MADISON, Wis. – Students interested in the University of Wisconsin System’s competency-based UW Flexible Option will be able to choose from a wider array of certificate programs.

In a presentation to the UW System Board of Regents today, UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross announced that four more UW institutions have committed to offering programs in the new format:

  • UW-Parkside faculty members are developing two new certificate programs – one in Sales and another focused on Global Skills. The campus plans to develop four additional Flex Option certificate programs in the future. Eventually, the campus hopes to propose a new baccalaureate degree built on these “stackable” certificates.
  • UW-Stevens Point is working on a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide skills needed for geospatial technology professions. These include emergency management, utilities and infrastructure, business and market analysis, law enforcement, urban and regional planning and environmental management.
  • UW-Stout is assessing market demand for a certificate program, possibly at the graduate level, in Project Management. Students in this program would learn how to develop effective project plans and how to plan, budget and control multi-project programs.
  • UW-Madison will offer a non-credit certificate in Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) Counseling, coordinated through its Division of Continuing Studies, with support from the School of Social Work. The program will serve human services professionals seeking state certification as AODA counselors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for drug counselors will grow by 34 percent through 2016, resulting in 29,000 new jobs.

Start dates have not been announced for any of the new programs. They are in various stages of development, and will enroll students as the programs become ready.

“This is a real testament to the success of UW Flex, and how more and more UW institutions are offering more and more programs through the Flexible Option,” said Aaron Brower, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor at UW-Extension. “We’re looking forward to working with our new partners as we broaden our ability to meet the needs of Wisconsin and the nation.”

The UW Flexible Option is an innovative way to make UW degree and certificate programs more convenient and affordable for adult and nontraditional students. In this self-paced, competency-based model, students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they know, whether that knowledge was gained through prior coursework, military training, on-the-job training, or other learning experiences.

“These certificates are the kinds of credentials employers are increasingly looking for,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “ Valuable in their own right, they can become gateways to full degree programs.”

“I’m excited about the progression of UW Flexible Option, and mostly about the new opportunities we can provide to our students. We will continue to develop additional programs as demands and opportunities emerge,” said Cross.

“It is central to our mission at UW-Parkside to be responsive to the needs of our region.  We are eager to advance our participation in the Flex Degree Option and create new pathways for those who see the University of Wisconsin as a key element in their long-term success,” said UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford.

“UW-Stout is committed to being a full partner in the Flexible Option effort,” said Jackie Weissenburger, Associate Chancellor at UW-Stout. “We will pursue the project management certificate program based on our assessment of the workforce demand, and tailor it to the unique needs of prospective students.”

“Eighty percent of data we use every day is based on geographic information used in GIS technology. Nontraditional students and professionals will master geospatial skills through the GIS certificate program to meet job demands of today and tomorrow.  They will gain flexible on-line modular training at a pace convenient for their work schedule,” said Keith Rice, GIS Center director at UW-Stevens Point.

“Many individuals seeking professional certification as AODA counselors are already practicing human service professionals with degrees in the field, and much of the content covered in the required training programs could be obtained through work experience. So, the Flex Option’s competency-based model is a perfect fit,” said James Campbell, Associate Dean of the Division of Continuing Studies at UW-Madison. “We are working with the Department of Safety and Professional Services to ensure that we meet all certification requirements.”

Last year, UW System announced that the first Flex Option degrees would include three bachelor’s degree programs and one certificate from UW-Milwaukee, along with an Associate of Arts and Science degree and certificates offered by the UW Colleges.

In November, the UW Flexible Option application process opened, and students will begin working on their degree programs in January 2014. Before admissions opened, 4,000 people already had expressed interest in the UW Flexible Option. On Nov. 11, an online self-evaluation opened to help potential students determine whether the UW Flexible Option would be a good fit them. Since then, more than 2,500 have begun that assessment.

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Logos for UW System, UW Colleges, UW-Extension, UW-Madison, UW-Parkside, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Stout

Media Contacts:

UW Colleges/UW-Extension: Jessica Tormey,, 608-263-5061
UW-Madison: Käri Knutson,, 608-265-9870
UW-Parkside: John Mielke,, 262-595-3226
UW-Stevens Point: Nick Schultz,, 715-346-2490
UW-Stout: Doug Mell,, 715-232-1198
UW System: David Giroux,, 608-262-4464