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Van Galen marks sixth year as chancellor

September 19, 2014

Chancellor Dean Van Galen is going into his sixth year as the 18th chancellor of UW-River Falls, and is the longest serving chancellor since 2001.

Van Galen’s numerous accomplishments as chancellor all amount to his student-first focus. While he has many duties, he makes the students at UWRF his priority by getting to know them and their needs and concerns.

“I try to take a very student-centered approach and think about the impact of our priorities and our decisions on the quality of education of our students,” said Van Galen.

Van Galen proves that he cares about the students in little ways every day, which Arianna Pajtash, a student at UWRF, said she appreciates.

Pajtash participated in the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) last spring, which she said Van Galen has attended with students in past years. Van Galen also visited the booths that every student set up if he could.

According to Pajtash, Van Galen was very upset that he could not join the students for NCUR last spring (for reasons she did not specify), but he and his wife, Mary, sent the students off with snacks and pins for the university and took pictures with everyone and wished them well.

Pajtash said Van Galen also appears friendly and approachable to students around campus and shakes students’ hands when he meets them.

“He always just seems so happy when I see him,” Pajtash said. “He seems so welcoming.”

Van Galen said that his proudest moment as chancellor was when he worked on the Falcon Promise, a differential tuition program that Student Senate approved several years ago, because he got to collaborate with students on shaping the proposal.

“I think back to that process of working with students as something that went very well and will certainly be one of my good memories I look back on for years to come,” said Van Galen.

Van Galen has accomplished other beneficial things for the university, including numerous “firsts.” During his inauguration, the chancellor announced UWRF would open a learning center in Hudson, Wisconsin, with the mission of meeting the graduate and undergraduate educational needs of adults.

The Hudson Center opened in the fall of 2010 and had 400 students enrolled by the spring of 2011, according to the UWRF website. Van Galen said the Hudson Center has remained successful since its opening.

“There has been growth,” he said. “We added a fourth classroom about a year ago and I think it’s fulfilling a need for higher education in this region that was not really being addressed before we opened the Hudson Center.”

In addition to the Hudson Center, Van Galen announced another first for UWRF in April 2012: Rising to Distinction, the first comprehensive fundraising campaign. The five-year goal of the campaign is $20 million with an emphasis placed on raising dollars for student scholarships and the Falcon Center health and human performance facility, according to the university website.

“We are now over $15 million dollars,” said Van Galen. With the chancellor’s signature, UWRF became tobacco free on July 1, 2013. The policy prohibits the use of smoking or use of other tobacco products on campus, joining 700 other college campuses around the United States, according to the university website.

Van Galen said that there are challenges to overcome when working in higher education, but he also said that he is inspired by the students and takes pride in the university and its faculty.

“I think all of us at River Falls do what we do because we hope it has a positive impact on the students and their future,” he said.

Van Galen said his goals are to continue to focus on the university’s strengths, such as supporting international education, undergraduate research, and ensuring every program at UWRF is of high quality and maintains its integrity.