Letter from the Provost
I am extremely proud of the fact that over this past year, while a weakened state economy and low salaries continued to influence our professional reality, through it all, our faculty and staff were able to remain committed to the University’s critical academic priorities. As a matter of fact, in this regard, their achievements in 2012 were truly extraordinary, and, as a result, the division of Academic Affairs has much to celebrate.
In the spring, the Faculty Senate passed a remarkable new general education curriculum, called the University Studies Program (USP). The culmination of five years of hard work by scores of faculty and staff members, the program aims to provide all our students a more intentional and integrated course of study that will result in higher quality educational experiences to better prepare our graduates for the challenges of an increasingly complicated, fluid and competitive twenty-first century global society.
The program, under the direction of USP Director Dr. Lori Carrell and her leadership team, represents the most sweeping academic change at our university in decades; it has touched the mode of operation in nearly every office on campus, and it has also quickly become a model of excellence at the state and national levels. In August, I presented our new program to the Board of Regents and, during the question and answer session that followed, a former president of the board held up a copy of our program booklet, praising it as a model of what other campuses could do. On the national level, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has followed the development of the USP closely and has selected UW Oshkosh as one of five campuses across the country that it will profile in its forthcoming publication this spring on models for the integration of high impact practices into university curricula.
While I am pleased with the accomplishments of our faculty and staff thus far regarding the University Studies Program, there is much work yet to do. Almost immediately after the Faculty Senate passage, the equally daunting task of implementing the new program began, and it is now well under way. Dedicated funding allowed many faculty and staff to develop courses for the Quest portion of the USP last summer and numerous exciting, innovative classes have been proposed and are now making their way through the curricular review process. Representatives from offices all across campus have been involved to ensure that the transition to the USP will be as smooth as possible. As we move rapidly toward the fall 2013 start date for the USP, all faculty, staff, and students will have to step up and commit themselves to additional investments of time and intellectual energy. Having said this, however, I believe that the rewards will be enormous and that the educational legacy we leave will be impressive.
This spring, we will also begin a three-year Quality Initiative Project as part of our Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation review scheduled for 2017. The overall goal of the project is to enhance the quality of undergraduate education through curricular reform. It will focus on key campus initiatives in our Academic Program Plan such as faculty development opportunities, student learning outcomes, further development of the ePortfolio, and a review of programs and degree requirements.
While we are rightfully showcasing the significant changes in our curriculum, and we are all well aware that teaching remains central to our university identity, I do not want to minimize the importance of research to the goals of my office and to our mission at UW Oshkosh. We ardently believe in ─ and financially support ─ the well-rounded teacher-scholar who strives to stay at the forefront of his/her field of study through high quality scholarship. As cuts have been made in most areas of campus in recent years, we have generally held harmless Faculty Development grants, sabbaticals, and research assistantships. We have also provided funding for External Grants Expansion and supported student assistance of faculty research by increasing resources for STEP students and faculty-student collaborative research. Furthermore, we have done more to showcase the research and scholarship being conducted on campus; to recognize the range and volume of your high-quality work, we have created our annual Faculty Scholarship Recognition Luncheon and inaugurated an annual publication – Endeavors – to profile individual accomplishments and campus-wide productivity. In other words, we have increased opportunities for supporting and recognizing research and scholarship at UW Oshkosh and we remain committed to that support.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about Graduate Studies, which, in 2012, celebrated its 50th anniversary on campus. Since the program’s inception, almost 13,000 students have received graduate degrees from UW Oshkosh. Fifty years ago, we developed and offered the Masters of Science in Teaching, and then rapidly added degrees in Guidance Counseling, Reading and Special Education. In the early 1970s, degrees in Physics, Psychology, Biology, Business, Economics and History were developed, followed half a decade later by degrees in Nursing, Mathematics, Public Administration, Art and Speech. Since then, still more have been created – including innovative partnerships, such as our joint MSW program with UW Green Bay and our MS in Sustainability with four other UW System campuses – and a few have been deleted. We remain primarily a Masters-level campus, but we did recently add our first doctorate, the Doctorate of Nursing Practice, the first at a comprehensive university in the state of Wisconsin. Currently, with one doctorate, thirteen masters programs and thirteen graduate certificate programs, UW Oshkosh remains the largest generator of graduate degrees in our area.
After the development of a Strategic Plan in 2010, Graduate Studies was restructured, and Dr. Susan Cramer has this year assumed the position of the new Dean. She oversees the goals of the plan, some of which are to increase the visibility of Graduate Studies on campus, to communicate our scholarly and research expertise to internal and external constituents, to enhance and expand external relationships, and to strengthen enrollment.
Thank you for all that you do to support the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in its academic mission, and special thanks to our many alumni and community members whose commitment to our University Studies and other programs helps to enhance student learning on our campus.