“When I joined the University of Wisconsin-Richland staff, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to be in an atmosphere of learning, something I greatly enjoy,” said Dorothy Thompson, UW-Richland director of marketing and communication, who has announced her retirement effective in early July. “My impression was correct, though the content of the approximately three decade long ‘course’ was not exactly what I’d envisioned. What I’ve learned has been eclectic, with a heavy concentration on communication technology.”
The first and continuous area of Thompson’s work with the Richland Center UW campus has focused on communication and information. “The office was called Public Information for many years,” she said. Duties and methods evolved, as did the job title. “Later it was University Relations. Now the term is Marketing and Communication,” she said. “The aim all along has been to inform people of who we are and what we do, to tell our stories. Over the years, methods have changed – and greatly expanded.”
When Thompson first started working on campus in the mid-1980s, her main tool was an electric typewriter. Soon after, though, personal computers came to campus and she, like legions across the globe, learned and adapted – through Apple-something-now-forgotten to various versions of Word Perfect and Word; from a film camera to early digital on diskettes and later small CDs, to today’s memory cards. “I have files in my office on paper, 5 ¼ floppy disks, 3x5 disks, zip disks, CDs, internal and external hard drives, USB, and those I access in the cloud,” she said.
“When campus people first began experimenting with web technology, I got involved. At that point, it wasn’t part of my job because it really didn’t exist. I was on campus at the workshop one Saturday morning in the Wallace Student Center when we created our first campus web page. I’d taken, selected and scanned the photo we used. We had a page – a single page – on the World Wide Web! It was very exciting. I learned to use HotDog, then Netscape, then FrontPage and our current content management system. I’ve worked with our website as it grew and evolved in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.”
Campus photography is another example of change. “Back in the 1980s, I took photos on film. They were sent away for developing. When they came back, I’d selected pictures to share with the media. I’d wait for reprints. By the time those came back, were identified, mailed, processed and printed, a month could have passed. Today, I can take a photo, process as necessary in Photoshop, post, and hear reactions from as far away as South Korea or Pakistan within an hour,” Thompson said.
“I know it may be hard for an 18-year-old student of today to imagine,” she said. “We didn’t have e-mail, the Internet, search engines, digital images, wi-fi, a website or social media and yet we were able to communicate. There were even advantages to life in the pre-digital work world.”
While Thompson’s ongoing work on campus focused on communication across three decades, before websites and Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and more, her position was part-time. “There were opportunities for other part-time positions,” she said. “For about a decade, I served concurrently as Student Activities Coordinator/Student Senate advisor, as journalism instructor/student newspaper advisor. Other service included assisting in student services and in the dean’s office, as interim continuing education director, College for Kids instructor, as support person when we had three or four department chairs on campus. I’ve worked with students from 4th graders through adult students. I helped establish the Academic Alliance program. I’ve even helped animate Roadrunner, our mascot, a few times over the years.”
In addition to technology, Thompson said the greatest changes she’s seen on campus have been the addition and growth of student housing and the expansion of international programs. “Campus View and students from around the world have greatly enhanced campus life for all of us – and for the community, too,” she said.
John Poole, emeritus assistant dean for student affairs and longtime colleague, said, ““It’s very difficult to say in just a few words all that Dorothy Thompson has meant to UW-Richland, to me, and to the community over her nearly 30 years of dedicated service. Dorothy was an extraordinarily valued colleague and friend, providing professional, creative, and insightful leadership for our campus. Her intellect, sense of humor, and overall flair clearly mark her as one of a kind. Her work and many contributions will be missed, but more than that . . . Dorothy will be missed.”
UW-Richland CEO/Dean Dr. Patrick Hagen said, "I've had the pleasure of working closely with Dorothy Thompson for five wonderful years. She gave me my first