As an undergraduate student, Rebecca Franzen realized the importance of building relationships between people and between people and the environment. She carried this belief in creating community through the rest of her education and into her classrooms today as an Associate Professor within the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Management discipline within the College of Natural Resources at the UWSP.
Becca wants her students to feel like they are part of something, that their voice matters, and that they can make a difference. She starts building this classroom community by individually reaching out to each student to learn more about them, asking them why they chose their major and what they have accomplished. Allowing them an opportunity to share anything else that they feel like she should know. She opens the floor before each class to allow students to share any relevant announcements with their classmates.
In addition, she annually takes students to the State Capitol to meet with elected officials, and students are required to contact professionals in their field of interest to ask questions and network. Providing these opportunities and being there to answer questions or ease concerns provides students with essential career development skills and shows them how to begin creating their own communities.
A former student, Frances Schaetz, said, “Franzen’s teaching style truly embodies the hands-on learning experience I was looking to have by attending UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources. She creates assignments that replicate scenarios in the profession and stimulate student interest. Her overall demeanor allows students to feel comfortable and welcomed within her classroom.”
Becca is an outdoor experiential educator at heart, but her students and colleagues benefitted greatly from her creativity online, especially during the pandemic. Her classes were doing everything from going on virtual nature walks together to using pets to peer-teach environmental education activities on Zoom. This proficiency with online teaching did not just happen. When universities went online, Franzen reached out to environmental education colleagues across the U.S. to form a group that met every other week for nine months to share tips and challenges. The community she created provided a pool of resources and ideas for creative ways to teach online, benefitting all involved, especially her students.
Becca also advises undergraduate resource management students and graduate students enrolled in the on-campus and online programs. In addition, she oversees the Environmental Studies licensure approvals. She also serves as co-advisor for the Environmental Educators and Naturalists Association, regularly attending meetings and providing feedback and insights on organizational budgets and activities. In 2017, these students nominated her for the David Engleson WAEE Award, which she received.
The UW-Stevens Point Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are enthusiastic about their disciplines and students. They take pride in their students’ successes and work tirelessly to ensure their achievements. Becca fulfills all of this and more.