It all starts here.
Then, Wisconsin benefits.
For Dr. Paul Molling, it all started at UW-La Crosse. Over the past 25 years, Molling has put the lessons he learned on campus to good use, rising the ranks at Mayo Clinic Health System while never losing touch with what matters most: his patients.
Posted 11:08 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022
Wisconsin’s top-notch students deserve to learn in top-notch labs and classrooms.
Top-notch faculty deserve to teach in a top-notch facility.
That’s the perfect prescription for success at UWL — allowing us to better train the next generation of Wisconsin educators, health care workers and STEM professionals.
And a key to continued success is completing the university’s new science complex — replacing the outdated Cowley Hall, whose learning spaces are much worse than any of the state’s 673 public high schools.
When the Prairie Springs Science Center opened in fall 2018, students and faculty alike praised the building’s state-of-the-art laboratories that enhanced science learning. Now, the Prairie Springs Science Center Completion and Cowley Hall Demolition Project is needed to complete the complex, creating active learning and innovative instructional spaces, along with faculty advising areas — all free from mold and Wisconsin’s weather.
Alumni know why it’s important. They speak highly of their La Crosse Experience. They know where and how they learn was key.
Faculty and administrators continue to modify and update ways students learn — from classrooms on campus conducive for group study to those out in the field that make them career ready when they join Wisconsin’s workforce.
A recent Memorandum of Understanding with J.F. Brennan Company, for instance, strengthens research, curriculum and the company's talent pipeline.
It’s all adding up to more graduates heading out into the state’s vast health and science businesses and organizations. And around 87% of College of Science and Health graduates each year stay in the Badger state.
That’s how Wisconsin benefits.
Want to help?
Find out how at: www.uwlax.edu/campaign/pssc
Just what the doctor ordered
Mayo’s Dr. Paul Molling calls UWL education key to his success
As a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Dr. Paul Molling has cared for generations of local families.
He has seen the miracle of birth, the inevitability of death and every stage of life in between.
And for Molling, it all started at UW-La Crosse.
“UWL was known for having a strong science program, and as a local kid, that’s where I ended up,” says Molling, ’92 (chemistry and microbiology). “I can say that all the faculty in the Chemistry and Biology and Microbiology departments — they were second to none. They really took a vested interest in the students and pushed you to do your best. They more or less became your friends, and to this day, we still catch up when we run into each other.”
Over the past 25 years, Molling has put the lessons he learned at UWL to good use, rising the ranks at Mayo while never losing touch with what matters most: his patients.
In addition to his work as a physician, Molling holds several leadership roles with Mayo — including medical director for the Primary Care North Division, physician recruitment leader for southwestern Wisconsin and chair of the Southwestern Wisconsin Primary Care Independent Multidisciplinary Program.
Since 2018, he has also taught the next generation of health care professionals as an assistant professor of family medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
“In order to be a good leader, I’ve always believed that you need to keep that patient contact,” Molling explains. “That’s why we do what we do, and as I’ve gotten into more administrative work, I’ve always tried to remember that. As a physician, you care for people from 0 to 100, from A to Z. Meeting with patients is what keeps me humble and grounded.”
Across a quarter century, Molling has seen health care evolve and transform — from the emergence of telehealth to the proliferation of life-saving technology, such as medical imaging.
He also helped guide Mayo and the broader La Crosse community through the COVID-19 pandemic, leading efforts to establish drive-thru testing and vaccination programs in southwestern Wisconsin.
“I may have helped lead these initiatives,” Molling notes, “but the most important thing is building good teams and support systems around you.”
Personally and professionally, Molling maintains close ties to UWL. He has played a key role in several UWL-Mayo initiatives, including creation of a research partnership in 2019 and Mayo’s new role as service provider at the UWL Student Health Center.
Molling is also an advocate for UWL’s most pressing capital need: the Prairie Springs Science Center Completion and Cowley Hall Demolition Project.
The new building would house state-of-the-art classrooms, specialized learning spaces, faculty advising offices, and more. These facilities are critical to the quality of science education at UWL and the future of STEM-related industries throughout Wisconsin.
“I grew up in Cowley Hall, spent a lot of time there,” Molling says. “But like all buildings, it served its purpose and is at the end of its time.”
With world-class education, health care and recreational opportunities, La Crosse is an excellent place for young professionals to put down roots and raise a family, Molling says.
It’s part of the reason he returned to La Crosse after medical school and has never left.
“What a great community we have here, with so many great opportunities and people,” Molling says. “The fact that I can be a family physician — this amazing career where I get to help individuals — is special. I’ve been so fortunate, and I’m really grateful for that.”
Alum shares story of science classroom need
Sara Frank doesn’t have to be convinced that a new science classroom building needs to be built to replace Cowley Hall. She knows it.
Frank, a physical therapy assistant with Gundersen Health System’s Sparta Clinic, was one of the students who took an anatomy and physiology class in the metal “shed” outside of Cowley because the science student population had burst at its seams.
Back in Cowley, Frank recalls trying to maneuver the building when a mass of people standing outside one of the large lecture halls by the main entrance doors caused crowd control problems. Then there were the HVAC issues in the nearly 60-year-old building.
“It was always a toss-up if you’d be freezing or sweating depending on the classroom,” Frank explains. “The classrooms were dated and then retrofitted to have updated technology, which still got in the way and never looked quite right.”
Frank, ’17, an exercise science pre-PT major and Spanish minor, was bummed she missed an opportunity to study and conduct research in the new state-of-the-art laboratory building, which opened as Prairie Springs Science Center in fall 2018.
“I was jealous of the younger students who were able to utilize the new Prairie Springs Science Center as Cowley was somewhat unpleasant to have class in,” she says. “Some of my friends showed me pictures of the inside of the new building after I had graduated, and it looked beautiful.”
Frank says despite Cowley Hall’s deficiencies, faculty went the extra mile to work around them. Assistant Professor Naghmeh Gheidi helped her with research — always pushing Frank to dream bigger.
“She saw my worth as a professional before I even did and pushed me to think outside of the box,” notes Frank.
On campus, she developed soft skills, as well as hard skills across many formats — solo, group and presentation-style work.
“I have used my learned critical thinking skills that I developed at UWL to help me truly understand the ‘why’ behind what I try to accomplish each day with my patients and coworkers,” Frank says. “I have also utilized my communication skills by presenting new research to my peers, explaining complicated topics to my patients and developing my professional relationships inside and outside of my workplace.”
Confidence in those skills set her off on a journey that could have gone anywhere. But Frank chose to stay in Wisconsin.
“I felt like I could support myself comfortably, enjoy a great lifestyle, afford to travel and explore, and start a family in a safe and community-driven location,” the West Salem native says.
Brennan agreement strengthens college experience
The Mississippi River has become much more than a recreational mecca. In October, UWL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with J.F. Brennan Company to strengthen research, curriculum and the company's talent pipeline.
The agreement gets students on the river to use technology they’ll find in the workforce — and gives them an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work for a company like Brennan.
“Our business, like any business, is fundamentally based on the ability to recruit, train and retain good people,” says Matt Binsfeld, president and CEO of Brennan. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to get the technology that we use into the hands of students.”
The new public-private partnership is engineered to expand students’ growth through experiential learning outside the classroom. Roger Haro, associate dean in the College of Science and Health, says students will benefit from real-world situations.
“They see how people engaged in these large projects have to be focused on effective communication, not just the technical skills in terms of running the instrumentation,” explains Haro. “But basically, how does one set those instruments up so that the job is effective, and the data is collected? They're working with people who have to problem-solve all the time, every day and in the work setting.”
The partnership was expanded through the initiative of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust and the College of Science and Health, with the assistance of the La Crosse Community Foundation. In early 2022, Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust gave the La Crosse Community Foundation $430,000 to construct a new research vessel for UWL’s River Studies Center. Brennan will provide maintenance support, storage and instrumentation expertise for the new vessel.
For many years, Brennan has opened its doors to UWL students for paid internships. In return, the company is able to recruit interns as reliable, full-time employees. The MOU further expands the partnership to provide even more job-ready employees.
“Moving forward, partnerships like this will become even more important for us to expand the university’s impact in helping to grow the state’s economy,” Haro says.
Trane Technologies tie
Companies throughout Wisconsin — including Trane Technologies in La Crosse — rely on UWL graduates for their workforce. This fall, 63 of the more than 200 alums on the Trane La Crosse campus headed outside for a photo.
Alum named top adapted PE teacher in the Midwest
Alum Sadie Brown, ’09, is the top adapted physical education teacher in the Midwest. The National Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) recognized the Sun Prairie Area School District teacher this spring.
“It was very humbling and unexpected,” Brown says.
UWL professors and experiences inspired Brown’s career choice and allowed her to hit the ground running.
“UWL was amazing in preparing me to be an educator,” she explains. “I feel so lucky to have been able to attend an amazing university of high-quality professors. I was given so many opportunities to experience working with students in the real setting very early on.”
In addition to teaching, Brown is a leader in and advocate for the adapted PE profession. However, her favorite moments are making differences in her students’ lives.
“I love when my students with disabilities don't feel different from their peers — when they get to play right with their peers and feel just like everyone else,” she says. “I also love seeing kids grow in their skills and confidence over time. I love watching them learn to advocate for themselves as well. That is very rewarding.”