Office of the Provost

Message from the Provost – March 30, 2011

To the University Community:

Over the past two months, I have held budget discussions with all of the UW’s senior administrators – deans, chancellors, vice presidents, and vice provosts, and today I am updating all of you on what we have been doing. Together, we’ve reviewed a mountain of data on student credit hours, degrees, quality, scholarship, research, diversity, collaborations and a host of other important indicators of the UW’s many activities.  We have talked at length about our mission, and have grappled with difficult questions about how to cut spending while preserving the quality that is the hallmark of this university.  You can read both the unit budget narratives and the centrally provided metrics at the sites noted below this paragraph.

Unit budget narratives

Centrally provided metrics

I have learned a great deal in this process. I’ve learned that senior UW administrators are skillful advocates for their programs–but, more importantly, that across all three of our campuses they care deeply about the quality of the student experience at UW, about working conditions for our staff, and about the quality of our faculty.  These budget discussions have also reinforced what I already knew: these are difficult times for all of us; the continuing uncertainty over our budget is often dispiriting.  But I’ve also learned that administrators, faculty, students and staff are truly dedicated to sustaining quality in our core mission of learning, discovery, and public service.

I began the budget review process last autumn by seeking advice from many across the three campuses – from students, deans, chancellors, faculty, and staff.  Consistently, UW community members told me that we should, first, avoid across-the-board cuts that result in mediocrity for all, second, preserve the quality of outstanding programs, and third, cut – when necessary – in strategic ways that would serve UW well in the future.
Through all of this came the advice that I should do all I can to maintain and enhance the environment we have for learning, teaching, scholarship, and research.  My budget priorities for the Seattle campus ( reflect this advice, and will guide me in the specific budget decisions I will make jointly with university leadership in the next few months. I have discussed these concepts with the two Chancellors, who are using similar guidelines and are working to help their campuses meet their budget challenges as strategically as possible.

What has impressed me most in the past few months has been the innovative spirit that so many of you have demonstrated in the face of our budget woes. One example comes from the College of Arts and Sciences, where the 14 Humanities Division departments are undertaking a sweeping reorganization of administration and of majors.   The first step, already finalized, is the sharing of core services (such as payroll and purchasing). Providing these services under decreased support has created great strains for small units –
and taken time away from student advising and other faculty support. The shared services approach will help alleviate that issue. The second step, still under discussion, is creating a series of faculty-designed “modular” concentrations that might replace traditional undergraduate departmental majors while engaging students in the great breadth and depth of the course offerings of the entire College of Arts and Sciences.  A student interested, for example, in  Humanities and the Environment might take nature-oriented courses in a half dozen departments or more – gaining perspectives from Germanics, English, French, Asian Languages and Literature,  History, Art, and Art History in addition to courses taken in other colleges.  As Humanities Divisional Dean Bob Stacey notes, the Humanities departments recognize that they may be somewhat smaller in the future, but they will continue to provide an excellent student experience.

This is just one of many stories about innovation and creativity at the
university I have heard during my budget discussions over the past two months.  My thanks to all of you who–even in these challenging times–continue to make this a great institution.


Mary E. Lidstrom
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President