Chancellor Gow shares how this 110-year old university is thriving with a special something it does ‘better than anyone’
“Legend” and “superhero” are just a couple words UW-La Crosse students use to describe their professors.
UW-La Crosse’s Provost Betsy Morgan read glowing quotes from UWL student nominations for this year’s Eagle Teaching Excellence Award during the Chancellor’s All-University Address Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Chancellor Joe Gow’s remarks centered on how UWL can continue to grow, building programs and initiatives that support its strategic plan, even at a time when other UW System schools have had to make cuts.
“Last year the number of campus visits included over 19,000 people,” said Gow. “This is a hot school. People want to check us out and come here, and it is not that way everywhere else. We are fortunate to be in favorable position.”
This year’s incoming class is the largest and most diverse in UWL’s 110-year history with an unofficial count of 2,190 incoming students this fall, including about 250 multicultural students. UWL continues to have an exceptionally strong retention rate of 86 percent. The campus is beginning new initiatives [see the list Gow mentioned below] and welcoming new people to help support core pillars of its strategic plan such as increasing community engagement and achieving excellence through equity and diversity.
Gow answered his own question at the conclusion of his address. The overall success of the university is largely because of the dedication faculty and staff show to students. “That personalized approach — I think we do that better than anyone,” he said.
He referred to a note one student gave to Becky Yoshizumi, this year’s University Staff Excellence Award winner, “Thank you so much for listening and never giving up on me.”
The teaching excellence award nominations for this year’s six winners — from an original 800 student nominations — speak to the quality connections students make with faculty. [Read some of the quotes below.]
Provost Morgan at one point passed the microphone to one of this year’s winners, Nathan Warnberg, assistant professor of Mathematics & Statistics, who chanted the words he uses to pump up students at the start of every Calculus II course, “Calculus, Calculus — 2,” while holding up two fingers and wearing a wide smile.
“It’s a little thing but it can sometimes make a big difference in my mood for the day … ,” wrote the student nominator. “Professor Warnberg deserves this award because he makes a hard class a little easier, makes his students laugh and engage in the class every day, teaches us about math but also life and, like I said in the beginning, he’s a legend.”
Welcome, new hires, including several new administrators
- Lisa Klein, community relations coordinator
- Karl Kunkel, dean of the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CASSH)
- Carmen Wilson, associate to the chancellor for Advancement
- Dina Zavala, assistant vice chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion
Faculty and staff award winners
- Eagle Teaching Excellence Award: Nilakshi Borah, Finance; Mary Hamman, Economics; Tom Jesse, English Education; Terry Smith, Communication Studies; Meredith Thomsen, Biology; Nathan Warnberg, Mathematics & Statistics.
- Academic Staff Excellence Award: Louise Janke
- Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award: Taviare Hawkins
- P.B. Poorman Award: Deb Hoskins
- University Staff Excellence Award: Becky Yoshizumi
Program and university awards
- UWL’s Physician Assistant Studies program was recognized in 2019 as the No. 15 PA program in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report.
- UWL’s Therapeutic Recreation Program received the American Therapeutic Recreation Association Excellence in Education award.
- UWL earned the No. 46 spot on “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance” Magazine’s list of 100 best values in public colleges for in-state students.
Building projects update
- Gow said Phase II of the Prairie Springs Science Center — a project that would replace UWL’s deteriorating 1960s area science facility and help UWL produce more graduates in high-need STEM programs — would get done. It will be among the top priorities for capital construction projects in the UW System for the next biennium.
- Wittich Hall renovations continue, transforming UWL’s second oldest building into a new home for UWL’s College of Business Administration while preserving the historic character of the facility. “Bringing together 1916 and 2020 is very exciting,” said Gow. Construction will likely finish in the spring or early summer of 2020.
- Work on a new fieldhouse that will include space for athletics and recreation, as well as some academics is set to begin in the fall of 2020.
- UWL will pilot a new first-year seminar course this year with 24 instructors. The new course will use seven online modules to develop skills necessary for success in college. More than 100 instructors will become certified to teach it this year.
- UWL will have a new Joint Committee on Free Speech Promotion that will be charged with developing campus programming for Free Speech Week.
- Navigate Student Success system, a new technology retention tool that helps instructors communicate with students, particularly those who are struggling, will be piloted this fall with a group of faculty and advisors. The program will launch with faculty and instructors in Spring 2020 and the hope is to roll the entire program out to students in the summer of 2020.
- At the start of fall semester, UWL will be providing all employees with an online interactive course, “Diversity: Inclusion in the Modern Workplace.” This course imparts valuable knowledge and skills that will help employees excel in their work and maintain an inclusive campus environment. The course has been reviewed by UWL’s Joint Multicultural Affairs Committee, which represents all four campus governance groups and members of the leadership team.
- UWL hired Community Engagement Coordinator Lisa Klein. Her position was created as part of the university’s “Sustaining Excellence” strategic plan as a way to help the campus strengthen relationships in the community.
- UWL’s Share the La Crosse Experience Scholarship campaign, originally set to raise $15 million, has reached a total of $17.6 million. The campaign is set to close later this year. $1.2 million in scholarships will be awarded to new and returning students this year.
Excerpts from Eagle Teaching Excellence award quotes from student nominators
Meredith Thomsen, Biology
“She does not only have an outstanding level of knowledge on the environment but can communicate her understanding in an efficient and attention-keeping way… Dr. Thomsen has been an inspiration and role model to me. I cannot thank her enough.”
Terry Smith, Communication Studies
“Coming into college I thought CST would be my least favorite class, but because of how fun, understanding, and educational Terry’s class has been, I have to say it is one of my favorites. Terry also is open to helping me, and anyone, with questions related to anything on campus we need help with.”
Mary Hamman, Economics
“Professor Hamman is the unequivocal superhero of the university. Despite her many involvements, she prioritizes the current and continuing success of her students and advisees. In class, she is approachable, helpful, and resourceful; she keeps frequent and clear communications with her class. Her courses are regimented, use time meaningfully, and carry high expectations – thereby cultivating one of the best learning environments I have been a part of. “
Tom Jesse, English Education
“The content in his courses is not easy, but his students want to do well and work hard because of how much respect they have for him. He works tirelessly to aid in his students’ abilities to achieve their goals and reflect on themselves. He makes a difference in every single one of his students’ lives and is more than deserving of this, and any other teaching award.”
Nilakshi Borah, Finance
“I would consider myself lucky to have a professor with either Dr. Borah’s enthusiasm or organization, not to mention both! By bringing in real–world examples and taking the time to break down complex topics into small digestible pieces, Dr. Borah sets all of her students up for success, and does it all with a contagious smile on her face! Seeing a mother and woman of color succeed in the financial field inspires me each time I attend her class. I never thought I would see the day when I was excited to learn financial management, but with Dr. Borah’s help that day has come! ”
Nathan Warnberg, Mathematics & Statistics
“Professor Warnberg is, at his core, a legend. I have him for MTH 208 (Calculus II) Although it is easily the hardest class I’ve ever taken, I never feel stupid in that class and that is exactly because of Professor Warnberg. If that’s not what a teacher should do, then what is?”