Richard H. Wells took office as the tenth Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh on October 1, 2000. Prior to his appointment, Chancellor Wells served as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Indiana State University, as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at West Chester University, and as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of South Alabama.
Chancellor Wells received his B.A. degree from William Penn College, his M.A. from the University of Arkansas, and his Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas A&M University. His eighteen years of college teaching experience include appointments at the University of South Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and at Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina.
Chancellor Wells has served as a member of the national boards of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Voluntary System of Accountability, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the American Council of Education. He served as chair of the national Task Force on Student Engagement for the Volunteer System of Accountability Project. He also served as a member of the boards of Affinity Health Systems, Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, NEW ERA, New North Inc., Oshkosh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Oshkosh Industrial Development Corporation (CHAMCO) and United Way. Chancellor Wells represents the UW System on the boards of the Wisconsin Higher Education Business Roundtable, the Wisconsin Campus compact, and the Wisconsin Economic Summit Series steering committee.
In the spring of 2001, Chancellor Wells received the John R. Emens National Award for Support of a Free Student Press from Ball State University for his efforts to preserve the independence and autonomy of the Advance-Titan, the student newspaper at UW Oshkosh.
He is the author of American Sociology: Theoretical and Methodological Structure (1981) and of many scholarly articles, which have appeared in journals such as Sociological Inquiry, Rural Sociology, Criminology, and Research in Higher Education. His scholarship investigates issues ranging from the sociology of nutritional inequality to the sociology of sports. He has presented papers at many meetings of the leading national sociology organizations such as Rural Sociological Society, Society for the Study of Social Problems and the American Sociological Association. He has served as national program chair for the Association for Humanist Sociology and as grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation.
Chancellor Wells has fulfilled major leadership roles establishing innovative collaborative organizations and programs among different types of post-secondary institutions. For example, while at Indiana State University, he lead the establishment of the Degree Link program that allows ISU, along with twenty-two state technical colleges and four community colleges to offer eleven baccalaureate degree completion programs statewide via distance education technologies. At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, he served from 2001–2005 as the founding chairperson of NEW ERA (Northeastern Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance), a consortium of executive leaders of northeast Wisconsin’s 13 public universities serving 1.2 million Wisconsin residents. Founded in 2001, NEW ERA is composed of four technical colleges, five UW two-year colleges, two UW Comprehensive universities, the College of Menominee National and UW Extension. These institutions are enjoying statewide and national acclaim for large increases in degree program articulations, collaborative business entrepreneurship centers, graduation projects, and alternative licensure/certification programs for much-needed nurses and teachers.
NEW ERA is also a founding member of NEW NORTH, a consortium of collaborative organizations of northeastern Wisconsin’s Chambers of Commerce, Workforce Development Boards, economic development professionals and CEO’s of major corporations. The vision for NEW NORTH is to be nationally and globally competitive for advancing job growth while maintain a superior quality of life for the northeastern Wisconsin’s citizens. Due to his role as founding chair of NEW ERA, Chancellor Wells serves as a founding member of the NEW NORTH Board of directors. They have completed a major strategic action-based regional economic study, recruited an executive director, launched a regional branding marketing campaign, obtained major donations from business and other organizations, and received a large grant from the Governor.
During his tenure at UW Oshkosh, Chancellor Wells has engaged the academic community in developing a broadly shared vision for the future of the University. This inclusive, interactive and transparent process has resulted in the creation of the Governing Ideas, a statement of the University’s shared mission, vision, values and strategic directions. The implementation of this process-the development of key operational plans and action initiatives is on-going.
Chancellor Wells has championed the need for strategic focus and national distinctiveness for UW Oshkosh. All teaching, research and service strategic initiatives must directly or indirectly advance the University’s strategic focus by “enhancing essential student learning outcomes”. Consequently, UW Oshkosh has graduated record numbers of students who are talented, liberally educated, technically skilled global citizens who are fully engaged as leaders and participants in civic, political, and social life. By focusing University resources on a deeply shared commitment to the development of University-wide and college specific programmatic distinctiveness, the university community is becoming nationally known and admired for: (1) Catalytic Community Collaborations, (2) Comprehensive Sustainability Initiatives, and (3) the Transformative University Studies Program – “General Education for the 21st Century”.
The prioritization of both University-wide (“horizontal”) and College (“vertical”) programmatic distinctiveness provides all faculty, students, staff and external stakeholders with the opportunity to contribute to the excellence of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. UW Oshkosh is truly where “Excellence and Opportunity Meet”. Chancellor Wells is extremely proud of the many remarkable faculty, student, staff, and alumni accomplishments featured in 14 Annual Strategic Planning Reports. (See annual Report for details)