Watson begins year by hearing out Warhawks

Carter Secor, Staff Reporter

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UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight C. Watson held his first listening session of the year in the Old Main Ballroom inside the University Center on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Watson, who started his role as chancellor on August 1 of this year, held the campus listening session where members of the university staff, faculty and student body could come and ask questions and voice their opinions about the path the university is on.

Before the session had even started, Watson could be seen walking around to each member of the audience that had gotten there early and introducing himself and asking each person their name, how long they’d been at the university, and their major or occupation.

The session opened with Watson accentuating and highlighting certain features of the university, including things like class sizes, campus security, the range and number of student organizations, and so on. He also stressed the importance of the listening sessions and how they helped him better serve the university and the community by getting a steady stream of feedback from those in the area.

Watson then moved the event along, opening up discussion to the attendees in the form of asking questions about things the university does well, things it could improve on, and what the priorities of the university should be for the coming year.

The first question of what Whitewater does well was met with many answers from the attendees encompassing things like athletic success, community involvement, career and leadership development, and alumni involvement along with other aspects and areas that were pointed out.

The listening session then focused on aspects of what Whitewater could be doing better or improve on. The attendees concerns and suggestions included many issues like campus sustainably and commitment to combating climate change, recruitment of new students, parking policies on campus and others.

Where the chancellor could, he would offer direct help or promise to meet with the attendees directly and personally at another time about the issues they felt were important to them. This seemed to comfort some of the attendees, like Curtis Lemke, who is the president of the Student Veterans Association on campus who attended the listening session to advocate for veterans on campus and their unique needs.

“That’s definitely the first thing we’re looking to do.” Lemke said, when asked about being able to meet with the chancellor and work closely with the campus to help veterans. “I’m definitely hopeful about Chancellor Watson and the Student Government’s response.”

The session then focused on the aspect of what Whitewater’s priorities should be for the coming year. The attendees brought up things like services for international students on campus, the level of involvement and connection that the Chancellor would have with the campus and community, and other aspects and priorities.

Tom Kind, a graduate assistant at Whitewater had attended the meeting and brought up student involvement and enthusiasm on campus as a priority.

“I think that it’s really important to focus on, as we have new leadership making sure that our campus members really show that they want to be involved.” Kind said. “Dr. Watson as he came to campus talked about the Chancellorship and it not just being about his own role as being Chancellor and I think that’s a really neat way to go.”

The session closed with Watson opening it up to questions to him from the people attending. He faced questions about budget cuts and staffing, to his favorite part of his new job so far and others.

Watson was pleased with how his first listening session went and the questions and input he received from the people attending.

“The first thing I liked was that they had wonderful things to say about Whitewater.” Watson said. “They began to talk about some of their concerns, and I also liked that when someone stated a concern, someone else stated a possible solution. Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to take all that information back to the cabinet and we’re going to dig deep and work on some solutions.”

The chancellor will be holding his second listening session in the University Center on October 25 at noon.