The College of Letters and Science
At the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the College of Letters and Science is focused on the public good, promoting leadership and service grounded in a foundation of flexible and robust education. As home for UW-Steven Point’s humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and computing/mathematics disciplines, our mission is to serve the region, the state, the country and the world through education, scholarship, service and leadership training. We are indeed the “core” of the university, representing the breadth and depth of disciplines critical to a liberal arts and sciences education.
- We will be leaders in quality mathematics and science education for future generations (STEM Enhancement)
- We will be partners in health care disciplines and curricula (Healthy Communities)
- We will train better citizens and caretakers of their government (Responsible and Vibrant Communities)
- We will be stimulators of local and regional economies (Stakeholder Partnerships)
- We will be ethical leaders and promote civil discourse (Applied Ethics and Civil Discourse)
Waypoints in 2015-16
As we chart our way into the future of public higher education, the College of Letters and Science at UW-Stevens Point takes its mission and strategic position seriously, carving new paths of innovation to support the strategic plan of the university: The Thriving Communities Initiative. In particular, this past year we supported specific waypoints in our path to becoming the most responsive of the colleges, in giving our students the fundamental skills needed not only for job success, but for career and professional ethics preparation. The projects highlighted in this report are only a small sample of the collective and individual projects going on within our departments and centers, and marshaled forward by our spectacular faculty.
The New Science Building and STEM Initiatives
In response to the needs of the university and its community, and building on what has become the hallmark of UW-Stevens Point, the new Chemistry Biology Building will indeed be a sentinel location on campus. The building will be a gathering place for students in our science and mathematics departments and will service the many students in courses needed for health care professions preparation and natural resources curricular needs.
Indeed, this new building highlights our unique role in preparing scientists, enhancing offerings in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula, and highlighting the role our college plays in making the entire campus not only technologically savvy, but also giving us badly needed classroom space and a gathering space on the northeast section of campus. The lobby of this new building will highlight not only the sciences, but indeed the history of the campus and its evolution as a top-rated science institution.
The Quality Initiative in Critical Thinking
The new effort to infuse critical thinking throughout our curriculum is imperative if we are to quantify the skillsets required of our students, as described by employers and graduate schools. As a first of its kind in the nation, this initiative will focus on the use of argument mapping as a logical and normative set of skills to be used in classes in our general education program and throughout our curricula in an intentional way. By incorporating this method of reasoning and thinking into curricula from the first to senior year, students will not only be gaining insight into a new way to polish their critical thinking skills, but learning a method of reasoning which will assist them in any course of study or career path they choose.
The Allen F. Blocher Planetarium
As a center for outreach with many years of excellence and presentation to our students and the Stevens Point community, the planetarium is undergoing a renaissance under the guidance of new director Sebastian Zamfir. Sebastian plans to use the facility for not only the classic planetarium shows, but to incorporate data visualization from the Pejsa Observatory, and to assist the college in seeking funding to upgrade dated facilities. Possibilities abound for this outreach space with new projection applications in the life and geographical sciences, as well as for entertainment and lectures in many different fields.
The Mississippi Delta Trip
As an example of an alternative study trip, this project has become more institutionalized as a best practice in higher education, and is an example of what the dean likes to call “study-within.” These alternative trips to domestic locations with a historical color give students with limited funds, who may not be in a position to pay for traditional study abroad, the opportunity for an experience that promotes a broader perspective on the diversity and pluralism of our country.
De-Extinction and the Community Lecture Series
The concept of “de-extinction” presents something of an ethical dilemma in its wide-reaching questioning of just what is appropriate in restoring species that have gone extinct in recent times. Far from a “Jurassic Park” dilemma, it is clear that habitat loss or other human-induced action has precipitated some recent extinctions. Examples include the passenger pigeon, which disappeared about 100 years ago when its habitat was lost, or the mastodon, which may have become extinct either due to over-hunting, or due to dramatic climate change (end of the last ice age). Such ethical dilemmas prove to be pervasive in not only the sciences, but throughout the business, legal, medical and environmental fields, and are examples of the kinds of “critical thinking” projects that the college promotes.
As the college looks to the challenges of the coming academic year, and the next biennium state budget (2017-19), we set our goals high in an attempt to address the pressing needs of not only our institution, but of the region, state and nation. Destinations will include:
- Humanities initiatives to promote their importance through new majors, minors and centers; formalize the Center for Applied Ethics; and solidify the Civil Discourse Initiative.
- Update curricula across the college to bring in new ideas and nationally trending ideas to promote new career and professional goals.
- Support the new Academic and Career Advising Center (COLS ACAC) to full use with the new professional advisers and a model that frees faculty and chairs to focus more on mentoring and recruiting of students.
- Bring the new data analytics major forward with new endowed positions and recruit nationwide for a more diverse student body in the computer information sciences.
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