A Graduate Studies study

A faculty committee has been working on a strategic plan for UWL’s graduate education for the past two years. The proposal heads to the Graduate Council Nov. 4.

UWL graduate education strategic plan unveiled

Expect to hear more about graduate education on campus. A faculty committee has been working on a strategic plan for graduate education for the past two years. The proposal heads to the Graduate Council for endorsement on Nov. 4.

Chris Bakkum, Registrar, is a member of the initial Graduate Education Self-Study team that formed in 2014. She, along with faculty members current Director of Graduate Studies Steve Simpson and Associate Professor Rob Dixon, worked on the self-study and a provost-funded external review of UWL graduate education conducted by two national Council of Graduate Schools consultants.

Chris Bakkum, Registrar, left, is a member of the initial Graduate Education Self-Study team that formed in 2014. She, Director of Graduate Studies Steve Simpson, right and other faculty worked on a self-study, a provost-funded external review, and a variety of other input sessions to help form a strategic plan for graduate education.

Chris Bakkum, Registrar, left, is a member of the initial Graduate Education Self-Study team that formed in 2014. She, Director of Graduate Studies Steve Simpson, right and other faculty worked on a self-study, a provost-funded external review, and a variety of other input sessions to help form a strategic plan for graduate education.

Following the review, the Graduate Education Leadership Board was established by the Provost. Along with Bakkum, Simpson and Dixon, the board grew to include faculty representatives from the three colleges: Bernadette Taylor, Microbiology; Henry Petersen, Management; and Lori Reichel, Health Education and Health Promotion. The board was charged with:

  • Strategically planning graduate education with a campus-wide focus
  • Focusing on organizational and committee structures for graduate education
  • Developing and coordinating effective communication strategies to enhance the visibility of graduate education campus-wide
  • Engaging graduate students and faculty members in the development of graduate education at UWL

The Board conducted more than 100 interviews with graduate faculty, graduate program directors, department chairs, graduate students, deans, and campus administrators, to understand issues surrounding graduate education. Along with data from the interviews, the self-study and the external review, the board held feedback sessions that unearthed three key concerns:

  • The infrastructure for graduate education lacks central oversight and leadership.
  • Program development is hampered by inconsistent planning.
  • The graduate student and faculty experience suffers from ineffective communication, inconsistent support and a lack of resources.

“The board took all this data collected and turned it into a strategic plan,” says Bakkum. The plan is titled, “Vision 2021: A Strategic Plan for Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.”

The plan calls for a move from a decentralized administration to a more coordinated approach with departments and central administration. Among the recommendations in the strategic plan:

  • Create a sustainable funding model for graduate education.
  • Develop a clear vision/plan for growth.
  • Coordinate interdisciplinary and Inclusive Excellence efforts in graduate education.
  • Invest in the Office of Graduate Studies, increasing the graduate director from half-time to full-time, along with establishing a full-time, non-instructional academic staff position to take on managerial tasks.
  • Develop more systematic communication about promoting grad education.
  • Enhance graduate program delivery and accessibility.
  • Enhance graduate assistant recruitment packages and develop. additional graduate student resources.
  • Further develop the leadership skills of graduate program directors.

See the complete draft of the plan at: https://www.uwlax.edu/graduate-studies/grad-studies-strategic-planning/

Planning for the future

UWL has an opportunity to capitalize on the many hidden strengths of its graduate programs, says Bakkum. Faculty and staff speak highly of quality and rigor, and students are pleased with the high level of education they’ve received.

“The problem with graduate education is that it’s been an afterthought,” explains Bakkum. “There’s actually a lot of excitement among faculty about graduate education and the future opportunities there, but we need to have some coordination of strategically growing and supporting graduate programs.”

Bakkum says there’s opportunity to expand graduate program offerings. “We should be tapping into the talent we have here to develop new programs that meet the needs of our state and nation and that provide access to students who otherwise would not attend UWL,” she notes.

Bakkum points to the recent expansion of the Student Affairs Administration master’s degree online program that has become popular and is expanding to offer an online doctorate degree next year.

“Some programs have been very successful for meeting a demand and providing access to quality education,” Bakkum says.

She says with the university currently undergoing strategic planning, now is an ideal time for graduate education to fit into those plans. “The graduate strategic plan will dovetail nicely with the university’s strategic planning underway,” Bakkum says.

Bakkum predicts graduate education could be a key to maintaining the university’s overall high quality and educational reputation, as well as a source for additional revenue in the future.

Historical organization snapshot of Graduate Studies at UWL

1956– Graduate Division first appears
1961– Regents approve offering a Master’s of Science for teachers to begin in summer of 1965; prior to that time, only a joint master’s with UW-Madison offered
1967—Graduate School became Graduate College; state legislation allows universities to grant master’s degrees other than teacher education
1974—Graduate College listed as “Graduate Programs”
1981—College of Education housed Graduate Studies
1995—Dean of Graduate Studies moved to Office of Associate Vice Chancellor/Dean of Graduate Studies
2000—Office of University Graduate Studies formed with a director
2005—Graduate Studies became part of Associate Vice Chancellor/Dean of Graduate Studies responsible for Grants/Contracts and Graduate Studies
2012—Graduate Studies Director also Interim Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs
2013—Graduate Studies Director became half-time position in Office of Graduate Studies, separated from Associate Vice Chancellor responsibility

— Information compiled by Chris Bakkum, Registrar, from a review of the UWL catalogs. Many catalogs used were published biannually, so dates are approximate.