Imagine western Wisconsin without our University of Wisconsin campuses.
Imagine the loss to our economy. Imagine the loss to our quality of life. Imagine the loss of employment. And imagine what our future would hold for our workforce. Every year, UW campuses award more than 36,000 degrees. Those degrees represent a wealth of talent. And talent — specifically, the recruitment of talent — is one of the biggest challenges that employers in our region face as we look for the next generation of company and community leaders.
That’s why UW’s All in Wisconsin initiative is so important.
It reminds us of the Wisconsin Idea — the century-old concept that UW research and resources should help solve the problems and improve the quality of life in our state from border to border.
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During a recent visit to western Wisconsin, UW Board of Regents Drew Petersen told our editorial board: “I think we need to do a far better job at showcasing how impactful all of our campuses are, region by region, in the state.” That’s an important message at a time when higher education often struggles for support – financial and otherwise. “We have tremendous stories to tell … we just need to go out there and make our case,” Petersen said.
Indeed, while graduation rates and placement rates and other campus statistics are impressive, the best stories are shared by graduates whose lives have been improved for a lifetime because of their UW education. During his visit to La Crosse, Petersen said: “UW-La Crosse is a great illustration of that — high enrollment, high graduation rates, unbelievable career placement in both business and civic engagement. We all need to be in the sales business, and that’s exactly the kind of story we want to highlight.”
You can make the same case at UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire and other campuses in the UW System. In every community, there are strong examples of campus-community partnership that extends educational opportunities to K-12 students and enriches the region we call home. UW System President Ray Cross says campuses have developed crucial partnerships that help nurture and retain talent.
“What I’m hearing from businesses is they’re just screaming for talent — more IT people, more nurses, more engineers,” Cross said. “Here, there’s almost a seamless transition for these high school students into a career path requiring higher education. How do we advance that elsewhere as well?” Petersen emphasized the increased need to expose high school students to what’s available on UW campuses. He also said increasing funding for facilities, programs and retaining quality professors “will pay dividends not just for our campuses, but for the employers who get a workforce pipeline from our campuses, and for the regions that build economic development around our campuses.” “We compete with corrections, with Medicare, with transportation,” he said. “In my mind, higher education is the best investment that our taxpayers and legislators can make.”