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University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman said creating connections is “clearly at the center” of UW Oshkosh’s commitment to student success during his first official visit to the Oshkosh campus Sept. 1.

UW System President Jay Rothman, left, and UWO Chancellor Andy Leavitt at Titan Takeoff

Rothman began the day by sharing remarks at Titan Takeoff, an orientation session for first-year students and their families. He also toured campus, met with representatives of UWO shared governance and attended an afternoon roundtable of regional legislators and business leaders.

The visit concluded with Rothman joining UWO Chancellor Andy Leavitt and Provost John Koker in addressing faculty and staff at a convocation held in Reeve Memorial Union to launch the 2022-23 academic year.

“One thing I’ve heard over and over is how much students value the connections they make with faculty and staff –the conversations about academics, about campus life, about future professional plans,” Rothman said. “Students also just appreciate having someone take interest in how they’re doing and helping them succeed.”

He expressed his appreciation to UWO employees for keeping the UW Oshkosh experience “so special” for students, especially during the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.

Rothman also noted the importance of a new UW System strategic plan under development to address three significant challenges facing Wisconsin—economic vibrancy threatened by a battle for workforce talent nationally and globally; a growing socio-economic divide that impedes social mobility; and the need for increased civic engagement to counter a polarized social climate.

Chancellor Andy Leavitt

Leavitt opened his convocation remarks by making the case for the continued importance of a college education amid a declining high school demographic and a decreasing rate of high school graduates taking part in any post-secondary education.

“It is time we shape the narrative around the value we know we provide to our students,” he said. “We have so much to be proud of: UW campuses are less expensive than almost all other institutions in the Midwest. And the salaries earned by our graduates over a lifetime are significantly higher than folks without a degree. This says nothing about the richness in life a UWO experience leads to.”

Among other topics, Leavitt also talked about UWO’s continuing COVID-19 pandemic response, progress made over the summer on an upcoming new strategic plan for UWO and a call to action for a University-wide focus not only on student recruitment but also on retention.

He noted that co-curricular offerings, including the new Titan Thunder Marching Band and a nationally competitive NCAA athletics program, continue to attract students to UWO.

“These aren’t just programs and experiences. They represent community. And community in college creates staying power,” Leavitt said.

Provost John Koker

Provost Koker extended the conversation around retention in his convocation comments.

“We must be able to support students and be committed to student success,” he said. “It must be our priority to support and enhance our students’ learning experience by delivering quality advising, mentoring and high-quality, interactive instruction.”

Koker shared a number of measures underway to support student success and to support faculty and staff in their efforts to assist students who are struggling

In one professional development workshop, 45 participants explored effective ways to ensure students feel connected on campus. “Such a connection is one of the single most effective things an institution can do to ensure student success. This session provided different perspectives on helping students increase their sense of belonging,” he said.

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