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Academic Staff Excellence Award 2023 – Tobias Barske

August 10, 2023

When the School of Humanities and Global Studies (SHGS) at UW-Stevens Point was restructured in 2020, Tobias Barske, a professor of German and applied linguistics, had to find a way for four previously autonomous departments to function in a shared framework. Barske was named assistant dean for the school; he had been serving as the interim associate dean of Academic and Student Affairs in addition to teaching at UWSP since 2006.  

Tobias Barske, University Awards
Professor Tobias Barske, assistant dean of the School of Humanities and Global Studies, won the 2023 Academic Staff Excellence Award.

He got to work, creating a leadership team that met weekly to find common solutions and develop strategies for collaborating and reducing workload. To guide the work of the new school, Barske listened to concerns of department chairs in English, history, philosophy and world languages and advocated for those department needs. He emphasized regular communications to inform his faculty about their progress. Despite a budget crisis, global pandemic, and the uncertainties of the reorganization, Barske led new efforts to articulate the value of the humanities.  

In the spirit of collaboration, Barske organized enhanced materials to present the entirety of the school’s offerings at new student recruitment events, National History Day, Homecoming Family Day, World Languages Fair and new fall and spring course fairs he developed.  

“That the school has come through that gauntlet so intact, functional, and collegial is a testament to all of his outstanding leadership abilities,” said Professor Brett Barker, chair of the Department of History and International Studies.  

The school’s department chairs submitted letters of recommendation supporting Barske’s 2023 Academic Staff Excellence Award. They discussed his willingness to launch new initiatives in support of students, his enthusiastic work in recruitment, and his organization of faculty appreciation events.   

“It’s nice to be recognized. I’m proud of where we’re at, building for the future,” said Barske. “I see it as a huge win that we’re picking up steam after the past challenges.”    

Past chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Alice Keefe said the school has a new sense of group identity and an environment of solidarity under Barske’s leadership. In her nominating letter, she emphasized how effective Barske had been in establishing a strong spirit of community across the school.  

“He has brought the school’s faculty together in shared pedagogical explorations and activities relating to career preparation; these activities also have helped strengthen our sense of shared purpose,” said Keefe. 

Others pointed to his availability and responsiveness to their needs in lauding Barske’s work. As the school’s liaison in recruitment related events—and lead cheerleader—Barske said he is strongly committed to building on the momentum for the future. 

He is focused on making connections on behalf of humanities majors. For example, a new collaboration with the State Attorney General’s Office and the SHGS Advisory Board launched new internship opportunities for students preparing for law degrees this past spring. From a first job after graduation to every promotion after, Barske said SHGS majors are well-rounded and provided training with career-specific applications. 

“We need to articulate better what a humanities student, for example, who studies philosophy, brings to the table and how it translates into jobs and how those skills transfer,” Barske said. 

Through an initiative with the Academic and Career Advising Center last semester, Barske and his colleagues in the SHGS worked to develop career-preparedness activities in their class curricula. He is optimistic about the unified work they are undertaking and looks to plan for larger-scale events and more meaningful ways to benefit the school and students in the future. 

“We are working to make sure students understand what the humanities stand for to help them thrive in their transition into life after UWSP,” said Barske.