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A capital project envisioned more than five years ago to improve safety has become a reality at University Children’s Center on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Fox Cities campus in Menasha.

Assistant Chancellor Martin Rudd said a $600,000 addition addresses concerns related to severe weather—children had to travel across the parking lot into the main Fox Cities building during tornado/severe thunderstorm weather events.

Child care center ribbon cutting with Martin Rudd.

“We felt this was unacceptable and proposed a safe space as an addition, and included a large motor skills space with parent/teacher conference rooms,” Rudd said.

The addition features a fully strengthened and integrated storm shelter with Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved windows.

The center, which features classrooms for children ages 6 weeks to 4 years, offers child care to students at UWO, faculty, staff and the community. It is licensed for 51 children.

In addition to the “safe space” the addition includes a large conference room, small conference room/lactation room, a large motor room that allows children to burn off energy and develop critical skills as they engage in physical activities.

Rudd, who cut a large ribbon at celebration Wednesday attended by community officials, said he is grateful for the support of Outagamie and Winnebago counties that funded the project and leaders who worked to see it through completion.

“I feel a lot of positives associated with the project—it is the first capital project on the campus approved since the merger (of Fox Cities and Fond du Lac campuses with the Oshkosh campus); we’ve had to battle supply chain issues, rising costs since it was first approved.”

Joan Roy

Retirement brings new director

Celebration of the UCC addition comes days before the retirement of longtime director Joan Roy.

Roy began her career in early childhood in 1984. In 1999, she accepted a role as an early childhood teacher for the University. She was promoted to director in 2018.

Daphne Lewis, interim executive director of auxiliary enterprises in the UWO office of finance and administration, congratulated Roy for 23 years of “committed service” to the University. She noted the center has achieved consecutive 5-star quality ratings from YoungStar throughout Roy’s tenure as director.

Jessica Agustin, who has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and in early childhood education and 13 years of experience, began as director Jan. 9.

Nurturing little lives

Roy said she loved her time at University Children’s Center on the UWO Fox Cities campus.

“The teaching staff are the most wonderful teachers and are truly the heart and soul behind the program. I will miss the staff, children and families. Each day brings with it a newness that you just don’t get in other professions. The laughter and unconditional love from the children fill my soul.”

She said staff faced the challenge of COVID-19 and closure when UWO started holding courses online. She is proud they continued to serve by offering group times and activities online and following guidelines, re-opened their doors just two and a half months later.

She said they are proud and fortunate to have UWO students working in the child care program.

“Child care has changed over the years, but many things have stayed consistent. Children need caring adults, fun activities and a welcoming environment—and that is just what University Children’s Center has.”

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