Dear UWM Faculty, Staff and Students,
I am writing to you today to express my utmost gratitude. It’s been 26 days (and feels more like a year) since the specter of COVID-19 first touched our campuses and began wrenching our lives. Since then, we have needed to make quick and decisive changes to safeguard the health of our Panthers. You’ve all experienced jolts, losses and new challenges. And, you have responded with strength, adaptability, courage and kindness. Thank you.
As Panthers, your hearts and minds are boundless. It’s my pleasure to share with you just a few of the many examples of your abundantly positive, ingenious and generous outpourings over the last few weeks.
Giving to Support Students
Panthers are extremely giving. In 11 short days, alumni, faculty, staff and others have donated more than $35,000 for the Forward Scholars Emergency Student Fund (FSESF) and the UWM food pantry. These funds have been distributed to students in need and we’re continuing our efforts to raise more dollars.
UWM Guitar Student Gives Online Lessons
Jack Tell, a senior in the Peck School of the Arts, has turned his off-campus studio apartment into a studio to teach guitar lessons online. Read more about this innovative student here.
Adapting to Change … and FAST
Thousands of students were required to move out of our residence halls to comply with the state’s Safer at Home order. This was an emotional and jarring change for students and an exceedingly complex logistical puzzle. I couldn’t have said it any better than one of our parents.
Let me add a shout-out to our Facilities, Planning and Management team for going above and beyond to assist with University Housing move-outs. Custodians, members of the moving crew, our Office of Sustainability, and professionals in our trades shops pulled together to clean rooms, and pack and store items for residents who were unable to make it for move-out.
Virtual Services for Students
Student Affairs was quick to adapt its services to students. University Recreation is offering online fitness classes and recreation clinics, as well as virtual intramural sports. University Counseling is offering telehealth-based counseling. The Student Association is holding virtual meetings and debates. The Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership and Research has virtual volunteer opportunities in the Milwaukee area. And, many units are collaborating to create a virtual student union in Canvas where Panthers can connect and build with a virtual community of students and staff through discussions, one-on-one conversations, and social media. Various offices are in the VSU, including MAVRC, CIE, Inclusive Excellence Center, Women’s Resource Center, LGBTQ+ Resource Center, Graduate Student Resource Network, Student Association, Student Involvement, and University Recreation. Students will be invited to join the Canvas course sometime early next week via their @uwm.edu e-mail.
Shifting to Online Courses
Out of about 6,300 face-to-face classes (over 7,200 sections) we typically would hold this spring, only 37 of them (less than 1%) were canceled because they can’t be taught online. Think about that for a moment. This reflects the Herculean efforts of our faculty and staff to ensure our students progress on schedule during the second half of our obviously unprecedented spring semester. An excellent WUWM story is here.
Stepping up to Help Health Care Workers
Kyle Jansson, director of the Prototyping Center at UWM’s Innovation Campus, is part of acitywide Mask Force effort to mass produce medical-grade face masks for health workers and first responders. In collaboration with several area colleges and universities as well as businesses, its goal is to quickly produce masks with as many reusable parts as possible. Kyle designed the first prototype with plastic parts that can be either 3D-printed or scaled up with injection-molding processes.
UWM faculty, researchers and staff came together to support health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic by donating their personal protective equipment. Our University Safety and Assurances and UWM Police Department coordinated the collection, securing 31,300 gloves, nearly 900 masks, 125 pieces of eye protection, 20 gowns and nine hazmat suits. A great news story is here.
On the recruitment front, the Division of Enrollment Management is streamlining numerous processes to support the recruitment and enrollment of our incoming class. This includes a complete transformation of our visit programs including moving all events to a virtual environment and launching an AI chat bot to support students through the admission and enrollment process. Check out more here.
Another collaborative effort underway aims to support the retention of our existing students. This includes a robust student outreach campaign developed with University Relations, the launch of the Persistence Committee and the development of strategic re-enrollment plans across each school and college.
I could easily share another dozen stories like these and look forward to sharing more in future communications. For now, I thank you for all that you bring to our Panther family.
You’ve heard the expression that this COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Most likely, it will be back-to-back ultramarathons and we will need to pace ourselves as we face the coming weeks and months. We can do this. We are Panthers and we care for one another, our families, friends and loved ones. Together, you have shown me that we will overcome the challenges of COVID-19. Once more, thanks.
Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee