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
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
• 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
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
• 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.
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