Four Campuses Prepare To Transform an Educational Ecosystem
Ecologists know well that making a small change within an ecosystem has a rippling effect. Undoing what has always been done or making adjustments to what’s inside the ecosystem puts it in disarray… an unsettling situation for a world that demands order.
It’s not a stretch then, to think about the UW System’s proposed restructuring effort to join together the UW two-year and four-year campuses as a change to the educational ecosystem in Wisconsin, overall and Northeast Wisconsin specifically.
Beginning July 1 and contingent upon Higher Learning Commission approval, UW-Green Bay, UW-Marinette, UW-Manitowoc and UW-Sheboygan will come together as one university with one mission. The new UW-Green Bay will be a four-campus coastal university with an expansive 16-county footprint.
“Ecosystems can endure a lot more change and disruption than we give them credit for and they are incredibly adaptive,” says UW-Green Bay Chancellor and ecologist-by-training Gary L. Miller. “I think about this reorganization in the same way. It will be challenging and complex. There are a lot of moving parts. We will likely make some mistakes along the way. But it is certainly not impossible to transform and create something even better.”
According to Miller and the reorganization team, the footprint of the proposed UW-Green Bay includes nearly half of the Wisconsin coastline on the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem and some of the most pristine and desirable natural areas and tourist spots in the country.
The regional ecosystem also includes a large and growing manufacturing sector, a significant health care sector and a rich tapestry of business and nonprofit enterprises. All four campuses support vibrant art and music programs and serve as a hub of community activity.
Manitowoc resident and UW-Green Bay Executive Director of Continuing Education and Community Engagement, Joy Ruzek, said she has heard very positive comments throughout the community about the restructuring.
“Individuals and organizations feel they can capitalize on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay brand in an effort to attract and retain homegrown and outside talent,” she said. “By aligning our mission with local economies, we can develop and expand popular programs that engage students and professionals in creating significant, positive economic impact.”
“This is an ecosystem like no other in Wisconsin,” Miller shares. “We know we need to continue to identify and reduce barriers to transferring credits, making it seamless for two-year college students to continue on to a four-year degree. We also need to create a unified university where all students can explore all programs, associate through graduate degrees, regardless of where they enter the ecosystem.”
Marinette resident and UW-Marinette Campus Administrator Cindy Bailey, agrees. “The need to be there for the students and community, the desire to fulfill the wants and needs of the region and the opportunity to deliver a new way to look at higher education in our region is exciting,” she says. “I only see this as a benefit to our region and the citizens within our community.”
Miller acknowledges that the new ecosystem will take time and an extraordinary amount of creativity and teamwork to materialize. Currently, dozens of individuals from all four campuses are working toward a smooth transition and have been meeting regularly with local business and community leaders, County Boards and educators seeking ideas and input.
But the work is far from over.
“Beginning in the fall, we will undertake a region-wide assessment of higher education needs, economic drivers and partnership opportunities on the way to the development of a strategic framework for the new UW-Green Bay,” Miller says. “In the end, we will develop a new educational ecosystem for Northeast Wisconsin, one that’s tied to both the success of more students and the economic development and quality of life initiatives our region needs. This is a tremendous opportunity.”
Together, Everyone, Achieves, More
Left to Right: UW-Manitowoc’s Blue Devil, UW-Green Bay’s Phoenix, UW-Sheboygan’s Wombat and UW-Marinette’s Buccaneer demonstrate that we are all in this together. Should the proposed restructuring be approved by the Higher Learning Commission, each of the institutions in this new 16-county, four-college coastal community have agreed to work (and play) together to transform the higher education landscape into one that is richer, more robust and more vibrant. While the college campuses’ names would change, pending approval, each of the institutions would retain their individual athletic mascots.
Northeast Wisconsin’s New Ecosystem
- 16 counties: Brown, Calumet, Door, Florence, Forest, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Shawano, Sheboygan, Vilas
- 419 miles of shoreline access (50% of Wisconsin’s total shoreline)
- 215,000 manufacturing jobs
- 900,000 residents
- 22,000+ small, medium and large businesses