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UW merger plan concerns UW-Stout

A plan to merge the University of Wisconsin System’s 13 two-year colleges with the UW’s four-year institutions next summer has the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie concerned about losing prospective students.

The plan would transform the system’s 13 two-year schools into regional branches of the 13 four-year schools. Students would still be able to earn associate degrees, but they would bear the name of the four-year school. Students would get a wider range of courses to choose from and be able to take third- and fourth-year courses at the branch campus.

For example, two-year school UW-Barron County would cease to exist. Its buildings, faculty and staff would become a branch of UW-Eau Claire. Students who attend the branch campus would earn associate degrees from UW-Eau Claire and could complete four-year degrees through UW-Eau Claire.

“I...will do everything possible to maintain our historical link to UW-Barron County and remain a top choice for students who start their education there and continue to a four-year degree,” UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer said in a press release.

“In 2015-16, for example, more than a quarter of the UW-Barron County students who transferred to UW System institutions chose UW-Stout, and we must preserve that transfer pipeline.”

UW System enrollment figures show UW-Barron County has fallen in full-time equivalent student enrollment from 484 in 2010 to 315 in a preliminary count from fall 2017. That’s a drop of 169 students, or 35 percent.

Cross said the merger would be done effective July 1, 2018. “Essentially, there will be no change this fall or spring, and we look forward to seeing how to best leverage UW-Eau Claire to expand access to higher education by offering more general education and upper-level courses, as well as identify and reduce barriers to transferring credits within the UW System,” Cross said in an email to the UW-Eau Claire.

Chancellor James C. Schmidt said in an email to facility, staff and UW-Eau Claire students: “While it is too soon to identify all the opportunities this new structure could bring to students here and in Barron County, we do know that meeting the needs of students at both campuses will be our highest priority.”

Schmidt continued in the email: “UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County long have enjoyed an excellent relationship, with many students beginning their college careers in Rice Lake and completing their degrees in Eau Claire.”

Schmidt said he will talk in future weeks with faculty students and community leaders in the Chippewa Valley and Barron County to find ways to move forward.

Besides pairing UW-Barron County with UW-Eau Claire, the proposal would bring each UW Colleges campus under one of six other four-year public universities:

The Rock County college would join UW-Whitewater

The Baraboo/Sauk County and Richland colleges would join UW-Platteville

The Manitowoc, Marinette and Sheboygan colleges would join UW-Green Bay

The Washington County and Waukesha colleges would join UW-Milwaukee

The Marathon County and Marshfield/Wood County colleges would join UW-Stevens Point

The Fond du Lac and Fox Valley colleges would join UW-Oshkosh

UW-Stout and UW-River Falls would not be linked to a UW college.

Cross said in a statement that the merger will help the UW address declining enrollment at its two-year colleges, make it easier to transfer credits within the UW System and better address the challenge of Wisconsin’s aging population.

UW Extension programs would also come under new administration as part of the sweeping restructuring plan.

UW Extension’s Broadcasting and Media Innovations division — which includes Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio — would be brought under UW System Administration, along with the Business and Entrepreneurship Division, continuing education, outreach and UW Flexible Option programs. Cooperative Extension and conference centers owned by UW Extension would be merged with UW-Madison.

Cross said in a statement that the merger will help UW address declining enrollment at its two-year colleges, make it easier to transfer credits within the UW System and better address the challenge of Wisconsin’s aging population.

“Change often produces uncertainty, but we cannot be afraid to pursue needed reforms,” he said. “Our goal is to expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported. We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for students, faculty, and staff.”

It’s not immediately clear what the restructuring would mean for programs and jobs in the UW Colleges and Extension.

Cross will bring the proposal to the UW Board of Regents for approval in November, officials said.

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Sit, visit, unwind: One woman’s dream comes true at Vino Cappuccino

Sometimes a spiritual and personal growth retreat is exactly what a person needs to drive home one’s purpose in life.

For Dina Babb of Colfax, just such an immersion into self-discovery that brought her to conclude: “I have always created warm and inviting places where people feel valued and loved.”

Her next step was to explore whether she could build a successful food, beverage and entertainment venue from this strength. In her mind and with the support of her husband Galen, “Vino Cappuccino” began to take shape.

The sum of many parts

“I was never consciously aware that I am an entrepreneur at heart,” Dina said. “Thinking more deeply on things, I realized that simply by virtue of having home-schooled our children and in the running of our household, I was a risk-taker. I did know myself as willing to take on challenges in independence that others would decline.”

But lest it be thought Dina was willing to plunge into her dream-venture on that premise alone, she knew she would also be drawing on other experiences.

For one, she had previously arranged a one-year employment and mentorship stint before the couple’s eventual purchase and operation of Heritage Homes, an adult group-home business. She also credits having been raised in the spirit of genuine “Southern hospitality” with enhancing her skills and making the group home a success.

Optimal location

Owning a gorgeous historical farmhouse on small rural acreage, near Elk Mound and adjacent to well-trafficked byways also helped.

“We were drawn to the farmhouse after years of wondering where we would live after Galen retired from military service,” Dina said. “Although my dad, too, was a military man born and raised in Wisconsin, I was not native to here, and we’d thought Kansas might be the place to go, where Galen’s family is.”

Instead, the Babb children were distinctly enamored with memories of their grandparents in Wisconsin, with Thanksgivings and hunting seasons spent together with cousins and other extended family. The Babbs were persuaded toward the area when the affordable property was brought to their attention by Dina’s father, Roger Sutliff.

“Growing up with my mom and dad, I saw them many times purchase affordable homes so that we could live away from military housing,” she said. “My mother had a real knack for decorating and in hospitality, once the homes were ready for company. My dad knew how to repair and reconstruct; their teamwork was and is amazing.”

Galen went along with the idea that a farmhouse in need of work could fulfill his wife’s dream. With the help of professionals, their project was completed in August and has been luring patrons from across the region in impressive droves. Vino Cappuccino has received exceedingly positive reviews as to food and service. The Babbs work as an “equally-yoked” twosome, united by personal ideals that are exemplified throughout the business, which they describe to be something of a mutual mission.

What it is ... and isn’t

The talents of local entertainers and artists, a number of empowering ventures toward women in faith and business, and the needs of children in poverty are a few of the interests the couple already support through their work. And they are equally gratified to open and share with their community a site so rich in regional history.

“We welcome all with a tour of the premises, to start,” said Dina. “We explain what Vino Cappuccino is, how it ‘works.’ We are not a full-service restaurant, and we are casual, not formal. We won’t pretend we want to be a winery from the ground up; we’re not interested in going that route. We offer a modest selection of local craft beers and wines, and we most likely will not bring in a big screen TV. Instead, our goal is to have people put their devices aside, look each other in the eyes, and visit for a long, leisurely time.”

A limited number of creative and sublimely delicious food selections and desserts are made from scratch. An imported brick-oven assists in turning out handcrafted pizzas and the coffee-bar area is stocked with all the makings for burgeoning baristas to ply their trade.

While the grounds and outdoor patio offer seating in more ideal weather, the house is prime for coziness. Each room has a specific use or theme; guests can relax and read in the library, enjoy a four-season porch and other niches as well as a bar area and detached bistro. The library features a bookshelf and comfortable seating, with artwork contributed monthly by local artists. Already visitor numbers have created the need to increase outdoor seating, so outside areas for dining and relaxing are plentiful.

Dina suggests that interested readers check out Vino Cappuccino on Facebook. The page is updated frequently and visitor experiences are shared often. Special offerings of food, drink and entertainment are detailed and hours for the new establishment are being tweaked accordingly.

“Our intent is to be open well into this fall, closing for December through February except by arrangement for groups, parties, and special events,” Dina said. “We are feeling out our Sundays, so suggest calling ahead for those, but plan to be here and open Wednesdays through Saturdays.”

Photos on the page also illustrate best the extensive charm and offerings of the grounds and home — the fruition of Dina’s dream.

“When I attended the retreat that while back, it was with crystal clarity that I realized my strengths in abilities, and how I wanted this place to come together,” Dina concludes. “We wanted make this home available to the community and beyond with a venue that gave license to my creative side. I believe in the biblical quote about to whom much is given, much is required ... and here we now happily find ourselves, trying our best to live up to that.”

Located at the intersection of Highways 29, 12, and 40 just west of Elk Mound, the telephone contact numbers for Vino Cappuccino are 715-338-0536 or 715-879-4157.