By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Since 1964 UW-Marshfield/Wood County (UW-M/WC) has provided an affordable and high level of education for students in the central Wisconsin area and beyond. This year the University is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Celebrating the past
Dean Patricia Stuhr, who is in her fourth year as campus CEO, is a former student at UW-M/WC and a Marshfield native. She has returned to Marshfield after 24 years at Ohio State University, where she served as a Professor and Chair of the Department of Art Education.
Stuhr said that in 1964 the decision of where to build the University came down to Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids. Marshfield was ultimately chosen because local leaders promised to construct and help fund a new building whereas Wisconsin Rapids planned to remodel an existing structure.
Stuhr said that the founding principle of UW-M/WC and other two-year schools around the state was to provide high level education in convenient locations for all students.
“It was part of the Wisconsin idea, of having education very close at hand for all Wisconsin citizens and to provide a wonderful, University of Wisconsin-quality education,” Stuhr said.
To commemorate its legacy of providing high quality education, UW-M/WC has turned its 50th year celebration into a year-long series of events.
UW-M/WC has put on a lecture series, “Relive the ‘60s,” that focuses on the decade in which the University was founded. Topics have included bands from the ‘60s, the women’s movement and feminism, and technology from that decade. The lectures will continue throughout the school year.
In March the University will host “An Evening of Remembering and Reconnecting” where former students and faculty, including former deans, will gather and give presentations about the past and future of the school.
“It should be a wonderful, wonderful evening of a lot of memories and a lot of reconnecting, and we’ll have some music from around the ‘60s era,” Stuhr said.
Also in March, UW-M/WC will host the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra as part of the 50th anniversary celebration.
On Jan. 16 and 17 the University will put on the Men’s Basketball Classic Tournament, featuring former players for the school’s basketball team. Photographs and trophies from the team’s past will be on display.
Stuhr said that the University Foundation, an organization that raises funds for UW-M/WC, will host its biggest fundraiser, “Food for Thought,” in April. That event will also be ‘60s-themed. The fundraiser brings in local chefs who volunteer to provide food as guests socialize and participate in raffles and silent auctions. A Beatles tribute group will provide music at the event.
The current state of affairs
Celebrating the past is a way to remember all of the accomplishments and progress UW-M/WC has made, but it also puts a focus on the current state of the school.
UW-M/WC built student housing near campus this past August. There was student housing available prior the new construction, but the University did not recommended using it as it was outdated.
Stuhr said the new housing will be a nice option for students that commute from a few hours away, especially in the winter months when roads become dangerous.
Stuhr said that prior to the new housing being built, “I had a number of sleepless nights wondering, ‘Are those students going to make it home?’” She added, “I think this is a much better situation for the students than having to be on the road.”
The new housing also accommodates students from Mid-State Technical College, nursing students, and residents training to be doctors.
“Anyone who’s a student at all can stay there,” Stuhr said.
Nursing, Stuhr said, is UW-M/WC‘s biggest program. Students in the nursing program can attend school for two years locally and then finish their degree via classes offered at St. Joseph’s Hospital and also the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“At least 200 of the nurses employed at St. Joseph’s Hospital are graduates that have come through here,” Stuhr said. “Students that are starting the nursing track here can transfer into the Eau Claire nursing program, and then they actually have some classrooms at the (St. Joseph’s) Hospital. So between here and the hospital, they can finish off their four-year degree.”
Stuhr said business, sociology, health sciences, and education are other popular fields at the University.
An eye toward the future
Managing a tight budget while still maintaining and growing the resources of the school are challenges that will carry into the future. Much of the funding for UW-M/WC comes from the city or the county, which presents different difficulties than a state-funded school encounters.
“The challenges are that of course the city and the county own the buildings, and the city and the county’s budgets are fairly small,” Stuhr said. She later added, “It’s not like receiving funding from the state to keep up your buildings.”
Another recent development at the University—and one that will offer expanded opportunities to students—is the implementation of a four-year degree program. Students now have the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree (BAAS) without leaving Marshfield.
UW-M/WC made an agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where after students earn a two-year associate’s degree, they can earn an additional 30 credits from UW-Stevens Point and 30 more from UW-M/WC.
The extra 60 credits constitute four semesters of coursework, and students who complete them earn a four-year BAAS degree. Stevens Point professors can travel to Marshfield to teach, and online courses are also available. The completion degree has been primarily tailored to students in the Community Health and Wellness field of study.
Stuhr said the completion degree is a particularly attractive option for students that have families, careers, or both in the Marshfield community, where uprooting to travel to a four-year university would represent hardship in terms of job loss or relocating a family.
Stuhr said that in the near future UW-M/WC will also extend the opportunity to earn a four-year degree to graduates of Mid-State Technical College. She added that while offering a four-year degree will present expanded opportunities for students, she does not anticipate a change to the core focus of the University.
“I still see our campus primarily as a two-year campus that gives primarily associate’s degrees, but the continuing (BAAS) degree is certainly going to be a godsend for those people who are really place-bound and can’t go someplace else, and they need to finish that degree in order to get a promotion,” Stuhr said.
A last word from the dean
Stuhr said that being from Marshfield, having attended UW-M/WC, and being able to relate to her students makes her job especially enjoyable.
“I like being able to work with students that came from backgrounds similar to mine and where I know I’m making a difference,” Stuhr said. “I really enjoy the faculty here. They’re wonderful people, highly educated, and extremely dedicated to their subjects. So it’s really fun to work with them.”