Plans for aspiring biology teachers

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  • The University Academic Senate recommended approval of a new biology major last week.
  • Biology for the Professions will be open to students in the College of Education who plan to become middle and high school science teachers.
  • The Academic Senate also recommended elimination of the Human Biology major.
  • Both measures still need to be approved by the Board of Trustees at its December meeting.

Marquette may soon have a major specifically designed for future biology teachers.

Last week, the University Academic Senate recommended approval of the Biology for the Professions major, according to the Oct. 23 edition of University News Briefs.

The new major will take effect in fall 2009, pending approval by the University Board of Trustees, said Peggy Bloom, vice provost for undergraduate programs and teaching.

The new major will only be available as a second major for students in the College of Education, Bloom said.

"Our hope is that in the future the major will be broadened so students outside of the College of Education could take it," she said.

The Board of Trustees will also determine if the current Human Biology major should be eliminated.

The board is set to make a final decision on both majors in December.

Biology for the Professions

Upon approval, the new biology major will allow students to teach advanced biology courses, said Kathleen Cepelka, associate dean of the College of Education. With the new major, students could become fully certified to teach honors and advanced placement-level high school biology classes.

Currently, the Broad Field Science major is the only option for education students planning to teach biology. However, it only allows students to teach lower-level biology courses in middle and high school, Cepelka said.

She said biology is an area of need in the nation's school systems.

"(The new major) is a huge step," Cepelka said. "We're thrilled the (Academic Senate) has approved this major so we can fill the need for high school biology teachers."

Cepelka said the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction must approve the program requirements. DPI is the official endorsing agency for licensing teachers in the state.

Teachers licensed in Wisconsin can typically be licensed in other states as well, Cepelka said.

"Wisconsin has rigorous requirements, so students can usually go anywhere and get a license," Cepelka said.

Bloom said there is a very good chance the Board of Trustees will approve the new major.

Students would be able to complete the major's curriculum requirements in four years, Bloom said.

Adrienne Bortell, a freshman in the College of Education, has already expressed interest in the new biology major.

Bortell has had her heart set on being a biology teacher since her freshman year of high school. She was influenced by her high school biology teacher who strived to develop each student as a person, she said. That, too, is Bortell's goal if she becomes a biology teacher.

"It's important, especially in high school, to teach more than just the subject," Bortell said. "I have a passion for working with and helping people. The best way to combine (those goals) is with teaching."

The current biology program frustrated Bortell because it was too broad, she said.

"(The current program) wasn't what I wanted, and with the price tag this school has I was a little disappointed," Bortell said.

She said she considered transferring from Marquette before finding out about the Biology for the Professions major.

"I'm thrilled for the new major," Bortell said. "I'm really appreciative (the university) has been able to get it done."

Human Biology

The biology department recommended that the Academic Senate approve the elimination of the Human Biology major, Bloom said. The major is only open to undergraduate students admitted into the six-year physical therapy doctoral program.

"The biology department said the major isn't attracting enough students," Bloom said. "There is no longer interest or demand (at Marquette) for such a major."

For example, many students pursuing a medical profession are selecting the Biomedical Sciences major instead of Human Biology because it covers a wider scope of information, she said.

According to Bloom, there were 524 students with a major in Biomedical Sciences in fall 2007. Human Biology had only 17.

This year, there's only one student enrolled in the Human Biology major, said Robert Fitts, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Fitts said that this student would be unaffected by the elimination of the Human Biology major. The courses necessary to complete the major will still be available, so the student will be able to finish the degree.

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