Sacrifice, career advancement among reasons some are leaving UWRF

Posted April 20, 2016

With the end of this academic year, some UW-River Falls faculty and staff are making the decision to leave the university, including the chair of the biology department and the chief information officer.

For Biology Chair Mark Bergland, retirement is coming early after 38 years at UWRF. Recent budget cuts to the UW System left Bergland with a challenge, he said. If he had not decided to retire after this year, he would have had to cut one of the department’s four instructional academic staff (IAS) entirely or cut the salaries of all four by nearly $11,000 each. Both options would have hurt the department, he said, and Bergland also wanted to keep all of the IAS because they are just as valuable as the department’s tenured faculty.

“In my mind, there’s no difference between faculty and instructional academic staff. They’re colleagues, right?” Bergland said. “Just because somebody happened to go through the tenure track process doesn’t make them any better.”

Bradley Caskey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that retiring early in an effort to save departments’ offerings is not something he has seen until recent years.

“This past year, we had at least three faculty members who retired earlier than they would have probably retired in an effort to keep enough money in their departments to keep them functioning,” Caskey said. “That’s new. That’s a lot of self-sacrifice.”

Kris Butler, chair of the Department of Modern Language, also has said she is leaving UWRF. Her salary, she said, could be used to save some language courses that otherwise might be dropped because of budget cuts.

Bergland said that, even with his retirement, the department is still going to be affected, as it will take time for Professor Fred Bonilla to transition into the role of chair. Another challenge is going to be continuing to pay for the department’s supplies and equipment. Bergland said that frozen tuition and declining state support make it hard to run a department in which technology becomes more sophisticated and expensive every year.

“We’re surviving right now. I’ll tell you, though, any additional cuts and I don’t know what we’re going to do, because they’ve gone through the fat, through the meat,” Bergland said. “Now they’re to the bone. Now they’re going to start sawing into the bones of the university if they cut any more.”

Chief Information Officer (CIO) Steve Reed has accepted a position as CIO and vice president of Information Technology and Telecommunications with Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. Reed said that he ultimately decided that accepting the position was something he needed to do to develop his career.

“The biggest factor in my decision was what’s best for me and my family and my career,” Reed said. “I still have a lot of time left to work, and I have career goals, and this really provided an opportunity for me to advance my career.”

Reed said that he was surprised by how difficult it was to make the decision to leave UWRF. He said that he has a lot of loyalty to his staff in the Division of Technology Services, which is not something that he has experienced before.

“I enjoy coming to work every day, and again, it’s the people,” Reed said. “It’s probably the first time in my career where I’ve really stepped back and had that realization of how nice it is to be able to work around a group of people that you enjoy.”

Like Reed, Bergland also said that the thought of leaving UWRF feels strange. He said that he recently gave an ornithology lecture, which is a branch of zoology that focuses on birds, for the last time.

“It’s going to be really bizarre. Like today, I had that lecture, and I’ve talked about things like that for the last 38 years,” Bergland said. “I think, ‘That’s the last time I’m going to do that,’ so that’s really tough. I’m going to really miss the students and my colleagues.”

Reed starts at Metropolitan State University on April 25, and Bergland’s retirement will begin officially on July 2.