The UW-Oshkosh College of Business is the only accredited business school in Northeast Wisconsin; we have about 600 students in our MBA and 1,800 students in our undergraduate business program. In an area of 1.2 million people (such as New North), you’re not going to find just one accredited business program – you’ll probably find two or three. You could take all the four-year schools in Northeast Wisconsin that offer business and we are probably about as big as they are, collectively. We deliver our graduate courses in Oshkosh, Green Bay, Stevens Point – and in your living room with online courses.
We’re one of the few schools in the country that require our undergraduates to have 100 hours of work experience to graduate. There are not many schools that do that. Because our alumni are in leadership roles in virtually every corporation of any size in Northeast Wisconsin, we have no problem finding places for our students to have internships. Employers tell us that our graduates are ready to provide value right away. We’ve had students tell us they got an internship for the summer, the company thought it would take three months to do a project and they did it in two weeks because they know how to use the technology.
We’re also starting a new major next fall around digital technology in business. It’s bringing together graphics, management information system folks and computer science to help build websites and the information you want to deliver. It’s got legs, it’s going to be successful.
We have the first Family Business Forum in the state designed to help and support family businesses. If you talk to any of the 39 members, they’ll tell you what a great resource it is for them. I grew up in a family business; it was retail furniture and floor covering. (I can still install floor covering by the way, I know how to do that. When I was growing up, our dinner table conversation was often about the business. I joke that when I was 16 I knew a lot more about inventory turns and account receivables than I did girls, and once you’re buying on that curve you can never catch up!)
Only 10 percent of family businesses make it to the third generation (as they say, “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations”). Family businesses are the bedrock of our economy. Publicly-owned organizations are concerned about the next quarter, and family businesses are too – the next quarter century. They’re the core of our business in our communities, and we want them to survive and thrive.
Wisconsin is the second largest state in numbers of insurance companies. There’s concern in the insurance companies about being able to attract and retain quality people. So we just launched a minor in insurance, and UWO recently started the Wisconsin Financial Services Institute, which provides non-credit education for people who want to take the certified financial planning exam.
When I was dean of the College of Business, I would spend every day in the summer meeting with CEOs in Northeast Wisconsin, asking what they needed in graduates, and we built our curriculum to match that. Chancellor (Richard) Wells has been absolutely consistent in his values and his belief in collaboration and engagement.
I’ve been involved in a number of regional business activities, including the Council for Innovation, which launched AeroInnovate last year. We have a number of aviation companies and our vision is to make aviation innovation a New North cluster.
I’m interested in opportunities for new ventures. In a down economy, it’s a good time to look for new business opportunities. Big companies will start pulling out of markets because they’re not profitable enough for them; the small business overhead would be much lower, they will be able to deliver at a competitive price.