UW-Stout Positioning Itself for the Future

UW-Stout Positioning Itself for the Future

 Chancellor Charles Sorensen

Wisconsin’s economic strength relies heavily on its educational foundation, and we are fortunate to have an extremely strong system of higher education, one that must be preserved and supported. 

The University of Wisconsin System’s great strength lies in its diversity: two doctoral campuses, 11 comprehensive universities and 13 two-year colleges.  Each comprehensive campus has its own unique mission and, within the past several years, a number of the universities have focused even more sharply on describing their purpose and programs.

This differentiation is critical because the market for higher education is becoming extremely competitive. Highly successful for-profit institutions, private colleges, and virtual programs and universities are challenging the dominance the UW System once had in the market.

Just as in the private sector, we must brand our uniqueness; we must characterize our programs and campuses so our students, parents, stakeholders and employers understand the value that we provide.

With that in mind, UW-Stout on March 9 received permission from the Board of Regents to change our designation from a special mission school to a polytechnic university.  This will convey a distinct brand for UW-Stout and provide a clear difference from other state universities in the state and region.

What are polytechnic universities?  Simply stated, these schools share a common educational philosophy: active, applied learning. They are heavily lab-based, require or encourage co-op and internship experiences in the private sector, and work closely with external organizations on class projects.

The program array for a polytechnic university is broad and career-focused, and includes programs in the arts, social and related sciences, and education.  There is a sharp focus on sciences, mathematics, engineering and related technologies—as well as very specialized programs, such as dietetics or packaging engineering.

In recent years, UW-Stout has moved aggressively in this direction, seeking funding for two new engineering programs and developing specialties in nanotechnology, bioinformatics and cognitive neuroscience.

The polytechnic initiative is simply the natural outgrowth of our historic tradition. We believe it is the next step in our journey from good to great.  Students will be the primary beneficiaries of the designation, and this will ensure that we continue to attract a quality student body. Faculty who are committed to applied learning, student/faculty collaborative research and applied research will find this extremely attractive.

Universities must plan for the future and do so in a visionary way. This is more than a designation. We are organizing an aggressive plan for extramural funding, a master physical plant plan for our campus, a strong honors college, a branding/marketing campaign and a plan for program realignment.

This is our mission, this is our vision, this is our future.

For more information on how UW-Stout is positioning itself, please visit


Summer Outlook 2012