Our History 

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls was founded in 1874 as the fourth State Normal School in Wisconsin and the first in the northwestern part of the state. The first campus building was dedicated on Sept. 2, 1875.

When the original Normal School building was destroyed by fire in 1897, other communities sought to have the school moved but the citizens of River Falls were determined to retain it. After the fire, only a half day of classes was missed, for the community offered churches, lodge rooms and other buildings as meeting places. The building now known as South Hall was completed in 1898.

The school experienced slow but steady growth in curriculum and enrollment until 1912, when the Department of Agriculture was established and enrollment grew considerably. Construction of North Hall began in 1914 and the addition of an additional wing in 1926 showed further campus growth. The addition of a four-year curriculum in 1926 preceded the change of all state normal schools to state teacher colleges in 1927.

In 1951, with the addition of liberal arts courses, the school was designated Wisconsin State College at River Falls. When graduate courses were added in 1964 the name became Wisconsin State University-River Falls. The present name (University of Wisconsin-River Falls) came with the merger of the state universities and the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1971.

A boom in growth began after World War II. Since then, hardly a year has passed without an addition to the campus in the form of new lands, buildings or remodeling. All 11 residence halls have been built since then, in addition to Chalmer Davee Library, Karges Physical Education and Recreation Center, Ames Teacher Education Center, Hagestad Student Center, Agricultural Science Hall, a heating plant, Rodli Commons, E.H. Kleinpell Fine Arts, Centennial Science Hall, a maintenance and central stores building, an Agricultural Engineering Technology addition and a Food Science wing to the Agricultural Science Hall.

The Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center was completed in 1987 and the Karges Physical Education Center was remodeled in 1989. A major remodeling of the Hagestad Student Center was completed in 1990. South Hall, built on the site of the original Normal School, received a major renovation during 1992-93.

Both South Hall and North Hall are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Chalmer Davee Library, built in 1954, was remodeled during 1994-96. The new Walker W. Wyman Education Building was dedicated in 2000. The Ames Teacher Education Center was then demolished and construction was begun on a new University Center (Student Center) in spring 2005. The Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness was opened in 2017 and the Karges Center was torn down as a result. Rodli Hall was remodeled into a student-centered building in 2020. 

Funding for the new Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech), one of the university's most significant projects, was approved during the summer of 2021 with plans to open in 2026. 


The title of the chief administrative officer was changed from president to chancellor after the merger of the state institutions of higher education. Presidents and chancellors of the institution have been: Warren Downes Parker (1875-1889), John Quincy Emery (1889-1892), John Hull (1893-1894), Warren Downes Parker (1894-1898), Warren Judson Brier (1898-1909), Howard L. Wilson (1909-1911), Jesse H. Ames (interim, 1911), James W. Crabtree (1911-1917), Jesse H. Ames (1917-1946), Eugene H. Kleinpell (1946-1967), Richard J. Delorit (interim, 1967-1968), George R. Field (1968-1985) Gary A. Thibodeau (1985-2001), Ann Lydecker (2001-2004), Virgil Nylander (interim 2004-2005), Donald Betz (2005-2008), Connie Foster (interim 2008-2009), Dean Van Galen (2009-2020), Connie Foster (interim 2020-2021) and Maria Gallo (2021-present).

  • Dedication of first building: South Hall (now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings).
  • State Normal School opens at River Falls to train teachers for the northwest.
  • Warren D. Parker is named president and serves until 1889.
  • Enrollment is 104 students in the normal and preparatory grades of the Normal School and 155 students in the grammar, intermediate and primary grades.
  • J. Q. Emery is named president and serves until 1893.


  • John Hull is named president and serves until 1894.


  • Warren D. Parker is named president and serves until 1898.


  • The Normal Badger, the first campus newspaper, is launched. By 1912 it had evolved into the Meletean annual. In 1915, the Student Voice is formally named the campus newspaper.


  • Organized athletics begins with the formation of the first varsity baseball team.


  • South Hall is destroyed by a fire that breaks out at night in a chemistry laboratory. Classes continue in Thelander's Opera House and individual faculty members' homes until South Hall is rebuilt on the original foundation and reopens in 1898.


  • W. J. Brier is named president and serves until 1909.


  • H. L. Wilson is named president and serves until 1911.


  • Jesse H. Ames named interim president.
  • James W. Crabtree is named president and serves until 1917. He left when campus had 625 students, making River Falls the largest of the state's ten normal schools.
  • Bert E. Swenson is appointed the first athletic director and elected president of the newly created League of Wisconsin Normal Schools, with formal schedules in both football and basketball. Over the next 18 years, the teams capture 12 championships and have six undefeated seasons.


  • The Department of Educational Agriculture is founded and eventually develops into a Division, School, and then College of Agriculture.


  • North Hall is constructed as the second campus building. It's now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.


  • Jesse H. Ames is named president and serves until 1946.


  • Ramer Field, located at the corner of Sixth Street and Cascade Avenue, is purchased to serve as the site of athletic activities. .


  • The first Homecoming is held on November 18.


  • The Normal School begins revision of its curriculum to grant baccalaureate degrees and is renamed River Falls Teachers College. Student enrollment is 400.


  • The Falcon is officially adopted as the mascot on October 8.


  • The academic strength of the Teachers College is cited as the institution is accredited for the first time through the North Central Association.


  • The Student Senate is chartered and its constitution adopted to represent student interests in campus activities.


  • Eugene H. Kleinpell is named president. During his first assembly, he moves students and faculty to divide the college into divisions of humanities, social sciences and a professional division. Kleinpell served until 1967.


  • With new directions for the college after the end of World War II, an institutional review of the educational mission leads to the adoption of general education courses to instill the precepts of liberal education.
  • The University Foundation is formed as a means to accept gifts for the college.


  • The institution is renamed Wisconsin State College-River Falls as a reflection of post-World War II student demands for degree programs in addition to education. Enrollment stands at 649.
  • Hathorn Hall is constructed as the first campus residence hall.
  • Divisions of study are created: agriculture, education, and arts and sciences.


  • Chalmer Davee Library is constructed.


  • Stratton Hall opens as residence hall.


  • Hagestad Student Center opens.


  • The college informally adopts the motto "Where the Free Spirit Prevails."
  • The first graduate programs are offered during summer session.
  • Karges Physical Education Recreation Center opens.
  • John F. Kennedy visits campus during the presidential campaign.


  • Prucha residence hall opens.


  • Ames Teacher Education/Laboratory School opens to house the College of Education.


  • May residence hall opens.


  • The college is renamed and merged into a new system as the Wisconsin State University-River Falls. Enrollment is 2,592 and a new heating plant is constructed.


  • Excellence in teaching is celebrated as the first two faculty members are selected for The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award: Benny H. Kettlelkamp of the Biology Department and Leland E. Wittwer of Animal Science.
  • Johnson residence hall is opened.


  • McMillan and Grimm residence halls open.
  • Agriculture Science Hall constructed.


  • Richard J. Delorit is named interim president.
  • Parker and Crabtree residence halls are opened.


  • George R. Field is named president and serves until 1985.
  • Rodli Commons dining building opens.


  • With the merger of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin State Colleges System, the university is renamed University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Enrollment is 4,255 students.


  • Kleinpell Fine Arts building houses the College of Arts and Sciences, divisions of humanities and social sciences.


  • Walter H. Hunt Ice Arena is constructed.


  • Centennial Science Hall is constructed to house physics, chemistry and psychology.


  • Gary A. Thibodeau is named chancellor.
  • Horticulture major is approved.


  • Registrar Melvin Germanson is the first recipient of Chancellor's Award for Excellence.


  • Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center is constructed as the health and human performance general education program building. The structure is named for UWRF graduate who went on to serve as the Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader and then as a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.
  • College of Agriculture Greenhouse I Addition is constructed.


  • Interdisciplinary biotechnology major is approved.


  • Intramural Fields are developed.


  • College of Agriculture Greenhouse II Addition is built.


  • The Rural Development Institute is established to provide assistance to business and industry.


  • Hagestad Student Center is remodeled.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs held their first summer training camp at UWRF. They went on to hold summer camps at UWRF for 19 years.


  • The first Honorary Degree is awarded to astrophysicist Fang Lizhi who served as the intellectual leader of the democracy movement in the People's Republic of China.


  • South Hall is restored and rededicated.
  • The Social Work Program receives certification.


  • UW-River Falls Foundation assets surpass 3.5 million dollars.
  • UW System Board of Regents approves the remodeling and expansion of Chalmer Davee Library.
  • The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents presents English Professor Nick Karolides its Teaching Excellence Award as the best faculty member in the 15-campus system.


  • UW System Board of Regents approved the replacement of Ames Teacher Education Center.
  • Second Honorary Doctorate is awarded to U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Brandenstein, who participated in four NASA Space Shuttle missions and retired as the Chief of the Astronaut Office, responsible for training and assigning shuttle mission crews.
  • The National Education Association cites the College of Education as a national model for teacher education, naming it one of the 10 best programs in America.


  • UWRF initiates its massive strategic planning process, "Reach for the Future." This results in the creation of the School of Business and Economics, the merger and creation of the College of Education and Graduate Studies and the renaming of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.
  • Lien Chen, vice president and premier of the Republic of China, Taiwan, and a former faculty member at UW-River Falls, is awarded the university's third honorary doctorate.


  • The first bachelor's degrees are awarded in the interdisciplinary program of marketing communications, the first undergraduate program of its kind in the Midwest.
  • Two faculty members and a student are awarded prestigious Fulbright Scholarships to study and teach abroad. English Professor Marshall Toman receives an award to teach in the Czech Republic, history Professor Betty Bergland will conduct research in Norway, and David Yunger, the second student to receive this award, will study in Germany.


  • Governor Tommy Thompson participates in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Teacher Education Center, the first building in the UW System in 22 years designed to be exclusively dedicated to education.


  • Approval is granted to plan a new Dairy Teaching Center to assist in the instruction of UWRF students in animal and food sciences and for outreach education to Wisconsin's dairy industry.
  • A new Small and Family Business Development Center is launched to assist small businesses throughout the St. Croix Valley.
  • Two new majors are added: Dairy Science and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.


  • Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau retires after a 15-year tenure and Ann M. Lydecker, the provost at Bridgewater State College, assumes the chancellorship in August.
  • During the year, the university celebrates its 125th anniversary which culminates in a day-long ceremony in May that also includes the dedication of the new Walker W. Wyman Education Building.
  • Academically, the university launches two new academic programs: Environmental Science and a Master's of Management.
  • The Board of Regents approves planning funds for a new student center and residence hall, and campus planning begins for a new health and human performance building.


  • The university continues extensive outreach to business and industry through a series of forums on economic development issues affecting the St. Croix Valley. In support of this, the Board of Regents approves enhancing the status of the School of Business and Economics to a College of Business and Economics. Deans positions are created to attract nationally recognized experts to the College of Business and Economics and to Outreach and Graduate Studies.


  • Planning and construction for new facilities begins. Included is a child care center, student center, and residence hall.
  • UWRF receives the Wisconsin Educational Diversity Award. "I firmly believe that our higher education institutions can and must play a significant role in preparing people of color, women, and persons with disabilities for career and life success in our 21st century world," said Chancellor Lydecker in accepting the award.


  • Vice Chancellor Virgil Nylander retires following more than 30 years of service to the university.
  • In March, Chancellor Ann Lydecker dies in a two-vehicle accident south of River Falls.
  • The state of Wisconsin funds a project to update campus athletic facilities. Facilities will be utilized by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs football team during their Summer Training Camp.
  • History Professor Ed Peterson receives the Distinguished Teacher Award while marking 50 years of teaching at UWRF.
  • President George W. Bush visits UW-River Falls during the Kansas City Chiefs Summer Training Camp.


  • Don Betz is appointed chancellor, replacing Interim Chancellor Virgil Nylander.
  • Construction begins on new student center building.
  • The newest residence hall, George R. Field South Fork Suites, is dedicated May 9.
  • A 12,300-square-foot addition to the Knowles Physical Education and Recreation building will be completed in time for the Kansas City Chiefs Summer Training Camp arrival at the university on July 28, the 15th anniversary of their training camp at UWRF.
  • Bradley Caskey, professor of psychology and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, is awarded the 2005 Regents Teaching Excellence Award from among the 14,000 faculty members in the UW System.


  • A variety of inauguration week events starting April 23 mark the formal installation of Don Betz as the 16th chancellor.
  • Gov. Jim Doyle selects UW-River Falls as one of four UW schools to participate in his Off-the-Grid Initiative, which sets a goal of achieving energy independence within five years through the use of innovative energy generation methods and the purchase of "green" energy provided by local utilities without the use of fossil fuels.
  • Representatives of the UW System, the UWS Board of Regents, the State of Wisconsin, the dairy industry and UWRF students, faculty and staff celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Dairy Learning Center on Oct. 20.
  • Larry Baumann, D.V.M., professor in the Animal and Food Science Department, is presented with the Veterinarian of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA).


  • Events in celebration of the opening of the new University Center January 22-28 reflect the role the new "green" building will play on campus, in the region and beyond.
  • Chancellor Don Betz joins more than 250 other college and university presidents to formally commit to sharply reducing and eventually eliminating all of the university's global warming emissions.
  • U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl announces that UW-River Falls is the recipient of a $460,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a sustainable agriculture project.
  • Through an historic donation, an alumna of UWRF ensures that generations of future students will have access to an education. A $1 million bequest - the largest gift in the 133-year history of UWRF - representing the estate of River Falls native Lucile Spriggs is dedicated exclusively to leadership scholarships.
  • The College of Business and Economics receives accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction given to fewer than five percent of business schools.
  • After 15 years of planning, the $9.3 million Dairy Learning Center is complete. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony is held in October at the Mann Valley Farm to celebrate the event.


  • UW-River Falls receives the maximum 10-year accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
  • The Joanne Belifori Banks Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry is dedicated. The center is named for Banks, the 1981 UW-River Falls Distinguished Alum, who contributed a majority of the funds used to construct the center.
  • Agricultural Economics Professor Nate Splett is selected for the UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award.
  • Hudson newspaper publisher Willis Miller leaves UW-River Falls more than $1 million for student scholarships.


  • Dean Van Galen is selected as UW-River Falls chancellor, replacing Interim Chancellor Connie Foster. He served until 2020 when Connie Foster stepped in for another year as interim chancellor.
  • The Tissue and Cellular Innovation Center opens.
  • The University Center receives the Facility Design Award of Excellence from Association of College Unions International.
  • After 19 years, the Kansas City Chiefs hold their final summer training camp at UWRF.


  • Dean Van Galen is installed as the 18th Chancellor of UWRF.
  • A learning center focusing primarily on undergraduate and graduate degrees for adult learners opens in Hudson called the UW-River Falls Hudson Center.
  • Skeets Peppy, a famous sorrel quarter horse, is donated to UW-River Falls by Vaughn Zimmerman.


  • A grant from OSHA leads to the creation of the Center for Dairy Farm Safety.
  • The Wisconsin in Scotland Program celebrates its 25th anniversary.


  • The first comprehensive fundraising campaign in the institution's history, Rising to Distinction, is announced. Over $8 million in funds, including major gifts from Bry Wyman, Ab Nicholas and Arlin and Marilyn Albrecht, are donated in the first months of the campaign.
  • The Ames Suites Residence Hall and Lydecker Living and Learning Center are dedicated.
  • The Experience China cultural immersion study abroad program is launched.
  • Graduate program in Montessori Teacher Education launched in summer 2012. Students choose between completing a graduate Montessori certification or a Master of Science in education degree with Montessori certification in six consecutive semesters.


  • New bachelor’s degree completion program. UWRF offers a new Bachelor of Applied Science degree with concentrations in computer science, geographic information science and criminal justice.
  • UW-River Falls receives National Science Foundation grant to increase graduates in STEM fields. The National Science Foundation granted $884,999 to the GREAT (Graduate-Retain-Engage-Advise-Teach) Falcon Project. The funds aided in increasing the number of UWRF students graduating from STEM programs by 30 percent.
  • The “Year of” Program seeks to introduce students, faculty and the community to different countries cultures and customs. The inaugural “Year of” focus was on Germany. The year included a wide variety of German inspired academic, social activities and events held throughout the academic year. Activities included a German film series, German related musical events, Oktoberfest celebration, and other academic and social events.
  • Semester Abroad celebrates 50 years. Originally the Quarter Abroad program, Semester Abroad is the oldest international program on campus. The program allows students to design their own projects while gaining the unique experience of studying abroad. The program was initiated by sociology Professor Robert Bailey III in 1963.
  • UWRF cross country hosts Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championship. The UWRF men’s cross-country team did not have to travel far for the WIAC championship meet as UWRF hosted the WICA meet in 2013.
  • Students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences bring home multiple national awards. UWRF students took first place in two competitions at the 2013 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. A team of UWRF students won first place in the Holstein class of the North American International Livestock Exposition.
  • The College of Business and Economics introduced a new full-time Master of Business Administration program at the UW-River Falls Hudson Center. Leanne Van Allen, CBE graduate programs director, along with CBE Dean Glenn Potts and other faculty members developed the full-time MBA program to support the needs of recent graduates and international studies.


  •  IceCube telescope named “Physics Breakthrough of the Year for 2013 by the British magazine Physics World. The IceCube telescope was the first to detect the neutrino, a particle that has no electric charge that can pass through normal matter undetected. More than 50 UWRF undergraduates were involved with the project.
  • Dairy pilot plant project receives $1 million. The fundraising efforts of dairy industry leaders at UWRF accumulated $1 million for the Dairy Pilot Plant Project to renovate facilities, expand capacity to support businesses and industry, and enable students to have a high quality and hands on experience.
  • The UWRF Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Western Equestrian Team won the 2013-14 Regional Championship at the UWRF Campus Farm, beating out eight other campuses.
  • Women’s Hockey makes team history after beating St. Thomas, 5-3. UWRF Women’s Hockey placed third at the NCAA tournament.
  • UWRF Chief of Police Dick Trende retired March 28 after 42 years in law enforcement. Trende played a leading role in in the transition from security officers to licensed police officers on campus.
  • All 18 members of the UW System Board of Regents visited campus, an occasion that occurs once every seven years. The visit provides an opportunity to highlight the university’s best attributes.
  • Dan’s Bandana Project launched by UWRF biology Professor Betsy Gerbec to help create an environment that supports students suffering from depression and anxiety through the empowerment of other students. The mission was that students tie the bandana to their backpack and pledge to listen to and understand those students who are suffering.
  • Groundbreaking for the $63.5 million Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness took place May 2, 2014, outside Hunt Arena. Wisconsin state legislature Representative Dean Knudson, Student Senate President Tony Sumnicht, UWRF student Logan Boettcher, Chancellor Dean Van Galen, Campus Planner Dale Braun, UW-System Kate Sullivan, Campaign Chair Bill Boehm, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Ayers Associates Architect Raivo Balciunas, and UWRF Foundation President Chris Mueller were all participants in the groundbreaking ceremony. The facility that supports Health and Human Performance, Falcon Athletics, Campus Recreation, and the university as a whole. Falcon Center is comprised of a 15,000 square foot fitness center, three academic classrooms, one active learning classroom, a state-of-the-art performance lab, three multi-purpose studios, indoor climbing center, auxiliary gym, NCAA competition venues for men's and women's basketball, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's track and field, volleyball, softball, soccer, and football.
  • Falcon Frontier Days Rodeo celebrates 50 years. The UWRF Rodeo Club first began in 1964 with support from David Stafford, a member of the first UWRF intercollegiate rodeo team. After the Rodeo Club was established, it quickly gained momentum, and within one year it had 50 members. At the 50th anniversary, past and current supporters were recognized. Alumni from the last 50 years were invited to see how the rodeo has transformed. There were special events for alumni including a bean bag tournament, a barbeque and a concert from the Tim Sigler Band.
  • new Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) began in the fall 2015. This flexible and dynamic program enables IT professionals to gain knowledge in current and specialized computer science topics. Student also engage in management training to be fully prepared for leadership roles in the IT industry.


  • “Better UW Initiative” launches. The goal of this initiative was to reduce the magnitude of proposed budget cuts to the UW System and to create a fixed tuition cap for undergraduates, among other things.
  • The UW System Board of Regents approved a new criminology major for UWRF on April 10 which allowed students to major or double major in criminology, with a strong emphasis on research.
  • Beginning in fall 2015, most students were no longer required to complete a minor.
  • #Falcon5K fundraiser exceeds lofty expectations. In just 12 hours, the #Falcon5k, the first all-day online fundraiser at UWRF, raised $18,585. All donations went toward the Falcon Annual Fund which supports UWRF strategic initiatives.
  • The UW System Board of Regents approved a new undergraduate Bachelor of Science program in agricultural engineering at UWRF.
  • David Smith Football Stadium rededicated. On September 19, before the first home game of the season, a rededication ceremony was held at Ramer Field. The ceremony included speeches from the Assistant Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Mueller, Chancellor Dean Van Galen, Student Senate President Chris Morgan, and members of the David Smith family, for whom the stadium is named. Smith was president and CEO of First National Bank of River Falls until he died in 1994. He was a supporter of River Falls athletics, and his family donated the money that started the project. The rededication was a symbol of the city and an effective way to celebrate after a tough year. It was also a way to recognize and thank the people that made the project possible.
  • River Falls earns recognition for safety. SafeWise.com listed UWRF in the top 50 safest college towns in the U.S.
  • UWRF senate lunched the “It’s on Us” campaign and hosted a panel to discuss how to combat sexual assault on campus.
  • UWRF announced that beginning in 2016, all incoming freshmen will be eligible for a scholarship not based on financial need, but on academic performance.
  • New Safe Ride Home Program introduced. UWRF students were now able to get a free taxi ride home from anywhere in River Falls. The service was launched as an effort to keep students safe after a night of drinking and prevent drunk driving, sexual assault, or other accidents that could occur when students try to get home while intoxicated.
  • Falcon Center roadway named after former UWRF educator. UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen announced that the campus roadway will be named in honor of former faculty member and women’s athletic advocate Emogene Nelson.


  • new undergraduate program in neuroscience began in fall 2016. Previously, this program was only available for students to sample. Psychology Assistant Professor James Cortright was coordinator for the program, advising students and teaching the new course, Introduction to Neuroscience. The program allowed for a lot of cross-department collaboration as students studied many different topics, combining aspects of psychology, biology, and chemistry.
  • Service dog training program initiated at UWRF providing hands-on educational opportunities for students in the companion animal emphasis and partnered with Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue of Hudson. A group of students provided socialization, habituation, and foundational training for the service dog-in-training, with the hope that the dog would be able to enter the advanced level service dog training program. Service dogs are different from therapy dogs or emotional support dogs. They are individually trained to perform specific tasks required by a disabled person. A service dog fund was set up with the UWRF Foundation to cover the care for the dogs.
  • Annual colt sale at UW-River Falls marks 40th anniversary. The colt sale on May 7, 2016, featured 53 two-year-old horses. The colt program gives UWRF students a chance to display their skills learned from the Principles of Training Horses class taught by Associate Professor Nathan O’Connor of the Animal and Food Science Department. The program has strong ties with the horse industry and the horse community both locally and nationally. Proceeds from the 40th Anniversary Sale went back into the breeding program.
  • The Small Business Development Center at UWRF began an Entrepreneurial Training Program to prepare future entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and assist owners of existing businesses to improve or grow their business. The ten-week program covered topics including the Lean Start Up method, business plans, finances, record keeping, legal issues, marketing, social media, and human resource topics. The sessions included subject speeches from guest speakers, instruction, and coaching. At the end of the program, students were prepared to write a comprehensive business plan. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation offered qualified applicants a grant to cover 75% of the cost of the course.
  • Animal Science Associate Professor Kurt Vogel named Future Icon. Vogel was named one of the 25 Future Icons in the November 2016 issue of The National Provisioner magazine.


  • The 10-year anniversary of the University Center was celebrated with a variety of events. The University Center sits where the old Ames Teacher Education Building once stood before it was deconstructed to make room for a place where students could get involved, join clubs, enjoy dining services, banking, information services, and entertainment. The $34 million University Center was designed with energy and efficiency in mind and includes within the design hints of the Kinnickinnic River and the surrounding land.
  • Keep America Beautiful and The Coca-Cola Company awarded 70 recycling bins to UWRF to address the issue of accessibility.
  • The Campus Farm underwent renovations to improve classroom learning experience while also preparing for more extensive changes down the road. The Campus Farm, located south of the main campus, includes various barns, pastures, and arenas, and is used for breeding, raising, and training horses, as well as putting on rodeos, shows and sales.
  • The 162,300 square foot Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness was dedicated with a grand opening on Sept. 21, 2017. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the main entrance of the Falcon Center and an open house was held with games, prizes, giveaways, tours, refreshments, and kids' activities. Everyone from students to community members were given a chance to look at all the features of the new building and were able to join the student-athletes and staff in testing out the new facilities.
  • UWRF Career Services partnered with Treasures from the Heart, a local thrift shop, to help students “dress the part” in preparing for professional interview experiences. They sponsored a professional clothing drive to provide gently used clothing to UWRF students who were entering the work force.
  • Dedication of the Rick Bowen Court in the Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness. A dedication ceremony was held Nov. 4, 2017, in Page Arena to celebrate the new Rick Bowen Court. In 1986, Rick Bowen came to UWRF as the head men’s basketball coach. He coached for 19 seasons and brought the team a WIAC championship win and many winning seasons, completely turning the program around. Bowen was also the athletic director before retiring in in 2010. 


  • Alums David and Patricia Stone made a gift of $100,000 to UWRF to establish the Stone Geology Fund. The fund supported scholarships, equipment, student recruitment and program activities in geology.
  • Beginning in July 2018, UWRF began to offer a stand-alone Master of Science in education degree specialization in Montessori education. UWRF was the only UW school to offer a Montessori credential, and one of only two public schools in the country to do so.
  • UW-River Falls joins Small World Initiative (SWI) research program in conjunction with 170 partner institutions from 12 nations worldwide. SWI is an international collaboration harnessing the power of student researchers around the world to discover new antibiotics from soil microorganisms, helping address the world-wide health crisis of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. SWI was offered as a lab in Biology 160 course in fall 2018.
    Students brought in soil samples from a location of their choice and looked for evidence of antibiotic production.
  • The Wisconsin/Minnesota Meat Processing School was held at UWRF on March 20-21, 2018. Participants learned the practical science and art of sausage-making and meat curing from a team of university instructors, supplier specialists and award winning “wurstmachers.” Information was covered at a basic, applied level and was aimed at operators who have minimal meat curing and sausage-making experience, but processors of all levels benefited from the program. There was several processing demonstrations and product evaluations.
  • Falcon Scholars Endowment Challenge nets $1.7 million for scholarships. The annual income from the new endowment will support approximately seven annual Falcon Scholar awards in perpetuity. Each year, university officials select 60 qualified incoming freshmen for the Falcon Scholars Program based on academic performance, leadership qualities and their performance in the competitive application process. Falcon Scholars receive $1,000 per year for four years and a $2,000 stipend from student differential tuition funds to participate in undergraduate research or study abroad in the junior or senior year. When officials created the Falcon Scholars program in 2012 as part of the Rising to Distinction comprehensive campaign, alums Arlin and Marilyn Albrecht provided half of the funding needed for the program’s first four years as a challenge to other donors - known as the Albrecht Challenge for Falcon Scholars. The current Falcon Scholars Endowment Challenge began in 2015 after the completion of the Albrecht Challenge. As of Jan. 31, 2018, donors have contributed more than $2.5 million to the program.
  • The Falcon Women’s Lacrosse Club Team became UWRF’s 17th varsity sport, making UWRF the first public institution in the area to sponsor women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport in any of the NCAA’s three divisions. The growth of girl’s and women’s lacrosse in the area and recent facility renovations made the timing perfect. They began competing in the 2018-19 academic year.
  • The UWRF campus radio celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 3, 2018. Events marking the occasion included an open house displaying the new renovations to the WRFW station, a reception in the Falcon’s Nest with speeches, and an auction. A tribute was held for Al Murray, who was the chief engineer for WRFW for 44 years.
  • UWRF received gold STARS rating in sustainability evaluation. UW-River Falls was recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its improved sustainability initiatives. For the first time, the school was awarded the gold rating on AASHE’s STARS evaluation after seven years of refining operations to graduate from the silver status.


  • UWRF receives reaffirmed accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission made an on-sight visit to the UWRF campus and all criteria was met for UWRF to be reaffirmed.
  • Campus dairy bar opens in Ag Science. On Oct. 10, 2019, Freddy’s Dairy Bar had its grand opening on the second floor of the Agricultural Science building.
  • Campus transitions to Canvas online learning environment in MarchUWRF replaced D2l (Desire 2 Learn) with Canvas, a Digital Learning Environment (DLE). The replacement was adopted by the entire UW System.
  • Multi-factor authentication becomes available to all UWRF students during fall semester. This two-factor authentication is called DUO and provides extra security to students’ UW accounts.
  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers visited UWRF the morning of Nov. 22, 2019, to host a press conference for the official signing of Assembly Bill 168. The bill ensured that those who communicate nonverbally or those will disabilities that affect speech will be able to fully participate in the voting process.


  • Formerly UWRF’s center for student dining services, Rodli Hall, originally built in the 1960s, reopened in January 2020 as a student success center. Since 2007, Rodli has been home to classrooms and storage before undergoing an extensive $15.9 million renovation. The renovated building houses UWRF’s student-centered services including Admissions, Career Services and Counseling Center, Financial Aid, a coffee shop, Academic Success Center, URSCA, the Writing Center and more.
  • The COVID-19 global pandemic lead to suspension of classes in March 2020. A decision was made to continue with alternative modes of delivery of instruction and services through the end of spring semester. Spring Break was cancelled. Spring 2020 commencement was a livestreamed, limited in-person event with only graduates and limited staff present. Face coverings, social distancing, safer-at-home, and hand washing became buzzwords. Employees were furloughed, with some layoffs. Events were cancelled.
  • In April 2020, the UW System Board of Regents approved a new undergraduate Bachelor of Science program in environmental engineering at UWRF. Students will be accepted into the program beginning in fall 2020. This is one of only three ABET-accredited programs in environmental engineering in Wisconsin.
  • In mid-April 2020, UW System announced a series of changes to admissions policies to make it easier for students to enroll in the fall at UW schools. Changes included reducing the undergraduate application fee, accepting unofficial high school transcripts for admission consideration, and holding students harmless for changes in admissions testing, grading formats, and other standard requirements. 
  • community COVID-19 testing site opened on campus. Community testing was offered by UW campuses in a partnership between UW System and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The annual Summer Concert Series held at the Wall Amphitheatre was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Hathorn Hall, the oldest and largest resident hall on campus, celebrated its 70th anniversary. Dedicated in 1951 as a women's dormitory, it is named for Irma Hathorn, former Dean of Women who spent 29 years on campus until her retirement in 1949.
  • Chancellor Dean Van Gallen left UWRF in July 2020 to serve as the 6th president of Missouri Southern State University. Van Galen had served as UWRF’s 18th chancellor since 2009.
  • Connie Foster stepped in as interim chancellor for the second time from July 2020-July 2021.
  • Just after the start of the fall semester 2020, UW-River Falls became the third UW campus to pause in-person classes for two weeks due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases among students. Classes were initially moved online and students living in the residence halls were told to “shelter in place” due to a spike in students testing positive for the coronavirus. Most classes continued to be virtual the remainder of the semester and the majority of UWRF employees worked remotely to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus and the River Falls community.


  • The annual Summer Concert Series held at the Wall Amphitheatre was cancelled for the second summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Maria Gallo joined UWRF as its 20th chancellor on July 15, 2021. She came from Delaware Valley University where she served as president since July 2016.
  • In July, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed into law the 2021-23 state budget. In it was $111.73 million in capital funds earmarked for the newest addition to UW-River Falls: Science and Technology Innovation Center. Better known as SciTech, the building is a marvel nearly two decades in the making. It’s envisioned as an innovative space that won’t just change the campus landscape and elevate student learning but will serve as a linchpin for regional partnerships and economic growth.
  • new falcon sculpture was unveiled at the entrance of Rodli Hall in August 2021. Artist Peter Busby was commissioned to create the sculpture in early 2020. Its galvanized shiny silver look will oxidize to gray over a decade. Dan Paulus of the Art Department helped coordinate the commissioned project.
  • The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) awarded the UW-River Falls Dairy Pilot Plant a $250,000 Targeted Industry Projects grant in August 2021 that helped fabricate the plant’s high-temperature short-time pasteurization system. The renovation has allowed the university to update the plant’s 30-year-old equipment and to increase its capacity for dairy processing short courses and workshops. The changes will better position the plant to aid small dairies and farmers develop new products and increase demand for milk. 
  • Fall semester 2021 opened with few in-person classes. A campus policy required face coverings when indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson has been touring campuses around the state since early August 2021 promoting a competitive scholarship drawing aimed at encouraging students to get vaccinated during the fall semester. The "70 for 70" campaign is offering 70 scholarships worth $7,000 to vaccinated students who attend system universities, other than UW-Madison, that reach a 70 percent student vaccination threshold.
  • UWRF Chancellor Maria Gallo welcomed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson to campus Sept. 27, 2021, at the start of Homecoming week festivities. Thompson had spent the afternoon touring Rodli Hall to learn about student success initiatives and met with shared governance leaders. Evers visited later to reinforce Thompson’s message about the importance of student vaccinations and the UW System’s Vax Up! 70 for 70 campaign. Both remained for a time after to chat before students and community members enjoyed Professor Jake’s Bean Soup, a Homecoming tradition.


  • The former Financial Aid Office on the third floor of North Hall is converted to instructional space for the Communications and Media Studies Department in March. The classrooms will include technology that emulates modern newsrooms and can be configured so that students can make client pitches, presentations and hold mock news conferences. As work continues in the historical space – 1914 floor plans note it was the original chemistry lab – workers signed their names on a column that will be enclosed in the wall. Next to the signatures is a “time capsule” that includes a face mask from this pandemic era.
  • The River Falls Days parade sported a UWRF float designed by the ag engineering seminar course, guided by Dean Olson. In building the float, students learned the engineering process of computer aided design, working with a client so they are on the same page about what they're going to build and estimating materials needed. The finished product was a collaboration between the University Communications and Marketing Department and the Agricultural Engineering Technology Department.
  • When the new 3,000-square-foot Food Ready Space opened in February 2022 at the St. Croix Valley Business Incubation Center, it required no marketing before all seven spaces were filled with entrepreneurs ready to launch or grow their businesses. The center first opened in January 2018. It is a collaborative effort of four founding partners including UW-River Falls, the city of River Falls, Chippewa Valley Technical College and the River Falls Economic Development Corp.
  • “Let the Good Times Grow” is the theme for CAFES 10th annual Ag Day on campus in April 2022. More than 20 organizations and companies shared how they are innovating change for the future and caring for the land and animals. After a canceled event in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a modified event in 2021, the event brought back traditional and some new elements to engage with people of different backgrounds.
  • UW-River Falls welcomed Alex Shapiro to Abbott Concert Hall in April 2022 as the university’s 56th Commissioned Composer.
  • More than 700 students graduated during two spring commencement ceremonies in Knowles Field House in the Falcon Center. Capt. Richard Phillips was the commencement speaker with his inspirational story of perseverance and teamwork. Phillips became the center of an international drama for several days in April 2009 when he was captured by pirates who attacked and boarded his ship.
  • A new report by Career Services found that despite the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, UWRF’s graduates were in high demand. The First Destination Report revealed that 94% of graduates from August 2020 through May 2021 advanced their careers within six months of earning their diplomas by either finding employment or continuing to graduate school. That was up 6% from the previous year of 88%. The latest report ties the 2016 record of 94%. The 94% includes 15% of students who are continuing their education.
  • Dawn Hukai became the interim dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) on July 1, 2022. She has been the acting dean of CBE since January 2022.
  • The UW System Board of Regents on June 10 approved the addition of three new Bachelor of Science undergraduate majors at UWRF in June 2022. The three majors – finance, management and marketing – are emphasis options in the existing Bachelor of Science Business Administration program. The new majors started fall semester 2022.
  • Students lauded UWRF's first doctoral program in July 2022. The Ed.D. program in Montessori Studies at UWRF is a hybrid program - online and summer residencies. It is one of the first such programs in Montessori studies in the United States.
  • The Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech) project received a critical green light in August 2022 when the Wisconsin State Building Commission voted to authorize construction. The unanimous vote moves the $116.7 million project one step closer to reality.  “This project will be transformational, not only for our campus but for our region,” said UWRF Chancellor Maria Gallo. “SciTech will give our students access to amazing opportunities while also enhancing collaboration with business and industry in a way that will directly contribute to the economic development of western Wisconsin.” The SciTech building will house departments including biology, chemistry, physics, and psychological sciences and their related academic programs, including pre-engineering, biotechnology and neuroscience. The project will also create space to support meaningful collaborations with local and regional business partners in STEM fields and beyond. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023 and be completed by late 2025. Classes are slated to start in the new building beginning January 2026. The state of Wisconsin has funded $111.73 million for the project. The university is working with alumni and corporate donors to raise the remaining $5 million and is already nearly halfway to that goal.
  • University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman announced the creation of the Wisconsin Tuition Promise, a new initiative starting in fall 2023 to ensure underserved Wisconsin students can attend any UW System university without paying tuition or fees. The goal of the program is to increase the number of state residents who graduate with a bachelor’s degree – especially first-generation students and those from low-to-moderate income families throughout Wisconsin – thereby improving individual lives and communities and helping meet the state’s workforce needs. 
  •  UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo announced a revitalized institutional brand in August 2022. The new brand more authentically reflects the institution’s commitment to providing extraordinary opportunities for those they serve.
  • The bachelor’s degree program in agricultural engineering at UWRF was accredited in September 2022 by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.
  • The creation of a Bee Hotel in October 2022 supports sustainability at UW-River Falls.
  • UWRF and DATCP launched the Humane Handling Institute (HHI) in October 2022. A first of its kind program, HHI will provide comprehensive hands-on training for current meat industry workers in humane pre-slaughter handling, transport, stunning, and equipment maintenance. HHI is expected to help improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s $34 billion livestock and meat industries.
  • Maria Gallo, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the 20th chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in a ceremony at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, in Riverview Ballroom in the University Center. Gallo began her tenure at UWRF in July 2021 after serving as president of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Penn., in a career that includes other administrative and faculty positions. She earned her bachelor's degree in agronomy from Cornell University and both her master's degree in crop science and doctorate in genetics from North Carolina State University.
  • Following a transformational gift in November 2022, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Dairy Pilot Plant will now be known as the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence.
  • The UW System Board of Regents gave final approval Dec. 8, 2022, to a realignment at UW-River Falls that will reduce the number of colleges from four to three, saving significant administrative costs while increasing support for employees and students. The action by the board means that after more than a year of campus discussion among administrators, shared governance representatives and faculty, staff and students, the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) will be merged effective July 1, 2023, according to UWRF Chancellor Maria Gallo. The name of the merged college will be the College of Education, Business and Allied Health (CEBAH).


  • In January 2023, an Esports arena was unveiled in Davee Library. The state-of-the-art arena for playing competitive video games allowed the Athletic Department tremendous advantage in recruiting students as Esports became its 18th varsity sport in fall 2023.
  • In March 2023, season seven of the popular streaming television series ‘The College Tour’ featured all that makes UW-River Falls a special institution in western Wisconsin. UWRF students told the university’s story in their own words to a national audience.
  • Michael Orth, Ph.D., began his tenure as dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) on June 1, 2023. He succeeded Dale Gallenberg who retired in October 2022.
  • The College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) were merged July 1, 2023, to become the College of Education, Business and Allied Health (CEBAH). The merge reduced the number of colleges from four to three, saving significant administrative costs while increasing support for employees and students.
  • Muhammad Chishty, Ph.D., began as the dean of the newly established College of Education, Business and Allied Health (CEBAH) on July 1, 2023. Interim Dean Dawn Hukai provided leadership through the end of June 2023. Chishty steps into this position following the recent realignment of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS).
  • Wesley Kisting, Ph.D., began as the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) on July 1, 2023. Professor Karl Peterson continued as interim CAS dean until June 30, 2023, after which he returned to his role as associate dean.
  • The Marching Band returned to UW-River Falls in fall 2023, some 30 years after it last appeared on campus. The Marching Falcons are directed by trumpet Professor Tom Barnett, director of UWRF’s athletic bands, and make appearances at university football games and other events.
  • Registration opened in May 2023 for the popular longstanding Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) at UWRF in fall 2023. The program had been held at UW-Madison since 1885 but moved to UW-River Falls for the first time.
  • UW-River Falls officials and agriculture business leaders celebrated the October 2023 grand opening of the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence, a $9 million facility providing students and dairy employees high-tech, hands-on training opportunities.
  • A groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 23, 2023, commemorated construction underway on the university’s Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech). The much anticipated $117 million building is the largest project in UW-River Falls history and has been years in the making. SciTech will be home to students from a wide range of majors who will learn through hands-on, high-impact experiences in biology, chemistry, physics and psychological sciences. The project will create partnerships between UW-River Falls and businesses, thereby providing students with valuable research opportunities and jobs while growing the economy. It is scheduled to open in 2026.
  • Rueben Nilsson was hired in December 2023 to manage the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence, the newly renovated $9 million dairy pilot plant at UW-River Falls. He replaced Michelle Farner who spent a decade making the new dairy plant a reality before leaving in November 2023.