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Conversation with the President: a recap

April 10, 2013

If you could correctly predict President Bierman’s forecast for Commencement Day—70 degrees and sunny—you could have won a pair of blue-and-gold socks Wednesday, one of four such pairs he gave away at the annual spring Conversation with the President.

Beyond the humor and Beloiter-themed footwear, Bierman also imparted a review of some campus issues that have taken place over the last semester and a half, and offered updates on various ongoing projects.

Attendees also heard brief updates from admissions—Vice President for Enrollment Nancy Benedict said that deposits and applications have been up—and Mark Wold, senior director of alumni and parent relations and annual support, reported that gifts to the Beloiter Fund are up by 300 instances over this time last year. The Staff Matters committee also offered an outline on this year's Summer Symposium, slated for May 15. Bierman also reported that summer programs like Summer Blocks, Summer Fields, and CLS have seen large increases in enrollment.

Some of the biggest issues on Beloiters’ collective minds seemed to be the status of the Powerhouse and Phoenix projects. Bierman addressed both.

As for the Phoenix Project—the multi-use building under construction downtown, in the lots immediately to the east of Turtle Creek bookstore on East Grand Ave.—Bierman announced that the college would not be pursuing student housing there. 

“We have been engaged in active conversations with the development company to see if this could work as housing” for about 50 students, Bierman said. “There’s a lot of positive things that could come from a project like this.” However, “at the end of the day, the economics of this were not going to work.”

While the development company will continue with the Phoenix Project, the college will not be involved. But the president said that the developers and their idea has captured the college's imagination and attention. We will “have a broader, deeper conversation about our portfolio of housing on campus,” Bierman said.

The Powerhouse project continues to move forward. In January, Alliant Energy (the current owner of the building on the banks of the river) filed paperwork with the Department of Natural Resources to begin to identify and address environmental issues with the building, and pursue rehabilitation to make it suitable for the college's intended use as an activity and recreation center.

In the meantime, Bierman said the college is in talks with architects about the possibilities for renovating the building. An architect for the project may be hired as early as September. In the best-case scenario, the environmental improvements would be finished by the summer of 2014, followed by two years of construction to ready the building for use in the summer of 2016. But that, Bierman emphasized, would be the fastest possible scenario.   

“We continue to believe we have a fundraising strategy around this to allow us to go forward with this building as a debt-free building,” he said.

Among the other major projects and achievements Bierman highlighted from this academic year:

  • Continuing efforts to complete the Jenzabar transition
  • Implementing the new curriculum. “We’ve got two more years before we even have a full round [of the new curriculum] completed,” Bierman said.
  • The new Fast Forward Fundraising campaign—the project-based, modular approach to fundraising that was rolled out in November.

Upcoming projects/news/physical improvements:

  • New vice president for administration and treasurer sought. “We are making progress, and he have a very strong applicant pool,” Bierman said.
  • Compensation increases: in the budget set to be presented to the trustees at an upcoming board meeting, the proposed increase is set at 3 percent plus a 1 percent pool for other compensation adjustments—last year it was 2 percent for the employee pool with again, 1 percent for adjustments
  • C-SPAN will be taping Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s remarks at Commencement

  • This summer there will be a new patio/sidewalks added to the front of WAC, funded by the Renewing the Historic Core fund
  • Also this summer, Pearsons will get a new, needed roof
  • Updated classrooms; new carpet and paint in one of the ’64 Halls