New schools enhance learning, networking, career exploring at UW-Stevens Point

Student learning and networking opportunities will expand as part of a new interdisciplinary approach at UW-Stevens Point that allows students to explore professional career paths in related fields.

Units in three of the four curricular colleges were reorganized to create seven new academic schools. Each is an umbrella for several programs and majors:

  • In the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the School of Design and Communication includes art, graphic design, interior architecture, media studies and professional communication; the School of Performing Arts includes music, theatre, dance and arts management.
  • In the College of Letters and Science, the current 13 departments have been organized into four schools: School of Behavioral and Social Sciences; School of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry; School of Humanities and Global Studies; and School of Mathematics, Computing, Physics and Astronomy.
  • In the College of Professional Studies, the School of Health Sciences and Wellness encompasses 10 undergraduate majors and 12 graduate programs from the former schools of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Care Professions, and Health Promotion and Human Development.

"The reorganization really helps us pool our resources and our strengths," said Eric Yonke, retiring dean of the College of Letters and Sciences. "In some respects, it is a natural progression, bringing together disciplines and departments with shared research interests and teaching approaches as well as common perspectives on career pathways for students." 

The humanities departments have always shared the core mission of teaching textual analysis, effective writing, critical thinking skills and cultural knowledge, he said. The new school includes English, history, philosophy and world languages faculty.

"Students have the chance to engage easily and more often with others who share their interests and passions across academic departments," Yonke said. As an example, he cited students with a strong interest in human services or community development. The School of Behavioral and Social Science brings together geography, geology, political science, psychology, sociology and social work programs, preparing students for careers in social work, public service and planning.

College of Fine Arts and Communication students and faculty are enthused to start the 2020-21 year with newly formed schools, said Dean Valerie Cisler. Combining academic fields will achieve two goals: Create an entry point for students who are not certain of a specific career path but have a general idea of where their interests lie; and expose students to a variety of potential career pathways through a learning environment that is engaging and collaborative, she said.

"Bringing students and faculty into closer proximity will naturally generate new ideas for interdisciplinary projects and contemporizing our curriculum," Cisler said. "'Creatives' have skills in many areas. By providing an educational baseline from which they can expand and grow, we will help our students develop the flexibility to succeed in careers of the future."

Some students know their health care career plans, while others want to explore all the options to help people. The School of Health Sciences and Wellness offers introductory courses so students can seamlessly transition between health-related majors as they discover their purpose.

"The new school will promote personal wellness in our students to prepare them for the often high-stress careers in health care and community health," said Rebecca Sommer, the school's first assistant dean. As health professionals take an integrative approach to addressing the whole person, wellness is woven throughout.

Students will benefit from enhanced curriculum, out-of-classroom learning opportunities and increased collaboration, Sommer added. "Communities – especially rural areas in Central and Northern Wisconsin – will benefit as graduates of our new school put their broad knowledge and skills to work in clinical settings, nonprofit organizations, schools and community settings," Sommer said.

This reorganization is the result of two years of planning and input from faculty, staff members and students across campuses. The new schools will help create intentional career pathways for students as they move through degree completion. They are in effect for the fall semester.

The College of Natural Resources continues its interdisciplinary approach in five resource management areas plus paper science and chemical engineering.


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