Last week, UW System President Ray Cross outlined a plan to merge the UW Colleges with regional four-year campuses. This proposal brings UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac together with UW Oshkosh to form one University, and I believe such a transformation offers a brighter future for all students involved and the entire region.
As I shared last week with the university community, alumni, local elected officials, our state legislators and many UW Oshkosh partners, we have had a rich and deep connection with our two-year campus neighbors for decades. I look forward to joining them as one educational community, should the UW System Board of Regents approve the proposal and give us the opportunity to, together, form a new, stronger university.
I ask students, in particular, to keep their excellent questions coming. So far, they have focused on how this potential change might affect their educational experiences and paths and academic offerings. While we will have many details to work out should the Regents approve the proposal, I have spent the last several days assuring students that this merger would offer them better access, flexibility, opportunity and affordability. Imagine the personal potential and the economic power of welcoming students to engage in UW Oshkosh bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at the current two-year campus communities.
The proposal foreshadows even more convenient access to a bigger, broader array of courses and degrees closer to home and work in the region. And it’s a two-way street: let’s not forget that excellent faculty and staff on the two-year campuses have pioneered quality programs and partnerships of their own that would be more accessible to students within the current UW Oshkosh campus community.
Data show the more gateways and avenues to certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees we can provide, paired with strong student academic support, the greater the likelihood that graduates will enjoy an array of career options, higher wages, lifelong job flexibility and prosperity. This says nothing of the greater power I believe a three-campus, regional institution would have in concentrating and fortifying our efforts to prepare more students to be more confident critical and creative thinkers, passionate volunteers, dynamic leaders, driven entrepreneurs and global citizens.
Of course, it takes dedicated faculty and staff to deliver and maintain such an educational array and outcomes. We can be proud that all three campuses are home to the best and the brightest. I look forward to working alongside extraordinary colleagues should we have the opportunity to transform.
Are there challenges? You bet. Over the last week, I welcomed a first round of questions and feedback from students, faculty and staff during two UW Oshkosh open forums. We have heard questions on topics ranging from the logistics of course registration at three campuses to coalescing academic departments across community borders. It’s a healthy dialogue, and I believe we will find the answers together.
I encourage you to share your questions and feedback with the UW System through this portal: go.uwsa.edu/restructurefeedback. Campus community members, alumni, external partners and advocates can help us see issues and opportunities we have not accounted for or anticipated.
Through any process ahead, we are committed to transparency in communication, fairness and the principle that each community involved in this transformation — educational and municipal — must emerge stronger.
This is a historic time for UW Oshkosh, UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac. Lend us your voice and vision. Each of these three campuses has excellence to offer. Our work ahead must be done together, side by side. My hope is we will all leverage imagination, knowledge and expertise to shape a university that honors our collective mission and fulfills the evolving needs and dreams of students, our region and the state for decades to come.
This piece first appeared as a column in the Oct. 19, 2017 edition of the Advance-Titan, independent student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.