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Reprinted from: Green Bay Press-Gazette

November 2, 2001

New UWGB chancellor tackles first day on job

Jitters give way to meeting, greeting

By Cynthia Hodnett

Bruce Shepard compared his first day as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to a child's first day of school.

Shepard began Thursday with a few nervous jitters. But by mid-afternoon, he was meeting and greeting students, faculty and staff with warm smiles and firm handshakes.

"I love steep learning curves, from learning where the light switch is and how the computer works to where important telephone numbers are," Shepard said jokingly.

"Being chancellor is a position that is very demanding, it's a 24-7 job," he said. "I've been looking forward to getting to this position for the last three to four months. Now that I'm here, I'm really excited about helping to lead this university to the next level."

In August, Shepard was named the school's fourth chancellor by the Executive Committee of the UW System Board of Regents.

He will earn $152,070 a year.

Shepard replaces Mark Perkins, who left in June to become president of Maryland's Towson University.

"He seems really nice and approachable," said Heather Bloch, a freshman. "By coming out to meet the students on the first day, it says a lot about him."

Anne Buttke, director of the University Union, said Shepard's friendly personality, education and career experience will help him make the transition to chancellor.

"I think he brings a renewed excitement," said Buttke who also was on the committee that interviewed Shepard and other candidates.

"He visited the union several times before he started the job and all of those times he's been very cordial and approachable to the staff and students. I think people here are waiting to see how he makes the transition and how he'll lead the university into the future."

Shepard said UWGB's Learning Experience attracted him to the job. He had served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Eastern Oregon University.

The Learning Experience is an academic program that stresses a more personalized approach to education.

"They contacted me about the position, and I said I would like to learn more, send me a copy of the Learning Experience, and that really got my motor running," he said.

The Legislature committed $500,000 to the program in the 2001-03 state budget.

"There was some concern that we didn't get the funding that we desired," he said. "That's the challenge we face now, how do we maintain that momentum so we can move forward and possibly acquire additional funding down the road?"

Shepard takes over at a time when the 32-year-old campus struggles with diversity, student-retention rates and gender-equality issues.

"I read the (Campus Diversity Plan 2008) before I came here," he said. "It seems that things are in place in terms of highlighting what the issues are. But the bigger challenge is that we can spend time in recruiting students to campus, but if the retention rate runs 20 or 30 percent, we are wasting time."

A top priority will be to build support off campus for the school, particularly its athletics program.

"I would like to see us build corporate and individual support," he said. "Right now, we are running our program on a shoestring budget. Men's basketball has been a source of revenue for us, but that is declining. I would like us to improve the attractiveness of that, particularly the scheduling so people who are from areas in and around Green Bay who want to come to the games can get tickets.

"Overall, the athletic program needs to be brought up to the same level as the same quality of our students, faculty and academics," he said. "Our locker room training facilities are an embarrassment. Our current facility is smaller. It was built when most of the students didn't live on campus. I want to see us change that."

The first step, Shepard said, is hiring an athletics director. Otis Chambers was removed from the position Aug. 31.

Four finalists are being interviewed this week and next week.

"All of those who have been interviewed are very, very good people but very different from each other," he said. "What I like about it is that not only does it give you more of a choice of who to choose from, but it forces you to think very hard about what this university needs. Any one of them could do the job, but the question is, which one can provide the best fit and provides the best leadership qualities?"

Taking on the role of chancellor has not only brought professional changes for Shepard, but personal changes for his wife, Cyndie, and their 13-year-old son, Paul.

The family spent four days and traveled more than 2,000 miles to get from Oregon to Green Bay.

Shepard said his family has been impressed by Green Bay's friendliness and sense of family. That sense of community, he said, has been evident since he accepted the job."Like most kids his age, Paul was a little afraid about coming here," Shepard said. "The search-and-screen committee were very sensitive to us. They sent him a package that had a number 4 Brett Favre jersey and a note that acknowledged his concerns about coming here.

"The note said, 'Paul, we know you have some concerns about coming here but we want you to have this jersey,'" Shepard said.

"'Bring it with you when you come back to Green Bay so you can meet Brett Favre so he can sign it for you. And oh, by the way, here are three tickets to the Nov. 4 game for seats on the 40-yard line,'" he said. "That's all it took. He was excited after that. Now my wife and I have to be nice to him so we can go to the game."

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