A pioneer in water-focused research and the largest institution of its kind on the Great Lakes, the School of Freshwater Sciences at UW-Milwaukee will offer its first undergraduate program beginning in Fall 2021.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved the university’s proposal for a bachelor’s program in freshwater sciences on Thursday, Aug. 20. This will be the first bachelor’s degree offered at the school, which currently offers three graduate programs: traditional PhD and MS programs and a non-thesis Professional Science Master’s track, which has a 96% job placement success rate for graduates.
The new bachelor’s program will help meet the region’s and nation’s increasing demand for a diverse pool of skilled workers and scientists ready to solve some of our most pressing issues. According to UNESCO, 78% of all jobs globally are water-dependent. Water is the world’s fastest growing economic sector, expected to be worth $800 billion by 2035.
“UW-Milwaukee and the UW System have a long history of responding to the needs of our communities and key constituents to advance discovery and industry,” said Mark Mone, chancellor of UW-Milwaukee. “This new bachelor’s program represents an important milestone for the future development and expansion of our shared water industry. It strengthens our efforts to protect the Great Lakes and other bodies of freshwater and is a critical avenue to filling the talent pipeline.”
The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently declared that providing access to clean, safe and secure water is “one of the most important challenges of our time,” predicted to cost $23 trillion over the next 20 years.
“Water is at the forefront of nearly every major challenge we face with respect to a sustainable future,” said J. Val Klump, the school’s dean. “For the School of Freshwater Sciences, creating an undergraduate program in freshwater science was more than a no-brainer, it was an imperative.
“We desperately need people skilled in tackling water problems and implementing solutions, and not just here in Wisconsin, but throughout the U.S. and the world,” Klump continued. “Add to that our unique location on the shores of the world’s greatest freshwater resource, and a faculty dedicated to understanding the complexities of freshwater science, technology and policy, and I can think of no better place to begin an immensely rewarding career than UWM.”
The aim of the new undergraduate program is to train future professionals in the scientifically sound management of natural and constructed water systems for productive and equitable use while sustaining natural biota, diversity and freshwater availability. The program will include extensive hands-on learning opportunities, a hallmark of its graduate tracks.
The School of Freshwater Sciences has nearly 20 full-time faculty and scientists across several key water-related fields (including emerging contaminants and public health, toxicology, environmental economics, biogeochemistry, limnology, biology, aquaculture and policy). The school is also home to the Center for Water Policy and the Great Lakes Genomics Center.
The school is also the lead institution of the new Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, a partnership of the state’s 13 public universities, connecting with industry partners, local communities, policymakers and advocacy groups. The collaborative is building a multidisciplinary academic program that will allow students, including those in the new bachelor’s program, to customize their courses according to their areas of interest.
The Bachelor of Science in Freshwater Sciences will require 120 credits, including general education requirements and foundational courses in natural sciences, mathematics, economics and computer science. Students must complete additional credits of core courses in freshwater sciences in one of two tracks: water policy or aquatic sciences. Additional elective courses can be tailored to each student’s interests and career goals.