Background: A Brief History

February 2006

A Growth Agenda for Wisconsin is introduced

The Growth Agenda for Wisconsin was introduced by University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly at the February 2006 Board of Regents meeting. President Reilly explained that the Growth Agenda vision evolved out of the Regents’ Charting a New Course study completed in spring 2004, as well as extensive conversations with Chancellors and Regents. Reilly described it as “equal parts inspiration, aspiration and vision," telling the Board:

“We must grow and nurture this wonderful asset we know as the University of Wisconsin System so that the state, its people, and the quality of life in the state are enhanced for the 21st century. We are at a defining moment in the evolution of the UW, and I am confident that we can guarantee student access, and Wisconsin success, for generations to come…We need to do all that we can to put the University of Wisconsin within the reach of every state citizen.”

Photo of UW System President Kevin P. Reilly




Fall 2007-Spring 2008

Strategic planning informs Growth Agenda vision, leads to Action Steps

The Growth Agenda vision was informed by the comprehensive Advantage Wisconsin strategic planning process, the UW’s strategic framework to produce more graduates, stimulate the creation of well-paying jobs, and build stronger communities.

In February 2008, President Reilly advanced a set of Growth Agenda Action Steps. These actionable ideas grew out of the Advantage Wisconsin strategic planning process, which gathered input through seven “Think Tank” work groups, statewide listening sessions, business surveys, and other methods.

Among the Action Steps:

  • Commit to Shared Learning Goals for all UW undergraduates, preparing students to be competent citizens in the 21st-century, knowledge-based, global society.

  • Offer new pathways to degrees for Wisconsin’s adult student population by providing flexible, convenient learning opportunities. For example, the Adult Student Initiative is reaching out to adults who have some previous UW college credit to help them complete their degree.

  • Model inclusive excellence, integrating the core values of diversity and equity into the UW System’s education and employment practices.  

  • Build a Wisconsin KnowHow2GO network to help middle- and high-school students fulfill their dreams of going to college.

  • Transform research into leading-edge jobs, stepping up efforts to connect academic research with the private sector to transform ideas into new jobs and new businesses that will attract and employ college-educated workers.

  • Establish new “Wisconsin Idea” public policy forums, bringing together diverse parties to solve complex challenges that directly affect all Wisconsin residents.

  • Increase private, need-based financial aid to help keep college affordable for everyone.


Spring 2009 – Present

Annual accountability report is restructured to measure Growth Agenda goals

Beginning with the  2008-09 edition, the UW System’s annual Accountability Report was restructured to specifically measure Growth Agenda goals. See “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future: UW System’s Growth Agenda Accountability Report, 2008-09.” This annual report, formerly titled “Achieving Excellence,” is similar to the way corporations report to their stockholders. As in the past, it outlines how the university holds itself accountable annually to taxpayers, students, alumni, and all Wisconsin residents.

The 2009-10 Accountability Report was presented to the Board of Regents at its May 2010 meeting, along with complementary redesigned UW institutional accountability reports.

Growth Agenda Accountability Report, 2009-10


Growth Agenda investments to date

  • 2007-09 State Budget:  Under the 2007-09 Governor’s budget, the Board of Regents was able to invest in every initiative in that biennium’s Growth Agenda for Wisconsin. These initiatives enabled the UW System to emphasize growing the state’s economy and workforce, including:
    • Educating more nurses to improve health care,
    • Expanding academic research and development,
    • Educating teachers to serve all students,
    • Improving student advising, to increase graduation rates, and
    • Boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

  • 2009-11 State Budget: Under the 2009-11 state budget, the UW System needed to manage $250 million in reductions. There was no new funding for Growth Agenda initiatives, but UW institutions continued previous efforts from the 2007-09 biennium, such as the Adult Student Initiative and efforts to increase enrollments. Several campuses set new records for enrollments, and the UW System as a whole achieved record enrollments of more than 178,000 students in Fall 2009, and almost 182,000 students in Fall 2010.


Future plans

The Growth Agenda for Wisconsin will continue to be the UW System’s guiding vision for a prosperous, well-educated Wisconsin prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Measures such as the redesigned Accountability Report will provide data to help track the university’s success and keep it on course to meet evolving educational and economic goals.