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Departing CAS dean leaves legacy, improvements at UWRF

February 4, 2010

After 21 years of service at UW-River Falls, Terry Brown is taking her experience and dedication to her work to the far side—of Wisconsin that is.

Brown, who has been Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2005, will be leaving UWRF on March 5. She will be taking a position at UW-Parkside as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, beginning her work there on March 22.

UW-Parkside is located in Somers, Wisc., between Racine and Kenosha, a short distance south of Milwaukee. The school, founded in 1968 by combining two-year campuses in Racine and Kenosha, is one of the newest universities in the state. 

When asked why she decided to make the move, Brown said, Parkside is a new challenge with a diverse student body, but also provides the familiarity of being in the UW System.

Nearly 30 percent of Parkside’s students are minorities, according to the University’s Web site.

Brown said she is looking forward to working with students who are the first in their family to attend college.

“There are more first generation students at Parkside,” she said. “For many of them, their lives and their families’ lives will change if they succeed.”

Part of helping students complete their education is understanding why some do not complete college, Brown said.

“Something we’ll focus on is how to work with high schools to make sure students come [to UW-Parkside] prepared,” Brown said.

In a recent press release announcing Brown’s selection to her new post, UW-Parkside Chancellor Deborah Ford said Brown’s accomplishments fit well with UW-Parkside’s goals.

“Dr. Brown’s experience in academic leadership, her portfolio of scholarly accomplishments, and her student-focused approach to higher education make her ideally suited to our campus,” Ford said.

“Terry brings a level of experience and success that will help move our campus forward.”

Though she is eager to begin work in her new position, Brown said leaving UWRF will not be easy. 

“I will miss River Falls very much,” she said. “I’ll take away a sense of gratitude for all the support and opportunities I received here.”

Brown came to UWRF in 1989 as a graduate from the University of Florida with a fresh Ph.D. in English and little knowledge of the Upper Midwest.

“When I graduated, I didn’t know where I wanted to go,” she said. “All I knew about Minneapolis and St. Paul was what I’d learned from watching ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ and listening to Garrison Keillor.”

Prior to her time at the University of Florida, Brown had attended high school and college in Virginia.

During her tenure at UWRF, Brown said she has seen the campus come together and form a sense of pride.

“The biggest change I’ve seen on this campus is the feeling of pride in what we do that was not as predominant when I came,” she said. “Some of it is the [University Center]. It’s a pretty stupendous building. It’s our public square and that has helped form a sense of community.”

Brown said UWRF has made itself a more prominent fixture in the area in recent years.

“We do a better job of sharing our accomplishments with the world,” she said.

Brad Caskey, now Associate Dean of CAS, will take over as interim dean when Brown departs.

Caskey, a former psychology professor, said Brown was the one who got him into administration.

“If you’d have asked me 10 years ago about entering administration, I would have never thought of it,” he said. “[Brown] actually asked me about it when she became dean.”

Since becoming dean, Brown has been instrumental in spreading UWRF’s reach internationally. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL, is a new and very successful masters
program that has relied heavily on Brown’s work, Caskey said.

When talking of her leaving, Caskey said he will miss Brown’s open-minded and honest approach to her work.

Physics Professor Jim Madsen has worked closely with Brown for five years and said he shares Caskey’s sentiment.

“One way to gauge someone is how you feel when they tell you something you don’t like,” Madsen said. “She could listen to my viewpoints and tell me ‘no’ without me feeling alienated.”

Although she has had to veto some proposals, Brown helped establish a maintenance fund to pay for science equipment that otherwise would be paid for on a case-by-case basis and sometimes pushed aside altogether, Madsen said.

In all, Madsen said Brown has and will continue to succeed in her endeavors because of her hard work and honesty.

According to Madsen, “she brings a real genuine approach about what college is and about the opportunities it can provide.”