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A Strategic Enrollment Initiative in Physical Sciences

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has an opportunity for growth in majors and minors in its physical science departments, which include:

    • Chemistry
    • Soils and Water Resources
 
It has been estimated that many sectors in our economy will require life scientists with stronger backgrounds in mathematics and chemistry, and that the life sciences will increasingly converge with the physical sciences. It is unlikely that we will see a reduction in student demand for majors within STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). We typically face difficulty recruiting and retaining students in programs that require a deeper background in mathematics and chemistry.

A Strategy

These realities present UW-Stevens Point with capacity for new-student recruitment in the physical sciences and retention of these students, linked with an opportunity to increase our overall undergraduate student diversity. Recruitment will be an active process in an effort to clarify career opportunities and the desirability and national need for associated occupations.

Recruiting students for these quantitative fields requires us to develop an outreach model that aims at specific schools, teachers and students who can be tracked and encouraged in mathematics and chemistry. Once enrolled at UW-Stevens Point, we need to develop a program of assistance in alleviating mathematics and quantitative science anxiety through faculty mentoring, tutoring, advising and research experiences. We can aim at future recruitment success by building the “pipeline” of potential majors in these areas and working with local, regional and targeted national school systems.

This points us to three simultaneous approaches to accomplishing our enrollment goals.

    A. Recruitment from within. We must work with admitted students “in-transition” who may be leaning toward the sciences, but who may not have full information on the opportunities available in the physical sciences. This spring, College of Letters and Science Dean Chris Cirmo launched a colloquium speaker series introducing students to career paths in the physical sciences and mathematics. Speakers included the dean, COLS faculty and alumni.
    B. External recruitment: We must attract more students to the physical sciences from current high school graduate pools. Existing programs such as STEM Exploration Days for Boys and Girls, and the Central Wisconsin Mathematics League, as well as COLS centers such as the Museum of Natural History and Allen F. Blocher Planetarium expose high school students to our offerings.
    C. Pipeline programs: Developing partnerships with local and regional school systems to encourage success and reduce anxiety in mathematics at the grade school and middle school levels.

Institutional Leverage

We wish to pursue a specific enrollment management plan that focuses on the physical sciences as part of a larger plan to reach the chancellor’s enrollment goals. Attracting students interested in such programs is already well-leveraged at UW-Stevens Point by:

    • our existing reputation as a “place of excellence” for higher education in the sciences, natural resources, mathematics and computer science;
    • the new chemistry/biology science building with new facilities and equipment for the Department of Chemistry;
    • the recent receipt of a Title III Grant with the Department of Education — Strengthening Academic Success: More Graduates in Wisconsin;
    • the specific goals of our Healthy Communities Initiative that focus our attention on creating an intentional diversity pipeline of students interested in the sciences ­— rural, low-income, first-generation, Hmong, Native American and other underrepresented communities from the northern two-thirds of the state;
    • our need to increase our student body diversity with federal aid eligible, underrepresented students.

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