With online focus, UWS opens doors to industry

Online or in the classroom, the University of Wisconsin-Superior has a path into the mining industry workforce for a number of different jobs — and just an ore boat’s length from the shores of Minnesota or from your desktop.

UW-Superior offers a number of online degrees of the four-year and two-year variety, with about 25 percent of its student body enrolled online and about half of its population from Minnesota.

“That’s a significant part of our campus culture,” said Jordan Milan, director of strategic communications and special assistant to the chancellor. “We get a nice chunk of our student body from both states — Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

The online portion of UW-Superior’s offerings, she said, are particularly attractive to full-time students and those on the Iron Range. On top of convenience, the college offers a number of courses that could lead to good jobs in the mining industry.

For example, said Heather Rickerl, career services coordinator at UW-Superior, a student could tailor their education to the industry through biology, environmental sciences and GIS mapping. It isn’t a traditional mining job, but that’s part of the success of the programs offered — students not expecting to find a career in the industry are doing just that.

“We’re helping students shift their perceptions or what they've heard about the industry if they are not from this area. Students on the environmental side, they’re really starting to shift and push on those fronts, Rickerl said. “Mining companies are increasingly interested in sustainable business models and need environmental scientists. A lot of times that is life changing for the students and they go on to work at those types of companies.”

One thing the college faces with its industrial and mining area jobs is an initial perception problem of the industry. But, Milan said, that’s common for a number of industries.

Health care, for example, is often viewed by incoming students as just doctors and nurses. For the mining industry, it not only needs the environmental scientists, but also the geologists, GIS mappers and business majors.

“It’s all industries to tell you the truth,” she said. “The typical undergrad doesn’t understand the full scope. Our job is to teach them a path in a job they haven’t thought of. That’s across the board that we have to do some teaching.”

New this year at UW-Superior is a fully-online business management degree, which begins in the fall of 2019.

“THey would never have to come to campus,” Milan added.

So what makes UW-Superior a — well — superior option over schools in Duluth or the Twin Cities? Aside from online offerings, Milan said, the school offers a small campus and small class sizes that trend toward individual attention. Plus, she said, students from Minnesota can pay the same in-state tuition as Wisconsin residents.

There’s also an easy transfer from Mesabi Range College or Hibbing Community College, along with internship opportunities to get students’ feet wet at a certain company or in a particular industry.

“A majority of our online students come in with credits from other institutions and are looking to complete their bachelor’s degree online,” Milan said. “ UW-Superior makes every effort to make the credit transfer process as seamless as possible.”

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