UW System Restructuring Oral History Project

The Model and Role of the Former UW Colleges

Former UW Colleges Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and unidentified woman from Waukesha County Technical College pose for a photograph advertising the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree at UW Colleges-Waukesha. Courtesy of UW Digital Collections, 2015, https://search.library.wisc.edu/digital/A46V5IE45Z22E78U. 

In November 2017, an initiative was begun to restructure the UW Colleges and Extension. Designed to serve the mission of access, opportunity, and affordability, the UW Colleges offered an Associate’s Degree of Arts and Sciences at campuses across the state. Focusing on transfer to four year universities, the Colleges provided students with Associate’s Degree programs that reflected a wide variety of needs across campuses and regions within the state of Wisconsin. These programs were and continue to be designed as accessible and affordable to non-traditional students, including returning adult students, veterans, and students with less financial or educational access, in order for those students to transfer to a four year institution with an associate’s degree or additional credits in hand.

Rhonda Stuckey, UW Fond du Lac Foundation Director accepts a check from the Fond du Lac Noon Optimist Club, to her left is UW Fond du Lac Dean John Short, and to the right is Athletic Director, Lee Watson. Courtesy of UW Digital Collections, 2014, https://search.library.wisc.edu/digital/ APRQT6ZUOCKWKB9C.

Operating as a separate system from the four year universities of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Technical College System, the UW Colleges had previously undergone a regional restructuring, operating under a model in which Colleges were split into different regions. Within these regions, Regional Executive Officers managed multiple campuses and local campus officials. These Regional Executive Officers and other regional officials worked with officials at one central UW Colleges and Extension office. In tandem with the UW Colleges, the UW Extension also operated out of a central office with officials at the regional level. UW Colleges and Extension administrators worked with county officials as well, as the campus buildings and foundations[1] are operated by the county in which each campus is situated. As a result, the former UW Colleges have unique relationships with community members and public officials within those communities.

UW System Restructuring Image 3
Interim Dean and Regional Executive Officer Keith Montgomery leads the kick off to raise funds for the STEM building at UW Colleges-Marshfield/Wood County. Courtesy of UW Digital Collections, 2015, https://search.library.wisc.edu/digital/ AQG5NWKOX7GXNV8M.

Maintaining the UW Colleges Mission and the Process of Restructuring

In the wake of extensive budget cuts and declining enrollment, the decision was made by UW System President Ray Cross, and approved by the Board of Regents in November 2017, to restructure the UW Colleges and Extension System. Instead of existing as an individual entity, the UW Colleges and Extension system was dissolved, and individual UW Colleges became branch campuses of UW universities situated geographically close by. The decision was also made to move parts of the former UW Extension to Madison, and others to UW System Administration.

In order to facilitate this process, the Board of Regents set up a Steering Committee and working groups within this Committee, made up of members from the UW Colleges, Extension, Universities, and UW System. From these meetings, timelines for dealing with a complex range of issues, including financial aid, campus identity and marketing, academic affairs and accreditation, student information systems, governance, and other functions within the UW Colleges and Extension had to be addressed. Decisions concerning the movement of the UW Extension office, which included the Division of Public Media, conference centers, Continuing Education, the Extended Campus, and the Cooperative Extension, had to be made as well.

As of October 2019, the majority of the Restructuring Project milestones have been met, and the former UW Colleges now operate as branch campuses of four year universities. The divisions of the UW Extension have been moved into UW Madison and UW System Administration, as outlined here and in the Steering Committee materials.

Access the Interviews

As the restructuring of the former UW Colleges and Extension has come to a close in 2020, officials in the interviews for this oral history project have reflected on their experiences with the regionalization and ensuing restructuring of the UW Colleges and Extension, and the impacts of both on the landscape of higher education. The UW System Restructuring Project has interviewed individuals that worked for the UW Colleges, Extension, and UW Universities in Academic Affairs, Finance, Administration, and other areas of expertise, as well as individuals who worked on restructuring within the UW System.

This Oral History project has also endeavored to reach individuals working in System-wide, regional, and campus level positions. As a result, the interviews reflect a multitude of different local, regional, and statewide administrative experiences, and have been arranged to reflect this. Interviews with hyperlinks are publicly accessible; those without hyperlinks are currently embargoed and hyperlinks will be added by Oral History Department staff members as they become publicly accessible. The interviews also reflect the position(s) the interviewee held during the restructuring process – as such, the position listed may not reflect the current position that each interviewee holds. Click on each link to access the audio, summary, and transcript for each oral history. To see a full online list, click here.

Former UW Colleges and UW Extension Interviewees

Dan Anhalt, 1918 UW Colleges Associate Dean for Administration and Finance
Charles Clark, 1916 UW Colleges Regional Executive Officer and Dean of the Southwest Region
Aaron Brower, 1937 Associate Dean for the UW Extended Campus
Scott Bouffleur, 1953 UW Colleges Director of the Office of Distance Learning
Jennifer Chamberlain, 1949 UW Colleges Director of Libraries
Kristin Fillhoeur, 1966 UW Rock County Campus Administrator
Cynthia Bailey, 1965 UW Marinette Campus Administrator
Jackie Joseph-Silverstein, 1935 UW Colleges Regional Executive Officer and Dean of the Southeast Region
Jessica Laeseke, 1962 Continuing Education Director for the Southwest Region
Keith Montgomery, 1928 UW Colleges Regional Executive Officer and Dean of the Northwest Region
Casey Nagy, 1927 Vice Provost for the Division of Extension and Public Media
Martin Rudd, 1936 UW Colleges Regional Executive Officer and Dean of the Northeast Region; Assistant Chancellor of the Access Campuses at UW Oshkosh
Karen Schmitt, 1947 UW Colleges Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs
Melissa Stutz, 1874 UW Colleges Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Steve Wildeck, 1971 UW Colleges & UW Extension Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance
Vicki Keegan, 2028 UW Colleges Director of Marketing and Enrollment

UW University Interviewees

Clifton Ganyard, 1950 UW Green Bay Associate Provost of Academic Affairs
Timothy Opgenorth, 1997 UW Milwaukee Director of Financial Aid
Greg Summers, 1963 UW Steven’s Point Provost and Vice Chancellor of  Academic Affairs

UW System Interviewees

David Brukardt, 1938 Associate Vice President for Economic Development
Rob Cramer, 1948 Vice President of Administration
Ray Cross, 1998 President of the UW System
Stefan Fletcher, 1959 Office of Project Management Special Project Manager
Stephanie Marquis, 1971 Director of Communications
Serena Matsunaga, 1995 Consultant, Huron Consulting
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Main entrance of UW Marinette facing Lake Michigan. Courtesy of UW Digital Collections, 2015, https://search.library.wisc.edu/ digital/              AWHIV6GEPYE7X78P.

Project Summary

This project could not have occurred without the help of UW System liaisons Nicole Anspach and Jo Carter, and the financial assistance of the UW System. Interviews were conducted by Lena Evers-Hillstrom and Isaac Lee, and processed by Lena Evers-Hillstrom, Isaac Lee, Kaitlynn Gipson, John Serrano, and Noah Raimy. Additionally, the project was overseen by Troy Reeves, head of the UW Oral History Program at UW Madison, and transcribed by Teresa Bergen.

A final report on the project from the student assistant working on this project can be found here.

Additional Resources

For more information about the UW System Restructuring project, please consult the following website, which contains the organizational charts of the former UW Colleges (now branch campuses), Steering Committee minutes, and the goals of the project in further detail:

[1] The example linked exhibits an example of the lease between the Sheboygan County and UW Colleges-Sheboygan.