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  • Writer's pictureNancy Adis

UW-Whitewater: Mentors, Hands-On Experiences, and Follow-Through on Core Values!

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

All colleges have many opportunities for students to get involved in areas of interest and leadership – from student clubs to research to campus jobs, like orientation leader or resident assistant. Taking a look at the programs that the college offers can tell us a little about the values of the college itself.

I want to highlight two programs at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater (UW-W) that give me some insight into the university’s core values: the Wheelchair Athletics Program and the Nursing Home Visitation Program. The first program, supporting men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams and adaptive recreation opportunities, shows me how the college embraces physical diversity and the second program, fostering relationships between students and elderly nursing home residents, shows an institutional focus on service work and the value of intergenerational relationships. And these are not recently added programs; several decades ago, I completed my bachelor’s degree at UW-W and those two activities were already long-standing offerings from the 1970s!

Recently I noticed mention of the UW-W wheelchair basketball team in the news when John Boie, a former member of the UW-W team, alumnus, and current academic advisor at the university, was recognized by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at a special ceremony at the White House. As a UW-W alumna myself, I was proud – not because I follow athletics, but because I am impressed with the positive attitude and grit it must take for those players to pursue their sport, and because UW-W continues to support this team and encourage participation.

One of the many hands-on experiences that I was privileged to be involved in as a UW-W student was the Nursing Home Visitation Program (NHVP) in which students visit residents of nearby nursing homes on a weekly basis throughout the semester, a service that some students end up continuing for many years. Developed by Dr. Clifford O’Beirne, this service-learning program has been running under his volunteer direction for 45 years and is estimated to have impacted thousands of students who’ve made over 250,000 visits to nursing home residents.

As a first-year student in Doc’s Psychology of Human Adjustment class, I signed up to visit a nursing home resident as a way to earn extra credit, to meet other students, and to try something new. Through this program I learned about giving back and making a difference in the life of an elderly resident, Anna, who didn’t get any other visitors. I learned about commitment, empathy, and integrity. I developed a mentor-mentee relationship with Doc as I later moved into a role as a NH Coordinator, driving my own 15 passenger van of volunteers each week. I also honed my leadership skills as the Head Student Coordinator of this program, leading our small group of coordinators and spreading the word about our work to other UW campuses. The university sponsored the NHVP by funding the transportation costs as well as giving student coordinators access to top university leaders (such as then Chancellor Connor) for Q&A about the program; all this made a big statement about the importance of service-learning and giving back to the community. In a world that calls for more caring and empathy, the NHVP is on the right track and can tell us a lot about one of the core values at UW-W.

I believe that each student’s hands-on activities and experiences at college are a significant part of their education and a valuable part of their college experience. Since it’s more about what each student puts into their college years than the exact college they are studying at, an important piece of the puzzle to a successful outcome is what opportunities and experiences are available for students to participate in.

Mentorship is another piece of that puzzle, and I want to point out that in addition to Dr. O’Beirne there were many professors and staff members from my UW-W years who became important mentors to me. People who went above and beyond to get to know me personally, to offer sound advice, to challenge me to do more and think more deeply. These mentors connected me with others, brought new opportunities to my attention, and cared about me as a person. It was up to me to learn from them and from my experiences, to get involved and delve deeply, and I became a better person for these relationships.

There is a lot to consider when selecting a college and learning about the unique programs offered can be very helpful. Confident College Planning guides students and families in the process of finding colleges which best meet their personal needs and interests so that the student will be most successful. Our services include planning discussions for exploring majors, making college lists and college visits, and individualized attention for essay editing, application review and tracking, scholarship research, and funding strategies. Contact me at for a discussion on what I can do for you!

More about the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater:

UW-W is part of the Wisconsin state university system which has 13 universities across 26 campuses and a statewide extension office in each county. Located in the small town of Whitewater, the university serves over 12,000 students in a wide range of academic programs. Well-known for their business and education programs, they also continue to add new majors such as legal studies and cybersecurity. With over 180 student organizations, an honors program, internships, and study abroad options, the offerings are plentiful. In addition to the merit and need based grants and scholarships available, UW-W participates in the Midwest Student Exchange Program and has a Return to Wisconsin legacy program for students from other states who have a parent or grandparent with a UW-W degree.

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