the work of previous chancellors, he said overall, what is unique about his time as chancellor is the strong connection being made between sustainability, leadership, global literacy and inclusiveness.

“I am still standing,” he said. “[My position] is not a job. It’s really a life and I am pleased to be serving this institution and our students at this particular time in my life.”

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