In 2015, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students, faculty and staff made an impact at 2,030 agencies and partners through internships, research, consulting, field experiences and clinical placements.
Each year, UW Oshkosh collects data from colleges and departments across campus for the UW System Partnership Report, which is used for institutional accountability.
“It’s used to show how UW Oshkosh and the community together are providing for rich educational experiences for students that are grounded in professional, practical and real-life learning experiences,” Carleen Vande Zande, associate vice chancellor for curricular affairs and student academic achievement, said.
The report addresses six areas: number of businesses or organizations hosting co-op or internship students; number of organizations in service-learning, community-based research or volunteer partnerships; number of cultural or arts-related partnerships; number of businesses or organizations receiving business development assistance; number of businesses or organizations hosting clinical, legal or social work placements and number of schools hosting student teachers.
“The number of organizations in service learning, community-based research or volunteer partnerships more than doubled over the last six years as a result of the University Studies Program (USP),” Vande Zande said.
The USP, implemented in September 2013, is the University’s general education program designed to give students a foundation in liberal arts education to prepare them for the challenges of work, engaged citizenship and for a meaningful and satisfying life.
Through the USP, all UW Oshkosh students engage with community partners in their Quest III class. Students engage in 14 to 20 hours of experiential learning with community partners as part of the course.
“UW Oshkosh students are learning a great deal from their community experiences. They are interacting with clients and guests throughout the Oshkosh community, being exposed to different people and beliefs along the way. By the end of the semester, they are producing something that is beneficial for either the agency or people they interact with,” said Michael Lueder, civic engagement coordinator for the USP in the Fall 2015 issue of Engage magazine, Powering an Engaged University.
Students gain real-world experience from internships
The number of businesses or organizations hosting UW Oshkosh students in co-op or internships increased by 42 percent since the first UW System Partnership Report was filed in 2009, with 649 businesses or organizations providing internship and co-op experiences for UWO students.
“Our students need those learning opportunities outside of classrooms to apply knowledge,” Vande Zande said. “By offering internships, these organizations are giving students an opportunity to apply what they have learned on campus in real-world situations.”
Through internships and co-ops, students are able to make connections in their professional fields, which is essential for growth in their fields and gaining access to job opportunities. For supply chain management major and recent graduate Andrew Bores, his co-op lead to a full-time position.
Bores attended a Career Fair on the Fox at UW Oshkosh where he was offered a scheduling and planning co-op with Mercury Marine. His work during his co-op lead him to a full-time position at Mercury Marine as a materials analyst.
Students are also gaining valuable experience through clinical, legal, social work and student teaching placements in 879 agencies and partners. Since 2009, the number of businesses hosting clinical, legal or social work placements has increased by nearly 70 percent.
Research provides mutually beneficial outcome
Many graduate programs provide students with opportunities to do research in the community that has a direct impact on the agency or community.
Students in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at UW Oshkosh are just one example. The MPA capstone gives students the opportunity to conduct a research project in the form of a capstone seminar, a field project or a thesis.
“Our students individually do a capstone project that may be either a policy analysis of an issue or a project that benefits a local community of nonprofit organization,” Karl Nollenberger, associate professor in the Department of Public Administration, said.
Graduate students in the MPA program have completed research with topics ranging from wellness to recycling to strategic planning.
“Our public policy analysis course each spring does research projects of a policy nature for municipalities and counties in Wisconsin,” Nollenberger said. “We have done more than 50 projects for these units of government in the past seven years.”
Faculty and staff also bring best practices and research to the partners and agencies through the Business Success Center (BSC), which serves as a consulting firm connecting University resources to the community.
The BSC provides consulting, training and development, internships and the Survey Success Center to meet community and business needs.
“Consulting through the BSC has been a great experience. One of the most rewarding parts of consulting has been having the opportunity to apply my research skills in a way that has a direct impact in the Oshkosh community,” Assistant Professor in the radio-TV-film department Andrew Smock said. “Seeing the impact my research can make for a local nonprofit organization or small business not only helps to keep me stay connected to the community, but has also given me a better understanding of some of the challenges being faced by these organizations.”
As a professor, Smock said one of the goals he has for his academic research is to be able to bring it back into the classroom in a meaningful way for his students.
“In teaching research methods, I now find myself drawing equally on my academic and consulting research experiences as I provide real-life examples for my students,” Smock said. “In many cases, the applied nature of my consulting research seems to resonate more with my students, making it easier for them to grapple with methods that can be challenging to understand.”
“The community wants to know what we do and this report is a clear way of showing the University is impacting the community through students, faculty and staff,” Vande Zande said. “The UW System Partnership Report shows the University is living out its mission and highlights the impact UWO has on the community. It truly is a point of pride for UW Oshkosh.”