Office of the President
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Thank you, Jim. And many thanks for your exemplary leadership here at UW-Marathon, where your 1,300 students can not only live on campus, but they can also stay right here and get a baccalaureate degree from one of our four-year universities.
My thanks, too, to Chancellor Bunnell, Dean Keogh, and their colleagues, who have helped to make the UW Central Wisconsin Connection a reality. I couldn’t be prouder of leaders like these who find creative, flexible, and collaborative ways to expand educational opportunities for our students and citizens. I am very enthusiastic about this program and am excited to get it going and begin to produce results. Some critics have said the UW never changes, it just goes on doing what it’s always done. Forward-looking projects like this give the lie to that sentiment. This project is part of a larger movement between our two and four-year campuses statewide.
Let me also express my appreciation to Regent Mark Bradley, who is here with us today. Many of you know Mark, since he lives nearby in Wausau, and you know of his many public contributions, including his service on the Marshfield Clinic National Advisory Council. Mark is a two-time UW alumnus, but more than that, he is a committed and educated steward of us, our students, and your resources. We are lucky to have dedicated, selfless public servants like Mark Bradley on the UW System Board of Regents.
And one final thanks to the citizens in counties like Marathon, Wood and 11 others who directly support their UW colleges. Your investment in our freshman-sophomore campuses and our students is greatly appreciated. You are our partners in bringing higher education to your citizens, and in the great tradition of the Wisconsin Idea, we are proud to be your partner.
The UW Central Wisconsin Connection initiative demonstrates that the UW System is very serious about increasing the numbers of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin, and we should be – this correlates directly to our ability to increase the state’s per capita income, and to grow the Wisconsin economy. We have also been working with the Wisconsin Technical College System on a joint effort known as the Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion (COBE), which has proposed several strategies to increase the number of college degree holders in the state.
Moreover, the UW Central Wisconsin Connection will, I believe, boost student retention. Our data show that the longer students are enrolled in our two-year colleges before transferring to a four-year institution, the more likely they are to graduate. Let me say that one more time: the longer students are enrolled in our two-year colleges before transferring to a four-year institution, the more likely they are to graduate. The dual enrollment option provided by this program makes that prospect even better!
I could go on, but I think you get my point – the economic future of Wisconsin is linked to its public higher education institutions. We can enroll, educate, and graduate more students, and we will, thanks to efforts like the UW Central Wisconsin Connection and COBE. But we must also build the Wisconsin economy for the 21st century by helping to grow the high-paying jobs of the future that will employ our graduates.
I believe in what the UW System stands for: opportunity for Wisconsin’s citizens and Wisconsin communities. We are in the "human potential" business. It is our job to help our students and citizens realize their potential and to "connect" to jobs that employ that potential. That is exactly what the UW’s Central Wisconsin Connection will help us to do.
Thank you, and I’ll look forward to your questions after we finish the program.