The University of Wisconsin was incorporated in 1848, shortly after the admission of Wisconsin into the Union. The Wisconsin State University system had its origins in an 1857 state law creating a separate board of regents for the state normal schools.
UWRF was founded in 1874 as the fourth Normal School in Wisconsin and the first in the northwestern part of the state. The University’s partnerships with the region began when local townships and community leaders pledged $25,000 and land to assist with the school’s construction. Our first building was dedicated on Sept. 2, 1875, with an enrollment of 130 students.
Since its very beginnings, the University has been contributing to the development and improvement of the state. Franklin Hiram King, professor of natural science at River Falls State Normal School, began the research that led to the development of the round silo. The new design solved the problem of storing winter cattle silage and allowed dairy to advance as a major farming enterprise in Wisconsin.
River Falls State Normal School experienced a slow and steady growth in curriculum and
enrollment until 1912, when enrollment increased substantially with the establishment of the
agricultural education department. The development of a four-year curriculum in 1926 preceded
our designation as a state teachers’ college in 1927.
In 1951, liberal arts programs were added, and the institution became the Wisconsin State College at River Falls. In 1964, the state colleges were renamed state universities, and we were authorized to offer graduate courses as the Wisconsin State University-River Falls. The University of Wisconsin System was created in 1971 when the two public university systems (University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin State Universities) were combined under a single board of regents, and we assumed our present name.
UWRF experienced very rapid enrollment growth in the 1960s and early 1970s, increasing the student headcount from 1,500 in 1960 to 4,500 by 1975. Additional faculty and an expansion of the physical facilities accompanied this change. The increased numbers of students and faculty provided a greater range of courses and programs, yet we maintained our emphasis on close student/faculty relationships. Since the mid 1970s, growth in student numbers at UWRF has been maintained at a slower pace. In the past three years, however, the University has begun to experience more rapid, planned enrollment growth. Overall enrollment increased by 2.04 percent in 2004, 2.16 percent in 2005, and 2.71 percent in 2007. UWRF enrollment in fall 2008 was 6,611.
The campus continues its historical commitment to teaching and learning. Nearly 60 percent of our faculty report working with undergraduate students on research and creative projects outside class. Most of our faculty members are on a first-name basis with their students, and many of our graduates maintain close contact with their professors and others on campus throughout their professional lives.