‘Our focus is on transforming lives’

Dr. John Chenoweth gives first welcome address as interim chancellor


Caryana Dominguez

Dr. John Chenoweth, Interim Chancellor, gives the Chancellor’s Welcome Address on August 29th, 2022.

Alicia Dougherty, Campus News Editor

The fall of 2019 was the last time a chancellor had addressed the UW-Whitewater students, faculty, and staff without COVID-19 restrictions. That was until Interim Chancellor John Chenoweth was met with thunderous applause when he entered the stage at Young Auditorium for the Chancellor’s Welcome address Aug. 29. Chenoweth is in his 20th year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and has served five months as Interim Chancellor. 

With COVID-19 restrictions for the UW-Whitewater being gone, the Interim Chancellor took a moment to recognize members of the Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) for all their efforts during the past two-and-a-half-years of the pandemic. 

“This team performed outstanding work, going beyond their regular job duties. During one of the most difficult and challenging times in our university’s history, said Chenoweth. “They organized testing and vaccination clinics, tracked complicated data, secured funding and resources, strategize our communications, and made thoughtful recommendations to leadership throughout the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.” 

The Chancellor proudly announced a projection that this fall’s enrollment will be the largest enrollment seen in the last five years. Even before the pandemic, enrollment was at a steady decline since 2017, since it was at its peak at 12,430 students, and had dropped every year with the lowest enrollment being in 2020 with just over 8,000 students. Last year, however, was the largest class in four years, and that amount is expected to be exceeded. 

Chenoweth went on to explain that the graduate student enrollment is higher than the traditional undergraduate enrollment, which is still seeing a decline. The cause stems from falling retention rates among undergrads. The same challenge is also seen at UW-W Rock County on a smaller scale, but unlike the main campus, the retention rates have increased significantly compared to last year.  

First-generation students make up about 37% of the student body at the main UW-Whitewater campus and are also a demographic that has lower retention than students who are not.  

“For first generation students – they are unique,” said Chenoweth who explained the disadvantages that first generation students have in not always having the same guidance from their parents and guardians on what to expect in college. “My kids know they can text me anytime and ask me anything about the college experience that is informative. First generation students don’t necessarily have that which means someone’s going to provide mentorship to them and that is you and me.” 

Despite these challenges, Chenoweth shared some high notes. The audience to cheered “We are number one!” as he presented all the number one placements for UW-Whitewater compared to other UW System comprehensive universities. Some of the accomplishments included providing more total student aid than any other campus, serving more students from underrepresented minorities, having the highest graduation rate of transfer students, and the highest number of fully online students. 

In closing, Chenoweth reflected on the mission statement of the university and had determined that the mission statement was not necessarily the mission of the university.

“I have read this over and over on what our mission is,” said Chenoweth. “Our purpose, our calling and our focus is on transforming lives.”