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In May, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside celebrated its largest commencement class in history – 788 graduates. This fall, the university welcomed its largest incoming class of freshmen and transfer students in the past five years – 1,057 new Parkside Rangers. A look beyond the numbers shows student success by design.
At the foundation is a collaborative process involving UW-Parkside teams in marketing, admissions, advising, and in each academic department that creates a successful educational experience and prepares the next generation of graduates.
“From the moment a student expresses interest in UW-Parkside, we’re recruiting a graduate,” said Troy Moldenhauer, director of admissions and recruitment. “For students to be successful at any institution, they need to see themselves being successful – and that starts with the first email communication or the first campus visit.”
Last year, more than 5,800 prospective students, family members and friends visited the UW-Parkside campus – almost double the amount in the previous year. Moldenhauer and his admissions and recruitment staff provided countless tours along with information sessions for larger groups, including the annual bilingual event Yo Soy Parkside for Hispanic students, their families, and members of the community.
“Student success is the connection of many positive encounters,” said UW-Parkside Provost Rob Ducoffe. “First, students and their families need to see the university as a great fit when they visit campus and talk with admissions counselors and our academic faculty and staff. Then, throughout the educational journey, we have to be ready to support our students in a variety of areas.”
The support network is a key reason why retention for first-time, full-time freshmen topped 70 percent for the fourth year in a row – a first in UW-Parkside history. “We’re proud that retention for under-represented minorities matches our majority population,” Ducoffe said. “Having more students succeed is the real measure of initiatives and strategies that have been in place during the past decade.”
UW-Parkside is the most diverse campus in the UW System with under-represented minorities accounting for just over 28 percent of the total student population. That percentage is the highest in UW-Parkside history.
As the UW-Parkside student population becomes more diverse – a reflection of the communities served by the university – other metrics of the UW-Parkside student profile are changing including the lowest number of part-time students in the past decade.
“Attending a university full time is not always the right path for every student,” said Tammy McGuckin, vice provost for student affairs and enrollment services. “However, if a student’s life experience fits with the time requirements of being a full-time student, the journey to a degree happens more quickly and that makes the financial investment even more affordable.”
At just under $7,400 per academic year, tuition and fees at UW-Parkside are among the lowest in the UW System. The university stresses “15 to finish” meaning that students should be taking 15 credits per semester in order to finish the degree in four years (12 credits per semester is considered full time for financial aid purposes).
Having a clear path is another ingredient to earning a degree in a timely manner. “Some students come to a university with an idea of the academic credential they want to achieve,” said Gwendolynn Jones, assistant director of the UW-Parkside Advising and Career Center. “During the course of their education they may continue on that path or they may find their true passion in another area. Changing majors is not a bad thing, however, it may result in the need to take additional credits.”
That’s where staff in the Advising and Career Center work closely with students so they understand the impact of new academic goals.
In the end, faculty and staff working in close partnership with students results in more talent for the region. Approximately 60 percent UW-Parkside students are originally from Kenosha and Racine counties. The majority of those students are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university. And, approximately 60 percent of UW-Parkside alumni stay in the region.
“As the economic vitality of southeastern Wisconsin continues to grow at a very rapid pace, the career opportunities for UW-Parkside graduates will continue to grow,” said UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford. “UW-Parkside has graduated more people in the past 10 years than during any other 10-year period in our history. We are filling the talent pipeline with highly qualified, highly motivated UW-Parkside alumni. We will continue to help students achieve their education and career goals and that means our communities will have the talent employers are seeking.”