Project addresses workforce needs by producing dedicated, skilled graduates across multiple disciplines
By Abbey Goers, UW Stout
Menomonie, Wis. – State representatives Clint Moses and Rob Summerfield on July 11 joined University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank, Provost Glendalí Rodríguez and Senior Facilities Officer Justin Utpadel for a news conference outside of Heritage Hall to celebrate state funding for the hall’s renovation.
Funding for Heritage Hall, which opened 50 years ago, was approved for $139 million. The renovation project will directly address Wisconsin's workforce needs in hospitality and tourism, mental health and wellness, childcare and education, food science, disability and rehabilitation services.
Moses, a UW-Stout psychology alum, thanked the members of the Joint Finance Committee, who saw the value in the renovation project and ensured its addition in the State’s 2023-25 budget.
“UW-Stout has always produced the type of workers that Wisconsin needs. I always say that UW-Stout was polytechnic before polytechnic was even a thing. Stout has always had a tradition of teaching the skills that we need in our workforce,” Moses said, noting that his father is a UW-Stout industrial arts alum who taught in the Chippewa Valley.
“This expansion of Heritage Hall will more than double the capacity of students that will be coming through this particular building, and I hope that it will continue to attract the very best students to our region and to our state. UW-Stout also has a great record of job placement and retention of workers within our state of Wisconsin,” Moses added.
Nearly 60% of UW-Stout graduates remain in Wisconsin, and the employment rate of recent graduates is 99.4%, based on a new First Destination report.
Summerfield, a UW-Stout business administration alum, believes the university is “one of the most unique campuses in the nation” in its ability to transform the state’s workforce and in the importance of graduates coming out of Heritage Hall to regional, state and national companies.
Chancellor Frank expressed her gratefulness to the Legislature and governor for the investment and for recognizing that “Heritage Hall and a polytechnic education that emphasizes career-focused, applied learning in collaboration with business and industry partners is part of the solution to lead Wisconsin forward.
“We place students in the Wisconsin workforce better than any other higher education institution in the state. And thanks to your efforts and those of our alumni, statewide industry and business partners, community advocates and university employees and students, now future Stout students and others will learn and collaborate in a state-of-the-art building that will amplify our impact on our state’s economy,” she said.
“This renovation couldn’t be more critical than it is today. Wisconsin faces immediate workforce challenges, from childcare and education to mental health and manufacturing, to housing and tourism. And we are projected to need even more dedicated, skilled Wisconsinites in the decade to come,” Frank added. “This renovated building, the applied research and learning it will inspire, the community resources it will provide and the business and industry partners it will support will allow Stout as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University to provide solutions to these challenges – challenges that impact our economy and communities.
“The return on investment is easy to calculate and the value is very, very clear. It is our mission at UW-Stout, Wisconsin’s only polytechnic university, to continue to prepare the generations to come to help create an even better Wisconsin,” Frank said.
Utpadel, a UW-Stout construction alum, announced that the final design of the renovation will be ready within a year and bidding for construction will be held in fall of 2024. “It will save taxpayers more than $10 million a year in projected inflation costs that would have been incurred by further delays,” he said.
Rodríguez noted that more than 2,000 UW-Stout students from 29 undergraduate and graduate programs pass through Heritage Hall each year. The renovation will double the number of students served each year to more than 4,000.
The university’s Child and Family Study Center, Disability Services, Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute and Counseling Center, which provide applied learning experiences to students and offer free services to community members and students, will also move to Heritage Hall.
The project has received $13.5 million in private funding from university supporters, industry partners and alumni made through the Stout University Foundation.