‘Think big and be bold’

Chancellor Chat highlights new strategic plan

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Alicia Dougherty, Assistant News Editor

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight Watson is discussing plans with campus shared governance leaders for a new strategic plan that will be put into effect in the spring of 2022. The chancellor explained that the plan has six goals in his Chancellor Chat Thursday, March 25. Goals include: Improve student access and success; transform lives and impact society; foster diversity and inclusion; strengthen our resources; deepen partnerships and relationships; and celebrate the accomplishments of our campus community.

“This is a time for us to think big and be bold,” said Chancellor Watson. 

Other members emphasized the cruciality of collaboration between the governance groups on campus for further success in the future. 

“While we all have our different approaches to our issues and to the campus and system issues, the discussions we have when we meet regularly allows us to work together and learn from each other,” said Academic Staff Assembly Chair Patricia Fragola. “This collaborative spirit is something that Assembly and I feel that we need to move forward.”

The discussion quickly turned to preparing for the fall ahead of implementation of the new strategic plan. 

A common theme among the panelists’ statements was being proactive and wanting life after the pandemic to be better than before it. Recommendations included continued availability to access meetings and academic resources through virtual means. Whitewater Student Government President Jody Wentworth also expressed the need for catering not only to incoming freshman, but also to sophomore and transfer students as well. 

“Some students might expect normal to be what they expected three years ago, and for others, they have no idea what normal is,” said Wentworth. “We have to realize that the students that would be in their second year didn’t have those experiences, and we also need to watch out for them and help them make friends, and enjoy Whitewater.”

The other panelists agreed on the need to focus on students’ transition back to campus through continued support of their academic and mental health needs.  

“People have experienced a lot of difficulties that I can’t possibly innumerate,” said Faculty Senate Chair Tracy Hawkins. “We’re hoping in the future we are able to provide some space for healing and looking forward to what UW-Whitewater can be, and what our community can be in the future going forward.” 

Royal Purple also asked if a plan was in place in case the Covid-19 variants impeded on the current plan to go back to face-to-face learning. The Chancellor assured the preparedness of the university and chalked it up to UW-System President Tommy Thompson for his experience as a former national director of health and the work of the Emergency Operations Center.

“I feel very buffered by the fact that whatever comes our way we’re going to be able to pivot and handle it,” said Watson.  

Interim Provost Greg Cook also assured attendees that leaders are ready for whatever the 2021-2022 academic year brings, and that campus members need to be ready as well. 

“In all of our conversation, our rhetoric, our message, our language we’re all wanting to be optimistic,” said Cook. “ But the question does remind us that we do need those back-up plans. So, I just want to assure people that we are making those back-up plans. While we are planning for an optimistic and positive fall semester we’re also reminding people to be ready to pivot. Even if that means a full pivot back to all remote.” 

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