Letter from the Provost
While the troubling cycle of weak financial support for higher education and what appears to be a lack of understanding and appreciation of the work we do to prepare our students to be thoughtful, productive members of society continues to weigh heavily on our morale, let us not lose sight of why we entered the academy and how close we are to embarking on a grand experiment with general education that will allow us to be more intentional with our student learning goals and more integrative with our curriculum than we have ever been. We have just begun implementing a program that will help more of our students graduate with the abilities they will need to be successful in today’s more multicultural, interconnected and rapidly changing world.
With our new University Studies Program (USP), which focuses on key components of a robust liberal education, such as intercultural knowledge and competence, sustainability and its applications, and civic knowledge and engagement, we have positioned ourselves, as Carol Geary Schneider of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) notes, “to help our graduates navigate a complicated world and make wise choices about their own lives, our shared democracy, and America’s global responsibilities.”
To expand upon these ideas of democratic citizenship and global responsibilities, the theme of the 2013 Provost’s Summit on Teaching and Learning was “Global Perspectives.” The Summit provided an opportunity for us to get together with others and contemplate the many ways to enhance global learning in our classes at UW Oshkosh.
The implementation of our University Studies Program officially began with the opening of fall semester 2013, but faculty, staff and students across the campus, as well as alumni and community members from the area, had been working for months to prepare for its launching. I am proud of the fact that even in these difficult times, most everyone was able to maintain their enthusiasm for USP, while managing to remain patient regarding the obstacles that we needed to surmount as we moved forward. The necessary balance of enthusiasm and patience was similar to that that shown by those who moved into Sage Hall two years ago, in which they found exciting new offices and classrooms, along with challenging technical and operational issues.
Our University Studies Program has received considerable UW System and national attention, and has been profiled in recent publications: one such publication produced by AAC&U was entitled Ensuring Quality and Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale, and the other was written by Robert Zemsky, a respected, long-time scholar of higher education out of the University of Pennsylvania entitled Checklist for Change: Making American Higher Education a Sustainable Enterprise. Dr. Zemsky credits faculty leadership at UW Oshkosh with a willingness to move beyond the usual higher education reform processes that often stagnate, and seek out a substantially different and more comprehensive approach to general education. He concludes that our campus was able to move forward because of what he terms a “pride of place and pride of scholarship.”
Now, we have the opportunity to prove to ourselves, and everyone else who is watching, that we can improve student learning outcomes – and objectively measure this improvement. And while others in the state take their time to understand and support our efforts, let us continue to move ahead with our innovative programs, and carry out our mission of advancing academic excellence.
While much of the excitement on campus this past year surrounded the implementation of the USP, other academic initiatives provided similar promise, and I would like to showcase a few. First, our sustainability efforts continued to garner national awards for excellence. Not only have our new and remodeled facilities gained considerable acclaim for being built according to green principles, and our collaborations with local, national and international public agencies and private industry provided new opportunities for sustainable energy-saving and energy-producing partnerships, but this year the infusing of sustainability into the curriculum, especially around the University Studies Program, occured at a level almost unheard of in this country. Doing our best to make the campus sustainable is an ongoing journey, and we still have great distances to go, but we are making significant strides. Thank you to all faculty and staff who have participated in this effort, and please support the various sustainability programs that you encounter over the course of the upcoming year.
I am also encouraged by the development of the collaborative Engineering Technology program that is scheduled to begin entry-level coursework in spring 2014 and full operation in fall 2014. There will be three majors in the program, electrical, mechanical and environmental technology. The program will be supported by a UW System Economic Incentive Development Grant and an endowed chair in sustainable technology, funded by the Viessmann Corporation of Germany. We have also initiated a number of exchange opportunities between UW Oshkosh, Viessmann and a university in Hessen, Germany.
Finally, I would like to remind you once again that it is time to form university-wide committees to prepare for our next Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation in fall 2016 and spring 2017. The committees will begin their work in spring 2014. We will also undertake a three-year Quality Initiative Project as part of our re-accreditation process. It will focus on enhancing the quality of undergraduate education through curricular reform. Obviously, a major component will be our new USP, but we will also review program and degree requirements.
2013 was one of the most significant years that our campus has known in terms of Academic Affairs. I look forward to working with you as we unveil critical new programs and ready ourselves for re-accreditation in the near future. Thank you for all that you do to support the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in its vital academic mission.