College News

‘Business as usual’ for UW Extension despite controversial system merger

UW Extension will merge with UW-Madison starting next July.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

The Board of Regents’ decision to merge two-year and four-year colleges in a sweeping re-organization has sparked controversy from those worried about its effect on the UW System, but a provision involving UW Extension has been mostly overlooked.

UW Extension, a middleman that helps deliver university resources to all 72 counties in Wisconsin through a wide variety of programs, will merge with UW-Madison starting July 1, 2018. And while some worry about unforeseen effects of the change, UW Extension communications director Katy Keiser said she is not worried for the future of the program.

“We will operate our programs with as little interruption as possible to those we serve,” Keiser said.

Despite the upcoming merger, UW System President Ray Cross reassured Keiser that it will be “business as usual” for the variety of programs and services offered by UW Extension. And in an email sent to the UW Extension’s faculty and staff, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank affirmed this commitment to UW Extension, citing her own personal experience “knowing the value” of its programs because of her parents’ work as extension agents.

“I strongly believe that this move can improve the work of both of our institutions, and strengthen the ability of Cooperative Extension to serve communities across Wisconsin,” Blank wrote in her email.

As with the other aspects of the merger decision, there are still “unanswered questions,” according to Keiser, but she thinks her staff is ready to take on any challenges from the merger.

“We are ready to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work this restructuring calls for,” Keiser said.

While some UW System students and faculty affected by the restructuring plan have expressed frustration over their lack of input in the plan, the email from Blank made it clear that the current staff will be a “necessary part” of the merging process.

For their part, Keiser said UW Extension staff “agrees wholeheartedly” with the message sent by Blank, and added that there has been support from many of the Regents in regards to their collaboration.

“President Cross has also affirmed the need to get input from students, faculty, staff, community leaders, and other stakeholders,” she said.

While there are still issues that need resolving, Blank was adamant about her support for the UW Extension, and its role in fulfilling the Wisconsin Idea.

“UW-Madison is home to the Wisconsin Idea, and for many years the presence of Cooperative Extension’s headquarters on our campus was an important manifestation of that commitment,” Blank said in the email. “Now that this proposal has been adopted, we are looking forward to bringing Cooperative Extension’s organizational home back to UW-Madison.”

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