A new plan for the biology major

Last week the Provost received a proposal for a plan to relocate the administrative home of the biology major from the Institute for Biology Education to  two academic departments, one in CALS, one in L&S. The plan was submitted by CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch and L&S Dean Gary Sandefur, who had requested the administrative change last year. The Provost had asked them to provide a proposal by March 1, with an eye toward having the new structure in place in time for SOAR this summer. The proposal represents four months of hard work by a team from both colleges.

The plan builds on three premises.

  • Any change to the structure of the major should be based on a desire to improve the student experience and outcomes.
  • The contributions of faculty and staff who administer and advise for the major should be recognized through appropriate appointments or compensation.
  • The major should be structured as much like other majors as possible—it should not require exceptional or unusual processes or procedures—so as to focus limited resources primarily on providing direct benefits to students.

The plan does not address all of the issues raised by the Biology Major Review Committee in its 2012 program review; it focuses on a proposed administrative structure that in turn will facilitate changes that will more directly affect the experience of individual students. Since unanticipated questions and challenges will arise, the Work Group intends to provide a progress report and recommended amendments to the plan 6-12 months post-implementation.

Some key points (for more, see this overview).

  • The Biology Major will continue to be available to students in both CALS (under the B.S. degree) and L&S (under the B.S. and B.A. degrees).  The current Options (Neurobiology & Evolutionary Biology) will be maintained for now, though the new structure allows for future changes.
  • The Department of Zoology in L&S and the Department of Bacteriology in CALS will become the Biology Major’s administrative homes.  But intellectual ownership of the biology major will remain a shared responsibility across a wide array of biological science faculty and academic staff around campus.
  • The proposed Biology Major Program Committee will include:
    • two co-chairs, one each from CALS and L&S;
    • the chairs of the Bacteriology and Zoology curriculum committees or their designees, ex officio;
    • one representative for each Option within the Biology Major (currently Evolutionary Biology and Neurobiology);
    • the lead staff advisor, ex officio;
    • three to six at-large members.
  • The proposal requests 5 full-time staff advisors to cover front-line advising needs; faculty advisors focused on Options, Honors, and mentoring; and peer advisors to provide supplemental advising services.

For additional information, please contact Associate Dean Sarah Pfatteicher at or 608/262-3003.

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