“Students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the Board of Regents, elected representatives, members of the community, colleagues and friends of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, I am honored to serve this remarkable institution as its 11th chancellor. I want to thank you all for being here today, including those who have traveled great distances.
“This is a humbling day for me, my spouse Karen and our family. This is also a landmark day for UW Oshkosh, and the greater Oshkosh community as we acknowledge a change of leadership. We come together to celebrate a new era for this institution and I am deeply honored to be entrusted with its stewardship.
“Exactly one year ago today, I was on campus interviewing for this life-changing role. In the weeks leading up to my on-campus visit I learned a great deal about this campus and this region.
“The more I learned the more I was drawn to this University.
“Having been here almost a year, I now find myself talking a great deal about the Opportunity of Place— I recognized it before I even flew to Wisconsin, but now see its value on a daily basis. Oshkosh is abundant with opportunity. We are in this airplane hangar today as a demonstration of the resources we have at our fingertips. For a university to thrive in the way that UW Oshkosh has thrived, you need a resource-rich community to draw from and with which to partner. Our campus is a part of an urban region that provides endless opportunity for our faculty and students— we have the critical mass to do great things. And we do, every day.
“One example can be seen from our new general education program called the University Studies Program. This completely transformed general education and takes students through a 3-part “quest” that culminates in a project where the student connects and synthesizes their full experience. In their third semester or “quest” our focus on civic engagement sends students out into the community. Last fall, in just one semester that resulted in almost 12,000 hours of service to our region.
“UW Oshkosh is unique in having the resources of an urban region paired with a learning environment you can only have at a comprehensive university. This combination is what drew me here and is, what I believe, a key differentiator for our campus.
“Another attribute to explore for a moment is that of being a comprehensive university— as I made the deliberate choice to devote my career to this type of institution.
“UW Oshkosh shares this proud distinction within the UW System with 10 other incredible campuses, all of whom are represented here today. It is worth naming them. In addition to Oshkosh, there is Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior and Whitewater. Collectively, we enroll almost 100,000 students, or nearly 60 percent of the total students in the UW System.
“A comprehensive university, in my opinion, is a very special type of institution:
- “With our focus on teaching, learning, discovery and engagement we develop civically-engaged leaders.
- “We balance teaching and research to provide high-impact opportunities for our students.
- “We serve as an economic and cultural force in our regions and our state, and;
- “We are committed to accessibility, as we educate a diverse and culturally rich student body that makes a positive difference in the world.
“As a public comprehensive sector, we must find our collective voice to make the case we are providing world-class education in an inclusive and supportive way. We have a story to tell the taxpayers of Wisconsin on how the UW System is working hard to elevate the citizens of our state.
“On an occasion such as this, I recognize I stand here only because of the involvement and assistance from others. There are a number of people I need to thank for making this day possible. Please bear with me.
“I’d like to begin by thanking our hosts at EAA for making this world-class facility available to us for this purpose. Your presence as a leading member of our community has made Oshkosh known throughout the world as an active, engaged and connected place.
“I am very pleased to see such strong involvement from the broader community who are here today. We are all enriched by the enthusiasm that comes from those who support us, partner with us and invest in us.
“I want to thank the delegates and visitors from other colleges and universities including colleagues from within the UW System and from the Board of Regents who are with us today.
“Thank you to UW System President Ray Cross for providing me this opportunity to serve. President Cross demonstrates the attributes of leadership, vision, flexibility and resolve. I believe his is the toughest job of all and he performs it with grace and humility. His work is moving our UW System forward every day. Thank you President Cross.
“I also appreciate the leadership and service of the Board of Regents— and those who served on the search and screen committee. I would like to thank Regent President Regina Millner, Regent Jerry Whitburn, Regent Margaret Farrow and Regent Jose Vasquez, all who served on the search and screen committee, for the confidence they have placed in me and their continued counsel.
“Specifically, I want to thank the chancellors from our sister UW institutions for making me feel welcome. They are all committed and dynamic leaders from whom I have much to learn.
“As a state-supported public institution, I am appreciative of the service and support from our elected officials including Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and other local and regional legislators such as State Senator Rick Gudex, and Representatives Mike Schraa and Gordon Hintz— both with us on stage today.
“I thank our leaders and elected officials both from Winnebago County— County Executive Mark Harris, and Board Chair David Albrecht— and from the City of Oshkosh— City Manager Mark Rohloff and Mayor Steve Cummings. Our local government partners have a very important role and provide highly valued support in furtherance of our educational mission.
“We are highly connected with our educational partners and colleagues. We thank, in particular:
- “Dr. Stan Mack and the school board members from the Oshkosh Area School District,
- “The technical colleges and UW Colleges and Extension,
- “President Mark Berstein from Lawrence University and President Zach Messitte from Ripon College here with us today, representing the private, nonprofit institutions in our region
“We also recognize and thank our colleagues from the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (or NEW ERA) led by Linda Bartelt. UW Oshkosh is proud to partner with our colleagues from this important alliance of the technical college system, the UW Colleges, UW Green-Bay and the College of Menominee Nation. This rare partnership demonstrates the power of collaboration as we brought forth a regional program to produce engineering technologists for the Fox Valley at the request of our business community.
“I also thank our business community, and representing bodies:
- “the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce
- “the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation; and the
- “New North
“The business community of this region adds great strength to the educational excellence of UW Oshkosh and the other institutions of higher education in the area by providing countless opportunities for internships as well as employment for those students who choose to enter the workforce after completing their degrees. I also thank the business community for its past and future financial and philanthropic support of our institution.
“I embrace the important challenge of being active partners and participants in the process of economic development. The business community is a crucial partner and ally in making the case for the value of higher education in the region and state.
“I want to thank Professor Barbara Rau from the College of Business who chaired the campus search and screen committee during my selection. She and the members of that committee — both from on-campus and from the community— were very gracious and thorough. I hope to make them proud as we work together to fulfill the promise of UW Oshkosh.
“I am also deeply indebted to Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wells for his service. Under his 14-year leadership, this campus literally rebuilt the very foundation of UW Oshkosh. The development and expansion of new programs— and focus on critical needs like general education reform— was coupled with new facilities and services that helped this campus earn honor, recognition and distinction. I recognize his impact every day in the academic programs we offer, the beautiful campus on which we work, the accomplished faculty and staff with whom I collaborate, and the solid financial position he left for me.
“On a personal level, the chancellor has been generous with his time and support for me when I have called upon him.
“From Chancellor Wells, I also inherited an excellent and experienced leadership team. I’m honored to work alongside Provost Lane Earns, Vice Chancellors Petra Roter, Tom Sonnleitner and Art Rathjen. They have all contributed to the success of the past and offer experience and expertise as we work toward the future.
“Just as we recognize all of these individuals as being essential for our success, we realize that these efforts are supported by individuals who loan their talent and expertise as members of our boards and advisory committees.
“Whether it is our foundation, alumni association, or other advisory councils, these people give the gift of their time, passion and experience and I am deeply grateful. Foundation Chair Tim Mulloy and Alumni Association President Jim Rath are here today. I look forward to working with these great leaders and their respective boards to strengthen the pride our alumni have in this institution and to raise much needed financial support for the students, faculty, and staff of UW Oshkosh.
“I’d like to also thank the Installation Committee, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Art Rathjen. This type of event takes a great deal of planning and effort and many people were involved. Assistant Vice Chancellor Jamie Ceman and her staff developed the beautiful pieces and communications necessary to make this day possible. Thank you, especially, to Laura Rommelfanger and Jeci Casperson for leading the event team— and to everyone involved in the execution. Superbly done.
“I would like to thank a few friends who made the trip today from Georgia and beyond. Dr. John and Mary Helen McGruder, Mac McConnell, Chris Jespersen and his son Andy, Anita Nucci, Robert and Kathy Fuller, Scot Lingrell, President Skip Sullivan, Kevin Glaeske, Ghazia Asif and Farooq Khan.
“I do want to single out Farooq Khan as he has been a friend and scientific collaborator for more than 25 years. As assistant professors, we spent countless nights together in the laboratory and coffee houses unlocking the mysteries of the universe and plotting against the university administration (until we became administrators). Together, we brought along many students to help them unlock their great potential as scientists and people. When I think of the classic teacher-scholar, I think of Farooq.
“Saving the best for last, I want to thank my family.
“I am so grateful to my wife Karen. We have relished this academic life together and I am very grateful of her love, support, and active participation in my career as a scientist, teacher and administrator. Karen always embraces what comes next with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm. I simply would not be here without her.
“In addition to Karen, I want to recognize our children who are all here today: my daughter Genevieve and her spouse, CJ, and our two wonderful grandchildren, Stella and Dexter— our son Scott, and our daughter Madeleine. My growing family has provided immeasurable happiness and I’m deeply grateful to you all.
“My sisters, Jerry, Anne and her husband Don, and brothers John, and Matt are here today. Our parents provided us an idyllic upbringing filled with love and accomplishment. I am very grateful you are here.
“Finally, I want to thank my parents, John and Shirley Leavitt. My mother Shirley is here today. My parents took an intense interest in each of their five children, facilitating countless opportunities to allow us to grow and develop into interesting people. They believed in having well-rounded children and encouraged athletics, academics and arts— the three As— and I’m a much better person for it. Though our dad is no longer with us, he remains the standard of integrity and humanity that all of us strive to achieve everyday.
“We are living through a time of significant change in higher education— a time where we need to demonstrate our value to our students, alumni, the region and our state in new and creative ways.
“We need to work together to change the conversation around higher education and show that a publicly supported university like ours is an important investment.
“When a student pays tuition, it’s an investment in their future. When taxpayer dollars are designated for the UW System it’s an investment in Wisconsin. What I’d like people to see is that when Wisconsin has challenges, an investment in the UW System can be part of the solution.
“Looking backward for a moment, post-WWII the federal government recognized the value of higher education. Fearing the US would return to the great depression, they invested in the GI Bill, providing free education to almost 8 million veterans. When you look at the impact that decision had on the modern age, it’s astounding. It not only fueled the development of the middle class, the education received during that era can be credited with a technological tsunami that took us to the moon and then transformed the way human beings access information and communicate.
“That decision set the stage for seeing higher education as a public good. Broad access to higher education shaped this country. Education was seen as a right, not a privilege and government leaders felt the obligation to subsidize the cost for our citizens.
“With that context, now consider The Wisconsin Idea. This is one of the longest and deepest traditions surrounding the University of Wisconsin System. The idea that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Former UW President Charles Van Hise, in a 1904 speech declared: ‘I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.’ This commitment to educating everyone across the state, and the dedication to broad-based service and outreach to all the people of Wisconsin, is what has united all of our efforts over the past 144 years.
“I challenge anyone in this room to find a home, business, community or rural township that has not directly benefited in some way by UW System faculty, staff, students and alumni.
“Over time, the visibility of this impact has gotten lost, and I believe we need to take ownership of our role in that. The narrative in Wisconsin has become about the UW’s need for support, and that is the narrative I believe we must change. Every campus in the University of Wisconsin System must continue to innovate, drive Wisconsin forward and demonstrate that we are not asking for your support but are worthy of your investment.
“It’s now been nearly a full year since President Cross and the Board of Regents entrusted me with the chancellorship of this institution. Since then, I’ve been committed to learning and understanding all the dimensions of this incredible university. Through the students’ enthusiasm, the faculty’s passion, our staff’s dedication, our community’s engagement and support the heart of UW Oshkosh has come to life for me.
“Through this lens I now recognize what I believe to be the foundational elements that our success, both past and future, are built upon:
“First is liberal education. This is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to thrive in complexity, diversity and change. It provides our students with broad knowledge of the wider world, as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong intellectual and practical skills, such as communication, analytical and problem solving abilities, and a demonstrated capacity to apply knowledge to real-world settings. Our continued focus on the critical nature of liberal education comes from the knowledge that we are educating our students to succeed in jobs that do not exist today. We as educators have an obligation to endow tomorrow’s generations with professional and personal skills that will support economic growth, maintain a healthy workforce, and allow our state residents to lead full and productive lives.
“Next is inclusive excellence. At its core, inclusive excellence insists that universities strive to allow every person to achieve their fullest potential. Through engaging curricula, co-curricular experiences, professional development or support services, individuals can be transformed in ways that respect their varied backgrounds. UW Oshkosh is developing and continuing to improve upon an environment that respects diversity and insists on inclusion.
“The third foundational element of UW Oshkosh’s success is sustainability. We have already built a national reputation for our commitment to sustainability. In fact, UW Oshkosh is now ranked third in the nation on Sierra Magazine’s prestigious list of colleges and universities for our environmental practices. That recognition just scratches the surface of what we will accomplish in the realm of sustainability with innovators like Dr. Brian Kermath, Dr. Jim Feldman, Dr. Maureen Muldoon and other colleagues across campus. This foundational element for UW Oshkosh is infused in our curriculum and into our daily lives. Under the leadership of Provost Earns and Vice Chancellor Sonnleitner, this institution will take its place on the national stage and demonstrate what a university can do to change the world.
“Finally, shared governance is a defining characteristic and a fundamental part of UW Oshkosh as well. On our campus there are four key principles to how we govern:
- “Shared ownership and responsibility
- “Collegiality and inclusion
- “Transparency in communication and commitment to consensus-based actions
- “Respect … above all else
“Through a long and rich history of shared governance in action, our institution has weathered change, grown and evolved. As I proudly share this stage with our four current governance leaders, Dr. Karl Lowenstein, Richard Marshall, Lisa Goetsch and Jordan Schettle, I am confident in saying that our practice of shared governance is what makes UW Oshkosh strong.
“Additionally, a word about tenure— I continue to be committed to keeping tenure strong and recognizable through my advocacy with the Board of Regents and our collaboration with the Faculty Senate. Tenure is essential to academic freedom and maintaining a strong academy.
“Central to our mission as a university is the talent and passion of our faculty, working with and engaging our students in the experience of learning. We will never lose sight of the importance of that relationship.
“These foundational elements are, and must continue to be, present in all we do as a university.
“Looking forward, we must now build upon and leverage the enormous strengths of UW Oshkosh. In my short time here, I have become a tireless advocate for all that makes this institution and UW System great. Going forward, I will continue to advocate for what we can and will accomplish with an increased investment from the citizens of Wisconsin.
“As our University spokesperson, I am often accused of perpetual optimism. This I whole-heartedly own. I cannot be a part of such a tremendous university and not be consumed by optimism for its future. With that, I do acknowledge the weight of the challenges we face.
“We are currently managing an historic reduction to our state funding. This level of reduction cannot be managed without transformational change for our campus. Again, my optimism takes over. Even with this challenge before us, I’ve never seen a community pull together the way the UW Oshkosh community has over the past several months. We are working together to find efficiencies, cost-saving measures, organizational improvements and entrepreneurial ways to offset the budget reduction. Through this work and passion for our institution, I know we will come out of this a stronger university— a university Wisconsin taxpayers will be proud to invest in, faculty and staff will be proud to contribute their talents to, and university students will be proud to graduate from.
“While addressing these immediate challenges is central to our future the true vision for our university is coming into focus through robust strategic planning.
“A great deal of work has transpired over the summer, under the leadership of Provost Lane Earns, and has been inclusive of the broader campus community. Major themes have arisen and we are actively working with the campus community and in the broader community to get additional guidance and feedback on the vision for your university.
“The outcomes of this strategic planning process will give UW Oshkosh a new roadmap to follow for the next five years and beyond. This road map will allow UW Oshkosh to realize a collective vision for the future. A future that will put us on the national stage as a competitive comprehensive university enhanced in the following ways.
- “Student Success must be the focus of our efforts. The achievement of learning outcomes that lead to the retention, progression, and graduation of a student on a chosen pathway, in four years, is central to our mission. This pathway should be characterized by rigor and high expectations, student support and development, high impact practices, and assistance with placement into the next phases of the student’s life.
- “Building on our reputation for academic excellence, we will have a renewed emphasis on faculty research and staff innovation that will include increased research/service productivity carried out in the context of student learning. We will also continue to prove that we are listening and reacting to the demand for new programs and new skills in our graduates. In just the past two years we’ve launched many programs, majors and certificates including a new Engineering Technology program under the leadership of Letters and Science Dean John Koker and an executive-path MBA, with a convenient location in Appleton, now being led by Interim Business Dean Scott Beyer. The University is also moving forward with a new doctoral program in our College of Education and Human Services under the direction of Dean Fred Yeo and the College of Nursing is seeking approval for a new program in nursing anesthetists being developed by Dean Leslie Neal-Boylan. Of course, none of these programs could be successful without the considerable efforts of our outstanding faculty and staff in these colleges.
- “A great strength of this institution is our work in sustainability. I want to work to make the following statement a reality: Twenty-five years from now, the leaders involved in national and global work in sustainability will be UW Oshkosh faculty, staff, and graduates. We can lead the way as a comprehensive institution through our work in ecological, economic, political and social sustainability.
- “We must continue to be and expand our role as an economic driver for the region. We will work hard for UW Oshkosh to be an acknowledged leader in economic development of the region and state through talent development and economic innovation.
- “An inward-facing focus that I believe will have an immeasurable impact on building an inclusive and supportive environment on campus is the concept of ‘workplace joy.’ The strength and character of our campus is embedded within the individuals that make up our university. I want us to be more intentional and systematic in providing an environment for working and learning that is inspired through workplace joy. This deliberate initiative will be key over the next few years while we look for ways to operate more efficiently and provide opportunities for growth, both personal and professional, for everyone on campus.
“Through this vision, I believe we can and will become a national model for comprehensive universities. We are already nationally acknowledged for the success of our general education reform and our national status as a leader in sustainability.
“I want to thank the students, faculty and staff from the bottom of my heart for the trust they have placed in me. Please know I will make any and all efforts every day to advance this great university. In the end, it’s the students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, supporters and partners that make this a great university. It is an entire community that makes this a great university.
“As Titans, we are destined to achieve and succeed. As we act with a bold vision, we stand ready to work in partnership with others to serve, support and advance our students, our region, our state and the world.
“Thank you very much.”