Letter from the Chancellor
In an era of unyielding economic pressure on higher education, it is easy to look to new buildings, facilities and other capital projects as examples of progress defiant of the times.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has plenty. We have not taken this prolonged period of challenge sitting down. Guided by our strategic plans and commitment to preserve and enhance academic programs, we opened our first new academic building in 40 years, the $48 million Sage Hall, in late summer 2011. Meanwhile, construction continues on our new, 21st century residence hall, Horizon Village. Designs and engineering are underway for the $26 million renovation of Clow Social Sciences Center. In sum, we will have completed close to $250 million of capital projects in approximately 10 years.
However, new buildings alone are not the mark of an institution's perseverance in difficult times.
It is our 1,700 faculty and staff and 13,500 students who are the architects of excellence, innovation and civility in a campus community. It takes very confident, committed, caring and competent people to make a place like UW Oshkosh a proving ground of entrepreneurial and academic distinction. And there is another important word and characteristic that helps define us and the things we do and the way we do them here: Courage.
Simply put, the faculty, staff and students of UW Oshkosh have a 140-year track record of being at their most innovative and entrepreneurial when conditions test us. We are courageous. And our continued, courageous commitment to affordability, accessibility and accountability are proof.
Courage in accountability
At UW Oshkosh, as at all UW System institutions, we are guided by the Wisconsin Idea — the expectation that our service to the state extends well beyond the boundaries of our campus. In challenging times, this allegiance to the Wisconsin Idea is more evident than ever.
Our construction and launch of a state-of-the-art dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester across the Fox River in Oshkosh is fiercely courageous. This first-in-the-Americas power plant, producing energy-rich methane gas from the decomposition of city yard, agricultural plant and campus-based food waste in airless storage chambers, is the product of vision, partnership and collaboration led by our faculty, students and staff, our UW Oshkosh Foundation, our College of Letters and Science and campus sustainability team members. It also serves as a dynamic learning environment for students collaborating with environmental sciences and microbiology faculty and staff in research. And it is just the beginning.
We are championing creation of a second, larger and even more impactful, wet biodigester, proposed as a remote laboratory and education center on the site of the largest dairy farm in Wisconsin, the Rosendale Dairy. It will use the operation's livestock manure to produce energy, drive research in the UW Oshkosh COLS campus-based Environmental Research and Innovation Center, propel learning within a public education center at the farm site and yield scholarship revenues. Its 2.8 megawatts of annual power production would also cut in half our campus' estimated 2025 carbon-neutrality timeline.
We further envision this dynamic laboratory and teaching and research tool fueling development of a rural community development institute. This institute would build on a growing, institutional commitment at UW Oshkosh to the enhancement of rural life in Wisconsin.
In our College of Nursing, the Wisconsin Idea is equally evident.
Little more than a year ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report calling for a doubling of the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020. We have innovated programs to respond. Our first class of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students was admitted into our nursing tracks in summer 2010. Our institution's first doctoral graduates will earn their degrees in 2012. The program received the highest accreditation possible from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in 2010 as we began to admit bachelor-degree holders into the DNP track, another step forward. It earned the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's five-year accreditation in November 2011.
Meanwhile, our College of Business is the first in the state to offer an Entrepreneurship emphasis, one on track to becoming a major in two to three years. It is a focus of study catering to students interested in starting up a new business or getting involved in small business and management.
The college's Student Managed Endowment Fund (SMEF) includes one of the largest pools of assets ethically and responsibly managed by undergraduate students among all the four-year comprehensive universities in Wisconsin. It was the first such fund for a business college in Wisconsin and one of the first in the nation.
Now overseen by students in a state-of-the-art, stock-trading nerve center of a classroom inside Sage Hall, the SMEF continues to give our students hands-on experience in analyzing securities while providing a new source of funding for the UW Oshkosh Foundation in its mission to support the University.
In our College of Education and Human Services, the Alternative Careers in Teaching Program, or ACT, has been a major success. It has established a partnership between UW Oshkosh and the UW Colleges and, more importantly, responded to the demand for highly qualified math and science teachers throughout Wisconsin. In summer 2011, the 5-year-old program admitted its 100th student. Thirty individuals have completed program, several of whom received offers for teaching positions before completing it. Since its inception in 2006, 29 students have been awarded nearly $350,000 from one of two Robert Noyce National Science Foundation grants that total $1.5 million dollars. The ACT program's creators expect to present another $850,000 in Noyce awards to students who are currently enrolled or accepted into the program in the future.
While these initiatives and program innovations evolve, faculty leaders are steering our General Education Reform process. Required as a component of our campus re-accreditation, and performed in concert with the work of our Liberal Education Reform Team's 2010 examination of more than 1,000 courses, this recalibration of our UW Oshkosh general education requirements is crucial to meeting the learning needs of our students. We are on track for a fall 2013 implementation of a reformed general education program within our Liberal Education Framework timeline.
Courage in affordability
State revenue for the UW System may continue to decrease while our students endure another 5.5 percent tuition increase. But we are resolute in our support for students, especially as it is delivered through a state-of-the-art program involving strong collaborations between students, faculty and staff.
The continued success of our Student Titan Employment Program (STEP) has expanded the learning opportunities and experiences we provide to approximately 1,750 students a year through campus-connected employment. We fueled students with $5.3 million in annual wages last year, or, on average, $3,028 per student. That is equivalent to the tuition for one semester at UW Oshkosh. And in exchange for this support, programs like STEP help advance the missions of our university colleges and departments through collaboration.
Our UW Oshkosh Foundation's courage resulted in the pride.purpose.promise capital campaign — the first comprehensive capital campaign in our institution's 140-year history — being completed ahead of schedule and over goal amid harsh economic conditions. The campaign secured $6 million for University scholarships, which make it possible for more students, including those with financial challenges, to attain a bachelor's or master's degree. The campaign also generated $5 million for high-impact, collaborative learning programs, all while surpassing its $20 million goal in fewer than five years. More than 14,000 donors contributed to the campaign as it eclipsed $21 million in just four and a half years.
Courage in accessibility
While we double our efforts to preserve and, when possible, enhance financial aid and student employment support, we are also recommitting ourselves to keeping UW Oshkosh accessible and a bastion of student success.
As we maintain record enrollment and number of degrees awarded, our enrollment and retention of students of color over the last decade, remains remarkably strong. Since 2000, the number of students of color attending UW Oshkosh has nearly tripled. Meanwhile, enrollment of students age 25 and up has increased more than 28 percent.
These increases demand we concentrate even more intensely on students' success. This year, I called on our staff to reexamine and fortify the UW Oshkosh Personal Compact for Students with a goal of infusing this program with additional funding.
This program was created in fall 2002 to offer a personalized student development program. It is a compact between each student and the University that will expand every student's intellectual, civic, ethical and personal development goals through careful mentoring and extended guidance. It calls for a tailored plan for each student responsive to every student's changing needs for academic support, financial counseling and career planning.
Meanwhile, our commitment to collaboration with PK-12 colleagues and programs is unmatched. We serve Wisconsin students while introducing them to the opportunities for higher education.
A 2011 inventory of our PK-12 collaborations highlights dozens of connections interlacing every UW Oshkosh college and department. The partnerships range from the campus-supported Head Start program, which has served 600 preschool students and families over 45 years to the more than 2,000 students at nearly 50 schools our Cooperative Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) — the state's largest college-transcripted credit program — has supported for approximately 36 years.
We also cannot ignore data that shows, amid challenging economic times, transfer students are increasingly a key driver of our overall enrollment growth. Ensuring UW Oshkosh is an easily-accessible academic home for these students is paramount.
Approximately 40 percent of graduates from UW Oshkosh are transfer students, and about 1,600 new transfer students come to UW Oshkosh each year, with 66 percent emanating from UW–Fond du Lac and UW–Fox Valley. Realizing that, UW Oshkosh created the Titan Transfer Center in partnership with UW–Fox Valley and UW–Fond du Lac.
The Center is designed to meet the unique needs of transfer students, making sure they are aware of high-impact programs, are familiar with academic learning support services and university learning outcomes. Meanwhile, the Titan Transfer Center helps students swiftly select classes that transfer into UW Oshkosh, saving them time and money.
Our institution has a long and rich history of excellence and innovation. We have been repeatedly challenged by stretches of economic turbulence and social instability over our 140 years. Our faculty, staff and students consistently excel in these conditions, and the array of bold initiatives I have just outlined are more proof of it.
In the 19th Century, shortly after our institution's birth and during our American educational system's infancy, our University successfully integrated a working, teacher-training kindergarten into our campus. Cut to the 21st Century. The world yearns for alternative energy sources, and our ingenuity and collaborative spirit has us investing in technology that reaps heat and electricity from decomposing city yard and campus food waste. This plant and laboratory also provides students a unique learning instrument and environment.
National and global conditions may continue to test our campus community. However, we welcome the test, as we are courageously prepared to honor UW Oshkosh's legacy of not only facing the strong currents of our time but also harnessing them to sustain us and advance our pursuit of knowledge.
Richard H. Wells, Chancellor