For UW-Green Bay, 2014 a year of highlights, transition

Tremendous 2014 at UW-Green BayWe’re wrapping up a Tremendous 2014 at UW-Green Bay, celebrating the countless honors, accolades and feel-good success stories that impacted campus — and community — during the year that was. As always, choosing just 10 bright spots for our annual rundown was a difficult (yet enjoyable) task, and we know we’ve only scratched the surface with this list. These represent just a fraction of the good-news stories happening on campus and beyond, and we honor and celebrate them all. Here, in no particular order, are UW-Green Bay’s top 10 positive stories from 2014, as selected by the University News Bureau:

Associate Prof. Clifton Ganyard
Top teacher: Ganyard earns UW System excellence award

Associate Prof. Clifton Ganyard earned the UW System’s top teaching accolade in 2014, accepting his Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award during the June Regents meeting in Milwaukee. Ganyard, Humanistic Studies (History), was one of two System teachers to receive the 2014 accolade, which includes a $5,000 stipend to be used for professional development.

In 17 years since joining the UW-Green Bay faculty in 1997, Ganyard has taught more than two dozen courses for Humanistic Studies, History and Global Studies. His areas of specialization include modern European, German and Japanese history and culture, Western civilization and European intellectual history. Ganyard has demonstrated his passion for interdisciplinary teaching time and again during his career, motivated by a genuine enthusiasm for what he does.

“I really enjoy teaching,” Ganyard wrote to the award selection committee. “It is why I went to graduate school, and it is why I sought a job in higher education. UWGB’s emphasis on teaching and interdisciplinarity is a perfect fit for me and the reason I am so committed to this institution.”

Ganyard is the latest in a series of several recent UW-Green Bay Regents Teaching Excellence Award winners. In 2011-12, UW-Green Bay Prof. Regan A.R. Gurung, Psychology and Human Development, earned an individual Teaching Excellence Award, and UW-Green Bay’s Professional Program in Education earned Department of the Year honors for its outstanding teaching.

Chancellor Gary L. Miller
Miller time: UW-Green Bay welcomes new chancellor

UW-Green Bay ushered in a new era in 2014, on Aug. 1 welcoming Gary L. Miller as the sixth chancellor in University history. Coming to the University from his previous position as chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Miller wasted no time in charting a course for the UW-Green Bay of tomorrow. His Invent the Future of UW-Green Bay initiative and the establishment of a new University-wide planning and innovation structure were well under way by the time Miller was installed as chancellor on Nov. 14.

During his installation remarks, Miller introduced campus and community to the three Powers of the Phoenix: The Power of Innovation, the Power to Transform Lives and the Power of Place.

“These powers are within us. They are part of the UWGB heritage,” Miller said during his installation address. “We cannot apply these powers if we are afraid. We have to have the courage to ask hard questions and make difficult choices. We must do this with optimism and joy and, most of all, with love and respect for each other.

“Ed Weidner would have loved this time,” Miller concluded, invoking UW-Green Bay’s founding chancellor, “and so do I. Thank you and Go Phoenix!”

Packers partnership
Packers partnership: University teams with Green and Gold

After decades of shared history, UW-Green Bay this summer officially cemented its relationship with the most storied franchise in professional sports, becoming Higher Education Partner of the Green Bay Packers and launching a series of events, activities and promotional opportunities designed to celebrate its connection with the Green and Gold.

A major fall highlight of the partnership was UW-Green Bay Day at Lambeau Field, a daylong campus and community celebration held Saturday, Nov. 15 in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Attendees enjoyed numerous activities for kids and families, friendly competition with Phoenix athletes, an autograph session with Packers great Bill Schroeder, great live music, prizes, the opportunity to learn about UW-Green Bay programs and much more. The event concluded with a spirit walk featuring UW-Green Bay basketball fans, cheerleaders and dance team members making their way to the Resch Center to watch the Phoenix men tip off in their season home opener.

Also in November, the Packers partnership yielded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for student and alumni military veterans. The veterans and their guests were flag-holders for a special on-field military tribute prior to the team’s nationally televised Sunday night home game against the Chicago Bears. A host of additional events, activities and promotions were planned for the rest of the year.

Phoenix Athletics Men's Basketball
Champions, times four: A banner year for Phoenix Athletics

It was another stellar season for Phoenix Athletics as four spring sports teams — men’s and women’s basketball, softball and men’s tennis — won Horizon League championships in a year filled with accolades.

The conference title was the 16th straight for the Phoenix women’s basketball team, good for the longest active streak of championships in the country. The men’s squad capped a breakout season with its first conference title since 1996. Both teams saw numerous coach and player awards, including Coach of the Year honors for men’s coach Brian Wardle and women’s coach Kevin Borseth; Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards for men’s stars Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown, respectively; and a Freshman of the Year accolade for emerging women’s player Tesha Buck.

Phoenix players continued to put the “student” in “student-athlete,” notching impressive academic accomplishments and earning a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for the 29th consecutive semester

Avenue Q The Musical
Awesome arts: Theatre and Dance, Weidner mark success

UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance began the year in a big way, taking its hit fall semester production of Avenue Q: The Musical to the American College Theatre Festival’s regional competition in Saginaw, Mich. The edgy, rated-R-for-language play earned rave reviews as well as the festival’s Golden Handtruck award for excellence in technical execution of the production.

Theatre and Dance also made a splash with its spring production of Censored on Final Approach, enhancing educational opportunities and campus and community ties with a series of activities surrounding the story of female pilots in WWII. One of the surviving veterans of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) corps, 94-year-old Betty Strohfus, traveled to Northeastern Wisconsin to see the show, participate in an on-campus panel, visit the Experimental Aircraft Association museum in Oshkosh and more.

Weidner Center shows
The Weidner Center for the Performing Arts also had a standout 2014, bringing in such hit shows as Rock of Ages, Jillian Michaels Maximize Your Life Tour, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the returning favorite The Oak Ridge Boys Hits & Christmas Show as part of a stellar 2014-15 lineup. The signature performing arts venue finished another year in the black, again demonstrating the success of its 5-year strategic plan.

Revitalization of the Weidner Center was a leading priority of former UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden during his five-year leadership tenure. Harden stepped down at the end of July 2014 and was succeeded by Gary L. Miller.

UWGB Commencement
One for the books: December grad class is largest to date

UW-Green Bay is fresh from graduating its largest midyear class to date, with a record-breaking group of grads earning diplomas Dec. 13. An all-time high of 512 students — 500 undergrads and 12 master’s students — applied for midyear graduation and therefore were eligible to participate in midyear commencement exercises Dec. 13 (about 333 actually “walked” in the ceremony). The previous undergraduate record for December commencement was 459 in 2012.

The students replacing those graduates are noteworthy in their own right, as UW-Green Bay again welcomed a diverse, academically robust student body in fall 2014. More than 12 percent of the University’s registered students come from a minority background, representing a variety of ethnicities as well as more than 20 First Nations tribes and bands. The 2014 freshman class came in well prepared, with 75 percent of new freshmen having completed high school with at least a ‘B’ average. Their average high school GPA was 3.33, and their average ACT composite score was above the national average.

Commencement graduates
New programs: First grads, big steps forward

The year’s commencement ceremonies were noteworthy not only for their size (May’s class, though not a record, was formidable in its own right), but also for their “firsts.”

In May, Matthew Christianson of Green Bay became the first recipient of the new Master of Science degree in Sustainable Management. A collaborative effort of UW Extension and the UW System campuses in Green Bay, Oshkosh, Parkside, Stout and Superior, the online program prepares students to have a strong foundation for affecting change in their current organizations or building new careers that require systems-thinking skills.

Graduate Christian Krah
December’s grad class included Christian Krah (above), who earned the first bachelor’s degree to be awarded through UW-Green Bay’s new Health Information Management and Technology program. The program responds to the growing demand for professionals to be able to use new technology and data management tools to improve health care delivery. It launched in fall 2012 in conjunction with partner campuses UW-Parkside, UW-La Crosse and UW-Stevens Point.

The new and collaborative Engineering Technology program took significant steps forward during 2014, with Intro to Engineering Technology being offered for the first time during fall semester. The program allows students to begin their degrees at any one of 13 regional institutions and finish at UW-Green Bay or UW Oshkosh. In May, it received official accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, and faculty members are being hired as curricular work continues. Engineering Technology will be included in the next University catalog, for 2015-16.

Herbert and Crystal Sandmire
Record-tying gift highlights strong year for Advancement

In fall 2014, UW-Green Bay’s longest-running donors enhanced their decades-long legacy of generosity with a $1 million scholarship gift for students who intend to pursue careers in medicine or related fields. Dr. Herbert and Crystal Sandmire’s gift tied a record for the University’s largest-ever single scholarship donation, a 2008 gift from the family of the late Capt. Craig A. Mueller.

Established in 1987, the Herbert F. and Crystal J. Sandmire Scholarship is awarded to continuing UW-Green Bay students who plan to enter the medical field. The pair’s latest gift will provide perhaps dozens of additional scholarships annually, helping more pre-med and other students prepare to meet a critical regional need. UW-Green Bay records identify the Sandmires as having the longest uninterrupted string of annual giving — 46 years — among the thousands of private individuals who have supported the University and its students throughout the years.

The Sandmire gift was one of many 2014 highlights for University Advancement. A fall reception celebrated the success of an all-out push to increase the number of scholarships available to students at UW-Green Bay. Challenge gifts in the amount of $500,000 by the L.G. Wood Foundation, $250,000 by the Green Bay Packers Foundation and a seven-figure donation by an anonymous donor prompted cumulative matching donations by dozens of University alumni and community supporters. The reception celebrated that generosity by bringing together some of those donors and the scholarship recipients.

NAS research-400
Big year for research — especially in NAS

Groundbreaking research made an impact in 2014, with numerous notable studies — many in the Natural and Applied Sciences arena — capturing attention on campus and in the community. UW-Green Bay faculty members were the recipients of a pair of quarter million-dollar grants to support further cleanup of the bay of Green Bay and habitat work benefiting both nature and sportsmen. Prof. Michael Zorn’s two-year, $222,000 grant from the Wisconsin Sea Grant program will fund a project to monitor runoff and algae blooms.

Also announced in 2014, a $225,000 federal grant to UW-Green Bay and Ducks Unlimited will fund a project to reintroduce large-scale stands of wild rice, hardstem bulrush and wild celery to attract ducks and other species. Profs. Mathew Dornbush, Bob Howe and Amy Wolf, along with adjunct faculty member and UW-Extension environmental studies specialist Patrick Robinson, are the primary researchers, with assistance from students Brianna Kupsky and Tom Prestby of the Environmental Science and Policy graduate program. The grant was featured in a November news story on Wisconsin Public Radio.

NAS research
Also notable in 2014, UW-Green Bay senior Robyn Nielsen earned a $50,000 research fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency, and Assistant Prof. Patrick Forsythe earned a $235,000 grant to contribute to a larger fisheries study with other Great Lakes researchers.

Kindergarten, kitchens cement community connections

UW-Green Bay enhanced its already-robust community ties in 2014, bringing even more campus expertise — and generosity — to the greater Green Bay area. Among the highlights:

Oak Learning Center
— June 2014 saw the conclusion of the successful inaugural year of the Outdoor Adventures for Kids (OAK) Learning Center, a unique nature-based 4-year-old kindergarten program housed at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. A partnership of the city of Green Bay, Green Bay School District and UW-Green Bay, the innovative program has students spending close to three-quarters of their time learning outside. UW-Green Bay faculty members Scott Ashmann and Jennifer Lanter were heavily involved in planning for the program, which also provides students from Education and other areas with myriad opportunities for hands-on experience in the field. The Green Bay Press-Gazette is among the local media outlets that have featured the 4K program.

Campus Kitchens Project
— UW-Green Bay officially became a Campus Kitchens Project site in 2014. This nationwide organization pairs with schools and universities to recover food that would otherwise go to waste and repurpose it as meals for members of the community who are in need. UW-Green Bay students (advised by Assistant Prof. Sarah Himmelheber) earned $5,000 to start the University’s Campus Kitchen in a highly competitive grant process early in the year, and officially launched in early May. Since then, the group has regularly provided meals at a low-income senior housing complex, NEW Community Shelter and elsewhere. Students say they relish the chance to reduce food waste while feeding a great community need. The Campus Kitchens launch and subsequent services have received considerable attention from local news media.

* * * * *

Here’s to a Tremendous 2014, and to sharing even more great news in the year to come. Happy Holidays and Go Phoenix!