Letter from Chancellor Wells
With our focus firmly fixed on providing affordable excellence for
our students — and with a successful process for making sound financial
decisions — I remain confident that our campus community can withstand
the challenges posed by the current economic crisis.
We are gratified that Gov. Jim Doyle has set a top priority on funding education, including the UW System universities. While we do not yet know the depth of the economy’s impact on our students, we continue to be sensitive to their needs and have created a Student Financial Emergency Response Team to assist students experiencing serious unexpected financial difficulties.
The strength of our budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year is sufficient to address any required budgetary lapse in funds for the current biennium. We are working with all campus constituencies to ensure that any changes we make to our plans for the 2009-2011 biennium will be consistent with the input we receive from our governance group leaders and other members of the campus community.
The Wisconsin Growth Agenda supports the UW System Advantage Wisconsin Strategic Framework, including the three-pronged policy agenda of producing more, better-prepared college graduates, creating leading-edge jobs in Wisconsin and growing strong communities. What we are hearing from our constituents, however, is that we have to be more affordable, more accessible, more accountable and more competitive.
These four themes, developed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, provide a framework for defining our public purpose and the policy challenges we are facing.
UW Oshkosh is an institution of access and opportunity. Part of our public purpose is to provide affordable education so that any qualified student — no matter his or her financial need — is able to pursue a high-quality college education.
We use our resources more effectively, as evidenced by the progress we have made in academic advising. Thanks to differential tuition, we have enhanced the Undergraduate Advising Resource Center (UARC) to empower students to articulate and achieve their personal, educational and career goals. The UARC advisers and faculty help students make informed choices that save them time and money.
More well-trained and qualified advisers and faculty are available to meet individually with students to help them explore course options, to understand current policies and procedures and to answer their questions on a range of topics, such as “What is the difference between a BA and a BS?” “How long will it take me to graduate?” and “How do I know which semester classes are offered?”
The UARC also advises students about the many resources available, such as free tutoring for any class. By providing ample and high-quality assistance to students who want help learning the material presented in their courses, we facilitate student success. These kinds of services are designed to benefit any and all students, but they are tailor-made to meet the needs of first-generation students, who comprise the majority of our student body.
There are many more initiatives that have improved overall student retention and graduate rates, thereby reducing time to degree and making a high-quality education more affordable. Our faculty and staff have worked hard to make this possible; however, much work remains.
We also are challenged to lower the number of credits necessary to earn degrees and are coordinating our retention efforts in response to recommendations made by last spring’s Equity Scorecard Project and the results of our Climate Survey. While I am pleased to report that the 2007-to-2008 retention rate for students of color (78 percent) is higher than the rate for all students (76.8 percent), we still are challenged to maintain this pattern and close the graduation rate gaps.
UW Oshkosh received $3.8 million in Growth Agenda funding for initiatives to increase the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin by providing funding for 27 new faculty positions to support an enrollment increase of more than 1,000 students since 2000 and another 450 by 2013.
We also obtained $97 million of facilities funding to accommodate the enrollment growth by constructing a major new academic building, new residence halls and a student academic support center.
Our enrollment numbers for this academic year reveal a more diverse student body and a significant increase in first-year students (4.5 percent), transfer students (15.8 percent), students of color (7.9 percent) and undergraduates 25-plus years of age (2.9 percent). Another indicator of enhanced accessibility is our third-consecutive, record-breaking graduating class size. We awarded 2,073 degrees in 2008, up from 1,856 in 2005.
UW Oshkosh is an early adopter of the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), which was unveiled nationally Sept. 29, 2008. The VSA provides consistent, comparable and transparent information to prospective students and their families as well as to legislators and others through a Web-based “College Portrait.”
The College Portrait reports college cost, price and student success outcomes, and it measures student achievement on a “value-added” basis. It also provides data on constructs that have a proven correlation with greater student learning and development. Click here for more about UW Oshkosh's College Portrait.
The University remains dedicated to being a leader in responsible environmental stewardship, unveiling its comprehensive sustainability plan in April 2008. Due to generous support from Johnson Controls, we conducted a comprehensive study of our carbon footprint. Click here to learn more about UW Oshkosh's sustainability initiatives.
In September 2008, UW Oshkosh was the first university in the U.S. to become a Fair Trade University by making a commitment to do our part to end trade injustice that results in
millions of people living in poverty.
We believe that our commitment to access, affordability and accountability must be anchored in an equally strong commitment to educational excellence. Our No. 1 priority is providing students with the broad knowledge and transferable skills and a strong sense of values, ethics and civic engagement that prepares them for socially valued work and for
In spring 2008, the Liberal Education Reform Team (LERT) led a campus-wide process that resulted in the adoption by the Faculty Senate and approval by the Senate of Academic Staff of a set of UW Oshkosh Student Learning Outcomes, which describe the forms of learning and accomplishment that contemporary students need from college for life, work and citizenship.
This year, LERT will implement a procedure for refining and adapting rubrics for the learning outcomes so that expectations for student performance can be shared and reinforced throughout the student-learning experience — in the classroom, in residence halls and in extra-curricular activities.
LERT is a University-wide Strategic Action Initiative. For more information, click here.
It is a huge point of pride that our Faculty Senate, the members of LERT and the Liberal Education Resource Group, and campus leaders are continuing to keep us on the forefront of the national movement to reform liberal education in the United States.
I realize how hard the campus community has been working during consecutive years of serious economic challenges. I have a hard time finding new words to express my deep appreciation and great admiration of our UW Oshkosh faculty, academic staff and classified staff. As tough as it has been and will continue to be for us, our students and their families are facing even more difficult challenges. We will do everything we can to help our students as we adjust our budget strategy to navigate the uncertain and troubled waters ahead.
Richard H. Wells, Chancellor