The following was issued from UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt on Jan. 18:
“Today, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) – by the request of the Board of Regents and the University of Wisconsin System – filed a civil lawsuit against former UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Thomas Sonnleitner. Wells and Sonnleitner are being sued for improper financial transactions that occurred during 2010-2014 related to five UW Oshkosh Foundation real estate projects.
“I have also terminated the Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and UW Oshkosh Foundation President Arthur Rathjen, and put another UWO employee on administrative leave. These employees were involved in the Foundation’s administration when the above financial transactions occurred.
“The DOJ is still working on this investigation, but I want to provide the campus community as complete a summary as I am able to at this time.
“Between 2010-2014, while Wells and Sonnleitner were in leadership roles at UW Oshkosh, the UW Oshkosh Foundation participated in the renovation of the downtown Oshkosh Best Western Waterfront Hotel and the Oshkosh Sports Complex. The Foundation also constructed two biodigesters and the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center. The Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit entity.
“In April 2016, I brought to the attention of UW System President Raymond Cross potentially inappropriate transactions between UWO and the Foundation. UW System staff immediately began reviewing financial documents on all recent UWO Foundation projects. In late April, the UW System review identified documents signed by Wells and Sonnleitner that were unlawful. I placed Sonnleitner on paid administrative leave on May 11, 2016, while the review was taking place (Sonnleitner subsequently retired on May 30).
“On June 14, 2016, the Board hired retired Dane County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Fiedler to independently review the real estate projects. On Aug. 10, Judge Fiedler completed his review and provided his report to the Board of Regents. The Fiedler report focused primarily on the issuance of unlawful loan guarantees but indicated that other financial transactions should also be examined. Judge Fiedler’s independent report prompted the Board of Regents and UW System to request DOJ’s assistance in conducting a further, more detailed, investigation of the financial transactions executed by Wells and Sonnleitner.
“According to the DOJ complaint filed today, Wells and Sonnleitner made illegal financial transfers from UW Oshkosh to the UWO Foundation related to the five real estate projects noted above. Wells was Sonnleitner’s supervisor at the time, and neither administrator properly recorded the transfers in UW Oshkosh accounting records. The UWO Foundation was established to provide support to the University, and funding should have flowed only from the Foundation to UW Oshkosh and not the other way around.
“In addition, Wells and Sonnleitner executed illegal guarantees pledging UW Oshkosh’s financial support for the Foundation’s bank loans related to the projects. The guarantees asserted that UW Oshkosh would make debt payments for the UWO Foundation if the Foundation could not meet its financial obligations. The Wisconsin Constitution and UW System policies do not allow a public entity to support a private organization.
“On behalf of your leadership team, I want to apologize for what has transpired. It is unacceptable to violate the public trust and to act without regard for ethics and the law. We must be ethical, accountable and transparent in our service to students and the citizens of Wisconsin. To that end, I will take immediate action to ensure this type of activity does not happen again on our campus.
“While UW System works to strengthen requirements related to financial transactions at all UW campuses, I am moving forward with a new position on our campus that will focus on financial compliance. This position will be located at UW Oshkosh, but it will be accountable to UW System. Beyond providing additional scrutiny of any roles with financial responsibility on campus, this position will also create a venue for guidance and accountability and provide an office for staff to report concerns without fear of retribution.
“We must continue cultivating an environment in which ethical leadership thrives and questionable actions are brought to light. I believe additional leadership and ethics training, paired with additional compliance oversight, will prevent similar issues from recurring in the future.
“We take pride in the strength of our reputation at UW Oshkosh. While Wells and Sonnleitner were long-serving members of our campus community, they broke a sacred trust. I hope our citizens recognize that this was isolated behavior and it is not indicative of how we run our institution. We will continue to serve our students with integrity and move forward together.”
On Saturday, Jan. 21, a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing student will be among the graduates to walk across the stage at commencement. While many students overcome obstacles to earn their degrees, Hanna Jonsson’s struggle involved a life-threatening autoimmune disease called Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA).
“Half way through my Junior I year of the nursing program, I became suddenly ill with a life-threatening autoimmune disease called GPA,” Jonsson said. “I was flight lifted to St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee where I would fight for my life.”
GPA is a rare disease that is a type of vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels. The inflammation limits the flow of blood to important organs, causing damage. It can affect any organ, but it mainly affects the sinuses, nose, trachea, lungs and kidneys.
Jonsson’s body went into acute respiratory distress syndrome followed by multiple system organ failures and was kept alive by multiple machines. Her lungs were hemorrhaging and were not able to provide adequate oxygen to her body. Jonsson received ECMO therapy, a treatment that is intended for patients whose heart and lungs aren’t able to function normally on their own.
The next seven weeks in the hospital proved to be long and tiring for Jonsson. Treatments left her body depleted and relearning to walk and write was challenging. Jonsson spent her days going to physical and occupational therapy as well as hitting the books to catch up with her nursing studies.
“My classmates and professors were so supportive during this time. I received many encouraging letters and notes from nursing students from my own class as well as classes above and below me,” Jonsson said. “Staff and faculty wrote notes and letters and even made meals for my family.”
UW Oshkosh CON faculty and staff played a crucial role in Jonsson’s success and ability to finish her nursing degree. Laura Smolinski, an instructional staff member, personally met with Jonsson to create a plan to get her back on track with her studies. Smolinski worked with Jonsson’s circumstances and created an environment that would help her succeed.
“Hanna’s story touched my heart—she overcame incredible odds just to survive. As she was being flight lifted to Milwaukee, she articulated worry about an upcoming exam. As she was recovering, one of the first things she said was how nervous she was about making up her coursework,” Smolinski said.
Donna Hawley was another supportive instructional staff member who helped with Jonsson’s success. Hawley allowed Jonsson to jump in and complete her clinical experiences over the summer.
“It’s crazy to look back on it all and know that I am where I am today because of the huge role Laura Smolinski and Donna Hawley played. They always say that the CON is like a huge family, and it’s true, it’s absolutely true. You spend your best and worst days with them and at the end of it all, everyone is still there encouraging and supporting you,” Jonsson said.
Jonsson will be walking in the midyear commencement ceremony on Saturday. After commencement, Oshkosh resident will move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where she will begin her nursing career in the Telemetry Unit of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital.
“I love everything cardiac and couldn’t be more excited! I would love to someday be a nurse practitioner in an intensive care unit providing care to those who might be in a similar situation that I once was,” Jonsson said.
There is nothing like a severe weather-forced cancelation of a commencement ceremony to show just how dedicated Titans really are when it comes to the major milestone that is graduation.
After the midyear commencement ceremony was canceled in mid-December, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty, staff and students came together to make a new ceremony happen.
A large-scale event like commencement takes hundreds of hands to pull together. Upon a call-out to the campus community for help in pulling a new ceremony together for deserving graduates, nearly 150 volunteers quickly stepped up to the plate to offer their support for a rescheduled ceremony.
Nearly 500 UW Oshkosh graduates will have their day to officially cross the stage Saturday, Jan. 21. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m at Kolf Sports Center. Additionally, another 15 students will be celebrated during special recognition ceremonies Jan. 22 and 28, which were offered to students as alternatives to the ceremony.
“Our students work incredibly hard to get to this point in their lives,” UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said. “Commencement is the milestone that marks the end of this incredible accomplishment. As a community, I am proud of our campus for pulling together to give our students the experience they have earned.”
UW Oshkosh employees will be involved with various roles leading up to and on commencement day.
Laura Knaapen, director of IT user services, will serve as lower level lift usher. She will help graduates in the lower level find their way to their dressing rooms, assist guests who need to use the wheelchair lift, and direct graduates inside Kolf to their appropriate room to get ready for the march in.
“I was surprised when commencement was canceled, but it made good sense for everyone’s safety,” Knaapen said. “Commencement is a big event—not just a big event in the lives of the students who are graduating and their families—it is a big event to plan and execute. It takes a village and this campus has been my village for the last 28 years, so I want to pitch in.”
Others stepped up to volunteer to support students they have close relationships with. Joshua Ranger, University archivist at Polk Library, said he chose to volunteer in honor of a student worker of his.
“She was looking forward to commencement so much after working so hard to graduate in three and a half years. I felt so bad for her when the commencement ceremony was canceled,” Ranger said. “I want to do my part to make it happen for her.”
“Volunteering, for me, feels like a great way to show students that we’re all willing to do whatever it takes to help them reach their full potential—and to celebrate with them when they do just that,” said Jenna Graff, director of the Office of International Education at UW Oshkosh who will serve as an usher. “I can’t wait to see so many bright minds walk past me and up to the stage on Saturday.”
Beyond UW Oshkosh faculty and staff, students are among the volunteers as well.
“The commencement ceremony isn’t just an everyday event, it is an acknowledgement of the hard work and perseverance that all of those individuals put in over a course of several years,” said Jenny Faris, a communication studies major from Fond du Lac, who will help during commencement set-up in the days prior to the ceremony.
While Faris is not yet graduating, she knows the importance of commencement to her peers, she said.
“This volunteer opportunity was shared with me through a friend you who was supposed to be walking in the original commencement … as soon as she told me about it I was eager to jump on board to help in any way possible,” said Faris who is helping during commencement set-up.
Karsen Daus, a senior geology student from Suamico who works in the student affairs office at UW Oshkosh, will serve as a seating usher during the ceremony.
“Commencement gives graduates the ability to take pride in how far they have come, all in front of supportive friends and family members, inspiring professors and the most important figures on campus,” Daus said. “I know how much the ceremony means to the students and their families and there was no hesitation to volunteer.”
In total, more than 1,100 UW Oshkosh Titans will become graduates after this midyear commencement ceremony. Of the midyear commencement graduates, nearly 900 will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and more than 140 with a master’s degree–both meaningful milestones as graduates leave UW Oshkosh and head out into the world to join 90,000 other UW Oshkosh alumni.
As the director of AeroInnovate, Slocum is responsible for leading the AeroInnovate business accelerator program, which includes recruiting accelerator participants, developing investor partnerships, and directing strategic and financial plans.
AeroInnovate is an aviation accelerator program that operates under the UW Oshkosh Business Success Center, which helps aviation and aerospace entrepreneurs from across the globe start and grow aero-related businesses and bring related new technologies to the marketplace. The program’s goal is to facilitate the alignment of passionate, successful investors and industry leaders with the best aviation-related opportunities in the world.
Slocum is a marketing and communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit, healthcare and telecommunications industries. Prior to joining AeroInnovate, Slocum held leadership roles at Breakthrough Fuel, Nsight Telservices and Time Warner Cable.
“Steve’s solid background in marketing, sponsorships and building relationships will be a strategic benefit for the AeroInnovate program,” said Meridith Jaeger, AeroInnovate founder and interim director of the Business Success Center at UW Oshkosh.
Slocum earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from UW-Whitewater and a master’s degree in business administration from Concordia University-Wisconsin.
Insight Publications, January 2017
The Northwestern, Jan. 17
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has long aimed to meet the needs of the community by offering personal and professional enrichment courses.
A new program announcement from the Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement adds to that history and packs an added bonus—each program was developed and will be taught in partnership with local organizations and professionals.
The new offering, called Keep Educating Yourself (K.E.Y) Programs, includes the topics of personal finance, career change, caregiving for the “sandwiched” generation and creating vitality in your life.
The goal of the programs, according to continuing education director Susan Adams, is to respond to community needs and make strong connections within the Oshkosh and Fox Valley areas.
“We have really talented and well-known experts right here in our community,” Adams said. “It is such a good fit for the University to partner with local organizations for continuing education opportunities.”
According to Adams, these courses are not only an opportunity for participants to learn, they are also an opportunity for them to meet people and build a network.
“We all know you can sign up for webinars and courses online, and people can find good information that way,” Adams said. “But these in-person courses allow people to meet and talk with each other. Our hope is that participants build a network that adds to the classroom learning.”
One example of this community partnership is with AEGIS Financial of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
UW Oshkosh and AEGIS Financial are holding a six-part course on Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement.
“We are pleased to enter a new partnership with UW Oshkosh, and we hope to educate the community at large about the fundamentals of planning for and throughout retirement,” AEGIS Financial president William Bowman said. “We are proud to be part of an organization committed to enriching lives.”
Adams said that Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement will discuss topics of making informed decisions about setting your goals, allocating assets, minimizing the impact of taxes and planning for a legacy.
“We really wanted to approach all aspects of retirement planning so participants can leave the class with a large amount of information,” Adams said.
K.E.Y. Programs courses start in February, and registration is available at uwosh.edu/go/key-programs. UW Oshkosh alumni, faculty and staff receive a registration discount, and scholarship funds are available.
For more information on Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement or other K.E.Y. Program courses, visit uwosh.edu/go/key-programs, call (800) 633-1442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. These programs are presented by the UW Oshkosh Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement.
Fox 11, Jan. 11
WBAY, Jan. 11
Taking a qualitative approach to her study of transgender employees made University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior Meghan Owen’s research process more personal and real.
Owens, of Waukesha, presented her research at the UWO Honors Research Symposia in early December, just before graduating with a human resources major and a political science minor.
Unlike others, Owens was paired with two advisers for her research project: Barbara Rau from the College of Business and Elizabeth Cannon from the LGBTQ Resource Center. Owens dove into the multi-disciplinary topic of transgender individuals at work, what it is like to transition (the process of changing one’s gender presentation) and how human resource employees can help this process go more smoothly.
She read post after post on an online transgender board about positive and negative experiences transgender individuals had at work. She documented their experiences and organized them into portfolios so she could later analyze them for patterns.
Owens also read all of the literature she could get her hands on that would create a foundation for her project.
“What really upsets me and drives me to pursue research in this area is how bad it is for transgender people right now, 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at least once compared to less than 2 percent of the general population.” Owens explained. “There were a lot of other shocking statistics like that also that looked at homelessness and poverty.”
These statistics kept Owens on track with to study and make gains for the transgender community.
“I put the statistics on a bulletin board next to my bed and sometimes when I thought this was a lot of work or I didn’t feel like working on it, I remembered why what I am doing is so important. Some people feel like they can’t go on another day, and that is a crime to me,” Owens said.
Through her qualitative research, she distinguished patterns and problem areas that occurred during the transgeneder transition process. From there, she came up with a set of recommendations for human resource (HR) managers and future researchers to further pursue.
“Something that was encouraging is everyone talked about HR as a major advocate for transgender people at organizations. That’s the next step to train people to deal with these situations because they are coming to us for help”.
Owens is planning to incorporate her research into her future endeavors. She recently accepted a position at UW-Madison in the office of the vice chancellor for research and graduate education as a human resource assistant.
Other student scholars who presented their research at the symposia in December included: