Back-to-School Advice from the Top

Need some academic motivation? We asked local university and college leaders for their top tips

Tom Giffey

UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank. (Submitted photo)
OUT AND ABOUT AT STOUT. UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank. (Submitted photo)

Before they reached the heights of academia, the leaders of UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, and Chippewa Valley Technical College were students themselves, facing the same academic and social challenges that today’s undergraduates do. We asked the leaders of these local campuses to offer some practical advice to current students. Here’s what they had to say.

KATHERINE FRANK • Chancellor, UW-Stout

College presents an unmatched landscape in which to pursue social, academic, and career experiences. You will make the most of it by being courageous, embracing your curiosity, and being intentional about each opportunity. Review your course syllabi and ask questions to be sure you understand new expectations. Investigate university resources and support available to you, like advising, tutoring, health and wellness, and career counseling. Build time management strategies and other skills that address your specific needs (hint: they can vary based on your online, on campus, or hybrid courses). Take advantage of university life – events, programming, student organizations, clubs, sports, etc. And check your institutional email at least once a day (or forward your inbox to an account you use).

“Take advantage of university life – events, programming, student organizations, clubs, sports, etc. And check your institutional email at least once a day.”   

UW-Stout’s career focused, collaborative, and applied learning emphasis offers a number of unique opportunities. As a laptop+ campus, we recommend you become familiar with your campus-issued laptop, get comfortable with the open education resources you will use in classes, and explore the degree-specific software you will use throughout your program. Labs and studios outnumber traditional classrooms 3:1 on campus and our applied approach to learning pertains to all of our programs, whether on campus or online. Think about what kind of internship, co-op, practicum, or applied research project you want to do (and how many). Take advantage of your instructors’ professional experience and career advice. Connect with students in different majors, look for problems to solve and questions to bring to class, and lean on faculty and staff expertise to find ways to take your education beyond the classroom. Essentially, take advantage of everything that makes UW-Stout Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University.

SELFIE TIME. UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt, right, hams it up with a new grad. (Submitted photo)
SELFIE TIME. UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt, right, hams it up with a new grad. (Submitted photo)

JAMES SCMIDT • Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire

BILLY FELZ • Interim Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management, UW-Eau Claire

Schmidt and Felz offered this Top 10 list of back-to-college tips for incoming students:

1. Bring half as much from home than you need.

2. Do not be shy or embarrassed to seek help, especially around academic or mental health concerns.

3. Try to meet with every faculty member in office hours in the first month:  Office hours are an open invitation for you to connect with them, don’t miss out; they are really there to help you succeed.

4. Eating alone in the cafeteria can seem like the end of the world, but it’s not. No one thinks it’s strange: Put yourself out there and invite people from your classes or floor to meet for meals.

5. Keep your dorm room door open to meet others.

“Keep your dorm room door open to meet others.”

6. Attend your first sporting events: football games and volleyball matches – featuring our national championship-winning volleyball team –  and, don’t miss the award-winning Blugold Marching Band!

7. Get involved in a club: There are 200+ to choose from.

8. Find a job on campus: This is a great way to meet people, it’s convenient and flexible, and helps build your resume.

9. Homesickness in the first  semester is normal for just about everyone, the cure is to get connected and engaged on campus.

10. Call and text your family as much as you want, but stay on campus for the first six weeks of the semester. Fight the urge to go home on the weekends.

HITTING THE BOOKS. Dr. Sunem Beaton-Garcia is president of CVTC. (Submitted photo)
HITTING THE BOOKS. Dr. Sunem Beaton-Garcia is president of CVTC. (Submitted photo)

SUNEM BEATON-GARCIA • President, Chippewa Valley Technical College

Our students have dreams, and it is our mission to help them turn their dreams into reality. At Chippewa Valley Technical College, we do that by offering numerous support services to eliminate obstacles to their learning. 

If I could talk to every one of our students before they start each school year, I would tell them to take advantage of the academic and student support services we offer at no additional cost to them. At CVTC, that includes tutoring, student success coaching, financial literacy guidance, transfer orientation, internships, accessibility resources, access to community services, and student emergency funds to name just a few. We also offer access to necessary technology such as Wi-Fi hotspots, graphing calculators, and laptops to pave students’ road to success.

“Asking for help takes courage, but we want (students) to know that they are not alone.”

It is common for students to be unaware of the vast amount of help that they have at their fingertips. Asking for help takes courage, but we want them to know that they are not alone. It’s our job to make sure they have what they need to flourish and grow. Their time as students will be much more successful if they take advantage of our wrap-around services to help them on their educational journey. Congratulations to all students walking through the doors of higher learning institutions this year. We’re here to support their dreams.