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The CALS-based Department of Landscape Architecture (LA) and the CALS and L&S-housed Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) will merge to form the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture (DPLA), which will be housed in the College of Letters and Science. The change, approved by campus governance bodies, is effective July 1, 2017.

The new department, as explained in the merger proposal, will bring together dispersed resources to generate new knowledge and provide academic programs around urban and regional sustainability to improve the livability, economic vitality, and health of communities and their surrounding natural environments. It will form a larger, more robust department of 17 faculty with newly shared staff support.

“Having the department in a single college creates efficiencies and provides a solid foundation for long-term planning,” says Ken Genskow, who will serve as the new department’s first chair. “At the same time, we want our CALS colleagues to know that DPLA faculty and staff look forward to continuing our research and academic collaborations with CALS partners.”

The departments’ executive committees approved the merger proposal in late 2016. A public hearing, hosted by the CALS Academic Planning Council (APC), was held on Dec. 9. Based on the recommendation of the CALS APC, Dean Kate VandenBosch supported the proposal at the University APC’s April meeting, where it received final approval.

Although the merger is effective July 1, several aspects of the change will be phased in, as relocating academic programs, moving faculty and staff offices, and preparing new studio space will take place in stages.

In order to ensure a smooth transition for students, the academic programs will move from CALS to L&S over time, as follows:

  • Students who are currently enrolled in the undergraduate LA degree program (BSLA), or who are entering the university as undergraduates this fall, will still have the option to complete that degree as CALS students. Students who declare a LA degree after the Fall 2017 semester will do so through L&S and will receive their degrees from that college.
  • The LA major currently offered under the CALS bachelor of science degree will remain available through CALS to students currently in the major and those who declare the major before the close of the Fall 2017 semester. Effective Spring 2018, admission to this major will be suspended while the new DPLA revises the program to align with L&S curricular requirements.
  • The graduate programs in LA and URPL will also reside in L&S, and students who began their graduate studies in CALS will have the opportunity to complete as CALS students.

Students and advisors with specific questions should contact either the CALS Office of Academic Affairs (academicaffairs@cals.wisc.edu, 262-3003) or Deborah Griffin in DPLA (dagriffin@wisc.edu, 263-7301).

DPLA will eventually be housed in a single location, but finding and preparing appropriate space for the new unit will take some time. The URPL department is already physically housed in Music Hall, and will remain there for the time being. LA requires significant studio space for its students and currently occupies rooms in Ag Hall and in the Ag Bulletin Building. Given that many of the students enrolled in LA programs will continue to be CALS students for the next few years, it makes sense to maintain this space within CALS while these students are in the college.

URPL has its roots in the Department of Civil Engineering dating back to 1911. It became an L&S department in 1962 and then a joint CALS and L&S department in 1998. LA has been in CALS since its founding in 1964, when it emerged as a stand-alone unit out of the Department of Horticulture.

The LA-URPL merger and move is the next step in the ongoing disciplinary evolution of these departments. Although departments are key building blocks of the university structure and intended to be relatively stable organizational units, these building blocks need to be rearranged periodically, notes Sarah Pfatteicher, CALS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

“As fields of study change over time, so too do the structures in which they reside,” she says. “We wish DPLA well in this next phase of the journey.”

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