University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt recalls many valuable lessons learned during his early work life as a chemistry professor.
One of the most important is that very few things create the opportunities and expertise that come from conducting research.
“I know from my days in chemistry that the learning and the opportunities were best when I worked directly with students on research,” Leavitt says. “The talent that develops is highly sought after.”
He’s applying that lesson on a much grander scale with a new strategic plan announced for UW-Oshkosh that places an emphasis on defining the campus as a research-enhanced comprehensive institution within the next five years. Not only will it create better students with a broader understanding of their field, it will also attract top talent, develop additional expertise and create new opportunities for innovation and investment for the broader New North region economy.
That new strategic plan is welcome news to regional economic developers, who have often pointed to how research at the Madison and Milwaukee campuses has helped drive industry innovation and attract badly needed venture capital for startups to those regions.
“This is really good news for the New North region, as university research has the propensity to improve or generate new products, processes, patents,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North Inc. “That output provides for a pipeline of new business opportunities for resident business and industry as well as for brand new tech-centric start up opportunities. It is also an essential ingredient for ongoing innovation that leads to economic opportunities in the region.”
The new vision outlined by Leavitt is hardly new territory for the university, which already attracts up to $14 million a year in external grants and contracts for research conducted by its faculty. This latest strategic plan seeks to build and broaden the scope of that work.
Not only can it mean more dollars flowing into the university — certainly important given current state budget realities — but it will help to both attract and retain young talent in the region, which in turn provides more expertise for the businesses and communities in the region, Leavitt says.
“This will raise that student profile, which brings teaching and expertise that will be available to help solve problems throughout the region,” Leavitt says.
Leavitt emphasized the university is still committed to educating the regional workforce, but seeks to do so by expanding opportunities by creating a research emphasis throughout the university, from arts and accounting to the hard sciences of chemistry or biology.
The university has completed the planning process for the new strategic vision, which involved administrators, faculty and volunteers from the region, and is now taking steps to begin implementing the plan. The five-year roadmap calls for the transformation of the university to be complete by 2021, the year UW-Oshkosh will celebrate its sesquicentennial.