2010 Platteville Journal Column

September 8, 2010

Our Learning Community

As we begin our 144th year of delivering exceptional higher education needs in our city, region and state, I am pleased and proud to be the 14th in a long line of distinguished and honorable chancellors at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. My official duties began in July, but what I see every day reinforces what I witnessed as I visited campus back in February; our learning community is in great shape and well positioned to build a great future even in these trying economic times.

As is tradition, we began the year with a series of convocations, at which time I was able to meet with all of our employees, including 50 new academic staff and faculty members who are well prepared to teach our students and eager to collaborate with their colleagues. These new staff members are greatly needed as they are joining some 1,500 new students. Our new freshmen – average age of 18, average ACT score of 22.81, 28 percent from graduating classes of less than 100, 76 percent from Wisconsin and 20 percent from Iowa and Illinois – are representative of the entire state. Only 14 percent are from our immediate six-county Southwest Wisconsin region. They are, however, representative of the thoughtful, hardworking, engaged and results-oriented small-town atmosphere that defines our community.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton addressed our faculty and academic staff at convocation, making special mention of the importance of a liberal education in today’s uncertain job market. The lieutenant governor, who serves on the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise – an initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, challenged us to produce graduates that have the technical, profession-specific knowledge and the broader skills in communication, problem-solving and critical thinking they need, as well as global knowledge and ethical groundings. And we plan to continue doing so.

However, we face some challenges in the near future. Ten years ago, state tax support provided about 60 percent of our university’s annual operating budget. Now, as this new class arrives, the students will be responsible for that percentage as state support has dwindled to about 20 percent. Because students are now the ones who provide the primary funding of this university, they are the ones who are investing in their education and future. Because they are what makes this university successful and the future of the nation promising, it is my expectation that students will engage as partners in their education and exhibit maturity in their roles in the classroom and in our community.

We will serve over 8,000 students this coming year, and the majority of them will be served here on campus. We expect great things. We have an excellent faculty and staff that are committed to students and their learning. We have great students who are ready to be coached and challenged. We have great employers who are eager to hire our graduates. And, most important of all, we have a safe and nurturing community that provides an environment that supports the educational process inside the classroom and out.

The Platteville community is as much a part of our great institution as the professors who stay late and meet with students, the office staff members who through their smiles make UWP feel like home, and the students who engage in their own development, in this campus and in the greater Platteville community.

October 6, 2010

A Homecoming for everyone

The second week of October begins our Homecoming festivities and, as it has been in the past, our campus calendar is full of events for alumni, students and the community to enjoy. I want to extend a special invitation to the greater Platteville community to come and enjoy everything that Homecoming offers.

The morning of Saturday, Oct. 9, UW-Platteville Alumni Services will be hosting a tent at 405 West Main Street that all are welcome to enjoy. They will also be hosting a lunch in Velzy Commons in Ullsvik Hall following the parade, and I encourage anyone interested to attend, as well as stop and chat with me in the Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery afterwards.

Several Open House events will begin around 12:30 p.m. on campus, Student Ambassadors will be on hand in the Nohr Gallery to escort any who wish to tour a selection of our academic buildings – if you are unfamiliar with campus, consider this a great opportunity to learn a little more about us.

In my opinion, this community has so much to share and to offer. Platteville is a town filled with hard workers who share the same core values. With a strong community, the Highway 18/151 connection to Madison and Dubuque, and prime development land nearby, Platteville is ready for more economic growth, and I see it as part of the university’s responsibility to help further that development.

As a university, we attract some of the brightest students and employ some of the nation’s finest faculty members. Why would that attract prospective businesses to the region? We offer a knowledge economy that most cities don’t have. We have a community of experts in their fields who are training the next generation as we speak.

Because we’ve been taking part in industry for some time now through a variety of projects and programs, our students are always ready to participate in internships and cooperative education opportunities, and our faculty are ready to apply their knowledge to challenges in industry.

The Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement has been a significant part of those projects and programs, combining student-based service learning and real-world experience to assist the community and provide hands-on learning opportunities.

These university assets are great, but would add little without the city of Platteville. Homecoming is one way that we celebrate not only the university, but also this partnership. UW-Platteville and the Platteville community are symbiotic in that way, and I see this celebration as the first of many events we will share. Let this also be the beginning of a renewed effort to reinforce our connection as we work to strengthen the economy of the community and region.

I hope to see you at Homecoming events and at the Alumni Hospitality Tent on Main Street. Come on in, have a cup of coffee and donut with me, and enjoy our Homecoming. Yours. Mine. Everyone’s. This town and university are part of something greater with a very long history, and the more we embrace that partnership, the more we all can develop.

November 3, 2010

Opportunities are everywhere

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is a significant member of the Platteville community. As chancellor, an important part of my work is to promote the best interests of both the university and the Platteville community. I understand that the university has a responsibility to work in concert with community leaders, collaborating in the development of a unified course of action that assists in fostering opportunities for economic development.

Economic development is good for the overall community in a number of ways. New businesses create opportunities in the job market, increasing business development, which brings more people to Platteville looking to buy homes, all of which adds to the city’s tax base.

The university, as part of that community, can help in a number of ways. Our campus is growing; we are currently in the planning process of building additional residence halls to support additional students. This is a challenge for us because the state of Wisconsin is not in a position to provide much if any help on this task. We have explored alternative methods of financing residence halls construction and have discovered ways to engage in creative and entrepreneurial public and private financing that will likely enable the university to proceed with its plans. We are actively looking for ways to utilize local labor, vendors and investors to bring about the successful development of these projects in ways that help not only the university but also the surrounding community. In this way we are aspiring to be good citizens of the community.

The university also offers human capital in the form of faculty members and students. If a specialized company needs support in, say, engineering, we have the expertise and manpower to assist. Our students are a workforce in their own right; whether they are cashiers at the grocery store or interns at a local company, they annually provide a significant increase in the available workforce. We have strengths in mathematics, the sciences, education and a number of other areas, and are continually seeking partnerships with industries to enhance learning opportunities for our students and keep them on the cutting edge of their respective fields.

I am excited about the prospects for the university’s growth. I am equally excited by the possibilities for the development of the community of Platteville. There will certainly be challenges for us to overcome as we seek to achieve good outcomes for our community. There will be competing opinions as to what is best for the community, but as chancellor of UW-Platteville, I am committed to working with city leaders, other governmental entities, neighborhood associations and leaders in our business community in ways that allow us to arrive at agreements that lead to a better Platteville.

December 8, 2010

Accomplishments worth noting

Our region here in Southwest Wisconsin is often a very quiet one, in part due to its very humble nature. And while humility is undoubtedly a virtue, I feel we ought to let our feathers shine time and again to show others, and ourselves, what we can accomplish.

One such feather that goes unnoticed can be found in our Fulbright Scholars, Dr. Daniel Leitch of the School of Education, and Dr. Esther Ofulue of the biology department. As Fulbright Scholars, they will study, teach and research topics within their field while abroad.

Leitch will travel to Lviv in western Ukraine for three semesters to do project-based work regarding inclusive education for disabled children with faculty at the Ukrainian Catholic University. Ofulue is currently at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where she is investigating indigenous plant extracts as activators of mouse bone marrow stem cell differentiation.

Pioneer Farm recently sponsored a research series to share information and improve communication about pollutions issues and projects. Multiple faculty and staff members contributed to the workshop and presented about topics regarding phosphorous loss from cropland due to snowmelt, surface-water runoff monitoring, and soil sampling methods.

The second edition of ‘Stylus: An Anthology of Freshmen Writing’ was used in freshman composition classrooms on campus. The anthology, comprised of works written by UW-Platteville students, provides an important tool to not only showcase excellent writing, but to also provide real-life models of academic writing. ‘Stylus’ was edited and coordinated by English faculty members Dr. Kory Wein, Gary Kriewald, Dr. Laura Beadling, Wendy Perkins, and staff members Evelyn Marten, director of Writing and Tutoring Resources, and Russ Brickey, director of the University Writing Center.

At the annual Conference for Women Engineers, UW-Platteville was recognized for the highest retention rate among female students in engineering in the nation with 77.78 percent, which is a great indicator of our efforts in keeping younger students on track and successful, as well as our dedication to supporting underrepresented populations in engineering fields.

We have a variety of great things happening on campus every day, but many are not given their due credit and spotlight. I am quite sure this is the case throughout the region.

We, the citizens of Southwest Wisconsin and the Tri-State region, aspire to greatness and achieve it with some regularity. I am not suggesting we brag about ourselves unjustly, but I want to see us receive recognition for the great things we do. We must not let our humility interfere with our development, personal or economic, so let us celebrate the great things we achieve for all to take notice.


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