This is the eighth part of a series profiling members of the Board of Regents, the governing board for the University of Wisconsin System.
Regent Brent Smith has seen the benefit of the Wisconsin school system firsthand. From his high school years at Madison West, to his law school days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Smith knows the advantages of having a UW education.
As a regent, Smith has worked to increase the number of baccalaureate degree holders in the state by making the transfer of credits between the Wisconsin Technical Colleges and the UW system easier.
"That's the No. 1 challenge we have right now," Smith said. "The more [degree holders] you have, the better job force, the better wages paid, the better overall economic condition of the state."
Smith's commitment to this goal has been evident even before he became a regent.
"He was focused, he was collaborative, and he had some vision," UW System Communications Director Doug Bradley said. "Since he has been on the board, we have seen that."
Smith has been the co-chair of the Committee of Baccalaureate Expansion since before he became a regent member. The Legislature assigned half a million dollars to the regent board to go toward the goal of increasing the number of degree holders in the state.
This funding was a direct result of COBE's efforts, and the committee will soon be announcing several programs that would use this money.
"[These programs are] examples of how the two systems can work together and come out with the result of more degree holders," Smith said.
In addition, he said he would like to give UW chancellors more flexibility in making decisions affecting their individual campuses, decisions usually made by the regents. He added the regents should encourage chancellors to come up with innovations that would be "unique to [their] particular campus" to try to help the UW System grow.
Smith is also looking at ways to attract more out-of-state students to enroll in the UW System. He said the tuition from out-of-state students could help fund financial aid programs, increase the system's ability to hire faculty and help with a series of other issues.
Smith supported a $2,000 reduction in nonresident undergraduate tuition at most UW campuses last week, a decision the regents hope will increase nonresident enrollment.
"[We have] fallen behind getting [out-of-state students] in the last three or four years because our tuition is out of whack with our competitors," he said.
Smith is an "ex officio" regent, holding his seat simultaneously with president of the Wisconsin Technical College Board. He practices law in La Crosse and is also a member of the UW–La Crosse Chancellor's Community Council.
Smith said his knowledge and involvement with Western Wisconsin provides a unique contribution to the Board of Regents.
"He lives and works in La Crosse, and having that part of the state sort of feel like it has a voice and representation on the board has been helpful," Bradley said. "He is very representative of that part of the state."
As a regent, Smith is a member of the Business, Finance and Audit Committee, Chair of the Student Discipline and Other Student Appeals committee, Chair of the Academic Staff Excellence Award Committee, and a member of the Committee Regarding Faculty/Academic Staff Disciplinary Process.
After his ex officio term as regent is over, Smith would need an appointment by the governor to remain on the board, something Bradley said he would endorse.
"Here is somebody who has two years under his belt so the learning curve is gone. He represents a part of the state that needs some representation on the board, and he is still with the technical college," Bradley said. "So he would be a very attractive candidate."