UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Each year, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents sponsors one award to be given to an academic department which demonstrates exceptional commitment to and effectiveness in teaching. The Biology Department at UW-River Falls was awarded this Teaching Excellence Program Award in 2014.
Biology is one of the largest departments at UW-River falls. With ten faculty members, four instructional academic staff, one lab manager, and one program assistant serving 400 biology majors. Teaching excellence is the main criterion in faculty retention and promotion decisions, as well as commitment to undergraduate research.
The department is a national leader in implementation of the Vision and Change initiative (visionandchange.org) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS); the purpose of the initiative is to improve undergraduate biology education by engaging students during the first year in research projects and other inquiry-based projects, and four of the six teaching laboratories have been extensively renovated to make them more suitable for inquiry-based instruction.
"Recognition of excellence has come from numerous external constituents. For the past few years, the UWRF Biology Department has been a key player in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute SEA-PHAGES grant program that offers first-year students the chance to conduct and publish cutting-edge research. In 2013, a student in the program won the HHMI Grand Challenge, a national competition to develop techniques, resulting in the identification of unknown soil bacteriophages. The success of this program lead the department to develop a similar course structure with a research focus on the collapse of honeybee colonies in Wisconsin." -Fernando Delgado, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, UW-River Falls