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Getting to know Betz, Foster

September 20, 2007

Summer vacation is out of the question if you are the head of a university.

While many students at UW-River Falls spent time soaking up the sun and sleeping in until noon during the past couple of months, Chancellor Don Betz remained on duty.

There were educational conferences to attend, international university contacts to strengthen, and, perhaps most importantly, preparation to be done to help ensure a successful 2007-08 school year at UWRF. After all, work doesn’t cease for a university administrator once June hits.

“It’s a 365 day job,” Betz said. “Summer is a continuation of fall, spring and winter.”

At the beginning of his third academic year at the University, it is clear that the hours logged by Betz during the past three months were more than necessary. 2007-08 proves to be a watershed year for UWRF. The University’s strategic plan, entitled “Living the Promise 2007-2012,” is in its first year of implementation.

Next month, the UW Board of Regents is expected to visit campus for the first time in ten years and the University is up for re-accreditation in April.

Betz said he feels the pressure but anticipates nothing less than success.

“I expect us to do very well,” he said.

With the confidence and optimism that Betz exudes as UWRF’s 16th chancellor, it’s almost enough to make one forget that he did not originally plan on an academic career.

When the former Boy Scout from Seattle entered the University of Denver’s International Relations graduate program in 1967, he had aspirations of serving as a diplomat. Betz’ professors, however, believed that a future in university teaching was the way to go.

“At that point, I hadn’t really thought about it,” he said.

However, he was convinced enough to follow their suggestion, and combined his love of international relations with education.

“I threaded the two together,” Betz said.

That decision has resulted in over 30 years in higher education for Betz. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve felt a good part of my life is that education has chosen me as much as I have chosen it,” he said. “It has been very personally rewarding.”

Administrative Assistant Dianne Monteith witnesses Betz’ dedication daily.

“I sincerely enjoy working with Dr. Betz,” she said. “He is enthusiastic and energetic about everything and truly compassionate about our students and their education.”

With so much on his plate, it may seem as if UWRF’s most recognizable faculty member has little time for leisure. But it’s not all work and no play for Betz. The father of two has cultivated a list of globally themed pastimes, among them traveling, world cinema and sampling ethnic cuisine.

Another shoulder for students to lean on

She calls a 53-acre hobby farm located south of River Falls home. Happiness, in her opinion, is running at least 20 miles per week. And this school year, you can find her in 116 North Hall on the UW-River Falls campus.

Meet Connie Foster, UWRF’s new interim provost. She assumed duties Aug. 1.

Foster is a familiar face to the UWRF community, having recently served as dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, and before that, as head of the Health and Human Performance department and women’s athletic director. A 23 year UWRF veteran, she has also spent time in the classroom and on the playing field, as a professor of physical education and head coach of the defunct women’s gymnastics team.

However, becoming second in command to the chancellor was a prospect the 57-year-old had never entertained.

“I have never thought about being a provost,” Foster said. “I really enjoyed being a dean and never had aspirations to move.”

But when Betz called her this summer asking if she would be willing to take the job in the wake of Charlie Hurt’s departure, Foster jumped at the chance.
“Opportunities like this don’t really come around very often,” she said.

As head of the University Planning Group, Foster is responsible for overseeing the implementation of “Living the Promise 2007-2012,” UWRF’s plan to meet the demands of the 21st century. “Being able to tie our resources to our plans and to make that whole process more transparent,” is one of her goals, she said.

Thus far, Foster said she has enjoyed her tenure as interim provost. However, her busy schedule means that she doesn’t get to interact with the UWRF community as much as she would like.

“I miss the exposure to faculty and students,” she said. “Here [in North Hall] I walk out the door and there’s nobody in the hallway.”

But Foster has a method for keeping her spirits up: physical exercise, and lots of it. The California native is an avid runner, swimmer and cyclist, having competed in both marathons and triathlons. She considers physical exercise a “stress reducer,” and strongly advocates it for everybody.

“I encourage students and faculty to find some activity that they really enjoy and commit some time to it,” Foster said. “It’s just helpful, I think.”

As interim provost, Foster has made a good impression on her new workmates.

Wendy Stocker, executive assistant to the provost and chancellor for academic affairs, had words of praise for Foster’s abilities.

“She is a wonderful, dedicated and caring person,” Stocker said of the new interim provost. “She is driven and determined to ‘get the job done’ for the students.”
The chancellor will be interviewed by Rose Rongitsch Sept. 25 from 5-6 p.m. on WRFW’s “Let’s Talk.”