Dawn Hukai


Hukai named interim dean of two colleges, potential merger in works

June 30, 2022 – Dawn Hukai will soon have a new title as interim dean of two colleges at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, but she still enjoys being a professor and teaching in the classroom, too.

On Friday, July 1, Hukai will become the interim dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS). She has been the acting dean of CBE since January.

Hukai will teach Managerial Cost Accounting this fall and Accounting Systems in the spring, both third-year courses.

“Being in the classroom keeps me in touch with students,” Hukai said. “It helps keep me in touch with what educators are experiencing in the classroom. That is extremely important with the huge changes in technology. As their leader, I am not asking them to do something I am not doing.”

David Travis, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Hukai has the experience for the positions.

“Dr. Hukai is ready to step into this role and serve the colleges and help them move into the future,” Travis said. “I appreciate her willingness to help in this transitional period.”

By July 2023, with additional campus input and formal UW System approval, UW-River Falls expects to move from a four-college university to three colleges. CBE and CEPS would combine with three distinct schools under a single dean. New names for that college and the schools should be finalized in fall 2022. UWRF’s other two colleges will remain the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES).

Merging CBE and CEPS will save about $250,000 a year in administrative costs and will help to ensure that multiple professional accreditations can be maintained, including the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International designation.

“The new college will provide a greater infrastructure of support,” Travis said. “This includes more support staff, increased professional development opportunities and backup for individuals that currently have no support. It also will create better balance in college size, shared governance representation and budget.” 

The change also will open opportunities for greater collaboration between staff and the potential for innovative academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, maximizing the combined expertise of those in the new college. 

“Economies of scale are an important part of providing greater opportunity and flexibility for academic units,” Travis said. “This restructure will create a more level playing field where academic units from all three colleges are able to bring new ideas forward for consideration and proper support.” 

“CEPS has about 1,200 students and CBE about 600 students enrolled in classes,” Hukai said. “The year of running the two colleges under one dean will allow for aligning of policies, procedures and exploring new academic program offerings.”

With Hukai becoming the interim dean of both CBE and CEPS, Stacy Furness, who was the interim dean of CEPS, will become the associate dean for CEPS. Tim Buttles will be the interim assistant dean of CEPS. An interim associate dean for CBE has not been named. 

Hukai, who has been with UWRF since 1998, enjoys telling the story of how she was hired at the university to teach in the Accounting Department and when she arrived in the fall, the department had merged and was part of the School of Business and Economics. 

“I tell that story for those expressing concern about change,” Hukai said. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunities at UWRF without that restructuring.”

Hukai, who is a licensed Certified Public Accountant, came to UWRF because she wanted to be part of a teaching institution. She originally planned to be a financial accountant but discovered she loved teaching while in college when she helped others with their homework. She also found out there was a need for accounting professors.

She has her Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and her undergraduate degree in accounting from UW-Parkside in Kenosha.

Hukai took her first accounting course in high school during her senior year. That same year she went to a DECA competition which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges. She took second place in an accounting competition, which solidified her interest in accounting.

Hukai is an avid video game Pokémon Go player and tries to play every day. She has collected more than 5,000 Pokémon characters since she started the game in 2016. She also plays the game with others, providing a social group.

“I love it because it gets me walking,” she said. “The first two weeks I started, I lost 10 pounds. I need an incentive to exercise.”

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