University of Wisconsin - Green Bay / Manitowoc campus
Beginning in 2018, the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc (as well as all other campuses of the 2-year University of Wisconsin Colleges) ceased to exist in name. Our campus, as well as Sheboygan and Marinette, was merged into UW-Green Bay. Pre 2018, Geography was part of a state-wide Geology and Geography Department in the University of Wisconsin Colleges. Now geography is housed in two different departments in two different colleges. The transition has been messy, but for the most part, amiable.
Being bisected is new and challenging for me. Human/cultural geography is housed in the geography unit of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS). Physical geography is housed in the geosciences unit of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology (CSET). My home department is in the geosciences unit. Geography and geoscience programs at UW-Green Bay's main campus are not large units. One advantage that geoscience has over geography is that it is housed in CSET with other bench sciences, engineering, and mathematics. This allows access to more funding and better facilities. For example, UWGB is currently building a new STEM facility. As geography is housed with humanities, arts, and social science, it does not have such access.
Since departments are divided into colleges, the tendency is to isolate oneself within a discipline structure or within the larger department, like "silos" within a grain storage facility—separated and only occasionally mixed. The faculty at the main UWGB campus are, therefore, more narrowly focused in their teaching and research. Consequently, this situation is new to all of us. The Secretary of the Faculty and Staff (SOFAS) has often remarked on the collegiality and collaboration in the colleges and has said that he wishes there was more of that atmosphere on the main campus. The colleges collaboration across disciplines on campus was the norm as we were housed next to each other and in many cases not separated by discipline or interest or location. Interestingly, enough, such collaboration is still present. For example when the English and Mathematics Departments or faculties hold meetings at UW-Green Bay and make major changes to curricula, we hear about it on our campus long before the majority of the university faculty at UW- Green Bay.
UWGB has launched a "Water Science" major and already has a "Global Studies" minor. Both of these are areas where I can become involved in terms of both my training and work experience. I have volunteered to work with the unit chair on an introduction to water science course. I am also developing a new Landscapes of North America course for the geography and geoscience units. I am very excited about these, and I look forward to future possibilities.
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay/Marinette Campus
I really need to divide my answer into two parts due to the changes my "institution" has experienced in the past few years. I believe we had made considerable progress in enlivening the culture of the Geography/Geology Department of the former UW Colleges. First of all, our workshops introduced many of our colleagues to several ways to introduce active learning into their classes. From the feedback we received at subsequent meetings and workshops, most were quite happy with the results they were seeing and were looking for ways to expand those experiences. Our semi-annual department meetings began devoting valuable time to discussing of pedagogy and innovative, student-centered instructional methods.
Most notably, as department assessment coordinator, I was able to develop a plan to assess the 'transferability' of our courses within the University of Wisconsin System. All of us had anecdotes about students who transferred into a UW geoscience degree program who encountered issues getting credits earned at a 2-year campus accepted as anything more than an elective. This was seen as a major impediment to getting students to commit to the pursuit of a geoscience bachelor's degree. One would imagine that since the UWs had named themselves a "System," transferring courses within the system would be a well-coordinated process. However, course naming, numbering, and content varied immensely between campuses of the 4-year institutions and the UW Colleges courses did not match with any of them very well. Each campus took very different approaches toward majors and minors within the geosciences and even though there was a "TIF" (transfer information formula) guide showing how courses were supposed to translate between campuses, the guide was outdated and contained errors and inconsistencies.
In the second year of this assessment process, having identified barriers to course transfer between our department and specific 4-year programs in the first year, we were developing plans and strategies to minimize those barriers and rationalize transferability when the merger of the UW Colleges with specific 4-year campuses was announced. I have subsequently discussed the transfer issue with administrators and my new geoscience colleagues at UW-Green Bay and our discussions have played a role in standardizing course descriptions between the main campus and its three branches. They are focused on the issue of transferring courses from the branch campuses to UW-Green Bay. However, a large percentage of Marinette students are from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and are more likely for a variety of reasons to move on to a school in their home state.
The merger and all of its associated adjustments has consumed much of our time in the past year and a half, but we haven't been idle in advancing the goals of the Change Agent project. I have been serving on the Assessment Working Group during the transition period. Our plan for assessing teaching and learning within UW-Green Bay's academic departments has incorporated several aspects of student-centered active learning that were introduced to me as a change agent. A few departments have been selected to "pilot" this new assessment approach in 2019-20 and geoscience is among those. Furthermore, our UW-Green Bay colleagues have been participants in our past two fall workshops and are part of the geoscience network we have established in Wisconsin.
In summary, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of our integration into the geoscience curriculum at UW-Green Bay and our ability to influence the institution's programs in ways consistent with the goals of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project.