Wachter takes lead at UWSIf you want to know how the new University of Wisconsin-Superior chancellor feels about her move to Superior, take a look at her car.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
If you want to know how the new University of Wisconsin-Superior chancellor feels about her move to Superior, take a look at her car. Chancellor Renée Wachter had the classic 1977 MGB roadster repainted Yellowjacket yellow in preparation for Monday’s Fourth of July Parade. But gas leaking onto the exhaust sidelined the sweet ride.
“You might have the exploding chancellor on her first public event — probably not a good idea,” Wachter told university spokeswoman Lynne Williams about the setback.
Instead, she waved to the crowds from a convertible provided by interim provost and dean of facilities Faith Hensrud and her husband, Neil.
“I felt like a queen for a day,” Wachter said. “It was really a great event and a great way to see the community and greet the community and show that Yellowjacket pride.”
A self-professed car nut, Wachter also enjoys biking, hiking and sailing.
“The thought of coming to Superior with this wonderful natural resource and size of the lake was really exciting,” she said. “I’ve always been a water person and have enjoyed being near water. So the thought of being able to live here was a real asset.”
And she’s enthusiastic about starting a garden.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going to grow, and when can it grow and can I still get my tomato fix,” she said.
Wachter, 44, stepped into her new role as chancellor last Friday. Within the first week, she had been in a parade and attended her first Rotary Club meeting.
“Now, they’re a singing group and I’m not so sure I have the singing voice but we’ll give it a good try,” she said.
The new chancellor plans to spend her first few months in conversation, listening and learning about the hopes, expectations and dreams others have for the university and how it will work with the community.
“But that’s, I think, the exciting part because you hear so many really compelling stories from alumni and people who work here about their dedication to the students and student success,” Wachter said. “I think that’s very energizing and very invigorating.”
This is an exciting time for UWS, which has been dedicated to education and student success since it was founded in 1893. More recently, new building projects have transformed the college landscape.
“And I think that on the heels of the superb leadership of Julius Erlenbach, the institution has refined its mission, is undergoing this wonderful transformation,” Wachter said. “And what I would hope is that we’re going to build more on that foundation.”
Wachter has two main goals for the institution — first, for it to be the finest undergraduate institution in the region that is accessible to all regardless of financial need, and second, to focus on delivering innovative educational programming to students when they need it and where they need it, while meeting the economic needs of the region.
Distance learning will play a key role to reach those goals.
“I think the need for that kind of flexible, innovative delivery is almost insatiable,” Wachter said.
People today are juggling jobs, families, elder care and other responsibilities.
“I think that there’s a tremendous need for us and responsibility as an institution and a community player to be able to deliver that kind of programming,” the new chancellor said.
With budget cutbacks on the horizon, Wachter said UWS is focusing delivering programs effectively and efficiently.
“We’d like to say that we would like to work smarter instead of harder with fewer resources,” she said. “So that means really taking a hard look at what it is we do and how we do it” while at the same time staying true to UWS core values of student-centered education. Campus commitment to those values is one of the things that drew Wachter to UWS.
“It wasn’t something that was just published in a mission statement or an obscure line in a policy manual somewhere,” she said. “It was evident everywhere I talked to people about what motivated them. What gets them up in the morning was the dedication to seeing students succeed.”
Wachter’s leadership style is people oriented.
“I think that your people are your No. 1 asset in an organization,” she said.” So keeping that enthusiasm and passion, I think, is going to be really important.”
Like her predecessor, Wachter hopes to keep ties to the community and alumni strong. The way Erlenbach talked about Superior and his catchphrase, “It’s another beautiful day in Superior,” were unique and inspiring.
“We’re actually having conversations about how to best follow up on that outstanding legacy, to keep up that pride,” Wachter said.
Her last position was dean of the School of Business at Truman State University which, like UWS, is a public liberal arts college. Today’s global marketplace and interconnected society calls for a liberal arts background, Wachter said.
“It’s that interdisciplinary multiple perspectives that’s going to help make us better citizens in our communities, make us better citizens in our country and even better world citizens and to give us that interdisciplinary perspective to be able to solve problems,” she said. “And I think that’s what makes it special.”
Wachter loves to be outdoors. She and her husband, Jim, plan to be active members of the community. The couple also has a black Labrador-chow mix named Max.
“I hope that when I do meet people out on the streets that if they do recognize me to come up and say hello,” Wachter said. She encouraged community members to share their UWS experiences and ideas for improving the community-university relationship.
When asked about her first week on the job, Wachter smiled. The area, she said, has lived up to its reputation.
“It has been superior,” she said.
For more information on Wachter, visit www.uwsuper.edu/index.htm, to see a question and answer interview with the chancellor as well as her welcome statement.