Professor and Political Science Department Chair Wes Chapin is no stranger to UW-River Falls.
Not only is Chapin the Department Chair for the International Studies and Political Science programs, he is the chair of the Faculty Senate and he also graduated from the University in the 1980s.
Chapin is one of several alumni to come back and work at UWRF.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brad Caskey and Director of Career Services Melissa Wilson are also UWRF graduates.
Chapin said that he never had a plan to come back here.
He did not think that it was even a possibility.
An assistant professor was hired, and when that professor took a job in Virginia, Chapin ended up coming back.
Associate Professor of Political Science Neil Kraus is a colleague of Chapin.
Kraus said that Chapin is an asset to the department and to the campus.
“I think he’s as knowledgeable as anyone.”
While he was a student at UWRF Chapin was Student Senate president for two years. He said that policies and many other things have changed since he was Senate president, but ultimately Senate still has a strong role to play.
He started out majoring in agriculture economics, and then changed his major to economics.
Chapin also interned for Wisconsin senator William Proxmire in Washington, D.C. He then went on to participate in the Wisconsin in Scotland program.
There, he ended up with enough political science credits, that he was able to double major in political science, as well as in economics.
Continuing on with his experience in student government, Chapin said, “Student senators have incredible opportunities to help strengthen the University.”
They can help financially, while interacting with the Board of Regents, interacting with politicians, the UW System and others.
He said this experience definitely gave him the opportunity to be involved politically.
As mentioned, Chapin is currently the chair of the Faculty Senate.
This governing body has been involved with strategic planning, program prioritization assessment, faculty compensation issues, etc.
He said overall there have been opportunities to help strengthen the learning environment and it has been very rewarding.
However, Chapin added that dealing with a political environment can be challenging.
Even though the Student Senate and the Faculty Senate are both campus government organizations, these organizations accomplish different things.
The Faculty Senate deals with academic programs, personnel issues, etc. While on the other hand, Student Senate deals primarily with student life issues.
Faculty Senate does not have any authority when it comes to fee funded buildings such as the residence halls, and they do help approve general education.
For this semester, the Faculty Senate is not only working on program prioritization, but it is also working on assessing the general education program and hoping to address a lecture/lab equivalency issue.
That means that because lab and lecture hours are not equal right now, the Senate will be working to make work loads more balanced for professors.
The Senate is also intending to implement online course evaluations for all courses.
Chapin said that if students want to make a difference, there are a lot of committees, both on the Student Senate, as well as on the Faculty Senate that they can join.
“It’s amazing how much weight an opinion can have,” said Chapin.