Ray Cross believes in taking the opportunity to turn dreams into reality. So when he started working on the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option program, Cross helped build a team of UW faculty and staff who would be leaders in helping turn the dream of earning a high-quality college degree into a reality for working adults.
“It’s like seeing a dream come true and translating that dream into reality, seeing other people getting excited about it,” Cross says. “It’s very gratifying.
Cross, the current chancellor of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension, who will take over his new role as UW System president next month, says it’s been rewarding to see the “dream-to-life” path UW Flexible Option is taking. But the seasoned academic says he’s also well aware of the spotlight and scrutiny the program is under.
“When the University of Wisconsin comes along and says we’re going to work on a competency-based model — using our existing programs, our existing faculty, all our existing systems, just reformatted in a different model – that’s a powerful statement,” Cross says.
He says that while several institutions around the country are working on similar competency-based programs, the UW is the first major public institution to offer degree programs designed not only to harness a student’s existing knowledge whether gained through work, education, or life experiences, but also to provide students the chance to work at their own pace.
“That’s a powerful piece,” Cross says. “When [students] look at what would traditionally be called a course — a series of competencies or a competency set — and can say, ‘I already know that or don’t have to prepare as much for that, I can prepare for these instead,’ it really makes it much more efficient.”
The opportunity for Flexible Option students to leverage their existing knowledge and potentially accelerate their progress toward a degree gives them the ability to save time, save money, and more quickly reach the day when they can achieve their personal and professional goals.
Now, as Cross prepares to take on his new role, the man known for engaging students and looking for new opportunities to help them be successful says he is eager to see how this new path to earning a University of Wisconsin degree will help returning adult students realize their dreams.
“[Earning a degree] is something you should do,” Cross says. “Whether you do it with us, or you do it someplace else, through a traditional online program, we really need more college graduates.”