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New bachelor's degree in Wausau offers variety of skills for service to the community

When Kim Tallitsch, Marathon, returned to school as an adult learner, she finished her associate degree at what was then UW-Marathon County then transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to complete her bachelor's degree in sociology.

Now the operations director for Habitat for Humanity of Wausau, Tallitsch is grateful for her education and calls going back to school "the best decision I ever made." But the daily commute to Stevens Point took time away from work, schoolwork and her growing family.

"I wish I'd had the ability to finish my bachelor's degree at the Wausau campus," said Tallitsch. "It would have given me more flexibility and balance for my work and home life."

Wausau area students now have that opportunity. A four-year bachelor's degree in sociology began this fall that can be completed at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau through a mix of in-person, online and virtual courses.

Students of sociology can pursue a variety of career paths, said Amy Zlimen Ticho, chair of the UW-Stevens Point Sociology and Social Work Department.

"From social and community services, social justice and advocacy, criminal justice and corrections to business and marketing, research and program evaluation, these careers are in demand across the region and country and have high job satisfaction," she said. 

Taught by UW-Stevens Point faculty, the program offers a community-centric model for studying and engaging in topics related to the issues of today, said Sociology Professor David Barry, who also coordinates the internship program. Students also gain experience-based learning at local organizations and businesses.

"Opening the sociology bachelor's degree program into the Wausau community provides significant opportunities for students and the region at large," Barry said. "There are also opportunities for students to participate in student organizations, professional internships and applied research projects that look beyond the classroom for hands-on experiences that engage in active learning. They benefit the entire community."

Students are offered internships in the Wausau area. Kelly Newcomb-Hoehn, a 2005 sociology graduate from UW-Stevens Point and 2003 associate degree graduate at the Wausau campus, completed an internship at the Women's Community as a legal advocate for domestic abuse survivors.

"Internships make all the difference in your education," she said. "That hands-on experience broadens your horizons."

Newcomb-Hoehn is now a paralegal with the Marathon County's District Attorney's Office, a job that stemmed from her internship experience.

"Sociology is an excellent choice because it opens so many doors and job opportunities," she said. "Especially if you want to do work that helps families such as social work, health care and adoption. In my job, I learn something new every day, and it is challenging yet rewarding work. Sociology steered me in the right direction."

Tallitsch agrees. Her job includes selecting Habitat families, helping them do the work needed for an interest-free mortgage, coordinating the volunteers that work at Habitat's retail store that raises money for her organization and getting homes built by construction students at D.C. Everest High School.

"Sociology gave me a mindfulness for the systematic factors that affect our partner families, which helps me serve them in sensitive and meaningful ways," Tallitsch said. "It helps you understand the social influences and impacts that are reflected in people's personal decisions."

She said it has also helped improve her communication and critical thinking skills and made her mindful to diversity and the social impacts of racial and gender inequality.

"Adding sociology as our fourth bachelor's degree, along with business administration, nursing and social work, brings one more degree keyed toward meeting community needs," said Ann Herda-Rapp, Wausau campus executive and a professor of sociology. (Two engineering degrees also are offered in collaboration with UW-Platteville.)

"UW-Stevens Point sociology graduates are found all over the Wausau area, in agency and nonprofit offices, in counseling centers and in schools," Herda-Rapp said. "Offering the degree in Wausau makes a bachelor's degree that much more attainable for many more students, including post-traditional students who will then be able to serve the community."

Education erases limits on what people can accomplish, said Tallitsch.

"When you realize that, the other obstacles in your life seem less insurmountable. I received an exceptional education from the Wausau and Stevens Point campuses. I'm so thankful that others will get that opportunity for a four-year degree, right here in Wausau."

Contact Zlimen at or 715-346-3603 for more information.

©1993- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point