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It doesn’t get any busier than right now at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and I love it. Chancellors have a habit of referring to the many “challenges” we constantly manage. Sure, we have plenty, and, together, we’re moving forward and finding solutions. However, don’t lose sight of the vibrancy we have all had a hand in creating. This time of year, universities are at their best. It’s a time to be grateful.

Our work to join with UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac to create a new, stronger university is well underway. I am inspired by the shared commitment and the feelings of possibility exuded by students, faculty, staff and administrators from all three campuses. People know and appreciate the—here’s that word again—challenges ahead. Yet they are stepping forward as stewards and ambassadors of an important process. Our three outstanding campus communities already have strong academic and collaborative ties. There is more we need to learn about one another’s exceptional qualities and strengths. We pledge to be inclusive, transparent, accountable and gracious to each of these treasured places and resources. I cannot tell you how impressed I am by the good, giving people who learn, teach, work and serve within each campus and the cities and counties, and I am so proud to support them. One university, three campuses. Transformation: underway.

As I shared in the latest edition of Engage magazine, hot off the presses, we can proudly say that we are seeing progress in our efforts to increase the diversity within our UWO student population and, just as important, we have improved the success rate of students of color. The “retention gap” has closed, and it is the result of a lot of hard work by everyone in the campus community. Now we must resolve to keep that gap closed. And while we concentrate on that, we must sharpen our focus on other necessary work: welcoming more faculty members of color and making consistent improvements in the experiences of all students. We have made strides, but we have so much more work to do together. I know we’re up for it.

News flash: UWO athletics is enjoying unbridled success right now! Our Titans football team is preparing to host The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III semifinal playoff game in Oshkosh this weekend, and we’ll be in the national spotlight (Thanks, ESPN3.) I hope to see you all at Titan Stadium on Saturday. Meanwhile, our men’s and women’s basketball squads are both undefeated and nationally ranked. Swimming and diving, wrestling and track and field are underway. UWO student-athletes never cease to amaze me. As our athletics department shared earlier this year, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recognized 223 UWO student-athletes for achieving a 3.0 GPA or higher during the 2016-17 academic year. That is phenomenal, and we expect that high performance to continue.

Now is also the time of year when the creative surge of this campus community reaches its zenith. There isn’t a day or night in the next week when you cannot find a band, symphony or choral performance, a student recital or an open gallery exhibit to savor. Personally, I gotta have more handbell.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the ultimate crescendo in the beautiful composition that is the academic semester: midyear commencement. My greatest joy as your chancellor is joining faculty and staff members and thousands of graduates and their families in Kolf Sports Center on commencement day, Dec. 16. The atmosphere is electric. The pride is palpable. This is the ceremony that twice a year truly reminds us and our spectrum of stakeholders why we do what we do at UWO. Lives are transformed, and it’s a reason to celebrate.

To sum it all up, finish this semester strong. Make some time to enjoy the competition and the creativity that makes this campus so remarkable. Cheer on your fellow students as they take to the field, the court, the mat, the pool, the studio, the stage and, of course, the graduation platform.

I am so proud of you all!


This post first appeared in the Dec. 7, 2017 edition of the Advance-Titan, independent student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.