Kirthi Premadasa is not a typical teacher and proved it through an award acceptance speech in which he said, “I always wanted to be Robin Hood. Now I have become the Robin Hood of pedagogy.”
The setting was the 2013 Alliant Energy Foundation Award Ceremony hosted by UW System Oct. 25, 2013, in Madison. Among the awards presented were Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Awards to three teachers from UW System campuses within the Alliant Energy service area, who were recognized for their outstanding commitment to student success. The audience of 70 included 10 enthusiastic Premadasa fans at the start and 60 more by the end of his remarks.
Premadasa is an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County and formerly taught at UW-Marathon County. He did not, however, consider himself a teacher until he determined how to reach his students who were failing to grasp key mathematical concepts. He did so by “stealing” the best ideas from sources as varied as academic journals and YouTube videos, and then filling in the gaps through his own research. “I would collect all that loot and put it in my head and share the loot with my students,” he said.
His success previously led to Premadasa’s selection for a 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross, who nominated him for the Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award.
“I am proud that UW Colleges has such dedicated and talented teachers as Kirthi Premadasa,” Cross said. “He’s not the only one. We have many faculty and staff who are dedicated to teaching undergraduates and take great pleasure and pride in doing an excellent job. It is good to see the UW System recognizing their work.”
Additional details about the awards are included in the news release.
The Lumina Foundation is granting $1.2 million to UW System for the evaluation of the UW Flexible Option, which is a joint undertaking of UW-Extension and UW System. Rebecca Karoff will oversee implementation of the grant to evaluate this new model over the next three years and to help develop a blueprint for other university systems to build similar programs.
A senior special assistant in the UW System Office of Academic and Student Affairs, Karoff has been working on the development of the Flexible Option since fall 2012. Other principal investigators include UW-Extension Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor Aaron Brower, UW-Extension Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning Dean David Schejbal and UW System Senior Vice President Mark Nook.
“The Lumina Foundation recognizes the game-changing potential of the UW Flexible Option – and other programs that could be modeled after it – to help reach the foundation’s goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with high-quality college degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60% by 2025,” Karoff said. “In fact, higher education institutions and policy-makers across the country are watching closely, and the faculty and staff at UW-Extension, UW Colleges and UW-Milwaukee working to mount Flex should be really proud of the work they are doing.”
She will hire and supervise grant staff, including a project manager, policy analyst, part-time administrative assistant and two half-time graduate students. Watch the UW-Extension LinkedIn page at http://www.linkedin.com/company/university-of-wisconsin-extension for a link to postings and please share news of these positions via your networks.
Additional details are provided in the news release.
Information about the UW Flexible Option is provided at http://flex.wisconsin.edu/. That includes links to recent Chronicle of Higher Education and National Public Radio features about this innovative way to earn a UW degree or certificate.
After going eight months without a UW Colleges student voice on the UW System’s Knowledge Powers Wisconsin campaign we now have had two. Eric Mindham from UW-Richland has taken over the @UWPowersMe Twitter handle for this week from UW-Fox Valley student Allyssa Novak, who was last week’s student tweeter.
The social media campaign is one part of an effort to highlight the contributions of UW System institutions to the state.
Eric is a sophomore who plans to earn his Associate Degree before transferring to UW-La Crosse to major in finance. Meanwhile, he is taking advantage of many opportunities at UW-Richland, including working in both University Relations and the business office. He is also a Resident Adviser for the campus dorms and a member of the Roadrunners soccer team. Follow Eric’s tweets this week at https://twitter.com/UWpowersMe.
One of the fun aspects of UW System’s Knowledge Powers Wisconsin, campaign has been the succession of students, faculty and alumni from every part of the state who have been invited to take over the @UWPowersMe Twitter account (1,118 followers) each week since February. Contributors are invited to express their school pride and demonstrate how UW powers their lives. The social media campaign is one part of an effort to highlight the contributions of UW System institutions to the state.
This week we celebrate the first UW Colleges student voice: UW-Fox Valley student Allyssa Novak. If you tweet, you can follow her at https://twitter.com/UWpowersMe.
Allyssa is an Appleton West High School honors grad who, like so many UW Colleges students, is living at home to save money and holding down a part-time job. Her story is very typical of UW Colleges students in other ways as well. We will let her tell it herself:
“This is actually my third year of college. I attended UW-Green Bay for my freshman year with every intention of majoring in business administration. That quickly changed. Being a freshman in college and taking rigorous business courses was extremely difficult. It definitely takes time to get used to that transition between high school and college, so I decided to transfer close to home.
“Transferring to UW-Fox Valley was probably the best decision I’ve made throughout my entire college experience. The professors and staff are extremely welcoming. I was pretty nervous to start over once again, but after a few months my worries were long gone. I signed up for an introduction to journalism course, which unexpectedly landed me a spot as a writer for The Fox Journal (UWFox’s school newspaper). Taking that course helped me decide that I wanted to enter the marketing/communications field.
“Next fall I plan to transfer back to UWGB, where I will finish my last two years. I hope to find an internship through the communications department. My goal is to earn a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.”
Thanks for sharing, Allyssa, and thanks for contributing to UWpowersMe on behalf of UW-Fox Valley and UW Colleges.
Faculty, staff and community constituents are invited to provide input to the search and screen committee, which is holding a session from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Those who happen to be in Madison can participate in person in room 126 at 780 Regent St.
Our UW Colleges and UW-Extension faculty and staff unable to participate in person are invited to listen and watch via this link, live or after the event.
While you will not be able to submit questions or comments by watching remotely, you are invited to submit your ideas directly to Erik Ernst, a UW-Extension communicator Chancellor Ray Cross nominated and who was appointed to the committee. Please email your comments to Erik.Ernst@wpt.org by the end of the day Friday, Sept. 13, and use the subject line “UW President Search Feedback.”
Chancellor Ray Cross then talked about “The University of Wisconsin Colleges in Transition,” elaborating on difficult financial and demographic trends that challenge higher education and our state. Still, he said, fall 2013 projected enrollment is close to that of fall 2012.
“Unlike many of our peers, we’re pretty close to flat, which is amazing,” he said, praising student services on the campuses, and other recruitment efforts and recognizing the work of Associate Vice Chancellor Rich Barnhouse and the implementation of the iPlan.
His update of progress on 2012-2013 institutional priorities included:
- Responses to the Bob Guell faculty salary compression study, including ongoing consideration of a market-based salary model; salary inequity recommendations implemented; ongoing discussions about gender equity; news about work groups to identify improvements, and efforts to secure increased funding via three sources — the state, enrollment and savings.
- Kudos for the Higher Learning Commission Associate of Arts and Science degree reaccreditation, Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree completion program accreditation and approval of the related UW Colleges mission change – and kudos for the BAAS progress, including enrollment at all six participating campuses and development of 50 junior and senior level courses.
- The iPlan and Integrated Enrollment Management implementation and the pursuit of opportunities in high schools.
The 2013-2014 institutional priorities overview included:
- Resource development beginning with rebuilding credibility with the State Legislature and Gov. Walker’s office, working with UW System to address “base” revisions, working with local politicians and seeking outside funding.
- Stewardship including the work of a repositioning task force led by Senate Steering Committee Chair Mark Peterson to review a consultant’s recommendations and suggest base-funded activities to eliminate or delay (other than closing a campus, which Cross stressed is not an option).
- Responses to compression and compensation including the identification of methods and resources needed to achieve parity with peer institutions within six years, the creation of a compensation road map, a move to a market-based starting salary model and development of a strategy to comply with existing limitations for adjusting compensation.
- Implementation of recommendations by the retention and recruitment task forces, strategic recruitment in targeted parts of the state, pursuit of concurrent enrollment, continued development of foundational courses for the UW Flexible Option, consideration of accommodating technical college students through the BAAS, increasing diversity (student population, pedagogy, faculty, staff and curricula) and implementing the “There’s a U for You” campaign – for which Cross thanked Director of Marketing Vicki Keegan and her team.
The chancellor raised questions about how to improve morale, such as through increased professional development and other leadership opportunities, integrating University Staff into shared governance, taking pressure off to improve work-life balance and using technology to reduce travel. He also talked about UW Colleges as the third largest institution in the UW System, the need to be proud of our role and to recognize the increased visibility presented through speaking opportunities (many arranged for him by campus staff), his service on the UW System president’s cabinet and national press for the UW Flexible Option.
Exhorting faculty and staff to assume the offensive, Cross asked them to help recruit and retain students, remember what they do and why, and renew relationships with key stakeholders. “One of the fundamental things is to simply tell your story in a polite succinct way,” he said.
Cross concluded with his commitment to faculty and staff to streamline operations, improve relationships with stakeholders, explore new revenue sources and support opportunities to build morale, enhance professional development and grow UW Colleges’ future leaders – and his promise that “I have your back. I hope you have mine. We can only get through this transition together.”
A $79,398 grant from the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Program Innovation Fund will help UW-Extension’s Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension office join with UW Colleges and UW HELP to get more Milwaukee middle and high school students on the road to college.
The Pre-College Institute is designed to introduce youth and their parents to the college environment and to connect them to UW Colleges and other UW resources. The program will include information on academics, campus life and financial costs and options. UW-Richland, UW-Rock County, UW-Washington County and UW-Waukesha will participate in the pilot.
Eloisa Gómez, the Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension director, said the Pre-College Institute will serve approximately 250 middle and high school students, many of whom come from traditionally underserved populations from Milwaukee’s central city and the north and south sides.
“This pre-college institute will provide a pathway from Milwaukee neighborhoods to college and beyond,” commented Greg Hutchins, associate vice chancellor for UW-Extension. “UW-Extension has been bringing educational programs into Milwaukee neighborhoods for decades. Now we are thrilled to provide this new level of pre-college experience for Milwaukee youth. UW Colleges is very committed to helping students gain admission and achieve success in college, and with the addition of UW HELP to this effort, students will find access to all of the UW System campuses more obtainable.”