UW-L’s Biology Department received the 2013 UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award for academic departments and programs. The prestigious award goes to one program in the UW-System each year. Recipients are selected for their strong commitment to teaching and learning, use of effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning and significant impact on students’ intellectual development. The committee was also impressed with the UW-L Biology Department’s success with underrepresented students.
“To this day, I continue to look up to their example, both as individual professors and as an exceptional department as a whole,” says Lindsy Boateng a graduate of UW-L’s biology undergraduate and graduate program who is now earning her doctoral degree at UW-Madison.
“The cohesiveness, success, and intellect of the Biology Department motivated me to pursue a career in a similar environment where students are encouraged and challenged to do their best.”
Representatives from UW-L’s Biology Department will receive the award Friday, June 7, at the Board of Regents meeting in Milwaukee. Recipients receive a $5,000 stipend to be used for professional development or program purposes.
“It’s a privilege to recognize these deserving educators who are dedicated to preparing their students not only for success in the classroom and laboratory, but also for success in meeting the challenges of the world beyond their college campuses. They each set an exceptional example,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly
What you should know about the UW-L Biology Department
Biology is UW-L’s most popular major
UW-L has 1,100 biology majors — more than 10 percent of the university’s student population. It also mentors 40-60 Masters of Biology graduate students. Why is the field so popular? Acting Chair Mike Abler says biology students have opportunities to conduct research alongside talented faculty, collaborate with state and federal agencies on environmental projects, and can pursue graduate school and careers in high-demand fields such as health care.
Faculty expertise is diverse
Walk through the biology department and you’ll hear about studies on blood clotting, plant pathogens, invasive species, snails, mycology, marine biology and much more. The areas of study are diverse and the faculty expertise is extensive. This gives students the opportunity to dig into and explore the aspects of biology they enjoy most through both courses and scientific research. More than 300 undergraduate research students have conducted biology research over the past five years that have led to 100 regional and national presentations. In addition, graduate students gave more than 90 presentations.
Staff are student focused
Whether teaching, assessing student learning, designing course materials or advising, UW-L’s 35 Biology Department faculty are committed to student success and have a student-centered approach. Biology faculty advise all students in the major.
Anna Hatch, ‘09, an alumnus of the biology program and graduate student at Dartmouth Medical School, said in her graduate interview she was asked to define the best feature of her college education. She unabashedly responded the faculty.
“From my own observations, I believe the department defines success by getting students where they want to be — whether it is graduate school, professional school such as medicine and physical therapy or another career choice.”
The department has been successful in obtaining external funding to support research with students, including 53 different external research grants or contracts totaling more than $7.5 million in the last five years.
Outreach to minority and underrepresented groups
The department has demonstrated a commitment to increasing the involvement of traditionally underrepresented students through their leadership roles in several externally funded programs. Biology faculty members Roger Haro and Rob Tyser were the principle investigators on an $865,000 McNair Scholars grant that helps launch research careers for 30 minority students and first-generation college students annually. Biology faculty led the development of many other grants and programs, which help underrepresented students. Among them: a three-year National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site Program grant, local Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP) grants, and the NSF funded First Year Research Exposure (FYRE) program.
Collaboration is strong
Faculty from different biology fields collaborate to plan, design, implement and assess courses. An example of such collaboration is Organismal Biology, a team-taught course where one faculty member’s expertise may be in animal biology and the other faculty member’s expertise may be plant biology. Also, the department has formed collaborations with state and federal agencies in environmental science, such as the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (USGS). Interactions allow the department to offer a broad array of research opportunities, internships and other experiences for undergraduate and graduate students that may not be available otherwise.
Additional winners of UW System award for 2013 include:
Christopher Coe, Professor, Psychology, UW-Madison (individual category)
Peggy James, Professor, Politics, Philosophy and Law, UW-Parkside (individual category)