Over the past several days, three finalists to be the next UW-Whitewater chancellor made their pitches to local campus audiences.
The three candidates remaining are interim UW-W Chancellor Cheryl Green; Dwight Watson, the provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Southwest Minnesota State University; and Philip Way, the provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.
A fourth finalist, Guiyou Huang, withdrew his name from consideration last week. The UW System did not offer a reason as to why he dropped out.
The remaining finalists are in contention to replace Beverly Kopper, who resigned in December just months after UW System President Ray Cross banned her husband, Alan “Pete” Hill, from campus for repeated instances of sexual harassment.
Cross and the Board of Regents indicated Kopper should resign, according to system documents. An investigative report said her husband’s actions existed in a “blind spot” for her, but investigators found no direct evidence she knew about those actions.
Cross and the special regents committee will interview the three remaining finalists Friday, May 17.
These summaries mostly concern introductions the finalists gave during forums at the UW-Whitewater at Rock County campus in Janesville, so some but not all comments had a Rock County focus.
Green said she first came to UW-W to do a job. She was called and felt a sense of duty.
But after meeting faculty, staff and students, she said she grew fond of the campus and the people she met, and she learned more about the university’s achievements.
The campuses in Whitewater and Janesville became places Green said she could see herself serving as administrator.
Having been employed in higher education for more than 30 years, Green said she is best prepared to continue leading the university. About four years ago, she participated in a presidents’ training conference for community colleges.
Whether it was as main author or as a contributor, Green said she has raised more than $6 million in grants across her career.
Green added that some of the main issues American universities face today involve enrollment, the rising cost of tuition, campus safety, the mental health of students, budgets and student financial aid.
As chancellor, Green said she would like to see the two campuses have a “synergistic relationship” that allows for a “seamless transition” between them.
She also said she would like to increase international and adult student populations at the schools as well as “revitalize” the pre-engineering program.
Before he was a school teacher, Watson said he was a precocious young reader in South Carolina who wanted to go to college.
But his family had no money, so he went to a two-year university near his home and discovered it was a “lovely fit.”
Watson said that school, the University of South Carolina-Sumter, paid a lot of attention to him as a first-generation student. He also found the school to be affordable, as he was working at a grocery store making about $3.50 an hour. Finally, it was accessible—something he said helped him recognize his true potential.
Watson said he hoped his story resonated with the Rock County campus crowd because he also sees that campus as a place that is accessible, affordable and attentive.
The educators in Watson’s life put him first as a learner, and he said he wants to give back and do the same.
Three areas of importance he emphasized were academic excellence, student success and engaged community partnerships.
To achieve student success, Watson said the schools must eliminate barriers and do whatever is needed for students. He added that community partnerships are intentional, reciprocal and sustainable.
Because he has held positions in Minnesota, at UW-Eau Claire and in Iowa, one questioner asked Watson if he might be viewing UW-Whitewater as a stepping stone.
Watson, 57, answered by saying he was looking for stability, and being a chancellor at UW-W would be his “zenith of positional attainment.”
When reviewing materials about UW-W, Way said one could cross out those initials and replace them with SRU, those of his current school, because the two have so many similarities.
He pointed to the same ACT scores for prospective students and the same second-year student retention rate.
Way said he is eager to be in a place where the focus is on helping students rise up economically and socially through education.
UW-W is a “jewel of a university” because of its high-impact practices in service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad and internships, he said.
As is the case at other universities, Way said the success rate for Pell Grant students at UW-W is not at the same level as other students. Addressing this would be a “priority,” he said.
Way said he’s an “ideas guy,” and he likes being innovative.
He said he also would like to make sure there is a symbiotic relationship between the Rock County campus and the surrounding community, particularly in terms of K-12 education, economic development, culture and service learning.
When asked what he considered the function of the Rock County campus, Way said everything was on the table whether that means certificates, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and possibly even some master’s degrees in such emerging fields as healthcare.