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Today, student learning has a “hands-on, minds-on” approach, explains Haro, the 2015 Wisconsin State Professor of the Year. Employers expect students to have a considerable amount of real world, hands-on, practical laboratory experiences prior to graduation, he notes.
These expectations, and the evolution of how to teach and do research, have driven the intense need for a laboratory building, says Haro. “This building and generous gift will provide a greater opportunity for our students to participate,” he explains. “The endowment provides much more potential for students to work next to faculty, and for faculty to work side-by-side with their colleagues.”
Mark Sandheinrich, dean of the College of Science and Health, is excited that the gift provides much more than bricks and mortar. “This generous gift is an investment into transformational education,” notes Sandheinrich. “This is where education leads to discovery.”
With the $2 million gift, the UWL Foundation’s “Share the La Cross Experience” scholarship campaign that began in 2013 has reached 85 percent of its $15 million goal through 2019.
The $2 million gift does much more than name a building. It transforms science education.
With the generous gift from Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust to UW-La Crosse, the new science labs building will be named the Prairie Springs Science Center. The $2 million gift creates the Prairie Springs Endowment Fund to support the areas Fleckenstein designated in his trust:
environmental studies and education
wildlife habitat protection
Who was Paul Fleckenstein?
Paul Fleckenstein, who died in 2011, was a steadfast supporter of environmental education and conservation programs. As the executive director of the RA Stevens Foundation and through his personal contributions, Fleckenstein supported organizations such as the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, The Nature Conservancy — in particular their work at the Mukwonago Watershed — and the Wisconsin Flagship, the Denis Sullivan Schooner, now affiliated with Discovery World in Milwaukee. Fleckenstein graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a major in urban education.
Fleckenstein cherished his home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, just west of his native Brookfield, that he called Prairie Springs. He was dedicated to land restoration and was happiest when he was personally working to plant trees, remove invasive species, or care for his gardens.
In recognition of his Prairie Springs home, Fleckenstein’s charitable trust is named Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust. Fleckenstein was the brother of Carolyn Scott, who earned a degree in therapeutic recreation from UWL in 1985. Scott’s husband, Jay Scott, earned a degree in recreation parks and administration from UWL in 1984. The Scotts are trustees of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust.
The Prairie Springs Science Center at UWL will join the Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center at Carroll University in supporting scholarship and research at two of Wisconsin’s institutions of higher education. Carroll University’s Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center, which includes the Paul Fleckenstein Research Laboratory, was completed in September 2016.