Gibson lays out future vision for UWSP
BY MIKE WARREN
STEVENS POINT – People, place, purpose. UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Thomas Gibson identified these as the three essential elements that comprise the heart of the institution, as he welcomed back faculty and staff. Gibson laid out his plans for an engaging school year, during his “State of the University” address Aug. 30 at Michelsen Hall inside the Noel Fine Arts Center on the Stevens Point campus.
“We are obsessively committed to insuring that we create an environment where each and all are welcome, feel a sense of belonging and the ability to achieve personal and professional success,” Gibson said, in the opening moments of his prepared remarks. “We are committed to the long-term well-being of the communities in which we live, work and learn. The state of our university is strong,” Gibson continued. “We have much to be proud of and so much more on the horizon.”
As he continued, Gibson said the college’s growth initiatives will allow the university to introduce new non-credit graduate and certificate programs for working adults who wish to enhance their marketability or those seeking new career opportunities. He also said the school this summer debuted new ways to reach out to perspective students.
UWSP is now in year two of implementing its strategic plan, “Purpose Made Possible.”
“This plan sets a clear direction for our university, while remaining true to our mission and vision for the institution,” said Gibson.
He added theme one of that plan is to align the school’s financial model with its institutional vision. Gibson reported good progress with efforts to stabilize spending levels in accordance with available resources and with achieving a balanced operating budget.
“It is through university-wide efforts that we have achieved a composite financial index score of 5.1. This score reflects institutional financial health,” Gibson noted. “We continue to maintain institutional reserves to guard against unknown challenges, as well as take advantage of strategic opportunities. If our recruitment and retention projections hold, the tuition revenues for the main campus are projected to cover associated expenses. I want to assure you there are no plans for university-wide furloughs or layoffs at UWSP.”
Gibson also noted the ongoing demolition of Albertson Hall, which began in earnest over the summer. He said that work will be done this fall, and construction of the new facility will begin shortly thereafter.
“I know that you share my excitement as we witness the culmination of many years of planning and preparation to construct a state-of-the-art library, student services and student success eco-system,” Gibson said.
In other campus master planning news, Gibson reported the health-and-wellness construction project was enumerated by the state legislature this summer, nearly a decade after the passing of a student referendum.
“This $32.9 million dollar project will add 55,000 square feet to the Marshfield Clinic Champions Hall,” said Gibson.
The project will include fitness and recreation spaces, as well as a new home for student health services and counseling centers. Gibson told the audience he anticipates construction starting in the spring of 2024.
Chancellor Gibson said the university’s second theme within the college’s strategic plan focuses on the purpose of the institution.
“Integral to this theme is our ability to expand educational access, build strategic partnerships and grow programs and develop systems to better serve all students,” Gibson said.
In the area of student recruitment, Gibson reported the school has implemented a five-year enrollment plan which utilizes predictive modeling for recruitment and enrollment targets by student segments.
“As the higher-education sector experiences and braces for further enrollment declines, UW-Stevens Point is showing signs of growth,” Gibson said. “I’m delighted to report that we are projecting a ten-percent increase in first-year students on the main campus.”
Gibson said the projections are on top of a 23 percent increase in first-year students between 2020 and 2022. He also said there has been a 12 percent increase in campus visitors within the past year and a 10 percent increase in applications.
Gibson said the numbers are no accident. He said the campus has adopted a growth initiative strategy which is attracting more and more students, and includes academic program development for post-traditional and graduate-level learners.
“The initiative has already proven successful,” Gibson told his audience. “Academic Affairs has gained UW System approval to plan a new Master of Social Work online degree,” he added. “And several other program ideas are at various stages of development, including a Cannabis Science graduate certificate.”
The third theme of the college’s strategic plan focuses on enhancing the student experience.
“According to the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey, UWSP has the highest R-and-D expenditures of any other UW comprehensive institution reporting in fiscal year ’22,” Gibson revealed.
He also highlighted the school’s ongoing athletic success, noting that 510 students participated in sports during the spring semester.
“Their combined team GPA was a 3.16, which exceeds the total university GPA by .08. 322 student-athletes earned a GPA of 3.0 or above and 57 athletes earned a 4.0,” Gibson highlighted. “Additionally, our softball team had the tenth-best GPA in the country, which includes over 425 Division 3 teams. That accomplishment ranks as the No. 1 GPA in the nation among public colleges and universities.”
Gibson also noted the additions of women’s lacrosse and men’s volleyball this fall and men’s soccer next fall.
“How we serve and communicate with our internal and external communities is the focus of theme four,” Gibson continued. “This involves how we collaborate to create initiatives that support community and economic engagement and regional impact. To that end, theme four of our strategic plan creates opportunities to identify and track community engagement activities, share our stories with our external and internal communities and develop initiatives that positively impact the physical and mental well-being of our employees,” Gibson added.
“We are indeed on the right path towards a bright future,” Chancellor Gibson said, in conclusion to his 47-minute presentation, which officially kicked off the 129th academic year on the Stevens Point campus. “We are well-positioned to achieve the goals outlined in our strategic plan and to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of higher education.”