University officials divulge new proposal to integrate liberal arts with career-focused programs
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — University officials have unveiled a proposal to make a shift towards career-focused programs for the UWSP’s future.
After nearly year of controversy surrounding 13 proposed cuts to liberal arts majors, Chancellor Bernie Patterson announced a new vision for the university: “Point Forward”.
According to university releases, the plan will essentially to join the liberal arts and career-focused programs in a way that officials allege “few universities have successfully done in the past.”
“Bottom line, our plan will produce graduates who are among the best prepared professionals in Wisconsin,” said Patterson. “They will have a competitive advantage in their careers, as well as in life.”
The proposal outlines the creation of two new entities – the Institute for the Wisconsin Idea and the Center for Critical Thinking. These will be staffed by faculty from liberal arts disciplines, and will seek to augment a liberal arts curriculum to compliment a career-focused major. According to the release, the curriculum will place special emphasis on critical thinking.
“Through the Center for Critical Thinking, training will extend to local high schools, employers, nonprofits and other community partners. Both units are intended to place the liberal arts at the heart of the university’s curriculum in ways that are integrated with professional education.”
Overall, the proposal only calls for the elimination of six majors, which is below half the original proposed 13.
These cut would include the elimination of majors in French, German, Geoscience, Geography, History, and two (BFA) concentrations in Art. The school will continue to offer Graphic Design, and History for teaching certification. Any students currently enrolled in the above programs will be able to complete their degrees in said program.
In addition, the university has put forth the idea that they will create new interdisciplinary professional schools in place of traditional academic departments which integrate liberal arts with career-focused programs. These broad schools will include: Natural Resources, Science and Engineering, Health and Wellness, Human Services, Design, Computing and Informational Science, English and Communication, Performing Arts, Global and Public Affairs, Business and Economics, and Education.
With these proposed changes, university officials hope to see an increase in enrollment for UWSP.
“We expect enrollments to stabilize and eventually increase,” said Patterson. “It’ll be a long time before we return to 9,600 just a few years ago — but we’re budgeting for the worst-case scenario.”
University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross issued a statement on the proposal:
“I want to thank faculty, staff, students, Provost Greg Summers and Chancellor Bernie Patterson who collaboratively developed this new vision for UW-Stevens Point. Respecting Shared Governance, university leaders and the advisory committee listened to a broad range of campus and community voices, and crafted a plan through a deliberate, thoughtful process. I look forward to the next steps, including additional review by campus stakeholders and the Board of Regents.”
This proposal is not final, and will still be reviewed and possibly fine-tuned through multiple committees in UW-Stevens Point’s Common Council moving forward. Once a final recommendation is submitted to the UW-System Board of Regents, a final plan must be in place by Spring 2019. If approved, the first stages of the reorganization is expected to be in position by June of 2020.