Interview with Chancellor Evetovich

Fifteenth Chancellor speaks with Exponent on journey and goals

The Exponent had the opportunity to talk with Chancellor Tammy Evetovich, the 15th Chancellor of UW Platteville, about her schooling, her experiences as both faculty and administrator and how she envisions her time as chancellor.

What is your educational background, and where did it all begin for you?
“I grew up on a farm in the middle of Nebraska
in a hard-working family. My dad was the salt of the earth type of guy that just had really good values and taught me my work ethic.” Dr. Evetovich’s love for math, science and education developed over the course of high school, culminating with both a life changing physiology class that inspired her to pursue biology and her earning of Valedictorian for her class.

Upon high school graduation, Dr. Evetovich pursued her post-secondary education at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a master’s and Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology.

“The beauty of a graduate degree is when you get to specialize in what you love the most. Physiology was something that I loved, as I mentioned, but the exercise part of it … I was an athlete, I grew up with athletics in my family, I grew up with it in my life, so health and wellness were something I latched onto as well. It was a natural fit to me.”

What has been your career as both faculty and administrator, and how did you make the change between them?
Upon completing her Ph.D., Dr. Evetovich
was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I thought I’d be a faculty member forever,” she remarked, “with my first job out (of school) thinking, ‘this is what I love to do. I love the students, I love to teach, I love to research; this is the dream.’ Which was great, but my husband and I were alone with our two young children, and we wanted to come closer back to family.”

Dr. Evetovich and her family moved back to Nebraska, where she got a job teaching at Wayne State College. Here, she would serve as both faculty and administrator for the next 20 years.

After some time, Dr. Evetovich, with the guidance of some mentors, sought administrative positions.

In February 2020, she interviewed here at UW-Platteville. By April 2020, she had secured her job as the Provost.

Dr. Evetovich served as Provost until Chancellor Dennis J. Shields announced his stepping down in early 2022, at which point Dr. Evetovich was offered the Interim Chancellor position. Then, in mid-April this year, she was appointed Chancellor.

She continued, “I never expected this, ever, and that’s something that I tell students: you all seem to think that you have to have it all figured out right now … but rather, you start one direction, you take that path; you make a decision, and it takes you another way. It’s a pathway, and the decisions you make along the way determine where you go.”

She noted, too, that while the pathway forms as the journey does, it’s important to understand your own abilities and capabilities. “I wouldn’t have continued to do it if I didn’t think I was good at it. I consider this servant leadership; if I’m not doing well, if I’m not serving the institution well, then I shouldn’t be doing that. I’ve had that attitude of respect.”

What was your experience of beginning your time at UW-Platteville during the start of the pandemic?
“That first year as Provost, I was experiencing
some of the same things that the freshmen were, in that I didn’t get to have the same experience as everyone else. When I came back for my sophomore year, my second year as Provost, people assumed that I had experienced all the normal stuff before. I had never done it before… it was much harder for the sophomore students, but I could relate to them that they were being freshmen again.”

“I’ve always felt an affinity for that freshman class of Fall 2020 because we experienced that freshman year at the same time.”

Dr. Evetovich explained what, exactly, a Provost does: “Wayne Weber, the current Provost, and I always joke that nobody knows what a Provost is. I like to joke that it’s the opposite of the Anti-vost or it’s a really fragrant cheese, because not a lot of people know what a Provost is. They act as ‘number two’ on the campus. The Chancellor runs the campus, and while they’re out doing external events, the Provost makes sure the campus is running.”

What were some ideas and projects that you wanted to work on as Interim Chancellor and can now fully focus on as Chancellor?
Dr. Evetovich mentioned three things:
optimizing enrollment, reviewing the budget and, her main focus, forming partnerships with UW-Platteville.

“I think the thing that I’d done as interim Chancellor that was really important was creating those career pathways … I really focused on our relationships with our technical colleges.”

“I don’t consider it a competition … We have to work together. I’ve said this many, many times before: all of these institutions of higher education, we’re all fine on our own. The only way we’re going to thrive is if we work together.”

These partnerships include the establishment of a nursing program with UW-Oshkosh as well as working with Southwest Tech to collaborate on associate degree progress.

“The other thing I wanted to point out that’s important to me is to continue to make sure college is affordable to our students … when I came here, I wanted to be strategic with our scholarships, using them the best way we can. And, I said that we needed to increase our scholarships so we’re working with our wonderful Foundation board who’s in alignment with us. We will continue to find ways to make sure college is accessible and affordable.”

What are some of your thoughts, ideas, or plans to continue Platteville’s trajectory towards sustainability and Zero Waste by 2035?

“We are one of four institutions of higher education who earned the Green Ribbon Award this year. That just tells me, obviously, that it’s a strength of ours, but also that we need to continue to build upon that.

“What I love about Zero Waste by 2035 is that the students did that. We have so many faculty on this campus, we have so many programs on this campus that have a sustainability component to it, we have so many people committed to it … what I think is, ‘how am I going to contribute?’ I don’t know how to do a burn, I don’t know how to do other things, but I know there’s great people on this campus who will  continue to do that work and I will continue to support them.”

What are some of your thoughts, ideas, or plans to address declining enrollment?
“I want people to understand that we have a
strategic enrollment management plan that was put together by many, many people across this campus and we have great people leading that. Out of that came two councils: one is around recruitment, and one is around retention.”

When Dr. Evetovich became Chancellor, she identified four pillars of enrollment that she wanted to focus on: new freshman, transfer students, graduate students and retention.

Dr. Evetovich emphasized that decisions about enrollment are driven by data.

“We’re also using data to understand that the number of students graduating from high school is going to start to decline. We need to be aware of our demographics, we need to be aware of our region, and there’s a lot of data tied to this plan … so we’re going to see some modest increases in enrollment if we do this well, but then we need to understand that there comes a point where we’ve probably reached our peak because there’s just not as many students coming from high school.”