UW-Green Bay: From the Beginning

Chapter Nineteen: 1986—1987

“Some people believe a chancellor's main job is to run the institution. Even if that were the job description, what a silly thing to try to do. A chancellor's job is to provide facilitation for those people who are trying to carry out their various roles; to provide leadership, provide resources, hold people accountable for what they do.” - Chancellor David L. Outcalt, Sept. 13, 1986

One day after Chancellor Outcalt and his family arrived in Green Bay—at the end of a 3,700-mile trek by auto and recreational vehicle—he addressed an overflow crowd of faculty and staff at breakfast in the Student Union. Outcalt had obviously done his homework. And he lost no time in setting forth an early vision of the road ahead.

Marsha and David Outcalt

Describing UW-Green Bay as a comprehensive urban university, Outcalt singled out four areas of opportunity: to strengthen the intertwining of campus and community; to help part-time and older students make major changes in their lives, through continuing and professional education, while also serving a healthy proportion of traditional-age collegians; to take full advantage of the University's mission and academic structure; to improve the articulation of the mission without changing it.

In 20 years, Outcalt acknowledged to his new colleagues, “You've gone past the initial stages of getting started, putting everything together, trying to figure out what you are about and where you want to go. ... I think there is a foundation for the institution to move on to its next stage of development.”

Building that foundation had, if anything, accelerated in the months before the new chancellor's arrival.

In Green Bay, on the day Outcalt was appointed, the curtains of the University Theatre parted on Rossini's Barber of Seville . It was the second production of the Pamiro Opera Company, founded a year earlier by Miroslav Pansky, conductor of the Green Bay Symphony. The soloists were professionals from out of town; chorus, orchestra, and crew intertwined the talents of campus and community. A week later, community boosters of UW-Green Bay athletics and families looking for summer fun jammed the campus boulevard, 30,000 strong, during the three days of Bayfest. The ethnic-food-and-music event raised $25,000 for athletic scholarships. It also fueled enthusiasm for the varsity basketball season to come; season ticket sales would soon escalate along with expectations for the team and its new head coach, Dick Bennett. In June the outreach office was gearing up for what would become a record-breaking summer of non-credit offerings. By the time the books closed on summer enrollments, more than 1,500 students of all ages and interests would have joined matriculating collegians to interact with the people and places of the campus.

June 1986 also brought an announcement long awaited by scores of “placebound” employees in the business community: initiation of a master of business administration degree they could begin and complete at the local campus. It was not part of the UW-Green Bay graduate program—the UW System administration had refused such an entitlement—although UW-Green Bay faculty members would teach a number of the courses. The diploma would come from UW-Oshkosh, but all classes would meet at UW-Green Bay. The MBA was now within reach for local men and women. Course work could be completed without leaving a job, without traveling elsewhere for classes. By the time Outcalt arrived in Green Bay, 199 students had enrolled in the first 10 courses.

Others intent on career development were selecting noncredit courses and workshops offered by the Business Development Center. Six new certificate programs for managers and supervisors would be launched during the academic year, each dealing with a specific area from marketing to labor relations.

Faculty and staff had turned other efforts toward providing new opportunities for undergraduates: winning accreditation for the UW-Green Bay bachelor of science in nursing; designing courses for a new minor in American Indian studies; wrapping up an exchange agreement with Beijing Normal University, the first pact with an institution in Asia; and expanding the intensive German language program to include three months of study at the University of Kassel in West Germany.

Robert Wenger, first exchange professor to Beijing Normal University

Outcalt acknowledged such recent achievements in a report to the regents and an October address to the Faculty Senate. He praised the academic program as one of “good to high quality, of unusual but sound design.” He took note of the University's established tradition of cooperation with community groups, its success in raising private funds, and the potential for even greater external support. The physical plant, he said, was “well-conceived” and, except for student housing, adequate to campus needs. But many weaknesses remained to be dealt with, he said. There were shortcomings in academic planning and articulation, in administrative structure, in communication with the public, and in reaching enrollment potential, especially of older returning adults and graduate students. Affirmative action procedures were defective and the results inadequate, he said. And even after 20 years, he observed, UW-Green Bay was not yet perceived as an institution vital to the continued economic and cultural development of the region.

Some of his goals for the year to follow would be primarily his own responsibility, Outcalt said: getting involved in the community outside the University, cementing relationships with colleagues in the UW System, strengthening affirmative action. But he would seek the help of others to rewrite program descriptions “to emphasize outcomes rather than processes”; to design and implement a systematic marketing effort; to sharpen and decentralize administrative authority; and to initiate strategic planning, short term and long range, in the academic program.

Outcalt took the occasion of his inauguration, five months later, to pay tribute again to the strengths of the University: a dedicated faculty and staff, excellent students, effective community support, a fine physical plant, and especially the unique academic characteristics that had attracted him to the chancellor's post.

“But no institution is perfect, and neither is UW-Green Bay,” he told his audience.“ It has been for a while at somewhat of a plateau ... a very normal situation that occurs in the case of highly creative individuals and highly individual institutions, a period of very vigorous development followed by a period of being a bit on a plateau.” To move to the next stage of development, he said, “we have to establish a sense of direction, have to better understand what we are.”

The first steps had been taken, Outcalt said, in a planning process that would set the course of the institution for the next 10 or 20 years:

  • At the direction of the regents, the mission statement of the University, as of each degree-granting unit in the UW System, would be re-examined and revised with help from all members of the campus constituency.
  • An “environmental scan” of the region, already under way, would provide information on the growth, characteristics and educational needs of the future population.
  • A “devolution of authority” from the chancellor's office had begun.“ We're delegating authority much closer to the operational level,” Outcalt explained, “but at the same time we're also providing accountability.”
  • A marketing task force, after four months of work, was preparing final recommendations to enhance the University's image and communicate information about its resources and programs.

As “an urban university with regional responsibilities,” Outcalt told his audience, the institution's first obligation was to serve the region. And those services would be geared to the changing profile of its clientele. While the majority of students continued to come directly from high schools of the region, he pointed out, fully a third were now 25 years old or older, and a third were part-time learners. Access must be open to degree programs, to non-degree programs designed to meet regional needs, and to student services for all. Students with full-time jobs, homes and families should receive special concern, Outcalt said: “They cannot simply uproot themselves and travel off to another institution. If they are going to have access to higher education, we must be able to supply it.”

Outcalt's inauguration in March 1987 was a first for the University. Rather than a public celebration, it was planned as a “family” gathering for faculty, staff and students joined by invited community supporters and representatives of 45 other institutions of higher education. The Green Bay media turned out in force. And the Press-Gazette took advantage of the event to assess the performance of the chancellor during his first six months. Reporter Alice Paulsen found positive responses on and off the campus.

UW System President Kenneth Shaw (right) presents Chancellor David Outcalt with the University medallion at Outcalt's inauguration ceremony.

“I see him as off to a good start,” commented Ruth Clusen, who had headed the regent selection committee that recommended Outcalt for appointment. Robert Wenger, Faculty Senate speaker, pointed to the benefit of the new chancellor's background and experience; Bernard Schramm of the UW-Green Bay Board of Visitors praised Outcalt's willingness to listen and his “forward-thinking ideas.” Linda Meyer, president of the Student Association, pointed to “a lot of new ideas” introduced by Outcalt.

Some of those ideas charted new directions internally: the appointment of a task force on the status of women; formation of an advisory budget and planning council representing all constituencies of the University; upgrading of the affirmative action post to a full-time responsibility as special assistant to the chancellor; creation of a new position for institutional research at the level of associate vice chancellor. Other actions sprang from Outcalt's desire to take a personal role in improving the town-gown relationship. He had accepted a place on the executive committee of the Bay Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts and chairmanship of its program on alcohol and drug abuse. After transferring his Rotary Club membership to Green Bay he had become active in that organization as well as in the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, where he served on the executive board of Project Advance.

“During his first six months as chancellor, David Outcalt has moved on his pledge to improve the kinship between the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the area,” reporter Paulsen concluded. But nothing would provide more impetus toward that goal than the blossoming into reality of two aspirations long shared by the University and the Northeastern Wisconsin community.

In mid-April Outcalt announced a $4 million pledge to support construction of a performing arts center. The donors were Dr. David and Mary Ann Cofrin, who had previously contributed major gifts for development of the Cofrin Arboretum and for a named professorship. The center was to be built on the campus, the Cofrins stipulated, but it must also serve the community. To complete the project, private fund-raising would be required as well as state funds. And a community-campus committee would set priorities for use of the facility. The Cofrin gift, Outcalt said, provided “a significant step toward the realization of a dream that has long been shared by many in our community.”

Sports fans on and off the campus, meanwhile, were savoring the fulfillment of quite another dream: of a winning men's basketball season in NCAA Division I. After a 1-6 start, the Phoenix had put together a 15-14 record for 1986-87. Average attendance at home games had more than doubled over the previous year to just over 3,000; season ticket sales had climbed by 35 percent. “Why the turnaround?” a Press-Gazette columnist asked rhetorically. “The simplest explanation is three words long: Coach Dick Bennett.”

Coach Dick Bennett fines tunes the Phoenix game plan.

A winning season under a new coach had certainly revived the fortunes of the basketball program. Whether it also helped to fire enthusiasm for the University's chief product—higher education—was a matter for debate. But as Outcalt again addressed the faculty and staff in September on the first anniversary of his arrival in Green Bay, he could report that enrollment continued to spiral upward. And plans and projects initiated many months earlier were bearing fruit:

  • Applications for admission were up by 43 percent and admissions by 37 percent over the previous year.
  • Three more residence halls were completed and fully occupied. Like the facilities built previously by University Village Housing, Inc., the buildings were constructed on land donated by the UW Foundation. Each hall provided space for 60 students; together, they increased total capacity for on-campus housing to 980 residents. In a late-summer ceremony each of the buildings had been named for an individual who was instrumental in establishing UW-Green Bay: Rudy Small, State Representative Cletus Vanderperren and Judge Robert Warren.
  • A community-campus committee was refining plans for the proposed performing arts center.
  • A task force headed by William Kuepper of the faculty was polishing the final draft of a revised mission statement before submitting it for UW System approval. In preparation for six months, the document placed new emphasis on service to the region and on educational outcomes for students.

But as of September 1987, Outcalt had only nibbled at his own agenda. Ahead lay more stubborn challenges: internal reorganization and academic planning in harmony with a new style of leadership. And just around the corner loomed an evaluation visit by a team from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the final step toward a renewal of accreditation.