COVID-19 did not allow for a traditional address Feb. 1, but Chancellor Dwight C. Watson was still able to deliver a report on the state of the university, highlighting accomplishments, challenges and priorities moving forward through a livestreamed video produced by UWW-TV.
“When I think back over 2020, especially after March 20, what I remember and honor most is the way we pulled together as a community to anticipate what was necessary in order to make our campus as safe as possible for the return to campus in the fall,” said Watson.
COVID-19 efforts were a large part of those challenges, however, UW-Whitewater put in the work to overcome them. An estimated 40,000 hours of work time was spent in dedication to campus safety efforts. Faculty members added even more hours, dedicating their time to support students adapting to a new style of learning.
Developing testing procedures and encouraging involvement was a priority throughout the year. The university legacy tested more than 10,000 students and surge tested more than 19,400 students, employees and community members. These efforts allowed the university to meet its goal to stay open until Nov. 20.
“I want to thank our students for adjusting your expectations of what your fall semester would look like, for changing your behavior to create a safer environment for all, and for working peer to peer to make necessary adjustments,” said Watson. “I hope each of you is as proud of these efforts as I am.”
Another challenge the university faced was the decline in enrollment. In 2019 there were 12,448 enrolled and in the fall of 2020 that number dropped to 11,995. The pandemic did impose this struggle, as well as a reduction in high school graduation rates, but the admissions office continues to recruit new students for next fall. There was, however, record-breaking growth in graduate students with 1,576 students enrolled this past fall.
The reduction in enrollment directly affects the budget and Watson talked about some accomplishments made to address those concerns. UW-Whitewater has achieved 95 percent of required savings for fiscal year 2021 and 46 percent of the required savings for FY ‘21-22. Much of this accomplishment was credited to the Budget Operations Committee.
The address featured a moment to recognize the important accomplishments of the university and its members.
“The U.S Department of Education named UW-Whitewater a Green Ribbon School – one of only five colleges nationwide to be so designated in 2020,” said director of public information Jeffrey Angileri.
It was also named one of three colleges or universities in the nation to receive the 2020 Sustained Excellence in Assessment designation, and ranked as the 5th most wheelchair friendly schools in the nation.
Associate professor of language and literature Hala Ghoneim won the 2020 International Award of Excellence from the new direction in humanities journal collection for her scholarly article published in the International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies. The FED challenge team made it to the national semi final round for economics programs beating out Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
Watson addressed program optimization as well.
“I know this is a subject that brings strong comments from our Faculty Senate. I believe we can talk through those differences and come up with a way to accomplish program optimization as a long-term strategic planning process that will allow us to optimize efficiencies, enhancements, essentiality while investing, reinvesting and divesting certain initiatives,” said Watson.
With all the achievements and challenges, the university continues to reach for new goals like becoming a regional vaccination site for the community.
“It is with a tremendous amount of Warhawk pride that I thank you for your dedication and commitment to UW-Whitewater,” said Watson.