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Some of you may remember the day. Fifty years ago today, Sept. 16, 1968, classrooms at the former UW-Kenosha and UW-Racine center campuses welcomed the very first UW-Parkside students. It was an historic day because for the first time in southeastern Wisconsin, students could pursue a four-year University of Wisconsin degree without taking classes beyond the county lines of Racine and Kenosha.

This past Thursday, students, alumni, faculty and staff celebrated that day, Founders Day, with a ceremony in Wyllie Hall. A fitting location as Wyllie Hall is named in honor of our founding chancellor, Irvin G. Wyllie.

A half century later, more than 25,000 people have transformed their lives by earning a UW-Parkside degree. More people in Racine and Kenosha counties have a degree from UW-Parkside than any other university. And each year, a majority of UW-Parkside students are from the two counties.

Fifty years ago, the vision for UW-Parkside was that of “research corridors and bustling student centers; the beginning of a cultural and learning center; a place where ideas are born, challenged, and changed. And, a place where tens of thousands of people would come to enrich their minds, brighten their futures and change their lives.”

Not only has the vision been realize, it is highly relevant today as the UW-Parkside learning community begins its journey toward a century of transforming lives.

Where our region will be in 2068, what companies will be offering challenging careers and which community leaders (most of whom are not yet born) will be shaping southeastern Wisconsin remains to be seen. However, the demand for educated talent will continue to grow and UW-Parkside will be here to meet that demand.

Maybe you heard UW-Parkside Provost Rob Ducoffe last week on WGTD radio with Greg Berg. Ducoffe mentioned the increase in graduate degree offerings at UW-Parkside, including new master’s degrees in clinical mental health counseling, health and wellness management, and a 100-percent online MBA that includes tracks in data analytics, supply chain management, and global management.

During the past five years, more than 50 undergraduate academic programs have been added or modified in response to changes across the region. UW-Parkside now offers four education majors, an engineering program in partnership with UWM, an online health information management and technology major, and numerous certificate programs that align with the current need for talent.

The point is, UW-Parkside is very proud of its bold beginnings, and we’re more excited about the future focus of the university.

UW-Parkside has touched far more lives in southeastern Wisconsin than 25,000-plus graduates. Thousands of people have participated in cultural, artistic, and athletic events on campus. I always hear about running on the Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course, folks attending the foreign film series, and enjoying concerts, theatre productions and art exhibits.

UW-Parkside truly is a place where tens of thousands of people have come to “enrich their minds, brighten their futures, and change their lives.”

UW-Parkside — like this region — is just getting started. UW-Parkside will be here providing access to an affordable, relevant and high quality educational experience. And UW-Parkside will continue to offer the opportunity for everyone to enrich their lives.

Thank you! Thank you for supporting affordable access to a University of Wisconsin education right here in our region. Thank you for being advocates of UW-Parkside. And thank you for allowing UW-Parkside to be “a place where ideas are born, challenged, and changed.”

Help us celebrate 50 years of serving our region and beyond. Tell us your story at www.uwp.edu/50years and make plans to attend our 50 Years Celebration Gala, Friday, Oct. 12. I look forward to seeing you on campus.

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Debbie Ford is chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

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