Nearly a month into his new position as the University of Wisconsin’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, Paul DeLuca Jr. has begun to look at undergraduate advising, student aid and address issues related to implementing the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates.
DeLuca said he thinks he is coming up to speed at a reasonable pace, understanding the critical issues at UW and sorting them into short- and long-term categories, as well as getting a flavor for the various “sins of omission.”
“He is a very strategic and thoughtful man in terms of his analysis of problems, his analysis of issues as they surface and really has a ‘let’s take care of it attitude,'” Dean of Students Lori Berquam said.
Recognizing that one of the primary problems encountered at an institution of UW’s complexity can be a discrepancy between infrastructure and needs, DeLuca said he is intensely interested in improving the advising situation at UW, an objective clearly identified by the Madison Initiative.
“Advising is a critical issue. Our advising structure is probably not up to the task, especially for advising students across schools and colleges,” DeLuca said.
He added the transition students make from their first or second years to their final degree programs is not something the current advising structure is adequately equipped to deal with.
Berquam said if a student hypothetically has two majors that span colleges, such as a major in engineering and a certificate in gender studies, the current advising structure makes it unclear who your adviser is.
“One [adviser] may tell you one thing which may contradict what another might say, or one [adviser] might have a lot of good info about one thing, but maybe not about something else,” Berquam said.
The student aid situation is also getting a close look by DeLuca in his first months as provost.
Working on a mechanism to align fundraising and student aid, which he said has never really been done before, DeLuca said he hopes to build a relationship between the UW Foundation and the university as a whole with respect to student aid.
“It’s very hard to raise funds for student aid, so you need to build your endowment so you can capitalize on that and generate an amount of cash flow to have an impact,” DeLuca said.
Also working toward effective implementation of the Madison Initiative, DeLuca said he and other administrators have put together an oversight committee to help answer a call they have put out for proposals from every school and college at the university.
Issues of interest for this committee include oversold classes, bottlenecked courses, insufficient faculty and instructional modes, according to DeLuca.
Going beyond the objectives of the Madison Initiative, DeLuca said he is also taking a look at cross-college issues as well, such as technology-enhanced learning.
“Not just putting your courses on webpages, but actually taking advantage of technology to change learning,” DeLuca said.
Chancellor Biddy Martin appointed DeLuca June 11 but could not be reached for comment due to illness.