As the 2016-2017 academic year kicks off so does the fourth full year of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s innovative general education program.
The University Studies Program—or USP—was launched in 2013. The program is UW Oshkosh’s way of delivering general education. It’s made up of Explore courses that encourage students to “try on” many different disciplines, and special Quest courses that introduce students to campus life, college expectations and community engagement.
This year, the program welcomes two new leaders—faculty members who have stepped up to the challenge to keep the program running smoothly at UW Oshkosh. Gabe Loiacono, associate professor of history, will serve as USP director; Ken Price, professor of math, will serve as associate director.
“In many ways in 2016, I’d like to stay the course and work on tuning what we have in place. We have a good program here at UW Oshkosh,” said Loiacono, who last year served as associate director under Tracy Slagter, political science professor, who is now back teaching within her department.
The goal, Loiacono said, is to have a rotating directorship for the one-of-a-kind program.
“In essence, the new director will have trained the associate director. It’s like an apprenticeship—you’ll learn all you need to know by the time you take over the leadership role,” he said.
Price said he’s eager to serve the USP—a program nationally recognized for providing students with an assessable, common intellectual experience that also embraces the traditional liberal arts education, which prepares students for the challenges of work, engaged citizenship and a meaningful life.
“Coming from math, we deal with lots of general education courses so this is a really natural fit,” Price said. “I like how students at this stage of their education have energy and excitement, and some nerves, too. You can really get to know them differently through these first-year experience opportunities.”
Loiacono agrees—working with first-year students is a pleasure.
“It’s a small group you can really help. You have to talk through the basics in these classes—what is a syllabus, where faculty come from, how college works,” he said. “It’s a really fun thing to have a course aimed at freshman that is made up in a way that allows you to really connect with students. Knowing so much about students helps me to be a better teacher, and that’s a really good thing.”
To date, more than 5,000 students have started their education at UW Oshkosh through the USP. Loiacono said the ultimate goal is to improve retention of students from the first to the second year of college.
“A big part of the USP is to make sure entering students get connected, get access to the resources they need to be successful and to support them,” Loiacono said.
In the USP this year, students can expect some new class offerings and a continuation of the continuation of community-based civic engagement learning opportunities, which sends hundreds of students each semester out to connect with community partners.