Local universities on track for UW-System merge

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- We're almost five weeks away from the official merging of UW-System schools and local universities say they're right on track for the July 1st deadline.

But there were a few challenges facing the UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County transformation.

While timing was a big task facing this particular merge as the Board of Regents approved the plan in November, making sure both campuses missions remained the same was their biggest goal.

UW-Barron County is on its way to becoming blue and gold.

“They will be blue and gold,” said Mike Rindo, the Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations at UW-Eau Claire.

But those colors are not scaring away the two-year university.

“UW-Barron County has been around for over 50 years, had over 3 different logos and 3 different names, but the part that reigns true throughout all of it is that we have always served our same mission,” said Brittany Nielsen, the UW-Barron County Campus Administrator and Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “That’s not going to change. While colors come and go and names come and go, the core of our being is going to remain the same.”
That was the biggest focus for both UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County amidst the state-wide merging of two and four year campuses.

“That’s a mission we've set from the beginning,” Rindo said. “Putting students first is the primary goal here. That's really what we're being true too. Keeping the distinct missions of each campus and putting students first.”

That means UW-Barron County will remain an access institution primarily for commuters in that region, while UW-Eau Claire is semi-selective and primarily a residential campus.

“I think it [the merge approval] caught most of us off guard, but the great thing about UW-Barron County and Eau Claire is we rally together and our entire focus throughout the transition has been students first,” Nielsen said.

With a tight-deadline to bring two campuses into one family, a lot of work had to be done. With the help of a rapid action task force, both universities say it's been a smooth and positive transition.

They say while cuts have been made at the central locations for the u-w system, there have been no program or staff cuts at either campuses due to the transition. They're also looking into what types of programs that may be brought to the rice lake campus.

“We’ve been listening to the students, faculty and staff,” Rindo said.” We've been listening to employers, economic development officials and county officials to say what are the programming needs in order to have a talent pool for your workforce.”

Through a community survey, the name UW-Eau Claire Barron County was chosen for the Rice Lake campus. That name was approved by the Barron County Board of Supervisors earlier this week. They're awaiting the approval from the UW-System Board of Regents, which will hopefully be as early as June.

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