By UW-Parkside Chancellor Ford
Just one year ago, if you had told me that the next TWO University of Wisconsin-Parkside commencement ceremonies would be virtual because of a global pandemic – well, I would have found that difficult to believe. 2020 has been a year filled with change, adversity, and loss.
Yet through it all, more than 400 people celebrated the completion of an academic journey when they received an undergraduate or graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on December 12th.
For the past nine months, ever since we made the difficult yet very necessary decision to move more of our learning environment online, UW-Parkside students and our award-winning faculty and staff have worked through challenges to discover new opportunities for success.
Throughout this pandemic one word continually comes to mind: Resilient … “being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult situations.” Our graduates, our students, our faculty and staff, our alumni, and our community, collectively, are resilient. We are also much more.
Chances are you’ve heard of the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s a phrase that dates back to the early 1800s describing the basics of education. Allow me to offer a different spin and share the FOUR Rs that embody the class of 2020 at UW-Parkside: resilient, responsive, resourceful, and ready.
In partnership with the communities we serve, UW-Parkside graduates are responsive and resourceful in how we meet, head on, the challenges facing our world today. UW-Parkside 2020 graduates were tasked with completing their degrees facing circumstances unlike any other class in our history. Working with our faculty and staff, they created unique solutions to continue their educational journeys and reach their academic goals. Because they are so resilient, so responsive, and so resourceful, they are READY to contribute to our campus, to the Kenosha and Racine communities, to our region, to our state and as we’ve seen so many times before, to our global community – today and well into the future.
Speaking of challenges and being resilient, our graduates and our learning community continue to face important issues beyond COVID, including the nationwide and local movement to build a more equitable, just, and inclusive society; and efforts to ensure that all members of our society have access to affordable education. For many years, UW-Parkside has been the most diverse campus in the UW System and students of color make up more than 35 percent of our university’s population. We are extremely proud of this achievement but know enrollment does not equal student success for all students. Through the efforts of our campus diversity and multi-cultural departments, and through our shared commitment among faculty and staff for equity, diversity, and inclusion, we are helping prepare our graduates to contribute in a world that becomes more diverse each day, while working to ensure equity and inclusion for all.
During our winter commencement, we also conferred 116 master’s degrees which represents 100 percent growth from 2019. Another milestone for the class of 2020 is celebrating the first class of master’s degree graduates in the master of science in clinical mental health counseling program. These 12 graduates and their faculty have blazed a new trail in offering this highly-relevant and responsive program.
Adversity and setbacks are nothing new. Just when we think we have faced the biggest challenge and developed the most innovative solution, something new emerges and the next group of resilient, responsive, and resourceful individuals steps up to discover the solution. I’m particularly proud of the more than 27,000 UW-Parkside alumni – 60 percent of whom live here in Southeastern Wisconsin – who keep stepping up to move our world forward. I know the members of the UW-Parkside Class of 2020 are prepared to create the opportunities and changes our world needs today, and in the decades to come.
Just like the communities of Kenosha and Racine, UW-Parkside graduates are resilient, responsive, resourceful, and ready. Congratulations to the UW-Parkside Class of 2020 as you join an impressive group of amazing alumni!