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Master Plan dictates UWRF’s future

October 28, 2010

Moving the sciences to one building location and having Centennial Science Hall converted into regular classrooms was one of the recurring ideas brought up at the UW-River Falls Campus Master Plan feedback sessions on Oct. 11 and 12.

Approximately 110 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the open feedback sessions.

These sessions, hosted by the hired consulting company JJR Inc. from Madison Wis., were held to answer questions about the campus master plan alternatives and receive input regarding the proposed ideas within the alternatives, according to JJR Consultant Jon Hoffman.

“Participants represented the general campus population. Some campus groups were well represented, including science, technology, engineering and math faculty, CAFES faculty and students, enrollment services, and facilities,” Hoffman said in an e-mail.

Participants shared their concerns with the consultants and suggested possible solutions.

“Participants provided considerable and thoughtful input on the alternatives, major decision points, including how the sciences should grow, how to link the core campus to HHP and campus lab farm’s, determining site sfor future residence halls, how campus should connect to Cascade Avenue and downtown River Falls and other critical issues,” Hoffman said. “Participants provided clear preferences among alternative choices on some issues and provided mixed and diffuse support on other issues.”

Many of the participants felt that the sciences should be grouped in one location, as a sort of “big tent” idea.

“Many felt that the sciences at UWRF should be broad, integrating the STEM sciences and the applied sciences of ag science, food science and ag engineering,” Hoffman said.

Professor of Soil Sciences Don Taylor thinks that having the sciences in one location would be an excellent idea.

“[Being in the same building] would foster more interaction between environmental studies, chemistry, soil science and physics. We all have a lot in common,” Taylor said.

There was also a lot of discussion on which direction the campus should grow.

“There was a lot of discussion but no clear consensus on if the campus should grow to the north (crossing Cascade Avenue with more University buildings), grow to the south (crossing the South Fork with a bridge and locating parking or buildings south of the river), or if Cascade Avenue and the river should remain the boundaries of the campus core,” Hoffman said.

The Campus Plan is currently in the review period, according to UWRF Campus Planner Dale Braun. On Sept. 27 UWRF was presented by JJR with three alternative plans for the campus. UWRF has until Nov. 1 to provide feedback to the consultants, according to Braun. Then JJR will take November, December and January to take all the feedback and create one preliminary master plan that will be presented to the campus in late January, according to Braun.

There is no cost figure for this plan yet; it is typically not calculated, according to Braun. The master plan is broken up into three sections: near-term, mid-term and long-term. UWRF will figure out what parts of the plan are top priority and then estimate those costs of the near-term, which is the initial six years of the plan, according to Braun. The cost for the initial six years will probably be close to $100 million, according to Braun.

A master plan was last developed in 1968, according to Braun. There was a similar attempt for a master plan made in 1997 but it never came to a conclusion.

“This plan is a good management tool to have. It casts a vision for the campus, to see how it all fits into a coherent whole. It is what needs to be done to get the best value out of our money,” Braun said.

Braun also mentioned that the state cannot approve UWRF to undertake big remodeling projects unless they see a master plan.

Students, faculty and staff can become involved with this process by going to the integrated planning website and looking at the alternatives presented. Braun also encourages students to look at the facebook page (“Future of UWRF Campus”) dedicated to the master plan or to contact him personally.

“Anyone can send me an e-mail with their comments, good or bad, regarding the plans. I then collect all of these comments and send them to JJR Inc. on a weekly basis.”