Dominic Gischia (right), a UW-Whitewater junior who’s majoring in music education, plays a series of creative drum beats during UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer’s State of the University address Monday to reinforce the chancellor’s message of finding innovative ways to solve problems.

UW-Whitewater branching out, bridging gaps

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

With another school year on the horizon, the head of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater addressed a crowd of faculty, students and community members Monday.

During his annual State of the University address, Chancellor Richard Telfer touched on a number of issues, ranging from minority achievement to community involvement. Telfer addressed the crowd for 1 hour and 15 minutes at the Irvin L. Young Auditorium.

Following a trend in recent years, UW-Whitewater is again poised to bring in a record number of students this fall. Final numbers are still being tallied, but Telfer said about 12,000 students will be enrolled. Last year, there were 11,615 students at the start of the school year.

There are other positive statistics as well, such as a projection 77 percent of last year’s freshmen class will return for a second year. UW-Whitewater also boasts a 54-percent graduation rate, which is high compared to previous years.

“We’re doing a better job of graduating folks,” Telfer said. “We’re also more diverse than we used to be. But there is a gap between students who are white and students of color.”

In an effort to bridge gaps, Telfer said UW-Whitewater will continue to ramp up its Pathways for Success program that works primarily – but not exclusively – with racial minorities. In the year ahead, Telfer said about 50 new students will enter the program.

Pathways for Success has already won awards for providing specific students with the necessary developmental classes to jump-start their collegiate career. Eligibility is determined by such data as ACT test scores.

Up until recently, Telfer said UW-Whitewater largely operated as an insulated institution that was almost completely independent of the city of Whitewater and other neighboring communities.

“We’re breaking out from that,” Telfer said. “We’re using our expertise to partner with local communities.”

One of the most succinct examples of partnerships between the university and city of Whitewater is the Innovation Center at the Whitewater University Technology Park. Both entities have worked on recruitment efforts, and the facility is about 80 percent occupied.

During his address, Telfer pointed to other outreach examples, including heightened internship opportunities with area businesses and partnerships with area K-12 public schools on such initiatives as bullying intervention.

The Young Theater also is a common venue for events that benefit people beyond the university’s student body.

Telfer capped off his address by illustrating the importance of breaking away from some of the tried and true practices of the past and present.

Telfer sent out a challenge to think about tweaking the traditional mindset of a fall and spring semester, sandwiched in-between by shorter interim periods. He said modifying the long-held standard could accommodate students looking to obtain a flexible degree.

“We are faced with a need, and that is to provide a quality education to a population that may have life experience and be employed,” Telfer said. “When we do course scheduling, we need to be thinking about different students’ needs.”

Possibilities include increased weekend classes, shorter course periods and courses with flexible start and end dates.

Rising student tuition was another challenge Telfer addressed, as well as shrinking financial resources from the state.

Organizations such as the University of Whitewater Foundation have pledged $40 million in grants through scholarships, endowments and athletic support.

“We face many challenges, but we … have a track record of success,” said Telfer, who completed his address by lauding the quality faculty who populate the university campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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