To the Editor:
When I graduated from UWSP in 2014 with an English degree, I decided to stay in my hometown, where I began work for a number of small businesses in the area. Four years later, I find myself in active roles within a number of local organizations, all while baking bread and organizing a new agricultural business with like-minded individuals. These activities are a far cry from what I was supposed to do with my English degree.
It begs the question: was the training I received as an English major integral to where I am today? Absolutely.
Recently, UWSP officials unveiled a plan to cut an array of humanities programs. These cuts are in response to the precarious situation the University finds itself in, partially due to budget cuts throughout the UW system. The proposal put forth echoes a larger dialogue which paints the humanities as out of date, while redefining the importance of higher education merely as vocational training.
However pragmatic this seems, it’s important to keep in mind that this dialogue has been celebrated not by the students, nor our local communities, but by those in positions of economic and social power. This idea, now prevalent in our state, is aimed at undermining the vibrancy and diversity of our college towns.
Stevens Point is a unique place – neither a small town, nor a big city. Because of our geography, history, and liberal arts based university, we have somehow managed to foster a creative and ambitious local economy where artists, farmers, builders, and entrepreneurs can find a home, start a family, and make a living doing what they love to do rather than what they’re told to. This determination is now at risk of continuing.
The direct outcome of the humanities departments at UWSP can be seen decorating our historic downtown buildings, in the shops and restaurants that line Main Street, and throughout the organizations that help our neighbors on a person to person level. The importance of these programs isn’t that they teach how to do something, but that they help ask the why. They lend the ability to think critically about the world around us, to problem solve with others, and to take accountability for our own actions.
A majority of my business partners graduated from universities with degrees in the very majors that would be cut. Yet, we were able to plan, communicate, and organize ourselves in a highly effective way. We achieved this because we were granted the skills to take initiative through our studies. Not because someone told us to, but because we needed to.
This same ethic must be applied to the matter at hand by students, faculty, and the residents of Stevens Point. This is our university, and it will take critical and creative thinking in order to collaborate in a way that will keep our university oriented in the direction we have always needed it to be – toward our local economy and the creative growth of our town.