CALS All-College Meeting summary: Time of change, time to grow

Around 100 people attended the All-College Meeting held on Wednesday, Nov. 14. The meeting featured presentations by various CALS leaders, followed by a Q&A session. Highlights from the meeting are summarized below. A recording of the meeting can be watched here:, and the full set of slides presented can be downloaded here: Nov 2018 All-College Meeting.

State/UW/CALS budget – Dick Straub

CALS has been experiencing a downward budget trend for various reasons. During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, CALS absorbed a $2.8M cut as part of a $87M cut to UW–Madison. That resulted in a loss of 10-11 CALS faculty lines, meaning that CALS did not replace faculty who left the UW. The remainder was absorbed primarily through CALS administration, including cuts to Agricultural Research Stations.

Recently, campus implemented a resource-based budget model that factors in student numbers and research dollars, which has also resulted in cuts to CALS. We have been negatively impacted because our student numbers have been declining since our peak undergraduate enrollment in 2014-2015, and because our research dollars have been holding steady (while other colleges and schools have seen increases in research funding). These measures are applied to 10% of the 101 funds that the college receives from UW–Madison.

To reverse this downward budget trend, the college needs to: 1) increase summer term course enrollment; 2) grow our programs for professional students; 3) grow alumni/stakeholder support; and 4) grow our research funds.

Extension budget – Doug Reinemann

Over the past three decades, there has been a general decline in the number of CALS faculty positions, including jointly-funded CALS and Extension faculty lines. The most recent round of budget cuts led to an 8.5% reduction in the amount of Extension funds coming to CALS. The college expects to absorb the total amount of that cut by FY2020.

The college plans to entertain proposals for faculty and staff funded fully/partly by Extension in FY2020. Certain high-need positions can be requested via the twice-annual funding requests for consideration to be filled sooner.

Summer session budget – Karen Wassarman

Increasing summer session enrollment is a campus priority — and therefore a CALS priority. The summer session budget model is independent from the 101 budget model for the academic year. Each year, campus charges CALS $1M to cover costs related to teaching. CALS originally followed the same model for distributing that fee among departments, but the college has developed a new model that will be implemented next year. Starting in summer 2019, the assessment will be proportional to each department’s overall 101 budget. Departments have flexible options for paying their share of the assessment and don’t have to rely solely on summer tuition revenue (though summer teaching is still very important).

Another change that starts in 2019: Departments will retain all of their summer tuition revenue, after course expenses have been covered.

CALS goals – Kate VandenBosch

Main CALS goals include:

  • Increasing undergraduate enrollment to 4,000, an increase of 25% over 5 years (based on FY18 enrollment of ~3,200)
  • Grow non-traditional and summer programs
  • Advance research excellence
  • Grow faculty numbers by 10% over 5 years

CALS Organizational Redesign – Kate VandenBosch

The CALS Organizational Redesign is moving forward. Departments are currently working on developing their five-year plans, which are due at the end of December.

Through this process, some departments are exploring structural changes, including:

  • Merger: dairy science and animal sciences
  • Collaborative: agronomy, entomology, horticulture, plant pathology, soil science
  • Collaborative: biological systems engineering and soil science
  • Genetics is reviewing its current structure, which is split between CALS and the School of Medicine and Public Health

Through this process, some academic changes are underway, including:

  • Steps to close admissions to the poultry science major are being initiated (average enrollment for the past five years is one student, no students are currently declared)
  • New advising centers shared among multiple majors are being explored
  • A new “Global Health” major is being explored (there is currently a certificate program for Global Health)
  • A new “Agricultural Ecosystems” major is being explored, which would replace the undergraduate majors for agronomy, entomology, horticulture, plant pathology and soil science and be a basis for that collaborative

It takes a lot of time to create a new major. The same is true to discontinue an existing major, a process that includes a 4-6 year “teach out” period when all declared students are given the chance to complete their degree.

Thanks to some short-term funding from campus, CALS is making some strategic hires: a position in Academic Affairs to develop new academic programs and grow enrollment; a position in the Research Division to help with proposal development including complex, multi-investigator proposals; a new faculty position in Animal Sciences focused on Animal Biologics.

Questions and discussion

Many topics were covered during the Q&A/discussion session, including:

  • One way to increase enrollment in a major could be to change the name of the major so it appeals to more students. This process takes about 9-12 months.
  • The college continues to value small, hands-on courses. These provide rich experiences for students. At the same time, the college needs more large-enrollment course to help bring in tuition dollars. Likewise, more online and summer term courses are needed to bring in revenue. It is important to have a mix of these various types of courses.
  • Several attendees expressed interest in additional TA support for large-enrollment courses. The college currently distributes $525,000 to departments in order to support teaching assistants. Increasing TA funding will require new revenues or decreases to allocations for other activities. This is an area where we will continue to look for innovative approaches and plan to continue discussions with department chairs and others.
  • CALS will recruit students to the college in various ways: from among campus’ expanding freshman class, from among the pool of undecided/undeclared students, and recruiting from other majors.
  • The biology major could be a model for the new majors that the college will be exploring /developing.