UW System merger completed for UWEC, Barron County

Published: Jul. 2, 2018 at 10:47 PM CDT
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Brittany Nielsen worked Monday to bring things together, connecting the past with the future.

"We need to be innovative, we need to be creative, and we have to make big and bold decisions and moves - and I think that's one of them right now," she said to WEAU 13 News on Monday.

Monday's move was to finalize the restructuring of UW-Barron County into the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire-Barron County.

"We are an asset around northwestern Wisconsin,” Nielsen said. “So, to be able to collaborate with a larger institution and be able to provide those services here locally in Barron County, it truly is a great experience and an opportunity."

Joining the UW System’s 13 two-year campuses with eight of its four-year universities has taken years of thought and months to execute.

Now, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt is glad to have this major step accomplished.

"I believe that this process of joining the two-year campuses to for your campuses will strengthen the campuses allow us to ultimately reduce some cost and allows to focus again on those communities that we are serving,” he said to WEAU 13 News on Monday. "You know, this part of the state doesn't have many UW colleges. Most summer clustered in the eastern side of the state. Many have two or three college campuses coming with him, because they're the only ones around them. This part of the state doesn't have as many, which is why I think this campus is particularly important."

Even with the signs changing over to say UW-Eau Claire Barron County, that doesn't mean this Barron County learning institution is exclusive to Eau Claire. The campus actually started in the 1960s as "branch campus' for what was then Stout State University in Menomonie.

Now known as UW-Stout, it is one of the system’s universities which will not have a branch campus partnership.

“The key issue for us in the restructuring is maintaining access to those students who attend UW-Barron County and the other two-year campuses who want to transfer to UW-Stout, where our new graduates have a 98.2 percent employment rate,” Doug Mell, executive director of communications and external relations and a member of the UW System Restructuring Steering Committee, said in a statement to WEAU on Monday. “We receive about 100 transfers a year from the UW Colleges, and maintaining access to students at the UW Colleges who want to attend Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University is very important.”

Nielsen said: "That's really important to know that students aren't going to be funneled one way or the other. They have that option to still choose what institution they want to start at."

According to the UW System, all of the two-year campuses will keep running mainly as they do now, while preparing to merge with the four-year universities. Schmidt said he'll be using much of that time to learn more of the rice lake community as he brings UW-Eau Claire and the Barron County campus together.

"It's a wonderful alignment. I think the culture of the campus fits very well with UW-Eau Claire and I expect it to work out very well," he said.