The Latest From Dean Scholz

Dean’s Update: March 2017

To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators

Dear Colleagues:

I cannot believe it is already Spring Break. The academic year always seems to pass quickly, but this one has really flown. I have travelled a lot this year to see alumni, listen to their stories, and witness their pride in UW-Madison. Many are excited by the opportunity to help the college or the university. All are grateful for how UW-Madison changed their lives. Our alumni are a great asset as we navigate sometimes challenging times in public higher education.

University reputations depend on our research productivity and impact, and the quality of education we provide our students. In this message, I focus on the latter.  While our students and their families know this, I do not think it is widely understood just how well we do. What is so gratifying to me and others is the hunger that exists to do even better. 

Last week, the Chancellor and Provost hosted the campus celebration of Distinguished Teaching Award recipients. Nine of the twelve winners were from Letters & Science. Let us celebrate and thank Sandra Adell (Afro-American Studies), Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau (Computer Sciences), Cindy I-Fen Cheng (History), Thomas Dubois (German, Nordic, and Slavic Languages), Ralph Grunewald (Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies), Daniel Kapust (Political Science), Jordan Schmidt (Chemistry), Claire Wendland (Anthropology), and Stephen Young (Geography) along with the many past award winners from L&S.

The strong commitment to teaching and learning was also evident in the work of an ad hoc committee convened around the topic.This group worked throughout the fall and into the spring, and consisted of faculty and instructional academic staff, chaired by Jenny Saffran (Psychology), and included Harry Brighouse (Philosophy), David Johnson (Economics), Shirin Malekpour (Mathematics), Leonora Neville (History), Jen Plants (English), Lauren Riters (Zoology), Ned Sibert (Chemistry), and John Zumbrunnen (Political Science). The group presented their work at the February plenary meeting of department/program chairs and administrators, and earlier this month, submitted a report discussing eight key ideas:

  • An undergraduate teaching scholars program
  • TA professional development
  • Teaching excellence fellowships for instructors
  • Survey of teaching excellence progress in the undergraduate program (STEPUP)
  • UW Big Data App
  • Team Teaching Pilot Program
  • Student access to course evaluations
  • Establishment of formal lines of authority overseeing instructional improvement

We are committed to pushing this agenda forward. We are currently assessing and exploring what resources might be available to pilot or initiate some of the ideas. I am excited about and most grateful for the work of the committee.

Visit the L&S website to read some wonderful stories from the past few weeks. The general news page is here. Did you know that more female mathematicians teach, mentor and conduct research at UW-Madison than at nearly any other major math department in the country? Scholarship at UW-Madison is changing the way that scholars study the Middle Ages. And an iconic example of the Wisconsin Idea, this year’s version of Great World Texts, promises to be the biggest ever, culminating in a public lecture on April 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm in Union South by Margaret Atwood, on “Rebooting Shakespeare."

The College of Letters & Science is an amazing place.  The people – staff, faculty and students – make it so.  Thank you for all you do.

Karl