F I N A L Updated 08.29.01

 

 

The CONFLUENCE CENTER FOR CHIPPEWA RIVER STUDIES

 

1 . Name, Purposes and Functions

 

The CONFLUENCE CENTER FOR CHIPPEWA RIVER STUDIES seeks to facilitate interdisciplinary examinations and appreciations of the Chippewa River Valley Region. With the Eau Claire campus straddling the Chippewa River, the CONFLUENCE Center is inherently a regional center focused on the Chippewa River Valley. While geographical in setting, the primary goal of the center is to encourage and support multi- and interdisciplinary activities ­ hence the name CONFLUENCE. The Chippewa River Valley provides common ground for research in many fields, and is a vital resource for many individuals and groups throughout the university and regional communities. The mission of the CONFLUENCE Center is to create an environment that allows these many different interests to flow together like tributaries of a river.

 

The specific roles and functions of the CONFLUENCE Center are to provide a forum for Chippewa River Studies that encourages any study or appreciation of the region, and support these activities in a manner that fosters interdisciplinary efforts. The core group of the CONFLUENCE Center includes many members of the university community who already have an established record of research or activities pertaining to the Chippewa Valley. This group consists primarily of environmental scientists from the departments of Biology, Geography, Geology and the UW-Extension. The State of Wisconsin's recent designation of the Lower Chippewa River Scientific Area and the diverse setting of the Chippewa Valley that stretches from the northwoods to the Mississippi ensures that the region is ripe for extensive environmental research. The center will serve these individuals by providing technical support with state-of-the-art GIS databases, remote sensing images, and GPS field equipment. The center will also support and promote these activities with workshops, campus and community events, an annual CONFLUENCE publication, and a web site containing a variety of print, photo, map, and video resources relating to Chippewa River studies.

 

The CONFLUENCE Center also will seek to expand this core group and to promote interdisciplinary activities. We recognize that the Chippewa Valley is the focus of researchers in fields such as History, Anthropology, English and Economics, and Recreation undertakes a vast assortment of activities that promote an appreciation of the region. We also recognize that there are many other parties that may potentially develop interests in the region. Openness is a fundamental founding principle of the CONFLUENCE Center. We will promote a center environment that encourages open participation for all interested parties across the campus and community. This CONFLUENCE Center will also openly encourage and support a wide range of activities, from research and field instruction to recreational experiences and artistic impressions. Maintaining this openness is crucial for the CONFLUENCE Center efforts to encourage interdisciplinary activities as these efforts often begin with the recognition and appreciation of perspectives from outside of one's chosen field.

The CONFLUENCE Center presently exists as working group initially organized to assist the Wisconsin DNR in obtaining a Scientific Area designation for the Lower Chippewa River Valley, and to initiate some research collaborations in the region. The state's designation of the Lower Chippewa Scientific Area in 2000 signaled a need to reassess and reorient the group's goals and direction. The proposed CONFLUENCE Center reflects a desire to provide some coordination and promotion of research and instructional activities in the Chippewa Valley Region. This proposal also recognizes a tremendous opportunity to undertake regionally-based interdisciplinary activities; activities that often require a special nurturing to break out of the traditional discipline/sub-discipline culture that has characterized academia over the past forty years. The CONFLUENCE Center will help navigate the continuum between traditional and interdisciplinary studies through a stepwise approach of sharing a regional setting, research methodologies, student researchers, a GIS data base, workshops, social activities and publications. The goal is to bring together interested parties from throughout the campus and community in a manner that facilitates the flow from individual activities to the sharing of topical or regional interests in multidisciplinary ventures, to the full integration of interests and methodologies in interdisciplinary efforts. In summary, the CONFLUENCE Center is regional in focus and interdisciplinary in orientation.

Before detailing the organizational structure of the center, we should set forth some basic governing philosophies that will shape the center.

 

First, the center is dedicated to maintaining an open and interdisciplinary environment. Every aspect of the center should reflect and incorporate this openness to the contributions of interested faculty, staff, student, or off-campus parties. This openness extends to all of the center's programs, workshops and resources, anyone is encouraged to participate in these types of activities and develop research, instructional, and appreciation of their own design. However, center participants will maintain administrative control of their own projects ­ within established university policies and procedures. For example, if faculty from Biology, Geology and Geography receive funding for a water resources study on the Lower Chippewa -- the center may offer assistance in the grant application, and provide GIS and GPS resources. However, the grant authors retain complete control and responsibility for undertaking and completing the research, and are not bound to involve anyone who is simply interested. Thus we envision two tiers of CONFLUENCE Center activities; the top level of 'umbrella' activities that are open in design and participation, and a second level of individual or group projects where the parties involved retain autonomy and control of their activities as would the PI in any grant-funded effort.

 

Second, the center is committed to self-sufficiency and stepwise growth. As proposed, the CONFLUENCE Center is inherently composed of people and ideas and as such does not require space, funding or new staff positions. Initial plans are modest and should be seen as a first step in getting a regional interdisciplinary center off the ground. Rather than duplicating or displacing existing UWEC programs and resources, many of the Center's research and instructional activities can be supported through established campus channels such as the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) and the Network for Excellence in Teaching (NET). While the center, or center participants, may pursue grants to acquire some specialized equipment in the future, initially the center's activities would utilize existing caches of computers and equipment. This proposal outlines our initial plans with an eye on self-sufficiency, and where appropriate, offers some possible directions for future developments.

 

Third, since the center itself will not hire staff, pay salaries, or award grants -- participation is open, and it is also self-motivated. The center will in no way require participation in any activity, or require that Chippewa River activities be channeled through the center. Yes, many of the participants' activities may be quite worthy inclusions in annual reviews within their own departments or units, but all participation is voluntary.

 

2 . Organizational Structure

Due to the campus wide (and beyond) nature of involvement in the CONFLUENCE Center, it will be administratively positioned under the Office of Academic Affairs of the University of Wisconsin ­ Eau Claire. The CONFLUENCE Center will also maintain active links with the Dean of Arts & Sciences (A&S will contribute the great majority of involved faculty), the Office of University Research (for internal and external funding opportunities), and the Network for Excellence in Teaching (to coordinate innovation and inter-disciplinary instructional efforts).

 

While the CONFLUENCE Center seeks to include any persons or parties interested in the Chippewa River, it recognizes that many other campus and community groups may have similar regional interests. The CONFLUENCE Center encourages and would support the organization of other Chippewa River or Chippewa Valley Centers. If the fundamental autonomy of The CONFLUENCE Center is preserved, we could foresee joining with these other centers in a larger 'umbrella' organization such as an Institute for Chippewa River Studies.

 

The CONFLUENCE Center's internal organizational structure will be minimal, open, and interdisciplinary. The center will initially have five co-directors (Brad Burton ­ Geology, Carol Hale ­ English, Sean Hartnett ­ Geography, Darren Lochner ­ Extension, and David Lonzarich ­ Biology). Given its interdisciplinary focus, it is imperative that the CONFLUENCE Center have a 'shared leadership.' The five co-directors have been active in the region and have established records of multi- and interdisciplinary efforts, and they have volunteered to serve. At some future time, it may prove advantageous to add additional directors, or perhaps we may recognize a need to streamline leadership of the center.

 

The co-directors' responsibilities include planning and organizing center activities such as meetings, workshops, and symposiums, as well as overseeing CONFLUENCE publications and web site. The directors also will work with the directors of campus programs like ORSP and NET. In addition, the directors will coordinate with off-campus groups and agencies such as the DNR and NSF to identify opportunities and facilitate the development and funding of projects.

 

The center's co-directors are voluntary positions, self-selected by offering their services. If additional parties express interest in a leadership role at the CONFLUENCE Center's organizational meetings, they will be added to the slate of co-directors and assist with leadership activities. At the present time we envision few problems with this leadership council approach as there will be few issues requiring 'the buck stops here decisions,' and the communal leadership will serve to underscore the communal interdisciplinary orientation of the center. The co-directors will serve an initial two-year term with biannual reviews conducted by center participants.

 

We see little risk of legal liabilities associated with the center since the primary product is ideas. The center will be liable to complete contracted "umbrella" projects or grants awarded to the center (as a whole). In the case of individual grants endorsed by the center, individual PIs will maintain administrative control of grants or activities, they will also maintain legal responsibility to fulfill their contractual obligations.

 

3. Possible Overlap and Endorsements

The proposed regional interdisciplinary center is the first of its kind on the UW-Eau Claire campus and as such does not overlap with existing programs. However, many functions and activities of the center will tap into some existing programs. For example, many center projects, or individual projects associated with the center will seek funding through existing ORSP (for research) and NET (for instruction) programs. Given the dependent relationship between the center and these programs, it is imperative that this 'overlap' be managed in a way that does not jeopardize the autonomy of these programs, and abides with ORSP and NET policies. Many instructional aspects the center may have some overlap with the interdisciplinary environmental science minor. Frankly, we see this overlap as a strength rather than a problem as the center will only enhance this program enhancing interdisciplinary environmental instruction and research in a region that is literally our backyard.

 

This center proposal has been circulated to each of the programs and subsequent discussions are being held to examine concerns about potential overlap and develop plans for constructive relationships. Thus far, no concerns have been expressed. The proposal also will be advanced to the OUTREACH office, and to faculty (and their Deans) at neighboring UW campuses that had previously been active in the working group.

 

4. Evaluation

All aspects of the center ranging from leadership to activities will be reviewed biannually with an evaluation distributed to all parties active in the center and administrative units associated with center activities. These reviews will be discussed at an annual meeting, and incorporated in ongoing decisions about the center's organization and operation. An institutional review of the center will be undertaken every five years.

 

5. Support

As delineated earlier, the CONFLUENCE Center is committed to self-sufficiency and stepwise growth. The CONFLUENCE Center is inherently composed of people and ideas and as such does not require space, funding or new staff positions. In its initial state, no budget is required as the Center will exist primarily as a group of interested parties sharing ideas and planning future activities. No expenditures are even anticipated to generate CONFLUENCE letterhead as the Co-directors and other interested parties will develop letterhead graphics that may be distributed and applied digitally.

 

As the CONFLUENCE Center evolves, operating budgets will be developed to address needs for desired infrastructure such as the acquisition of up-to-date remote sensing images, or funding for programs such as a Chippewa River Research Day, or the printing of center publications. While the center would be open to direct funding support from UW-Eau Claire, its success is not dependent on such funds. We are committed to self-sufficiency through the pursuit of funding through a variety of grant programs, both internally on the UW-Eau Claire campus, as well as externally through a variety of state, federal and private funding sources. It is a primary goal of the CONFLUENCE Center to initiate or assist in the planning of such grant applications, and hopefully to enhance fundability by providing an organizational infrastructure, complete with letterhead and center publications.

 

 

 

6. Administration of Grants

We envision two tiers of CONFLUENCE Center grants; a top level of 'umbrella' grants primarily for resources or programs that will be advanced by the center as a whole, and a second level of individual or group projects advanced individually by the parties involved. In all cases, credit will be assigned to the people actively involved in writing a grant or undertaking funded activities. Since the center will not have any staff positions, all credit will be directed through the involved parties' department or unit, and evaluated in accordance with existing protocol. Center grants will be administered by the co-directors. Individual or group grants will be administered by the parties involved.

 

7. Staffing

At its inception, the CONFLUENCE Center requires no staff that need to be separately funded. Key personnel include the five co-directors -- Sean Hartnett ­ Geography, Carol Hale ­ English, Brad Burton ­ Geology, David Lonzarich ­ Biology, and Darren Lochner ­ Extension. The co-directors will share responsibility for planning and organizing center activities such as meetings, workshops, and symposiums, and overseeing publications and a CONFLUENCE web site. Initially, these tasks should be manageable without release time from their appointed duties. If the center is successful in generating a large number of grants, or perhaps a few large grants, these tasks may become less manageable. In this case, grant funds may be used to support summer appointments for directors or other center personnel to complete specific tasks. What we do not foresee is the need for release time for UW-Eau Claire faculty, or a need to hire center specific staff.

 

All of the activities of center personnel will be credited and evaluated through their existing departments or units.

 

8. Space

At its inception, the CONFLUENCE Center requires no dedicated space. Geography will provide meeting space, and the use of computer facilities, and the GIS and remote sensing data presently housed in P275 and stored on the university server. No additional remodeling or realignment is required.

 

In the long term, if the center is successful in grant applications there may be a need for storage space for boats, vehicles and field equipment. This need could be addressed on-campus with the construction of a storage garage, or off-campus by renting warehouse space. These structures or rental fees would be funded by the CONFLUENCE Center.