Posted 11:51 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022

Chancellor Joe Gow speaks to staff and faculty during his opening address for the fall semester Wednesday, Aug. 31. After two and a half academic years affected by COVID-19, Gow expressed hope for a more normal year in 2022-23.

In opening address, Gow shares optimism for coming year

During his opening address for the 2022 fall semester, UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow highlighted several key initiatives and expressed optimism for a more normal school year in the wake of COVID-19.

Addressing a crowd of a few hundred in Graff Main Hall Wednesday, Aug. 31, Gow said he had reflected on the challenges of the past two and a half years — which included virtual teaching and learning, masking and physical distancing, and a generally altered experience for students, families and employees.

“It was heartbreaking when we had to shelter in place and people evacuated. To watch families taking their son or daughter home, that was tough,” he said. “We still need to be thinking about (COVID-19), but hopefully we’re through the worst of it. I think that’s pretty safe to say.

“You reflect back on how we started (the pandemic), how scary and unusual it was and all the things we needed to do. Everybody in this room did great things to get us through this.”

Gow noted it’s an exciting time at UWL — not just because of the improving pandemic situation, but also because of new projects and partnerships.

Starting this fall, Mayo Clinic Health System will be the permanent service provider at UWL’s Student Health Center — an extension of an arrangement made during the pandemic.

“It’s pretty special to tell parents that their students will be taken care of by the Mayo Clinic,” Gow said. “People know that (Mayo) is world-renowned, so we’re very delighted.”

On the academic side, UWL has reached a memorandum of understanding  with J.F. Brennan, a La Crosse-based marine construction company, to strengthen research opportunities and support Wisconsin’s talent pipeline.

J.F. Brennan will work with the River Studies Center to shape classroom curricula, with an eye toward producing high-achieving, job-ready graduates.

A new research vessel, funded by a $430,000 donation from Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust to the La Crosse Community Foundation, will create even more experiential learning opportunities.

Among other news and initiatives, Gow announced this year's incoming class is expected to be the largest in university history.

Gow also recognized the work of University Marketing & Communications (UComm), which is finding new ways to promote UWL.

TEDx presentations by staff and faculty, organized with assistance from UComm, have already generated hundreds of thousands of views.

Meanwhile, a search engine optimization effort is driving traffic to the UWL website, giving departments and programs a wider audience.

Finally, Gow shared preliminary enrollment numbers indicating UWL will have the largest first-year class in school history.

The estimated incoming class — 2,334 students — would surpass the previous record set in fall 2021. Overall enrollment is also expected to increase.

The numbers, Gow said, are a testament to UWL’s Admissions Office, which has managed to grow enrollment at a time when many universities are seeing declines.

During the address, Gow also announced several of this year’s award winners:

Additionally, Provost Betsy Morgan introduced this year’s Eagle Excellence Award winners :

Provost Betsy Morgan recognized this year's Eagle Excellence Award winners. From left to right: Ben Haenni, Maggie Laufenberg, Ronda Leahy, Lisa Lenarz, James Murray, Jason Sumontha and Anne Galbraith.