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Chancellor column: UWSP makes progress in community partnerships, investments in the future in 2013

12:21 PM, Dec. 30, 2013  |  Comments
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Traveling to Oklahoma to spend time with family for the holidays gave me plenty of opportunity to reflect on 2013. We've accomplished much at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the past year.

I'm particularly proud of progress in two areas: community partnerships and investments in the future.

Community partnerships

Two years ago, we developed a vision for the university to be more responsive to community needs and more relevant to solving regional problems. A key part of "A Partnership for Thriving Communities" is supporting prosperous communities and partnering on economic development.

Among the ways we are responding to community needs, two new academic programs advanced this year:

? Licensed registered nurses will be able to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at UWSP through in-person, online and hybrid courses. This will prepare Wisconsin workers for jobs in the growing health care field.

? A new wildland fire science program is an additional option in the resource management major. Wildfire management is a top concern in the forest industry, and training students to use fire as a management tool addresses a national demand.

To further respond to workforce needs, a UW flex option program was approved recently for UWSP. Professionals and returning students may pursue a geographic information systems (GIS) certificate through the flexibility of online courses.

Investments in the future

In spring, we learned that a new biology and chemistry building was approved by the State Building Commission. The governor and Legislature have endorsed it, a design team has been selected, and funding has been approved for design and planning, which will occur in 2014. Construction of the $75 million 169,165-square-foot academic building is scheduled to begin in summer 2015.

UWSP will receive nearly $5 million of the $22.5 million awarded in a new UW Incentive Grant program. Three projects on this campus are aimed at increasing economic growth and strengthening Wisconsin's workforce. The projects at UWSP focus on a more sustainable economy. Working with Paper Science and Engineering, Biology and Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Technology faculty and staff, each will develop or expand sustainable products, processes and packaging for biofuels, specialty papers and aquaponics industries.

Another grant, $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Education, will improve student success by helping at-risk students stay in school and complete degrees. Enhanced tutoring, intensive academic advising and targeted career counseling are aimed at retaining students and helping them graduate.

Earlier this month we learned of a generous gift of $2 million from Gerald and Helen Stephens of Peoria, Ill. It honors the memory of their son, a 1991 graduate of UWSP, by establishing the Douglas R. Stephens Chair in Wildlife, a new faculty position in the College of Natural Resources. This is the university's first endowed chair. Earnings will support wildlife research, outreach and related activities of the chair, inspiring students for years to come.

As 2013 draws to a close, best wishes to our 696 new graduates and my thanks to UWSP faculty, staff members and all in central and northern Wisconsin who make this a thriving community.

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports