New UW System Board of Regents president shares priorities for his term

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - University of Wisconsin Regent Drew Petersen was unanimously elected to serve as president of the board on last Friday.

“I think I’ve got the opportunity over the next two years to really be a champion, a tenacious advocate for the UW System,” Petersen said.

NBC15 talked with Petersen about his priorities for the next two years which includes student success.

“When I think about student success, I think about undergraduate research,” said Petersen. “We’ve been a leader but we know that when students have practical experience in their field of study, they’re career ready.”

Petersen also discussed behavioral health improvements which he says all UW campuses need.

“Over 50 percent report anxiety and stress,” Petersen said. “I would like to see the UW system invest both operationally and financially in combating this behavioral health issue.”

As far as physical improvements, the capital budget grants over $1 billion dollars for building projects.

“I think we did a very good job of getting members of the legislature onto our campuses to see the kind of challenges but also the opportunities that we had,” Petersen said.

In addition to updating aging campus buildings, there’s a need to upgrade technology and campus security.

“The capital budget has a number of investments that deal with improved lighting, surveillance, and entry into facilities and buildings,” he said.

As a father himself, Petersen says many parents are thinking the same thing when it comes to accessing the safety of a campus.

“They want to feel safe and secure,” Petersen said. “It improves the learning environment and I think it’s absolutely critical that we make those sorts of investments.”

Petersen has served as vice president of the board since 2017. He has been a regent since 2013 and is senior vice president of corporate affairs for TDS Telecom, a telecommunications company based in Madison.

Petersen said he was pleased the Legislature's Republican-controlled finance committee approved $1 billion for UW building projects last week.

The committee gave the system only about $58 million more in the 2019-20 state budget, though. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had called for $127 million. Petersen says UW officials will continue making the case for more money.