UW-Parkside Chancellor Ford: Education = Equity
The data is clear, a college education is one of the best ways to address persistent inequality in our society and provide access to economic opportunity for low-income, first-generation students and students of color.
As the most diverse four-year campus in the University of Wisconsin System, I’m proud that UW-Parkside is dedicated to creating a highly educated, diverse workforce in southeastern Wisconsin. Nearly 60% of our students are first-generation and our minority representation is 31.4%, reflecting the urban core of our region. Another point of pride is our designation as an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), the first public university in Wisconsin to earn this recognition. Hispanic students now comprise 17.9% of our student population.
As chancellor, I take great pride in highlighting UW-Parkside’s commitment to helping more students in our region graduate from college. There are few things that make me prouder than to see our students succeed against tremendous odds thanks to their hard work and perseverance, and thanks to our intentional efforts to continuously improve student success.
To ensure we are serving the unique needs of our students, UW-Parkside is taking meaningful action to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). One example is our involvement in Moon Shot for Equity. Together with our partners Carthage College, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Area Technical College, we form the nation’s first regional consortium working to close equity gaps in higher education by 2030. You can learn more about Moon Shot for Equity at eab.com/moon-shot-for-equity/. This initiative is one of the ways we are being intentional about increasing the number baccalaureate-degree holders in our surrounding counties, which will, in turn, fuel the economic growth of our region.
Another student success highlight is our Bold Goal to substantially increase the number of UW-Parkside by 2025 – a key element of the UW-Parkside 2025 Strategic Framework (uwp.edu and search Strategic Framework). Despite the pandemic, we are making notable progress: Our total graduates reached historic highs in 2019-20 (848) and 2020-21 (896).
Student success begins with affordable access. Thanks to a generous $3 million gift from the Callahan family of Kenosha, UW-Parkside established the Callahan Scholars program benefitting Kenosha students and students of color with financial need. Access is just the beginning. Callahan scholars are assigned success coaches who proactively support them through their academic experience.
Kenosha native Gerald Maryanov, a senior applied health sciences major, is one of our Callahan Scholars success stories. Gerald told me that his success coach, Jenna, is helping him stay on track toward graduation and acceptance into a doctorate’s program for physical therapy.
Gerald is one of many remarkable stories of hard work, dedication and perseverance that demonstrate the powerful benefits of investing in student success. That is why I believe it’s imperative that UW-Parkside and other higher-education institutions in our region remain committed to closing equity gaps by helping more underrepresented students of color, and underserved populations earn a post-secondary degree.
Lately, there has been a bit of a spotlight on enrollment and graduation-rate challenges for colleges and universities. Those are undoubtedly key metrics. It is also important to focus carefully on the bold moves higher education institutions like UW-Parkside are making to provide pathways to success for traditionally underserved students.
At UW-Parkside, we are eliminating barriers to an affordable, transformative education for students in southeastern Wisconsin. We are working purposefully to increase access to higher education and attainment of college degrees for as many students as possible, regardless of age, gender, race, occupation, cultural background, or family status. We are committed to this charge because we recognize that a college education is crucial to building equity in a competitive, 21st-century, global economy.