Chancellor Leavitt's April 5, 2018, update to UW System Board of Regents - UW Oshkosh Restructuring

The development of a unified, community vision for UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Fox Valley and UW Oshkosh will take some time.

But I’m proud that good work is underway. Dozens of dedicated students, faculty and staff members from our three campus communities are helping lead the restructuring work.

It’s without extra pay. It’s in between studies. It’s in addition to their teaching, research, service and family commitments. Nevertheless, there’s a feeling of “what-if”… of what is possible.

People are solving problems, answering big questions and blazing the trail for a new university.

We’ll be back before you in the next year or so. We will have a proposal for a new vision and mission statement for the institution.

I won’t prescribe its language today. I do know that our words will honor our values:

A commitment to excellence, access, affordability, inclusiveness, shared governance, liberal education, responsiveness and other principles that have always been foundational to us.

Today, what I can do is offer my own vision for the new university that the three campuses are creating together.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help transform lives. Lives today. Lives in the decades to come.

You all can see the way we have identified the “Lake Winnebago Region Restructuring.”

That image says a lot about our story and opportunity.

It also says so much about the distinctiveness and the power within our particular region’s joining.

Three campuses… One university… Potential in proximity.

Naturally, people have questions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Here’s what I tell them: The new university we are creating together can be a force that helps further transform our rising region.

  • We WILL increase the educational attainment rate.
  • We WILL help more people pursue knowledge and prosperity.
  • We WILL provide the talent the region needs.

There are people in the region who may feel like a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a doctorate are out of the rhythm of their lives—simply out of reach. Soon, it will be right next door.

The Lake Winnebago Region is rich with distinctive, proud communities. There is startling economic opportunity and a high quality of life for people. We are surrounded by globally competitive industries, cultural vibrancy and stellar education at all levels, public and private.

And, soon, we will offer a new university to further unify and better serve this region.

The pride and stewardship at UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Fox Valley, and leaders of each campuses’ home city is nothing short of inspiring.

So is the collaborative spirit radiating from UW Oshkosh.

Like our sister institutions, we are figuring out how to fuse curricular arrays, class schedules, athletics, shared governance, traditions and, yes, naming.

How will we properly identify and herald the new university? We owe it to our future to thoughtfully explore this. That means data, market analysis and community engagement. We are in no rush. We’ll take our time to honor each campus and community’s past, present and future together.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that we are finding and proving we are already one in so many ways.

Smart, strong collaboration and leadership from student affairs teams across campuses is getting results in recruitment.

We have met with high school counselors at each of the two-year campuses to explain what is changing AND what IS NOT changing. Very valuable conversations.

And, today, I am happy to report that every campus’s student applications are up, and so are our collective hopes.

UW Oshkosh began its search for a permanent provost a few weeks ago. I’m proud that our search and screen committee includes four faculty members—two each—from UW-Fond du Lac and UW-Fox Valley.

I also created a restructuring advisory group comprised of:

  • City mayors and managers from Menasha, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.
  • Alumni and students from the three institutions. There is a lot of overlap in alumni experience—Cyclones and Falcons are also often Titans. Even before our official joining, we are joined.
  • AND we have welcomed Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Winnebago Counties’ executives.

I’d like to publicly thank County Executives Tom Nelson, Mark Harris and Allen Buechel for their partnership.

They are dedicated leaders. They are proud of their constituents’ investments in UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac. They are aware of the historic opportunity we have.

So, what’s next?

I look forward to more directly engaging businesses and nonprofits in the region. As you know, that is in keeping with 2020Forward framework priorities.

Meanwhile, we continue the critical work to align student information systems, course catalogs and other operational functions.

The piece of the vision that really drives me is the work we will undertake to offer select baccalaureate and masters programs on the campuses in Fond du Lac and the Fox Cities.

It won’t be on July 1, but it will be in the next year or two. And it WILL change lives.

More pathways, for more people, leading to greater prosperity in one of Wisconsin’s most economically robust and diverse regions.

This all makes sense. And we will do it. We’re stronger together.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a Chancellor in this moment.

I join all of the Chancellor’s before you today in saying thank you for sharing this responsibility and opportunity with us.