Jay Rothman talks EDI, reciprocity, and more
November 1, 2023
How do you plan on supporting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) programs across the System when the legislature is explicitly telling you to get rid of them?
We're focusing on EDI and looking at three guiding principles in the system. One is student success, and understanding that diversity is a broad group of factors.
It's certainly underrepresented students, but it's veterans, it's disabled students, it’s first-generation students, it's students of lower socioeconomic means, students of different religions, students who have different political ideologies…. How can we create a climate where they can be successful from recruitment to retention to graduation?
Secondly, we want to make sure that our EDI efforts are focused on creating cultural fluency. We're preparing students who are going to work not only in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but more broadly across the US, but beyond that, in the global marketplace….
The final piece is making sure that we're supporting our faculty and staff, and making sure that they have the same welcoming environment, but that we also provide training about teaching a diverse class [and] dealing with difficult issues within the classroom….
All of those things are important, because, at the end of the day, we have to educate all of the qualified students we can if Wisconsin is going to win the war for talent. We don't have enough engineers and nurses and teachers and data scientists and business people.
If we're going to win the war for talent, we have to be in an environment where everybody can flourish and be challenged.
How do you plan on supporting UW-River Falls through getting our reciprocity bill passed?
We have been supportive [of the reciprocity bill], and I've been grateful for the bipartisan support of the bill, which will allow the university to keep more of the revenue that it is generating. It's an important component, and we're hopeful that ultimately the legislature will pass it and Governor Evers will sign it into law.
How is the UW system going to help UW-River Falls combat Minnesota's North Star Promise?
I think the North Star Promise and the tuition promise is something we have to be cognizant of…. We are trying to find other sources of financing in the private area: philanthropic support to create a tuition promise similar to [Minnesota’s].
The important thing to note, too, is that, over the years, River Falls, along with the other 12 universities in the system, have worked hard to increase the amount of institutional aid that students are getting from scholarships and grants….
We're going to do our best to make sure that college is affordable, but I think it's important to remember that we are the most affordable public university system in the Midwest…. So it's not just what Minnesota does, but it's what we can do internally, and we're working hard to make sure that we remain affordable.
How does the UW System Strategic Enrollment Plan affect UW-River Falls?
We’re trying to increase the number of graduates from System schools to 41,000 by 2028. We want to make sure that we have as many different avenues as we can for that. One of the things we're going to be piloting next year is direct admissions….
We are going to be working on trying to further communicate to the population at large the value of higher education…. The economics are unassailable; you will make more money if you go to college and get that college degree. But there's also all kinds of benefits from a societal perspective; there’s higher levels of civic engagement [and] philanthropy.
We want to make sure that we are affordable and provide accessibility for everybody who wants to [attend college], and even convince those who might think ‘I don’t know if I’m college material’ that they are… and that they can be successful here. That's what we want to create here, not only at River Falls, but across the system.