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The lakeshore residential area of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is pictured in an aerial view during autumn on Oct. 12, 2013. At left is Lake Mendota. At top is the downtown Madison skyline, Wisconsin State Capitol, and Lake Monona. The photograph was made from a helicopter looking east. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Last week, UW System President Ray Cross made a major announcement about the reorganization of UW System, including moving UW-Extension Cooperative Extension and UW-Extension Conference Centers to UW-Madison.

This restructuring proposal, initiated by the UW System Office of the President, will be brought before the UW Board of Regents in November to seek approval to proceed with implementation planning.

If given the green light, this proposal will reunite UW-Extension Cooperative Extension with System’s flagship campus, where it was historically located. The integration of Cooperative Extension with the state’s land-grant institution is consistent with the practice in other states, including Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. It will also provide more opportunities to connect the important practical work of extension agents with the research enterprise at UW-Madison.

“Cooperative Extension is an important partner for CALS, for how we carry out our mission in applied research and outreach,” says CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch. “And while many things won’t change, we anticipate that this closer association will strengthen our relationship with Cooperative Extension, enhance our collaborations, and increase the impact of the university’s extension and outreach efforts.”

The UW System announcement comes at a time when the college is working to finalize the appointment of a new CALS Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach. VandenBosch has conferred with Karl Martin, Dean and Director of Cooperative Extension, and they agree that the potential restructuring doesn’t change the need for this important leadership position within CALS, and the college is moving forward with the hiring process for this position.

Likewise, the CALS Organizational Redesign Committee is moving forward with its work—to position the college, departments and divisions to be successful in the future.

For its part, Cooperative Extension will continue to implement the nEXT Gen reorganization of its programs and administrative functions. Cooperative Extension’s agreements with other UW campuses and local county governments will also continue.

The UW-Madison Office of the Provost will head up the effort to work with Cooperative Extension to develop an implementation plan for the integration. If the restructuring proposal is approved, Cooperative Extension would join UW-Madison effective July 1, 2018.

“I think this is a win-win for Cooperative Extension and UW-Madison and I’m excited for Cooperative Extension to be more closely aligned with our partners at UW-Madison including the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, School of Human Ecology, and Letters and Science,” says Martin.

“At CALS, we will do everything we can to help smooth the path of this reorganization,” says VandenBosch.

The restructuring proposal includes other big changes. UW System’s 13 two-year Colleges would merge with their nearest four-year institution. Other aspects of UW-Extension, such as the Broadcasting and Media Innovations (including Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio), would be integrated with UW System Administration in order to maintain their statewide role.

According to Cross, these changes are necessitated by demographic trends, budgetary constraints, and the need for closer alignment between research and practice. The goal, he says, is to “expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported.”

For more details, read the full announcement.

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