The second of four University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County campus executive officer/dean finalists was presented to the community Tuesday.
William Wresch, currently associate dean of the College of Business at UW-Oshkosh and a professor of information systems, spoke about the Wisconsin Idea and how it affects students and faculty in an age of technological innovation, globalization, financial challenges and political expectations.
Wresch, who holds a doctorate and master’s degree in education from UW-Madison and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from San Francisco State University, also previously served as associate dean for undergraduate programs and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at UW-Oshkosh. He has also held teaching and administrative positions at other campuses.
Wresch and his wife, Sue, have strong ties to the area, he said. She was born and raised in Baraboo, and his family used to own a farm on what is now Devil’s Head Resort. The two are members of the First Presbyterian Church and own a home in town, where they spend many weekends.
Following his presentation, a professor asked Wresch why he seeks a position at a two-year campus.
Wresch worked at UW-Marinette early on in his career and said he feels drawn back to the two-year college environment, where a smaller campus offers more opportunities to get to know students and advise them early on in their careers. He said his ties to the area make the dean position even more desirable.
“It’s not just any place,” he said. “It’s not just any two-year school. It’s Baraboo/Sauk County. I have great affection for this and for two-year campuses.”
Wresch said that during his campus visit this week, he found the staff and students to be very friendly and proud of UW-Baraboo.
“They are eager advocates for this campus,” he said.
Wresch has been at Oshkosh for the past 17 years, and some of his roles on campus include teaching, recruiting students, and networking with the local business community.
One point of pride for Wresch at UW-Oshkosh has been a university internship program. He said he’d be interested in bringing his knowledge and experience in this area to UW-Baraboo’s bachelor of applied arts and sciences program and networking with local businesses to help students access more internship experiences.
Wresch said a university is an important part of the local community, and in addition to offering an education, it serves as the “eyes and ears” of the University of Wisconsin System, identifying and meeting local needs.
“Those needs change over time,” he said, adding that one major way in which the university serves the community is by offering educational opportunities to returning adult students who are looking to finish their degrees, change careers or access professional development resources.
To accommodate those students, the response must be “both technical and pedagogical,” Wresch said. The use of online coursework, new technology and teaching methods that recognize nontraditional students’ unique learning styles and make use of their life and work experience can help those returning to the college environment succeed.
In uncertain financial times, fundraising is also important, Wresch said, adding that it would be a major area of focus for him as dean. He said he views student scholarships as the most important fundraising need.
“We have got to find ways to get pressures off students,” he added, saying that scholarships free up time for students to study and become engaged on campus.
Wresch said he would work to develop events and programs that would build relationships in the community and bring in money for the campus.
“One of the things that I’d want to look for is events that can be held on campus,” he said. “We’ve got a new residence hall going up, a new science building going up. I think people have an interest in seeing the place, so it would be nice to tie the visibility of the campus into additional fundraising and scholarship opportunities.”
He counts among his professional experiences a number of service and teaching stints abroad. He served in the Peace Corps, working in a health center in a small South Korean town, spent a year teaching computer science in the newly independent Namibia in 1993 and, more recently, has taught in Germany and Oman.
Current UW-Baraboo Campus Executive Officer and Dean Tom Pleger, who has held the position in Baraboo since 2006, recently was named president of Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. He plans to take on the new role July 1.
CEO/dean finalists Jon Dalager and Tracy White will present today and Tuesday, respectively. The public presentations will be held on campus at 3:30 p.m. in Room A4 of the Umhoefer Building.
Aaron Brower, interim chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension has said he plans to name the next CEO/dean by June 1 and have that person in place by the start of the fall semester.