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Business North - Around The Region - Duluth & Superior Newspaper
WITC presses on with ‘one- college’ strategy
The original four campuses in Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake and Superior that made up Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) had a history of local autonomy, but that era ended abruptly under President Charles Levine.
Reflecting his 35-year WITC tenure — as an accounting student, business manager, vice president, and finally as interim president in July 2006 — Levine aggressively moved to tie together those four campuses and newer satellite branches in Spooner, Hayward and Ladysmith. His vision: A system that still delivered market-driven programs, but used uniform processes to get there.
Levine retired two years later, handing off the “one-college” baton to Robert “Bob” Meyer. WITC board directors representing the 11 counties and three tribes in the technical college district picked Meyer because his teaching, strategic planning and industrial consulting credentials seemed perfect for the handoff.
Meyer had spent 25 years at UW-Stout, the state’s public technology university, in the classroom, academic administration and interfacing with industry. His industry consulting roles included strategic planning, lean manufacturing and quick changeover techniques.
“Chuck Levine got the one-college structure in place,” Meyer said in late September as he settled into his second year on the job and implementing the one-college plan. “It was born out student frustration that he had observed,” Meyer said.
For example, all four campuses offer two-year associate degrees in accounting. Until one-college, however, each campus developed its own curriculum and textbook lists. “For students, the cost has dropped if they move within the technical college, and there’s less confusion,” he said.
A business hiring a WITC accounting graduate can assume the same academic exposure at all campuses. “It means our graduates can hit the ground running,” he said.
“That consistent product also is important in our articulation agreements” with four-year colleges that formalize the transfer of credits, he said. Those credit transfer agreements include WITC nursing and early childhood education (numerous UW campuses); information technology (UW-Stout); accounting and medical administration (The College of St. Scholastica).
WITC’s one-college business model also addresses another longstanding criticism of technical colleges that their programs don’t keep pace with changing market demands.
Each of WITC’s 53 associate degree and certificate programs now has an advisory committee, a circle that includes businesses in the communities served by the campuses that offer those programs, and Northwest Concentrated Employment Program (CEP), the regional workforce development agency charged with identifying current and future skilled worker needs.
To align the seven campuses and branches as components of the one-college strategy, each of the four campus administrators, and the vice president of the college’s administrative office in Shell Lake, also sit on the president’s cabinet with responsibility for one central division function:
• John Will, the No. 2 senior executive in Shell Lake, is responsible for college administrative services, including human resources, research and planning, resource development and strategic planning.
• Ashland campus administrator Steve Bitzer handles student affairs, including financial aid, marketing/public relations, enrollment management, registrar and student services.
• New Richmond campus administrator Joe Huftel is responsible for instructional technology, including the college’s portal/web, interactive television system and technical support.
• Rice Lake campus administrator Craig Fowler also handles business and industry training, continuing education and serves as executive director of the WITC Foundation.
• Superior campus administrator Diane Vertin also manages academic affairs, including accreditation, curriculum, instruction, program planning and tech prep training.
Operating as an integrated campus is essential in an environment where public funding of education is under growing pressure, and state investments increasingly are made in alignment with regional economic development planning, Meyer said.Previous Around the Region Articles:
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