WisBusiness: Wiley Says ‘Unshackle UW-Milwaukee’

By David Wise

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said yesterday that UW-Milwaukee needs to be “unshackled” from constraints on the programs it offers if it is to realize its full potential.

Speaking at a noon luncheon sponsored by the Wisconsin Innovation Network, Wiley said successive legislatures, boards of regents and generations of assistant administrators have been “terrified” of someone pointing out possible duplication between the universities, leading to a situation where Milwaukee “has been forced to give odd names to some of its programs and blanket names to its PhD programs.”

Wiley pointed out that even though Milwaukee has a wide array of undergraduate engineering programs, a PhD in any of those areas is simply called “engineering,” while a PhD in philosophy is called “urban studies.”

“This is silliness,” Wiley said. Because nearly every PhD granted follows a unique program, Wiley said, authorization to offer more of them would essentially come down to changes in marketing.

Wiley said it will take the best faculty members to help Milwaukee succeed, and that the lack of sufficient PhD programs makes it hard to attract them, Wiley said.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago agreed.

“For a comprehensive urban research university you really need more PhD programs,” Santiago said.

Santiago said that it takes a “critical mass” of good faculty to offer a competitive PhD program, but noted that in Albany, where he served as provost, the university had half the faculty of Milwaukee and twice the number of PhD programs.

While adding more degree programs may cause overlap and seem wastefully duplicative, both Wiley and Santiago agreed that in the case of research, it doesn’t lead to diminishing returns like in business. Santiago noted that programs that build knowledge and bring more creative people into the area enhances the efforts of both universities.

Santiago pointed to the School of Public Health planned for Milwaukee that would have a counterpart in Madison. “There’s more than enough room and there’s sufficient need to have both masters and doctoral programs in public health in Madison and Milwaukee and eventually elsewhere,” Santiago said.

“What is wrong with having multiple programs based on areas of need?” Santiago asked, adding that if they are not viable they will fall by the wayside.

The two chancellors spent considerable time discussing many ways in which the two universities have worked together and supported each other.

Wiley pointed to a list of collaborative efforts provided to the attendees that included the Wisconsin Small Engine Consortium, the Center for Value-Added Research, the Institute for Urban Education and others and said it was “just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.”

Wiley said that contrary to public perception there is very rarely if ever any serious disagreements between the two universities and said that for Madison and Wisconsin to prosper Milwaukee and it’s largest university have to do well.

About 90 people attended the noon luncheon.