Staff changes at Baraboo campus designed to boost enrollment

September 6, 2018

Efforts to rebuild enrollment at Baraboo’s two-year college and its connections to the community have started with revamping its staff.

Classes began Tuesday at a school now called the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County. Chancellor Dennis Shields started the 2018-19 year with a convocation attended by students, faculty and staff.

Appointing a dean dedicated to the campus, as well as reinstating academic advising, computer technician and student affairs positions — all of which had been regionalized previously — will help “Boo U” forge a new identity, re-establish community connections and better serve students. In the long run, Shields said, these changes will boost enrollment.

“That drives our fiscal viability,” he said.

Sauk County and city of Baraboo leaders, who approved construction of a $5 million science building that opened in 2016, expressed concern when the UW System responded to state budget cuts and declining enrollment by regionalizing staff. Many positions, including the dean, were shared by UW Colleges in Richland Center, Janesville and Baraboo.

Under the new model, programs at UW-Baraboo and UW-Richland will be integrated with those at their four-year parent UW-Platteville, but won’t be regionalized. The local campus will offer new associate degrees in agriculture and business, and may add an environmental studies program.

“I think the investment is pretty clear,” Shields said. “You’ve got to have people available on campus.”

The campus has convened a committee of community leaders to help guide decision-making. It met for the first time before Tuesday’s convocation, and leaders lamented the loss of faculty and staff who were active community members. Shields and Ed Janairo, the campus dean, said connections will be re-established in Baraboo and in nearby communities.

“One thing we heard very loud and clearly was UW had a very large presence in the community,” Janairo said. “We need to reinvigorate our relationships with the community.”

In the past, faculty helped organize the downtown Zombie Walk and created the Summerset Festival of the Arts to welcome non-students to campus. Shields envisions bringing middle- and high-school students to campus to see the biology department’s tortoise, or taking UW-Platteville’s mobile foundry on tour.

“That role of being ambassadors should be encouraged,” Shields said. “You have to be integrated into the community.”

The local campus’ enrollment has dropped 30 percent since 2010, declining from 466 to 327 full-time students. Throughout the 13 UW Colleges campuses, enrollment has plummeted 32 percent over the same period.

Shields said a strategic planning process will soon start to address this and other challenges at all three campuses under his direction. Marketing initiatives also are under way, including a new logo and a revamped website.

“This is an interesting time in our history,” Shields said.

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