Look before you merge
Published: Sunday, March 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 00:03
The Waukesha Community came together on Jan. 31 at WCTC and on Feb. 6 at UW-Waukesha to discuss higher education in Waukesha County. The overall goal, brought forth by State Rep. Paul Farrow and Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, was to help students obtain post-secondary education and fill the needs of local employers.
On Jan. 31, before the first listening session began, Chancellor Ray Cross held an open discussion at UW-W. Cross addressed concerns about a possible merger between UW-W and WCTC, he said, “Efforts to convert this into a community college are misguided. Even if this institution was forced into a merger, it’s important that we still be recognized as a University of Wisconsin,” he added, “We are UW and we are going to protect that integrity.”
Cross mentioned the importance of transferability and increasing collaborations between institutions. He also said that it would be difficult to save money if there was a merger because technical schools require more funding. However, he said that it’s important for everyone involved to collaborate and listen.
Later that evening, the powers that be in Waukesha County came together for the first meeting. Both listening sessions were meant to center around three main questions. The first being, how can higher education impact economic development in Waukesha County? Second, what are the barriers to students in Waukesha County that are preventing them from reaching their career goals? Last of all, what roles should UW-W and WCTC play in providing the educational needs for the student s in Waukesha County? The discussions were led by Farrow, Vrakas, Barbara Prindiville, Ph.D., President of WCTC, Harry Muir, Ph.D., Campus Executive Officer and Dean of UW-Waukesha, Doug Hastad, Ph.D., President of Carroll University and Suzanne Kelley, President of the Waukesha County Business Alliance.
Most of the Jan. 31 session centered around the championing of schools, but beneath the surface were underlying concerns about money and a possible merger. A UW-Waukesha SGA senator, Andrew Stiles, asked Paul Farrow what his definition of a merger was, but he did not have a clear response. Instead, he challenged the room to ask themselves why the two schools should remain separate. He also focused on wanting to give students affordable pathways in education where credits could transfer between schools.
Many speakers talked about how their experience at WCTC affected them. It was made clear that while WCTC prepares students for immediate job placement, UW-W focuses on academia and sending students further in education. Another major topic of discussion was how UW-W and WCTC can make further efforts to reach out to small businesses. One speaker said that as a business owner, he wanted well-qualified students who show up on time everyday, are drug free and can think creatively.
During the second session, on Feb. 6 at UW-W, Vrakas opened with, “We want to find a more seamless working relationship between UW-Waukesha and WCTC.” Then Farrow added, “The most important thing is accessibility for students, flexibility for business, and accountability for the tax payers.”
Muir commented on reprioritizing UW-Waukesha’s purpose, “We need to look at the purpose of why we are here. Our mission is to prepare students and we are doing that.”
UW-Waukesha’s SGA President Kenneth Stuettgen spoke against a possible merger, “I believe that a merger will not be a good thing, it would delude the UW name.” Another to voice their opinion was Craig Hurst, music professor at UW-W. He said, “We need to look at our roles at the two campuses, we need to create an education that creates problem solvers.”
Moreover, while it remains unclear as to whether or not a merger will take place, one thing is certain; there is a strong focus on improving higher education in Waukesha County and preparing students for future careers.