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Ward: UW-Madison must help shape its own future

October 2, 2012 By Greg Bump

Interim Chancellor David Ward said at his annual State of the University address to the Faculty Senate on Monday, Oct. 1 that UW–Madison must be an active participant in shaping its future.

Photo: David Ward


Ward used the occasion of the address to reflect on this two-year stint as chancellor, and to speak about the future of higher education.

“I wanted to really avoid being a caretaker,” said Ward, who returned to lead UW–Madison on an interim basis in July 2011, having previously served as chancellor from 1993 and 2000. Following his first term as chancellor, Ward served as American Council on Education in Washington D.C., one of the nation’s leading higher education advocacy groups.

Ward said he arrived back in Madison to find the university was experiencing the revenue difficulties of many public institutions of higher learning across the country. A gradual erosion of state support for public universities, a situation made more acute by the recent national economic recession.

As state support has declined, institutions have had to make up for the loss in revenue by raising tuition. With the public continuing to hold low tuition as an entitlement, resentment is far greater toward rising tuition than flagging state support, Ward said.

UW–Madison has begun mapping out solutions to the fiscal squeeze by seeking flexibilities in key areas like tuition, purchasing, compensation and human resources, Ward said. Projects like the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, Administrative Excellence and HR Design are examples of the actions the university has taken to gain more self-determination over fiscal decisions.

“Waiting for new revenue from traditional sources will doom us to mediocrity,” Ward said.

Ward especially singled out the Educational Innovation initiative, which he called his “biggest passion.” There needs to be dialog inside and outside the university about the role of innovation in education, he said.

“If we are to preserve this great public research university we must have a change agenda,” Ward said. “We must have our own vision. If we don’t, nobody else will provide it.”

The form that public research universities will take in the 21st century needs to be more clearly defined, Ward said.

 “If we don’t create that vision ourselves, nobody else will,” he said.