The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Humans of UWL: Betsy Morgan

Betsy+Morgan.+Image+retrieved+from+uwlax.edu.
Betsy Morgan. Image retrieved from uwlax.edu.

Interim Chancellor Betsy Morgan is nearly two months into her new position yet has three decades of experience at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. In a candid interview with The Racquet Press Morgan shares how her path to the role of interim chancellor has not been linear.  

Born in Yosemite National Park in California, her parent’s involvement in the Peace Corps relocated her to Afghanistan shortly after birth. However, most of Morgan’s formative years were spent in California where she pursued her undergraduate degree at the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz in psychology and women’s studies.  

Morgan went on to get her doctorate in social ecology (Ph.D.) from UC Irvine. Reflecting on her transition to work in higher education, Morgan said, “I really wanted to do applied social science work… I decided to stay in academia when I went to graduate school and was a TA and I fell in love with teaching.”  

Her passion for teaching led Morgan to UWL in 1993, initially as an assistant professor in the psychology department where she eventually assumed the role of department chair. Morgan then served as interim provost twice, once in 2012 and again in 2015, before holding the position permanently in 2017.  

“I think being in higher ed is a great place for someone who loves education,” said Morgan. If it weren’t for the demands of an administrator’s schedule, she would love the opportunity to teach a class. However, it has been over a decade since she last held a teaching position. “I don’t think it would be fair to the students because my brain is not in it,” she said.  

Morgan’s proudest achievements in recent years have been initiatives aimed at reducing barriers for students. From innovative degree programs to enhancing advising programs, student success is at the core of these achievements.  

“One of the things I am really excited about is this general studies degree that most students will never know about, it’s not for most students,” said Morgan. Some professionals don’t have a preference in what area of study a degree is in, just that the possible job candidate has one. “People who have been moving around a lot, people with military service, this general studies [degree] works well,” she said.  

In her personal life, Morgan is most proud of her two twin boys. She spends her time outside of academia playing Mahjong online with her girlfriends, reading British murder mysteries and spending time with her boyfriend – a farmer from Soldiers Grove, WI. “We met on Match.com, sometimes we lie and tell people we met on Farmersonly because it’s funnier,” joked Morgan. 

As she navigates her role as interim chancellor Morgan has found herself immersed in community engagement. “The chancellor is supposed to be the external face of the university,” she said. “Mostly when you are Provost you are all about the internal workings of the university and the chancellor you are out and about.” 

With this new external responsibility, Morgan has the opportunity to see firsthand how the community perceives UWL. Morgan said, “People have been coming together to say, ‘Hey you are a good school we are proud of you, proud of the degree I got there, we are proud of the faculty and staff’. It has been really very heartening.” 

The expectations of Morgan’s new role haven’t been without its pressures. “I think I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to the campus,” she said. Morgan was appointed to the interim position after previous Chancellor Joe Gow was unanimously dismissed by the UW Board of Regents. “I feel like people really want me to be stable and successful in the sense of seeing the campus through.” 

Balancing these expectations with the demands of her new position creates a new set of challenges that Morgan describes as “overstimulating” at times. Yet, driven by a deep commitment to UWL and those it serves she is determined to rise to the occasion.  

Morgan could be considered as a candidate for the permanent chancellor position. Like any other candidate, she would join the ongoing search and screen process initiated in the fall semester of 2023 to identify the most suitable individual to fill this role.  

“I am trying to keep all my options open,” said Morgan when asked whether she plans to join the candidate pool.  

In the fall 2023 semester, while Morgan was serving as provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, she sent an email to the student body that garnered various reactions from students.  

“I am apparently a little bit infamous for a Thanksgiving Day email,” said Morgan. The email addressed concerns of a high number of classes canceled or moved online during Thanksgiving week. The email emphasized the importance of class attendance as a predictor of academic success.  

Morgan wrote first to UWL faculty about her concerns and was then asked to also write to the students. To discuss her rationale, Morgan said, “I would be a lot more worried if I had heard all these stories of students who had asked for leniency in terms of their mental health and weren’t provided it rather than ‘I just want a day off’.” 

Morgan will serve as interim chancellor until late March 2024, when the search and screen committee appoints a candidate. Her advice to not only first-year students but to all UWL students is, “Enjoy your classes, sometimes we kind of forget that there is a real joy in going to classes and learning things.” 

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About the Contributor
Isabel Piarulli, Executive Editor
Year at UWL: Junior PGPs: She/Her/Hers Hometown: Menasha, WI Major: Psychology and Political Science Minor: Communication Studies Other Campus Involvement: Student Association CASSH Senator, University Centers Admin Assistant, Psychology Club, Pre-Law Society member Future Plans after Graduation: Attend law school Favorite Activity in La Crosse: Visiting Pearl Street Books
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