Dean Kate to CALS alumni: Help forge the best way forward

Dean Kate VandenBosch will share the following communication with CALS alumni in the In Vivo section of the upcoming issue of Grow magazine:

Each issue of Grow magazine is a special treat for me because it is a powerful reminder of our impact throughout Wisconsin and around the world.

Those of you who live in Wisconsin may have seen recent media coverage surrounding the proposed $300 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin System. This would be the largest reduction to the University of Wisconsin in history. At this magnitude, the share assigned to UW–Madison, and to CALS specifically, would be unprecedented.

Reductions of this size will make it more difficult for us to provide our students with a high-quality education. Sharing the classroom with globally recognized scientists is a hallmark of a CALS education. Professor John Doebley, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, teaches an undergraduate seminar titled “Genetics in the News.” Our professors are committed to innovative teaching as well. Assistant professor Aurelie Rakotondrafara is redesigning the popular “Plant, Parasites and People” class as a blended course that mixes online and in-person instruction. Professor Bill Bland offered “Earth’s Water: Natural Science and Human Use” as a flipped course for the first time this year, providing lectures online and using class time for hands-on work. A sharply declining budget will compromise our ability to offer such innovative instruction, and classes could increase in size or be offered less frequently.

I am extremely concerned that these cuts will diminish our impact outside of the classroom as well. The Wisconsin Idea—the concept that the university’s impact extends throughout the state and beyond—is deeply embedded in our DNA. We take our public service mission very seriously, and we are proud of our college’s 125-year partnership with the taxpayers of Wisconsin. I worry how a cut of this size will redefine that relationship.

This proposed reduction follows several prior cuts for the college. Since 2008, UW–Madison’s share of general purpose tax revenue has dropped by 6.8 percent; CALS’ faculty numbers have declined by 6.2 percent. Yet during this same time period, our student enrollments have increased by 34 percent. For any responsible manager, these opposing trends are troubling.

The proposal also includes additional flexibilities for the UW System, which we welcome. Our faculty and staff are creative and innovative, but organizational change requires time. Cuts of this size would seriously decrease our capacity to continue our existing programs—and implementing them in a short time frame would certainly prevent us from making the best strategic choices.

We want to continue to grow the future of our students and Wisconsin communities. I hope we can continue to partner with the people of Wisconsin to determine the best way forward.

Become a UW advocate at support/advocate.

Learn more about the UW–Madison budget at