UW-P requests state funding for two construction projects

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Chancellor Dennis Shields

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Prospective University of Wisconsin-Platteville (UW-P) students and their families might be interested to know that the university has made a request as part of the proposed UW System Budget for two major construction projects to improve their engineering and biology programs. 

The requests include a Phase Two renovation of Boebel Hall, the lone science building on campus, and the construction of a new engineering building. Phase One of the renovation of Boebel Hall was completed on the first floor of the building six years ago. The budget request is for the renovation of floors two and three, which is estimated to cost $20 million. 

UW-P Chancellor Dennis Shields said construction of a new engineering building is estimated at $50 million. UW-P is in its 150th year and the proposed new engineering building would be called Sesquicentennial Hall and Data Center and would be for mechanical engineering.

Biology and mechanical engineering are the two most popular majors at UW-P. 

“Engineering at UW-P has doubled in the past 10 years,” said Shields, who noted that 76 percent of UW-P engineering graduates stay in Wisconsin. “We’re a major contributor to the engineer workforce in the state.” 

UW-P officials recently toured Miniature Precision Components and 3M Company of Prairie du Chien. Shields said that the plant manager and lead engineer at MPC are examples of UW-P graduates who have made careers in Southwestern Wisconsin.

“We’re asking the State Legislature to better serve the students and their families at UW-Platteville,” said Shields in noting that area legislators including State Representative Travis Tranel, State Senator Howard Marklein and State Representative Todd Novak have been very supportive of the two proposed construction projects. UW-P officials have also talked to State Representatives Lee Nerison and Jennifer Shilling.

The UW System is requesting to reverse years of declining support for higher education with a funding increase of $42.5 million in the next state budget. Two years ago, the UW System sought an increase of $95 million from the state. Lawmakers instead cut their budget by $250 million.

Shields said there are 4,000 students in the College of Engineering, Math and Science at UW-P, with 3,000 of those being engineering majors. 

“UW-Platteville is the number two producer of engineers in Wisconsin,” said Shields. “UW-Madison is a research institution. A much larger percentage of our engineers stay in the state. We address the needs of the state.”

Shields said the outlook for the construction-renovation requests at UW-P look good because they are towards the top of the priority list that will be going before the UW Board of Regents next week. If the Board of Regents approves of the requests, the requests will then go before the State Legislature and then to the governor.

“We have a great case to make for Wisconsin and Southwestern Wisconsin,” said Shields who explained that most of UW-P’s students are drawn from about a 120-mile radius from Platteville.

“We want our share of the investment in Wisconsin to come to Southwestern Wisconsin, not just Milwaukee,” he said.

Shields said that the majority of the first floor renovation of Boebel Hall done six years ago was funded by UW-P. Other projects funded mostly through campus-based dollars include the new student center at UW-P, the engineering building that was completed seven years ago and the renovation to Ullsvik Hall. Shields said that while the other universities in the UW System have had their projects paid for by the state, UW-P has funded its projects mostly on their own over the last several years.

“We now want our fair share,” Shields said. “We want an additional investment in the families of Wisconsin. Most of our students are from families of modest means and we need to keep the cost of education affordable as part of the UW System. This is the workforce of the future.”

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