“Partnering.” This word is used frequently as we ponder our role in a new world of expectations for the public university. BusinessDictionary.com defines it as “Establishing a long-term win-win relationship based on mutual trust and teamwork, sharing both risks and rewards.” Trust, teamwork and sharing are critical.
In the public academy we feel increasing pressure to demonstrate how we cooperate and bring our expertise and message to meeting the needs of our partner communities.
Here in the College of Letters and Science we take this charge seriously. We are stewards, and we cannot afford to live in a vacuum of what is assumed to be our students’ greater interest
. Our college consistently demonstrates our commitment to outreach to our partners through relationships with the Medical College of Wisconsin (sharing a faculty position), local information technology interests (positions, resources and curricula), in aquaculture and aquaponics (through the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility
and Red Cliff Tribe in Bayfield, and with a private firm in Montello), in cooperation with the needs of Wisconsin in professional health care training, molecular biology, genetics and chemistry (the new science building), and in citizen outreach and student placements in the Social Work major
and Criminal Justice minor
. Our recent resounding success with the Sentry Endowment funded two new tenure-line positions and a new curriculum in Data Analytics. This is a direct and intentional response to exactly what our business and government offices are requesting. As I work to assist the university in developing partnerships with our community, region and state, the central question we ask is: “How will this relationship advance the status and employability of our students, and how can we help our community address its continuing needs with the expertise and brain trust at our university?”
We find ourselves at a critical point in the history of public higher education. Throughout this annual report, you will find stories, statistics and data showing how much we do, for whom we do it and how innovative we feel it is. What is not often clear from such data is the intangible question ... how does it change our student’s lives
? Those of us charged with providing and assessing the quality of a public higher education, often find ourselves in a quandary in our ability to answer this question. We know it dramatically changes their opportunities and future earning power. However, often our graduates do not obtain immediate employment in their chosen area or go to graduate school, but work in positions that may be only tangentially related to their major area. It is hard to track these students.
To assist our students in gaining employment, qualifying for and attending graduate school, or to place them into internships, cooperatives and other tangible experiences upon graduation, we need to do a better job in using our data, partnerships, alumni and advising in preparing them for the often circuitous journey ahead.
Toward this end, we worked with the Student Government Association and the Board of Regents this past year to obtain a differential tuition fee to be used solely to assist our students in academic and career advising, and for giving us funding for extra sections of classes in otherwise tight seat placement curricula
. The university has reorganized its academic and career advising around a “satellite model.” The hiring of six new professional advisers for our satellite office (the COLS Academic and Career Advising Center), with special funding giving students more class sections, gives us confidence we are moving in the right direction. We are dedicated to assuring that our students get not only the best advising and career advice for success after college, but have a true opportunity to explore career options within their chosen majors and minors. All incoming new students are assigned a professional adviser to assist them with their department curricula, counseling them on the best opportunities available for career advancement in their fields.
Our partners, local businesses, graduate schools and future employers across the nation often identify a core set of skills that they prefer in our graduates. A national debate rages on the skills-training vs. life-training opportunities that a college degree offers. We often refer to the “Essential Learning Outcomes” promoted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (cultural knowledge, knowledge of the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, responsibility, and integrative learning) as the hallmarks of a liberal arts and sciences education. These outcomes match closely what employers request most often of our graduates; the ability to think clearly, speak clearly, write fluently, show historical perspective, understand ethics and morals, and be flexible learners). We are in the business of training ethical leaders for the future, who have both immediate and long-term talents empowering them to succeed. I am happy to report that the “College-at-the-Core” is fulfilling its mission and greatly assisting the other colleges and units on campus to provide all our students with these critical skillsets.
Dean, College of Letters and Science