**Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by UW-Parkside.

I have great news to share: A record number of students, 388 to be exact, were eligible to participate in our recent Winter Commencement. More students have graduated from UW-Parkside in the past decade than during any other 10-year period in the university’s history. In addition to more graduates, our graduation rates for both the majority and under-represented students continue to improve.

The UW-Parkside vision is to transform more lives as we continue to improve student success. Our region needs more talent to flourish in this century. That’s why we’ve established a Bold Goal of producing 50 percent more graduates each year by 2025. From 2008 to 2018, growth in the number of graduates from UW-Parkside outpaced UW System-wide growth by 48 percent.

UW-Parkside enrollment is also on the rise. In fall 2018, our enrollment was up 1 percent over the previous year. In spring 2019, it was up about 2.5 percent, and for fall 2019 we were up 4 percent over fall 2018.

During a time when the high school student population in our region continues to decline, our enrollment is increasing thanks, in part, to growth in our master’s programs. UW-Parkside now offers 11 master’s programs with two more being added in 2020. The number of students enrolled in master’s programs at UW-Parkside has increased more than 200 percent in just the past two years – the majority of growth coming in our new online M.B.A.

More master’s programs is a direct response to the talent demands of our growing region. There is also a demand for bachelor’s programs that enable adult learners with some college or university credit to earn a degree. We awarded the first three bachelor of science degrees in business administration to students from the amazing new UW Flexible Option program. This revolutionary competency-based program has been recognized for affordability and quality. It is the first competency-based business administration program offered by an AASCB-accredited business program. UW-Parkside online programs are reaching around the world.

Continuing to offer an affordable, highly relevant educational experience happens because of innovative, collaborative faculty and staff. Learning centers such as the App Factory, GIS Lab, Digital Design and Fabrication Lab, and the Natural Products Lab bring a heightened relevance to the educational experience. Each is a direct result of faculty and staff innovating and working together across academic disciplines. 

We will continue efforts and focused attention on the recruitment and retention of our faculty and staff of color; and focused engagement on the success of our students of color. Yes, we are the most diverse campus in the University of Wisconsin System; yes, we are an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution; and, yes, we have the highest graduation rate in our history. A closer look at the data shows that we still have gaps in student achievement for students of color. Our 2025 Strategic Framework includes an outcomes-based approach to improve graduation rates and eliminate achievement gaps for students of color as we strive to continuously improve the success of all students.

I invite you to explore our 2025 Strategic Framework website at uwp.edu to gain a better understanding of how we will continue to offer a transformative education as a valued talent provider for this region and beyond.

Speaking of beyond … while you’re visiting uwp.edu, check out Parkside: The Magazine – we’re going to Mars and UW-Parkside student-faculty research will help make the journey possible.

UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford