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Courtney Ptacek, a member of Delta Zeta sorority at UW-Whitewater, spreads mulch in a flower bed in downtown Janesville on April 20, 2018, as a part of Make a Difference Day.

UW-W planting roots in Janesville

WHITEWATER

A crowd gathered inside a Kachel Fieldhouse gymnasium Wednesday night in Whitewater to see the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team fall to UW-Oshkosh.

It was the Warhawks’ fourth conference loss, but it was the first of two promotional “City of Janesville” nights. The women’s basketball team will play during the second such event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The UW-W Athletics Department invited “all residents, students, employees, and others from the Janesville area” with discounted $5 tickets.

It is the latest iteration of a concerted effort from the university to lay more roots in the most populous nearby city, which is the largest in Rock, Walworth and Jefferson counties.

About 1,100 undergraduate students—which accounts for about 10 percent of undergrads—are from Janesville, based on fall 2018 enrollment figures for the campus in Whitewater.

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UW-Whitewater’s Andre Brown attempts a layup while defended by UW-Oshkosh’s Connor Duax during the first half of their game in Whitewater on Jan. 16, which was one of two “City of Janesville” nights.

Interim Chancellor Cheryl Green said in a statement UW-W is the region’s and Janesville’s university.

“We are proud to play a role in the educational, economic and cultural growth of the community,” she said.

That effort precedes and extends beyond the recent merger when UW-W absorbed the school formerly known as UW-Rock County last year.

The university has for years partnered with the Janesville School District to give education students opportunities to work in the field.

Fred Trotter, director of the UW-W Office of Field Experiences, said students go into Janesville schools for observation, field study and full-on student teaching. Janesville’s size gives more opportunities than other local school districts, and the programs with Janesville have grown over the years.

The district has “great” staff who are willing to teach and guide UW-W students, Trotter said.

Additionally, the partnership has had its benefit for research. He said one faculty member who works with Marshall Middle School partners with teachers on best practices for reading.

Another program, UW-Whitewater’s Make a Difference Day, expanded a few years ago to include Janesville in its community service projects, said Tyler Henderson, Greek community and service coordinator. Projects vary year to year depending on need but tend to include gardening or landscape work on local schools or trails.

Assistant Director Kim Clarksen said they expanded to Janesville because they pride themselves on being a “regional resource.” Janesville’s size, again, offers more opportunities for student volunteers.

But beyond that, Janesville’s city staff had a vision that was “right in line” with what the service group wanted to accomplish, Clarksen said. It wasn’t just about using students to get stuff done, it was about “building a bridge” between the communities.

“The instant shared vision was really critical and has really led to maintaining that long term,” she said.

The university also has an internship program set up that sends some to the Rock County Courthouse.

Looking forward, UW-W could end up putting classrooms in a Blackhawk Community Credit Union development in downtown Janesville.

Credit union President/CEO Sherri Stumpf said in an email they were “pleased” at this prospect. She said it would further encourage their employees to continue their education.

But there are no specifics on the project, Stumpf said, because UW-W’s interim chancellor is still looking to hire a director of strategic engagement, the person who would oversee the project.

UW-W spokesman Jeff Angileri said in an email the university expects to interview finalists for the position in February.

“I believe that both UW-Whitewater and Janesville are infused with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Green said. “From business, to science, to the arts, we approach projects and look to solve problems in innovative ways.

“Our communities share common values.”

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Bailey Meyer pushes a wheelbarrow as he leads a group of UW-Whitewater students down Main Street in Janesville while participating in Make a Difference Day on April 20, 2018, in Janesville.

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