Convocation: Ward advocates self-sustaining change
David Ward admits his second term as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been less stressful than his first turn in office.
"It is a lot easier being an interim chancellor for two years rather than being chancellor the first time for eight years. I can be kind of rude because, you know, I'm going to be around, there's not much anybody can do about it," Ward jokingly stated while serving as keynote speaker during UW-Parkside's spring 2012 convocation.
During her introduction of Dr. Ward, UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford quoted a colleague as saying Ward was "the best big picture thinker in higher education." She added, "I asked Chancellor Ward to join us to share his perspective on the future of higher education, the importance of regional comprehensive campuses like UW-Parkside and to inspire us to lead during these times of great change."
While professing "great affection" for the UW system, Ward said higher education must change in order to serve students.
"We are probably in the biggest period of change in the assumptions and the context of higher education than any time since the period before World War I" when most current university structures were created, Ward said. "Unless we change in response to this context, we probably are vulnerable to becoming somewhat irrelevant."
Competitive, alternative ways of obtaining an undergraduate education will become increasingly available, Ward predicted, adding, "We may not like it; we may not think it is desirable but it will happen."
To survive, Ward said higher education must address mission differentiation--"...let it proceed, let it succeed, let us be more different and customized to the needs of students," he said. Higher education also should have need-based, differential tuition and multiple student pathways to graduation--anything from three to six years.
To thrive, Ward said higher education needs self-sustaining change. This includes reallocation of funds.
"There will be inadequate new money to do the things we need to do. Therefore, only through reallocation can we do it," Ward said.
He advocated changes in program array analogous to a "merger and acquisitions movement."
"There are disfunctionalities to small programs, particularly in terms of infrastructure and, I might say, in terms of intellectual discourse. These programs can still exist but we can lump them together," Ward said.
He also advocated seamless collaborations. He pointed to UW-Madison's 59 joint degrees programs with institutions aboard (five in French alone) but few domestically.
"Why is it so great to have these international partnerships but not [have them] with the people down the street?" Ward asked.
Ward was named interim chancellor of the state's flagship campus in June 2010. He first served as chancellor from 1993 to 2000 and has been associated with UW-Madison as a student, faculty member, and administrator for nearly 50 years.
Please check Friday's Ranger Today for more convocation highlights.