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Challenges kept UWSP at Marshfield job interesting for Boernke

January 26, 2023
Michelle Boernke, campus executive at UWSP at Marshfield
Michelle Boernke, campus executive, prepares to leave UWSP at Marshfield on her last day before retirement, having served in four different roles on campus.

“I love a challenge.”

Those words from Michelle Boernke, campus executive at UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield, came on her last day before retiring this month. Rising to the challenge kept her at the campus for 18 years, the longest time at any job.

“My job here has changed four times,” she said. “They’ve all been different jobs, all interesting. Every year there was a major project.”

She’s most proud of the $6.6 million Everett Roehl STEM Center, which “brought us to the 21st century,” she said. It opened in 2018 with state-of-the art science labs, equipment and classroom space as well as a common area for students.

She’s also proud of the upgrades at the Helen Connor Laird Theatre, including a new stage, carpeting and improvements in lighting, sound and electrical systems, paid for by community donors.

“We are keeping theatre alive in Marshfield,” she said. “We have UW-Stevens Point play readings here and productions by the Campus Community Players every semester.”

During her tenure, Boernke was part of bringing Baka Chicken Restaurant to the campus dining area and collaborating with community members to create a new space on campus, the C2, Collaborate and Create Makerspace, for student and community use.

She saw to the placement of the “Marv the Marauder” statue on the grounds as well as the building of The Villas student apartments. She oversaw renovations to the fitness center and a greenhouse project.

Boernke began her career at what was then UW-Marshfield-Wood County in 2005 as director of Continuing Education. In 2012, she took the role of assistant campus dean of administration services.

Her biggest challenge came in 2016, when she was named campus administrator at Marshfield as well as regional associate dean of administration and finance for the newly restructured UW Colleges Northern Region. This included the Marshfield campus, UW-Marathon County in Wausau, UW-Marinette County and UW-Barron County in Rice Lake.

“It was fun but challenging to be a part of four different budgets and four different steering committees,” she said. “All I did was drive to those campuses. It was intense.”

Her last role came in 2018 with the restructuring of the UW Colleges, when “the Wood” became UWSP at Marshfield and she was named campus executive.

“Education has changed across the nation,” she said. “If you don’t change with it, you get left behind. We are a different campus now. But with becoming part of UW-Stevens Point we are part of a bigger team as one institution. We are blessed with more resources, like a whole department of biologists.”

Additional programs offer more opportunities for students on the Marshfield campus, with bachelor’s degrees, MBA and collaborative degrees with other UW System campuses.

“Good things are happening here,” she said. “There are lots of options for students. I’m leaving at a good time, as Tony can jump on board with new programs and take them to the next level.”

Anthony Andrews, previously associate director of Leadership and Campus Programs at the

City University of New York, took over the role of campus executive on Jan. 9.

Boernke first moved to Marshfield from Elgin, Ill., in 1988, taking a job at the Marshfield Area YMCA. She worked at the Marshfield Area United Way, managed the Northway Mall and owned Treehouse Toys store before joining the Marshfield campus.

Her retirement plans include continuing to volunteer in the community, spending time with her grandson, reconnecting with friends, mountain biking, traveling, fishing, writing a memoir about her hometown of Knapp, Wis., and sleeping later. She and her husband are not leaving the area where they have spent the last 35 years.

“We love Marshfield, and we love Wisconsin,” she said. “We’re going to stay right here.”