University of Wisconsin

La Crosse



Academic Program Review Committee




Program Review of the Department of Chemistry


19 April 2007











Please address comments to:

Georges G. Cravins

 ( and/or




Chemistry Review Subcommittee:

Georges G. Cravins, Geography and Earth Science, Chair;

Professor Victoria Calmes, Modern Languages, Sub-Committee Member.









Part I. Program Description


A.     The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chemistry Department: Background.


            Chemistry as a discipline has always been part of the curriculum of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. According to Gilkey’s The First Seventy Years: The History of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1909-1979, Chemistry was an essential part of the curriculum when the La Crosse Normal School first opened.1 According to the Department of Chemistry’s Self Study, which was prepared for the Academic Program Review Committee, a chemist named Dr. Adolph A. Burnhardt was among the institution’s 19 original faculty when the La Crosse Sate Normal School was established in 1909.2 



B. Organizational Position and Connection to the Institutional Mission.


1. Organizational Position within the University. 

         The Department of Chemistry is housed in Cowley Hall, and is academically located in the College of Science and Health (CSAH). In 2006, the Department of Chemistry had 23 full time equivalents (FTEs, faculty and staff), 15 of which were tenured or in tenure-track positions, and 8 of which were instructional academic staff.  This means that Chemistry is one of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse’s largest departments. In addition to Chemistry, departments in the College of SAH include Biology, Computer Science, Exercise and Sport Science, Geography and Earth Science, Health Education and Health Promotion, Health Professions, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics, and Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation.

2. Connection to the Mission.

As a “comprehensive” campus in the University of Wisconsin System’s “University Cluster,” the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s mission is to offer both a liberal studies experience and programs that are sufficiently specialized to allow graduates to enter professional occupations. In fulfillment of this dual mission, many departments in the College of Liberal Studies and the College of Science and Health at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse offer courses in the University Core (General Education), as well as courses that enhance knowledge and skills leading to majors and minors in specific fields. Through the Department’s emphasis on teaching and scholarship, the Department of Chemistry provides the following in fulfillment of the UW La Crosse mission:         

·  Through courses available to all UW-L students, supports the institution’s mission to provide liberal arts education leading to the baccalaureate degree;

·  Through its courses designed for students in programs leading to careers in the health professionals, physical education and sports, microbiology, and environmental science, supports institutional objectives by providing an array of courses which are essential to an understanding of the physical and natural sciences;

·   Through its production of high quality majors and its direct placement of graduates in advanced degree programs and in the private sector, directly contributes to the UW La Crosse health and science mission.

            As UW La Crosse during the 1990s identified selected programs in the physical, natural and computational sciences as central to its niche within the University of Wisconsin System, the importance of programs and courses offered by the Department of Chemistry has grown. All students enrolled in programs in the biological sciences and health professionals are required to take courses in chemistry. In addition, Chemistry has developed its own programs – including specializations in Biochemistry, Industrial Chemistry, and Chemistry with Business Concentration and Environmental Science Concentration and has placed its own majors directly into specialized professions and graduate programs.           


C. Programs and Services

a.      Chemistry as a Campus “Service” Department.

         As UW La Crosse’s mission has become increasingly identified with the life, biochemical and physical sciences and professional and pre-professional training in health occupations, the Department of Chemistry’s function as a service department has become more pronounced. Due to UW-L’s reputation in natural science and health, a very high percentage of entering freshmen intend to major in the biological sciences, as a matter of choice, or as an entryway into one of the pre-professional programs. As chemistry is an essential part of the curriculum of any health-life science program, an increasing percentage of UW L Freshmen have over the past 5 years enrolled in entry-level chemistry courses. As Table 1 shows, the percent of students who took CHM 103 increased by approximately 73% between academic years 2000-2001 and 2006-2007.                                                        

Table 1. UW-L Freshman Enrollments in Chemistry Courses


Source: Department of Chemistry Self-Study, 2006. p. 15 .

Enrollments by Category








All Freshman








Fall CHM 103 








CHM 103 as % of Freshman Enrollments








Percent Increase by Year

















            Chemistry’s role in the University of Wisconsin’s Core (or General Education) program is principally represented by CHM 100 and CHM 103. Neither of these courses is required by the University, and both are part of the menu within the science category of general education. Chemistry’s contribution to the science curriculum of the University Core is shown in Table 2, below. CHM 100,  Contemporary Chemistry, and CHM 103, General Chemistry, are the Department’s contributions to the Liberal Studies category “C. Understanding the Natural World.” 



Table 2. Chemistry’s Contribution to the Liberal Studies Component of General Education

(Source:  The University of Wisconsin La Crosse Online Catalogue)


Category  II.  Liberal Studies  

Course(s) Offered


C. Science: Understanding the Natural World




  • CHM 100, Contemporary Chemistry
  • CHM 103, General Chemistry I

Note that all courses listed in the General Education program’s “II. Liberal Studies,” categories are offered as part of a menu, wherein students choose one 3-credit course from a numner of options offered by two or more departments.

b.Chemistry’s Essential Role in Health and Life Science Programs.

         In UW L’s array of health science and biological programs, Chemistry plays a leading role in the Nuclear Medical Technology Programs, which it houses. In addition, some advanced chemistry courses are essential to the other health and life sciences offered by departments in the CSAH. For example, Organic Chemistry (CHM 303 and CHM 304) are universally required courses in middle level medical professions as well as a requirement for entry into graduate programs in medicine and biology (including medical school).

c.       Majors and Program Concentrations Offered by the Department of Chemistry.


As of Spring, 2006, the Department of Chemistry offered the following program concentration options to UW-La Crosse students:


·  A (traditional) Chemistry Major;

·  A Chemistry Major with American Chemical Society (ACS) Certification;

·  A Chemistry Major, Teacher Certification;

·  A Chemistry Major with Business Concentration;

·  A Chemistry Major with Environmental Science Concentration;

·  A Biochemistry Major;

·  A Dual Degree Program in Chemistry and Engineering.[4]


In addition to these major options, the Department of Chemistry offers, or is a participant in, the following undergraduate minors and special programs:


·  A Chemistry Minor;

·  A Chemistry Minor, Teacher Certification Program;

·  A Broad Field Science Major, Teacher Certification;

·  The Nuclear Medical Technology Program.


         While both the regular Chemistry Minor and the Chemistry Major for students seeking teacher certification are traditional programs offered by the Department, the curriculum of the Broad Field Science program is collectively provided in the Departments of Chemistry, Biology, Geography and Earth Science, and Physics. The program was designed to broadly train students in order to prepare them to teach middle school, junior high school, and high school science. Students must take at least 14 credits in two of 4 subfields of science (chemistry, biology, earth science and physics) and no less than 8 credits in the other two sub-areas.         


d.      Noteworthy Factors in the Graduation of Chemistry Majors.


         In the Self-Study developed for the current review cycle, the Department provided evidence of a program which is nationally competitive and recognized as well as one which is essential to the UW-La Crosse mission. Apart from its role as a “central science” within the biomedical array of UW La Crosse programs, of particular importance is the Department’s record of placement of its graduates in employment, the number of females it graduates as a percentage of its total graduates (approximately 50%), and its reputation for placing its graduates in graduate programs, such as in masters and Ph.D. programs.


i.  Job placement. According to information supplied by the UW La Crosse Office of Career Services, graduates with chemistry majors have consistently found high levels of employment in their field. Combined with its placement of graduate in masters and Ph.D. programs, the Department suggests that that almost 100% of its majors have been successful in post-graduation professional placements.


ii. Graduate School. According to information in the External Chemistry Review, between 1994 and 2003, the Department ranked 17th among more than 650 Public and Private Comprehensive Universities in terms of its students continuing their studies through the Ph.D. degree.[5]                 


D.    Staffing, Student Credit Hours and Instructional Full Time Equivalents (IFTEs).


1.      The Gender Demography of Chemistry Faculty.


            Since 1998, the gender make-up of faculty in the Department of Chemistry has changed dramatically. In 1998, 4 (24%) of the Department’s 17 tenure-track, tenured and part time faculty were female. In 2007, 9 of the Department’s 21 faculty (43%) are female.


2. Instructional FTEs in Chemistry.


            Figure 3, below, shows the total number of instructional FTEs in the Chemistry Department for the fall semesters from 1998 to 2005. As the figure indicates, IFTEs declined from Fall, 1998 to Fall, 2000, rebounding significantly between 2000 and 2004. 


2. Work Load as Indicated by SCH Contributions.


The following generalizations can be safely made from the information provided to the Chemistry Program Review Subcommittee on the Department’s SCH contributions:


·        Chemistry’s SCHs per IFTE increased from 1998 to 2004, from about 270 SCHs, to about 324. Moreover, SCHs for general education also appear to have increased during the period (Figures 4 and 5) . 


·        While data on the number of Chemistry IFTEs show a consistent increase in staffing from Fall, 2000 to Fall, 2004 (Figure 3), student credit hours (SCHs) per IFTE has also increased,  from approximately 230 to approximately 324. The data in Figures 4 and 5 show a) a steady increase in SCHs per faculty generally, as well as in terms of Chemistry’s offering in the University Core (General Education). The data imply, however, that the increase in SCHs is significantly due to courses offered for students majoring in chemistry, the biological programs, and in pre-professional programs, rather than those offered in the University Core.   






Part II. Evaluation and Assessment

The Program’s Strengths, Recommendations, and Logistical Needs.


      The following program strengths and concerns have been identified from the Chemistry Self-Study as well as a result of the most recent external review of the Chemistry Program (conducted May 9-11, 2005).


1. Important strengths of the Department of Chemistry include:


·    The high quality, essential courses provided by the Department in support of the array of professional and pre-professional programs in the allied health field;

·    The high quality programs that Chemistry provides to its majors and minors, including to prospective graduates who directly enter the work-force and graduate programs;

·    The large number of options (majors, minors and special programs) offered to UW La Crosse students by the Chemistry Department;

·    An apparent commitment to the traditional teaching mission of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, coupled with a more recent – and still developing – commitment by a number of newer faculty to high quality research and scholarship;

·    The demonstrated success of chemistry graduates in both professional employment and graduate programs;

·    Effective departmental leadership, with a clear understanding of the Department’s “place” within the missions of both UW L and the University of  Wisconsin System, including a commitment to maintain a balance between teaching and research;

·  Over the past 10 years, the emergence of a significant cadre of faculty devoted to high quality research and publication.


2. Significant programmatic recommendations include:


·    The development of a 3-5 year strategic plan which will outline a clear vision and departmental mission;

·    The institution of a thorough curriculum review, with a view toward modernization of approaches to the delivery of instruction through classroom teaching and laboratory exercises;

·    Increase efforts to place chemistry and biochemistry graduates in medical school programs;

·    Increase involvement by faculty in professional associations, including greater involvement by Chemistry faculty in professional meetings and conferences;

·    The development of a systematic plan to increase grants-writing and to secure external grants.


3. The logistical needs of the Department.


·    Both the Department and the outside reviewers suggest the need for higher levels of start-up funding for new hires.

·    Faculty engaged in research need additional research space.

·    The Department needs major investment in its labs, many of which are in disrepair, and need modernization and upgrading.

·    The Department needs systematic support by the University to help it promote grants-writing among both its research and teaching faculty.         

·    Evidence suggests that the annual operating budget for the Department of Chemistry is substantially less than for comparable chemistry departments in the U.S. as a whole. The APR recommends consideration of a significant increase in the Department of Chemistry’s annual operating budget. (Note: According to evidence presented by the Department as well as by the outside reviewers, the operating budget of the UW La Crosse Chemistry Department is substantially below comparable departments around the country. This issue needs to be addressed by the UW-L administration in cooperation with the Department.)    



4As of Spring, 2006, this program is offered in partnership with UW Madison. The Department is negotiating a similar agreement with the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). 

[5] “External Chemistry Program Review,”   p. 3.