UW-Stevens Point: Staszak retiring

After wearing several different hats at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) and traveling the globe as the university’s study abroad representative, International Programs Director David Staszak will retire August 1.

During his 26 years at UWSP, Staszak served as the dean of Graduate Studies, professor of biology, director of the Title III Computer Literacy Project, associate vice chancellor of Academic Programs and Grant Support Services and in his current International Programs role.

“I am so appreciative of the opportunities UWSP has given me during my career,” he says.
A Milwaukee native, Staszak earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in biology at Iowa State University. He first taught biology and chemistry in Illinois then enjoyed an eight-year stint as a professor and administrator at Georgia College and State University.

Happy to return to the Midwest in 1980, he took a job at UWSP that filled three roles. The university needed someone to oversee its graduate programs as well as help the campus and its faculty garner academic research grants. Staszak had experience in both areas and was hired as coordinator of research and the dean of Graduate Studies in addition to being a professor of biology.

“A career in university administration was never my goal,” he says, “but when life presents you with opportunities . . .”

One of his biggest successes early in his UWSP career was bringing a five-year $2.5 million Title III grant program to campus that provided computer equipment and training to faculty and staff. He also managed the program. Additionally he’s administered millions of dollars in grant funds for the campus over the years.

When the Office of Graduate Studies was closed in 1995 due to budgetary concerns, Staszak was named associate vice chancellor for Academic Programs and Grant Support Services. Due to former involvement with semester abroad programs, he also was named director of International Programs (IP). Originally slated for cuts, the IP program was popular with students and faculty looking for more international opportunities. Staszak made efforts to increase its visibility and outreach.

“This university changes students’ lives through study abroad,” he says. “Most of them have never traveled outside the United States. When they go to a foreign country and have so many new experiences, they come back feeling they can do anything.”

The number of study abroad programs has doubled under Staszak’s direction with the help of IP staff and faculty members who initiated short term programs in their field of study, he says. In recent years, UWSP has consistently ranked within the top 20 master’s institutions for study abroad.

Over the last decade, Staszak has visited more than 30 countries where he met with students, foreign university administrators and dignitaries.

“The job afforded me the opportunity to see places I would not have gone to on my own,” he said. “But these were busy trips. I ended up seeing most of the countries through a plane, train or cab window.”

“There wasn’t anywhere in the world where I wasn’t warmly welcomed,” he adds. “I have lived in a hut in Fiji where the hosts gave me their bed. By our standards they had nothing else to give. I have also had an elegant dinner with the secretary of the Communist Party in Beijing, who happened to be a university leader. Comparing these two experiences, I found the people to be basically hospitable. If you treat them respectfully, that is how they treat you.”

One of the destinations he would recommend to travelers is Hungary, he said, “for its beautiful scenery and wonderful people. Students always praise their stays there.”

Staszak’s retirement plans include continuing his hobbies of photography, hunting, fishing and SCUBA diving when he’s not riding his 1966 Harley Chopper. He and his wife, retired UWSP News Services Director Sally Clanton, enjoy time spent with their six children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild at their Sunset Lake home. They also plan a trip to Ireland next year.