We are coming to the end of our first academic year together. And what a year it has been. My hope is that we do not define this year by what has happened since March when we departed the campuses to learn in new and different ways.
I say this not to minimize all that our community has gone through since the extended Spring Break was announced. Our faculty and instructional staff accomplished the Herculean task of transforming their classroom experiences to an alternative form of delivery in a very short timeframe, and since then have worked tirelessly to support our students and each other. Our students are about to finish the semester, albeit with some challenges and I hope, many successes. The resiliency that our students showed in this time will serve them well as they continue at UW-Whitewater and beyond.
We face challenges with our budget, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added significantly to those financial concerns. We’ve taken measures to try to offset the budget concerns including furloughs. I am proud of how we have responded to these issues and came together to problem solve. We are, indeed, better together. It hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve continued to practice the tenets of courageous conversations – we spoke our truths, experienced the discomfort, accepted the expected non-closures, and through it all, we stayed engaged. These challenges are not over, and more cost-cutting measures will likely be necessary. We will face whatever comes our way, and we will face those challenges together.
Through this year we have tried to be responsive, engaging, and transparent with our communications through the Chancellor Chats, town hall meetings, panel presentations, Facebook Live and Webex Events. When we knew something, we wanted you to know as well. Your questions, feedback and suggestions enabled us to discern and make better consultative decisions.
At 1 p.m. Saturday we will celebrate our graduates in a virtual celebration and you can participate by watching by going to the homepage at uww.edu or by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/529869327694731/. If you are unable to join us at 1 p.m. Saturday, you can watch whenever suits your schedule.
We are not calling this event commencement because we hope to hold an in-person ceremony for our Spring 2020 graduates as soon as it is safe to do so. Until then, we will honor those students with a wonderful celebration. In addition, Warhawks Rising, an opportunity to honor our graduates, brought nearly 700 responses. When these photos are posted on our Facebook page on Saturday, I hope you’ll take the time to review all that our graduates have accomplished. They are proud to be Warhawks, and they represent a bright future ahead for us all. They are the keepers of the UW-Whitewater legacy.
For our returning students, faculty and staff, it is my hope that we will gather again at our campuses in Whitewater and Rock County in the fall as we enter our modified normal state. I am optimistic about our ability to do that in a safe way, as we adhere to federal, state and local public health requirements. I will be communicating regularly over the summer regarding those plans and other important issues that we face as a community.
I wish you much happiness and good health. I look forward to seeing you soon, and thank you for your commitment and contributions to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Dwight C. Watson