Minute with Student Engagement

It’s all about the students in this week’s Minute with Mike. Nearing the end of the Krash the Kress event, Mike chats with Katie Lesperance, the director of Student Engagement about the importance of what students have available outside of the classroom on campus. Katie shares that students are at the heart of everything they do and work hard to create a vibrant campus community for students to be a part of. Thank you, Katie and team, for all that you do for our students!


Minute with Student Services Center

In this week’s Minute, Mike can be found in front of the Student Services Center, with offices in all four campus locations. Whether it’s answering a question or relieving a concern, this office is vital to ensuring all students stay on their path to success at UW-Green Bay. SSC staff Sam Robinson and Lorrigan Puls join to share about SSC’s specialities– answering questions about Financial Aid, Admissions, Advising, Registrar AND more! Visit in-person or via their web page.

Update on UW-Green Bay Marinette Campus

Following is an email that was sent to all faculty and staff on Friday, January 19, 2024 from UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander.

Dear UW-Green Bay Faculty and Staff,

On November 14, 2023, I visited the Marinette campus to discuss with faculty and staff changes that we intended to make for that location.  We discussed a path forward for the Marinette location and that we would immediately begin negotiating with Marinette County on how we would achieve our goals.  Our discussion centered on acknowledging the enrollment challenges we are having in Marinette, but that we had a plan to reframe what success means to us in Marinette.

We learned yesterday that someone released the internal meeting notes to the Marinette County Board and the media.  Our conversations with the County are still occurring, but our internal conversation has become public prior to us completing negotiations.  We will not comment on the ongoing discussions.  However, today I am sending you the draft communication we were working on that reflects the internal conversations we had back in November so that we are transparent internally and externally on our intentions.

In collaboration with Marinette County, we are working to make a paradigm shift to redefine how we will measure success, provide value to our constituents, and invest in UW-Green Bay’s location in Marinette.

Since the merger of the former UW Colleges, we have thought differently about how to embrace our locations in Manitowoc, Marinette, and Sheboygan.  We were leaders in openly stating that we would not compete with the technical colleges in our region for associate degree offerings and instead highlight select 4-year degrees on each campus that could best serve each distinct community.  We declared that all students at any location we serve are in fact all UW-Green Bay students and therefore, we equalized pay for all our faculty and staff that serve each location and created one governance and administrative structure for us all to exist under.  We added the Rising Phoenix program which now educates 367 students primarily in rural areas who can earn an associate degree with us while still in high school.  We have experimented and tried to find the right collection of offerings at each location that honors the investment and trust that each county has placed in us to be locally relevant.

These actions have placed our locations in Manitowoc and Sheboygan on positive trajectories of increasing enrollments and stable futures.  Our location in Marinette has not experienced the same trajectory.  Despite initial enrollment gains, we recognize that persisting on the current path will inevitably lead to closure.  Instead of waiting for a closure, we have chosen to proactively rethink our approach to maintain a meaningful presence in Marinette.

Beginning in the fall of 2024, we will suspend in-person classes at the Marinette location.  But this is just a small part of the story.  It is important to note that only 14 of our classes this fall at Marinette were taught purely in person.  The rest were online or streamed across multiple locations.  In the fall, we will keep classrooms with streaming capabilities active for courses that are taught at Marinette or coming to Marinette from other UW-Green Bay locations.  These changes will also deepen our connection to the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College campus that is down the road from our location.  We have articulated programs with NWTC that connect to UW-Green Bay degrees and will seek to expand the pipeline of students in Marinette who start at NWTC and finish with us at any location.  Rather than compete with them, we should complement the outstanding work NWTC is doing and provide streamlined educational options for people to choose from.

We will increase our investment in Marinette based on three pillars.  First, we know that the people in Marinette value the Herb Williams Theatre.  We do, too, and therefore will invest further to make it the flagship theatre northwest of Green Bay.  Just like UW-Green Bay has revitalized the Weidner Center on the Green Bay Campus, we will do the same for the Williams Theatre in Marinette and provide programming including art exhibits, events, lectures, performances, and education that engages people of all ages.  We already see this working based on attendance at recent events.  Second, the location will serve as an access point for students and community members for educational resources.  We will expand camps, non-credit educational offerings that are responsive to the requests of the community, and learning opportunities through our Lifelong Learning Institute.  These additions will help increase the number of people benefitting from a UW-Green Bay education and advance the quality of life and economy for all people that live in the region, not just primarily those of traditional college age.  Third, we plan to invite third party access to facilities that can enhance the capital investment Marinette County has made at the location.  We are working to sign a new agreement with Marinette County that will ensure that we can make great use of the infrastructure at the campus.

We acknowledge this will be a painful transition for those in Marinette that have endured countless campus management changes, but we must embrace a new model rather than trying to cling to the past.  It is our job to be responsible stewards of our resources.  Rather than try to perpetuate a broken economic model, we will reallocate our resources to the benefit of the most people possible in the area.  Having a UW-Green Bay location in Marinette is central to our mission as a regional comprehensive university with a 16-county footprint that spans the coastline from Sheboygan to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We are not leaving.  Yes, it will look different, but it will not close.  We want our campus in Marinette to be an educational asset for generations to come.  This change directly addresses the tremendous upheaval that is happening right now in higher education as referenced in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  It is why it is not a good strategy to do the same thing and hope for a different result.  Instead, we are creating the opportunity for a brighter future for our location by listening and learning from our experience thus far in Marinette and redefining a path forward to focus on a likely path to success.  We are proud to make this shift in collaboration with Marinette County to best meet the needs of the community as a higher education partner.



Meet the Dean of Students staff ‘Minute with Mike’

In this week’s Minute, Mike introduces the outstanding staff of the Dean of Students Office, who share what they do for students. The Dean of Students Office strives to answer questions, address concerns and meet students’ needs; so that students can be successful inside and outside of the classroom. Whether helping an individual student work through a personal problem or coordinating a campus-wide program, the Dean of Students office works to strengthen the student experience at all of the UW-Green Bay locations. Learn more about the Dean of Students Office: https://www.uwgb.edu/dean-of-students

Open Letter to UW-Green Bay and the Region

Dear UW-Green Bay Faculty and Staff,

People inside and outside of UW-Green Bay often ask me how I feel about the future of our institution, including how I see the overall higher education landscape changing and affecting us.  On July 10, 2020, a few months after I began my role as chancellor and in the midst of the pandemic, I wrote this open letter to the communities of Green Bay, Manitowoc, Marinette, and Sheboygan.  The pandemic accelerated the evolution that was already happening in higher education. Now, we are fully experiencing the pressures of rapid change in an industry that has not typically handled change well.  Yet, I remain incredibly optimistic about our future.  It is clear that our future and the future of Northeast Wisconsin demands us to be bold.  There are a lot of loud voices saying what you do is not important or valuable. But it is. Today, I still feel what I wrote in 2020 is true in that, ‘We are positioned well to deal with whatever challenges emerge in the coming year, but it is not enough.  We must do much more.’

To do more, we will fully embrace the same skills we are teaching our students.  We will be leaders in our individual disciplines, we will be great communicators, and we will individually and collectively become increasingly relevant to the common good of the region we serve. Using these skills, we will shape our own distinct future as a university.  We need to continue to unite our region in the belief that access to education for all who want to learn makes our families and communities stronger.  Education creates bridges between people and our bridge must be built on the strength of our unique blend of rural and urban locality.  We are empowered to ask uncomfortable questions, fight through the noise of an increasingly complex world, and have a chip on our shoulder that pushes us to welcome challenges, continue learning throughout our lives and overcome obstacles.  We should celebrate our journey and show gratitude for those who have chosen to join us while embracing those who have not.

We have proven that where we are going is noteworthy.  Our enrollment has grown to 10,338 students, an increase of 17.4% over the last four years.  Additionally, in 2023, we served over 60,000 people with non-credit classes, second only to UW-Madison and gaining fast. Our Rising Phoenix program began in 2020 and currently helps 367 high school students each year, earn a UW-Green Bay associate degree while still in high school.  We were the first university in the state of Wisconsin to offer direct admission for students in the Green Bay Area Public Schools, an initiative that will now be copied across the state.  We have been recognized nationally for our expertise in serving First Generation College Students, who now make up approximately half of our student population.

UW-Green Bay accomplished all of this growth and change during a global pandemic as our country, state, and region have become more polarized.  Although we are a state institution, we cannot wait for the complex educational bureaucracy within our state to solve our problems.  Nor can we rely on politicians on both sides of the aisle to come together to fund our operations at a level that is above 42nd in the country.  Instead, we must adapt to the reality that approximately 20% of our operating budget comes from the state.  That means creating new revenue sources and further streamlining our operations to be completely focused on our strategic priorities.  In short, we must focus all of our time on making sure we are doing everything possible to meet our noble mission.  We have done a lot.  And we must do more.

So, where are we headed for the next five years?  In 2020, we agreed upon six strategic priorities that would drive us toward our access mission.  Consider what we have been able to achieve since then.  It is important to celebrate how far we have come in each of these priorities in less than four years.  It is equally important to quantify what success can look like in the next five years when we all work together in these challenging times toward the new goals outlined below.

Student Success

We must not only have more students enter UW-Green Bay, but also ensure that those who enter reach their educational goals before leaving us.  Not all students will complete a degree, but all students who start with us should leave with a credential that can be used to better their lives and career prospects.  While some will experience higher education in a linear fashion, we need fluid options for others to enter, exit, and reenter higher education when their lives allow for it and career coaching for all to help navigate those paths.  We need to start measuring and tracking retention in ways that make sense to an access institution.  What percentage of students who start with us leave with a tangible credential?  Our goal should be 100%.  Finally, we will become the largest provider of non-credit offerings in the state of Wisconsin with classes that help all people value education as opposed to just those seeking credit-bearing degrees.


Higher education has two major crises that it must deal with.  One is historic and ongoing: the exclusion of people from underrepresented populations into higher education.  The second is relatively new: the rapidly declining perception of the value of higher education in rural, conservative areas.  Both issues must be resolved for our communities to grow together, for equity in the ability to be upwardly mobile between generations, and to allow all people the opportunity to advance their careers over a lifetime.  UW-Green Bay must measure success in the following ways for this priority to be actualized.

Rising Phoenix enrollment numbers should continue to increase annually in rural districts.  In addition to providing rural students a pathway into higher education, our program also supports rural school districts to expand advanced offerings they can make to their students.  Additionally, we must create and grow a network for rural students at UW-Green Bay that creates a sense of engagement with the university and provide support for issues that concern them.

In a perfect world, the demographics of UW-Green Bay would roughly match the demographics of the region we serve.  This is why it makes sense that we are now the 3rd most racially diverse university within the Universities of Wisconsin.  Our communities are changing and evolving, and so are we.  Since 2020, We have averaged growth of 15% per year in students who identify as Hispanic.  We must maintain that pace for the next five years so that we keep up with the overall growth of the Hispanic population in our region.  Providing education for all demographics prevents large income and socioeconomic disparities due to educational opportunity gaps.  Eliminating these gaps helps the economy and improves the quality of life of everyone in our communities.  While our goal to be a Hispanic Serving Institution would highlight our service to the Hispanic population as the largest traditionally underserved demographic in our region, we will pursue the same goals to increase participation and retention for all students regardless of how they identify.  We will not stray from the overarching goal of educational equity and opportunity.  All have a place at UW-Green Bay.

Enhanced Community Connections and University Philanthropy

Since 2020, we have expanded our community reach in various ways.  We transformed the struggling Shorewood Golf Course into a thriving cross-country course that brings thousands of people to UW-Green Bay each year.  Our camps and youth programs have grown and will now serve over 1,000 students in 2024.  Estamos Aquí brought over 8,000 people to the Green Bay campus for a Hispanic arts and culture festival.  We earned the designation as a Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement.  In addition, we raised $30,163,273 from 2020-2023, an increase of 43.94% over the prior four years.  To continue to support our growth, we should hold ourselves accountable by keeping up this pace over the next five years.  Finally, we should see the first physical infrastructure of the Cofrin Technology and Education Center, Phoenix Innovation Park, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) come to fruition.  Phoenix Innovation Park and the NERR connect our mission directly to the constituents we serve in our region.

Digital Transformation

Our work to modernize our practices to thrive in a digital world has created positive changes in how we educate, broaden our connections to students, and complete our business functions.  Now we need to put increased attention on how technology can further inform our work and prepare our students to thrive in a world where technology is ubiquitous.  We will develop clear strategies for how we will use emerging technologies to increase access to education and the quality with which it is delivered.  We will begin to use powerful technologies like AI to help us expand the impact of the people who work here.  We must use technology to cover the mundane and instead use our “people power” to do what humans do best: communicate, solve complex problems, and inspire others.  Given our current budget realities, we must get comfortable quickly with this way of operating.  We know we are understaffed.  Therefore, we must use technology to manage workloads, inspire human interaction, and increase the satisfaction that our faculty and staff get from doing their jobs.

Sustainability and Environmental Work

We have begun to recapture our identity as an institution that was founded on the ideals of environmental stewardship and sustainability, but we still have a long way to go to be seen as a leader in these efforts.  There are two things we should strive for in the coming years.  First, we should achieve Gold status on the STARS report for the first time in our history.  The second goal is more complicated.  We have to work together to think at scale.  Each individual makes a difference, but as a whole, we can have a much greater impact on the future of UW-Green Bay and our region.  The upcoming establishment of a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) is a good example of this.  We need to ask ourselves, what is our next NERR-like project that inspires education and hope for the next generation of leaders on these compelling and urgent subjects?

Sustainable Path for the Weidner and Green Bay Athletics

Event-generated revenue has tripled and visitors have doubled at the Weidner since FY17. We are on track to hit $3,000,000 in venue ticket sales this year. This year will also be the highest contributed revenue year since the last capital campaign in 2012 and the highest non-campaign fundraising year since 2004.  The dramatic positive trajectory of contributed and earned revenue the Weidner now generates is in stark contrast to the trends nationally of centers for performing arts.  Given the complicated history of the Weidner, this is a remarkable accomplishment.  The Weidner has fully embraced the mission of UW-Green Bay.  It is an important access point for the public, our students, and potential future students.  All of these great benefits accrue with only one position funded with state resources.  The Weidner is becoming a model for how auxiliaries should operate within a broader university budget.  We will expect continued steady growth in ticket sales and community engagement over the next five years as the Weidner returns to its rightful position as a place that the region can be incredibly proud to have built.

Despite tremendous upheaval within the NCAA, we are finding a way forward in athletics that has tremendous benefit to how we are perceived as a university.  We won three Horizon League titles in 2023, our first titles since 2018.  Our coaches and teams are engaging with the community like never before with near constant interactions across the region with civic groups, schools, and donors.  Athletics social media accounts have increased dramatically in the past year, helping us bring more exposure and attention to the entire University. Facebook and Instagram impressions are up 250%, and men’s basketball has had four different videos with over 90,000 views each. The total number of athletic gifts are the highest since 2018, and ticket sales are on track to be the highest since 2018.  While we are still the lowest funded University in the Horizon League and one of the lowest in the country for a D1 University, we have set the goal to close that gap through earned income and fundraising in the coming years so that we are no longer the lowest funded university in our league for athletics.

We should always see our glass as half-full with the opportunity to create our own future.  While we are in difficult times, my hope for a bright future has not wavered.  I believe that we can chart an even brighter future.  We have already made tremendous progress in the face of great challenges over the last four years.  We have ignited something special within ourselves and our community.  The question now is can we build on our successes, accelerate the speed of our progress, and continue to relate our mission to the region and students we serve? Can we ignite the future?

We are The Phoenix.  This is our time and together we will rise.



Biodiversity Minute

In this week’s ‘Minute,’ Mike is joined by UW-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Conservation Biologist Andrew LaPlant and two students on the natural areas team, Sam Gerard and Haillee Fritsch. Mike’s guests share the work and research they do on University-managed natural areas, including the Keith White Prairie. Additionally, Mike shares his pride for the conservation work done by the Center. You can learn more about the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity here.

Camps Minute with a special guest

Happy new year! In this first ‘Minute with Mike’ installment of 2024, Mike shares his enthusiasm for the upcoming camps and youth programs to be held on campus. Special guest, Patti Schevers, Education Outreach Executive Manager gives an update on what camps to expect, their potential for exponential growth and a 360-degree-view of where all of the excitement will be happening. Here’s to 55 years of UW-Green Bay camps in 2024!

Learn more about UW-Green Bay Camps and Youth Programs: https://www.uwgb.edu/camps