Oshkosh heads UW System new vision

Ti Windisch

“The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved a new framework for the UW System that coincided with a new strategic plan instituted at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
According to UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, the vision for UW Oshkosh purposefully resembles the 2020FWD plan set out for the entire UW System.
“[Our plans] were developed in parallel, and they have amazing similarities,” Leavitt said. “It’s important that our strategic plan nests within this strategic plan.”
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lane Earns said the strategic plan at UW Oshkosh was developed by multiple parties to give the university a clearer vision for the next few years.
“There was a lot of contributions from the campus and the community, we held a number of community, forums on this as well,” Earns said. “We just wanted to reexamine our mission statement, our vision statement, reexamine our values.”
Leavitt said UWO was prepared for this new system-wide framework and already meets many of the goals laid out within it.
“Before even our plan was started, the activities on this campus were highly anticipatory of what would be asked for in the new 2020FWD plan, which only underscores the quality and innovation that occurs on this campus,” Leavitt said.
Earns said the UW System plan took elements of UW Oshkosh’s plan in consideration during it’s creation.
“We were at least half a year ahead of them, so we knew what we wanted,” he said. “We probably had some influence on how the System’s plan eventually was shaped.”
Associate Vice Chancellor Carleen Vande Zande said research is an important part of UWO’s new strategic plan, although it is nothing new for the university.
“There already is a significant amount of research being done at this comprehensive university ,and I think that we will be able to showcase and bring that to a place of greater prominence,” Vande Zande said.
According to Earns, research is a way to enhance students’ learning experiences at UW Oshkosh because it can help reinforce what students learn in the classroom.
A new office called the Office of Student Research and Creative Activity was formed to highlight the importance of student research, Interim Director Stephen Kercher said.
“In order for this program to grow, it was determined it needed to separate itself and become its own entity, and that’s what we’ve done,” Kercher said. “This is the first step toward a more vigorous, more supportive student research and creative activity program on campus.”
Kercher said the Office of Student Research and Creative Activity is open to students of any major and a broad range of potential research topics.
“We want to support all of it,” Kercher said. “We are very intent in supporting a wide diversity of student interests.”
Senior and English major Savannah Block said she has done research at UWO in the past and enjoyed the work she put in.
“I’m actually a McNair Scholar, so I’ve done undergraduate research myself,” Block said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
One aspect of the new strategic plan is addressing how long some students spend working to earn their degrees, according to Leavitt.
“We do have a time to degree issue at this institution,” he said. “Our students take a little longer to graduate on average than other students, and we are addressing those issues this year.”
According to Leavitt, UW Oshkosh students are requiring more attempted credit hours than students at other UW System schools.
“We have one of the highest number of attempted credit hours per degree of anybody in the system,” Leavitt said.
Whereas the average UWO degree takes 120 credit hours, according to Leavitt, students at UW Oshkosh are taking more than that for their degrees.
“So the question is what is the average student taking to achieve 120 hours, and here it’s actually 141 hours,” he said. “It’s too high.”
Parts of both the UW Oshkosh strategic plan and the UW System plan are concerned with getting students their degrees faster, but according to Leavitt that does not mean Oshkosh has to move away from offering a liberal education to students.
“Liberal education is perfectly possible in a four year time period, that’s not the reason why people delay their time here,” Leavitt said.
According to Leavitt, UW Oshkosh should provide students with both general skills through liberal education and also specialized training within majors.
“I think that we ought to be graduating students who are good communicators, who have critical thinking skills and problem solving skills, all the things you would look for in a great general education program plus what you develop within your major,” he said. “The two are not at odds with each other.”
Vande Zande said the new strategic plan should matter to UWO students.
“I think it’s important for students to know the direction the university is taking to ensure that they have a quality education, and to show how much the university is supporting their success,” Vande Zande said.”