Office of the Chancellor

November 16, 2006

Green Bay's University of Wisconsin:
Living the Wisconsin Idea
Presentation to the
Wisconsin Higher Education Business Roundtable
By Chancellor Bruce Shepard

Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a pleasure for me to be here with you and with my colleagues from the UW System.

We have a great story to tell, a story about how we’re serving all the people of the state in meaningful, relevant ways.

At Green Bay’s University of Wisconsin, we’re living The Wisconsin Idea by doing what we call “Connecting learning to life.” How do we do that?
    • We do it through our unique approach to education, which stresses hands-on, practical, problem-solving from multiple perspectives. That is the distinctive feature of a UWGB education. It traces to our roots. We were established in the late ‘60’s with the charge of responding to the then prevalent critiques of American higher education as hide-bound, irrelevant, remote, and unengaged.
    • We find, today, that practical, hands-on problem-solving from multiple perspectives is ever-more relevant as we prepare students for careers not yet known and future societal problems we are unaware of today.

Everyday, we connect learning to the economic, social and cultural life of Northeastern Wisconsin.
    • 75 percent of our students come from Northeastern Wisconsin.
    • 75 percent of our graduates take jobs in the region.
    • 90 percent of our graduates stay in Wisconsin.
    • The statistic of which I am most proud is that 64% of our students come from families where neither parent has graduated from college. I know from my own family’s history – perhaps also your own as you reflect back on that first parent or grandparent to go to college, most likely a public institution – that, by educating “first generation” students, we are changing the course of families for generations to come. And, the course of our region for many score years to come.

The Wisconsin Idea? Our campus has given it substance as connecting learning to life, yes. But, there is much more.

Ours is a region in transition: economically, demographically, and in the very way we think of ourselves as a region. We have a role in assuring the success of all three transitions.

As you probably know, the big threat to Wisconsin’s future is not our tax structure, it is our age structure. Wisconsin’s population is aging at precisely the time when the new economy demands young people whose creative potentials have been effectively developed.

What is a threat to Wisconsin’s future is an opportunity in our region of 1.2 million people. We are getting younger. And, we grew at almost twice the rate of the state as a whole during the last decade. That trend will continue. However, that growth occurs almost exclusively in our communities of color. Here is an enormous “brain gain” opportunity if we have the vision and the will to seize it!

Economically, our large traditional manufacturers are making key investments to stay competitive. But there is no doubt that we are seeing an inexorable transition in manufacturing. Our business parks are humming but with smaller, flexible, and relentlessly innovating manufacturing enterprises. And, whenever I tour these enterprises, I see a lot more computers than people on the factory floors.

Our region’s leaders also have embraced a new regional way of thinking. It is being driven by an entity known as the NEW NORTH. The NEW NORTH is a consortium of business, education, government, economic development and other leaders committed to common goals of job growth, economic vitality and a high quality of life.

Your northeastern Wisconsin two- and four-year UW campuses, working in full partnership with the Tech colleges in our area, blazed the trail leading to NEW NORTH. Through an alliance known as NEW ERA (Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance), we have pooled resources to better serve regional needs. And, with private sector leaders now pushing NEW NORTH forward, I believe we will look back on the last few years as a watershed period in which our region, once marked by competition and, dare I say, jealousies, now are working together.

Allow me to briefly mention other ways in which we’re connecting with our region and showing that we take The Wisconsin Idea seriously:
    • Phuture Phoenix: This award-winning program encourages youngsters to dream of attending college and gives them the tools to fulfill their dreams. We are building a large pipeline to those rapidly growing and diverse populations upon which our region’s future is firmly staked.
    • The Paper Industry Resource Center has encouraged collaborative innovation within the paper industry. It works to benefit the state and regional economy by helping keep Wisconsin on the cutting edge of rapidly evolving high tech paper and “nonwovens.” We purposely located the center downtown, doing so, in part, as a statement of our commitment to get off our campus and be where we are needed.
    • The Entrepreneur’s Connection is an annual conference providing access to resources and information about growing or launching a business. We and our partners started the conference after Inc. magazine found Green Bay to be the best medium-sized community in the nation to start and grow a business.
    • Our Small Business Development Center assists small businesses through management education and counseling. We put it on the campus of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College as a partner in their Business Assistance Center, that off-campus location in and of itself being a statement of our commitment to meaningful regional and cross-sector partnerships.
    • The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, headquartered on our campus, is a public-private partnership supporting research, student scholarships and outreach activities in fields related to aerospace.
    • Partners in Education is an alliance of educators and the business sector. Here, I monthly sit at the same table with area K-12 superintendents, the president of the Tech College, the Chamber president, and CEO’s and corporate officers of enterprises like WPS, Aurora Bay Care, Associated Bank, Shopko, Schneider International, and Schreiber Foods, working together to continually improve the fit between the educational sector’s strategic directions and the needs of our area employers.

Just some samples. But, here’s our basic challenge: were our region a state, we would rank somewhere between 46th and 49th in the percentage of our adult population who have baccalaureate degrees. This at a time when a vibrant manufacturing center is finding value added not on the factory floors, but in the efforts to continually innovate.

We must produce more graduates who will bring their knowledge and talents to the business community in design, marketing, finance, production and other areas. We are acting to do so. But, in so doing and as I warn many audiences, we are also building toward a potential trainwreck.

The Phuture Phoenix program has established a pipeline of thousands of students. Transfer arrangements already in place could add 2,000 more UWGB students, and we have even better arrangements about to be announced.

Yet, we are at capacity, among the first campuses to close admissions each year. And, the nature of the pipeline we are building – not students likely to leave the communities where they have families and jobs – means we have to be there for them.

That’s why we have developed the Northeastern Wisconsin Growth Agenda.

In a regional context, we reflect the vision for Wisconsin that our Regents and President Reilly have articulated for the future of our entire state as they developed the Wisconsin Growth Agenda.

I have tied the Northeastern Wisconsin Growth Agenda to the need my private sector friends have been drumming into me: the need for more baccalaureate graduates. Let me make two other points.
    • By growing capacity to serve students, we also significantly increase the size of the platform we have to better serve a region that turns to us for expertise and ideas. And, the relationship is not linear for, as we grow, overhead reduces, and we can direct a larger proportion of our resources – really, your resources – to directly serving our stakeholders.
    • We call it the Northeastern Wisconsin Growth agenda and not the UWGB Growth agenda for two reasons: First, because we are working closely with UW-Oshkosh and the other campuses serving our region. And, most importantly, because it’s the region’s agenda, developed in response to needs expressed by community leaders and partners. Last April, when visiting our campus, the Regents saw just how powerfully our local private sector leaders had taken ownership of the growth agenda.

Let me conclude by noting that The Wisconsin Idea is not a revered icon of institutional history hanging in a display case among raccoon skin coats and freshmen beanies. It is the living and ever-more relevant raison d’être for Wisconsin’s University. Living because it is what is happening everyday on the ground, and any one of my colleague chancellors could have as easily illustrated its continuing vitality.

At UWGB, we put it this way. Yes, we have an 80-page strategic plan that lays out our vision in a way that may make your eyes glaze over. But everybody on campus knows the vision in just 12 words: The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay is Green Bay’s University of Wisconsin. And, everybody on campus knows our strategy for moving forward: Regions support universities that support regions.


photo of Cofrin Libary

Office of the Chancellor
David A. Cofrin Library, Suite 810
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311-7001
Phone: 920-465-2207
Comments to:
Chancellor's Web Manager
Revised 11/16/06

UW-Green Bay Home

News Release on Presentation

Welcome Profile Staff Remarks and Essays