Changes may soon be forthcoming to University of Wisconsin core curriculum as Provost Patrick Farrell announced a new vice provost for teaching and learning Tuesday.
Beginning next semester, Aaron Brower, professor of social work and integrated liberal studies and special assistant to the dean of students, will oversee all teaching and learning opportunities available on the UW campus.
One of his goals for the university, Brower said, is to have certain educational experiences not only available at UW, but required for every student.
"We need to ask ourselves, what do we really want students to look like when they graduate here? What experiences do we hope them to have?" Brower said in a phone interview Tuesday night. "I feel like we're really poised as a university to form a real coherence."
In particular, Brower listed four initiatives he would like to see integrated into every student's curriculum, regardless of major: service learning, research and leadership opportunities, and international awareness.
"I think of these as the kind of opportunities that really define what it means to be a Wisconsin student," Brower said.
And they should be a part of every UW students' education, Farrell added.
Though he acknowledged it would be difficult to accomplish, Farrell said he is optimistic about the potential changes to the UW curriculum.
"If we feel these are vital skills for our students, they ought to be required as core features for every major," Farrell said Tuesday night. "It's an ambitious goal, and if we're serious about it, it would require a modest rethinking of our curriculum from top to bottom."
Brower said one of the biggest obstacles he'll face in achieving that goal is simply getting all the different UW schools and departments on the same page.
"It's going to require a lot of knocking on doors, going into meetings and getting people involved and excited about this," Brower said. "It's a challenge in the sense that it's reaching people."
However, citing Brower's extensive experience initiating and implementing various learning opportunities at UW, including helping launch the Bradley Learning Community in 1995 and formulate the campus's undergraduate research scholars program, Farrell said he is confident Brower can achieve the lofty goal.
Brower will take over the position from Virginia Sapiro, former UW interim provost and current Sophonisba P. Breckinridge professor of political science and women's studies, who Farrell said has chosen to return to the faculty full-time.
Farrell selected Brower ahead of the other finalist, Nancy Mathews, currently an associate professor at the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Study.
Overall, Brower said he is excited about the opportunity, and he shares Farrell's optimism.
"There's a lot of new leadership here," Brower said. "And everyone that is in the leadership positions seem to be looking at this next phase of the university in a very hopeful way."