March 2, 2006
Academic Program Review Committee
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Members of the Committee:
The decanal staff of the College of Science and Health has reviewed the Academic Program Review report prepared by the UW-La Crosse Department of Physics. Clearly the strengths of the program include the following
· Vibrant faculty members that are heavily engaged in scholarship
· Strong emphasis on undergraduate research which promotes active learning experiences for physics majors outside of the traditional classroom
· Dual-degree arrangements with many engineering programs in the region
The challenges faced by the department include lack of space for both research and teaching laboratories. New individuals with active research programs are replacing retiring faculty who were not engaged in research and therefore, did not require research laboratory space. The shortage of research laboratory space has dictated the types of specialties the physics department can seek to fill vacant faculty lines. Thus, physics may be forced to seek a faculty member with a specialization in physics education or theoretical physics who would not require laboratory space in order to engage in scholarly activities.
Expansion of physics teaching laboratory space to accommodate additional physics majors is not possible within the current confines of Cowley Hall. In addition, the large number of pre-health science majors is stressing the limits of the department to offer the pre-requisite general physics sequence taken by many of these students. Thus, although there is great interest in the undergraduate physics major as well as strong market demand for physics and engineering graduates, it will be difficult for the number of majors to continue to increase given the limitation of additional financial resources to fund faculty positions and the limited laboratory space currently available.
The CSAH agrees with the recommendation related to improving assessment of student learning in the department with the ultimate goal of modifying curriculum/instructional strategies based on the information obtained. Two members of the department did attend the IUPUI National Assessment Institute last fall. Initiating the use of nationally recognized assessment tools should allow the department to benchmark relative to national norms.
Michael E. Nelson