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WAICU in history

WAICU is celebrating its 60th anniversary. A great deal has been accomplished: WAICU convenes and coordinates over 40 affinity groups – for example CFOs, Chief Academic Officers, and environmental health and safety directors. We were one of the first private college associations in the country to provide student access  programming (school counselor workshops, the Guide to Admissions and Financial Aid), and the programming is growing every year. For example, Wisconsin Private College Week is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. WAICU has become a leader in cost collaborative services, saving our members millions of dollars and keeping a college education within reach. In the 60 years WAICU has advocated aid for Wisconsin students – 478,066 grants were awarded, totaling  844,179,815. WAICU has also secured funds for students. These are all good things and raises the prospect of doing even more as the years advance. WAICU at 60 – measure the results, understand the meaning.

Of course there have not been 60 years of uninterrupted bliss. WAICU is not an island. WAICU students, faculty, and leaders are living in a time of developments of historic proportions. The worldwide pandemic, the economic recession, civic insurrection, tyranny, and terrorism. The fact that we even use the phrase “historic dimensions” shows the way that people think about history. History is often about measuring—the oldest, the richest, the largest, the scariest. Measuring is important, but history also provides an opportunity for evaluating and thinking. Turning to history for meaning–what did the Treaty of Versailles mean for the opportunities or peace?

I have no question that history has lessons to teach. However, there continue to be questions about whether we are learning those lessons or learning the correct ones. Spanish philosopher George Santayana said that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. There also is little doubt that history can shape the future: “What’s past is prologue” wrote William Shakespeare. With the complicated family-tree of historic events and historical predictions, we have to ask ourselves if it is all just too much and if history is interesting, but purposeless. I for one, find it almost impossible to live as if history did not matter.

This is why history is still part of the curriculum of colleges and universities—not only in separate courses and majors, but in the very nature of teaching and learning. For 60 years WAICU has lived its mission as “Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities working together for educational opportunity.” There have been measurable and immeasurable and meaningful results.