Your Town Wausau: Higher education has a rich history in Wausau

Your Town Wausau
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:11 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - As the City of Wausau continues to grow and expand into what it is today, so has higher education in the area.

“The UW has been offering courses in Wausau since 1933,” said Brett Barker, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Wausau.

Those courses began as part of the University of Wisconsin’s extension services.

“At one point, you had professors traveling. They were often called circuit riders colloquially because they would go here and to other sites in the area,” said Barker. “Then eventually we came to reside in that old normal school building which was a large brick structure out on Stewart Avenue.”

The Wausau branch of the University of Wisconsin was a way to help students get their higher education without having to relocate.

“Students are not just seeing our campus as a place to come for a year or two,” said Ozalle Toms, the campus executive at UWSP-Wausau. “But now they can actually stay here.”

The education at the Wausau campus helps the city with employee retention.

“That was the main point of bringing these four-year degrees. To keep the talent here in the area,” said Toms.

“Since I’ve been going to school here they have also expanded the sociology bachelor’s degree to Wausau,” said Marie Bemis. “So I was one of the first students to be able to double major in social work and sociology.”

Bemis said without UWSP-Wausau, graduating would have been difficult.

“Without these classes being offered here in Wausau, I would have either had to commute or move to point which is the next closest place to get a bachelor’s degree,” said Bemis.

Now, the soon-to-be graduate already has a job lined up for her future.

“I am a case manager and court coordinator,” said Bemis.

Higher education has always been an important part of the Wausau community.

“The names have changed, the organizations have changed, but the main thing that hasn’t changed is this has always been the University of Wisconsin’s presence in Wausau,” said Barker.