University of Wisconsin-Platteville is located in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin in the county of Grant
and in the city of Platteville. It is a baccaluareate
university, though some of its colleges are starting to offer master's degrees.
Originally, the City of Platteville had two colleges. One a teaching college and the other a mining college. The teaching college was founded in 1866 as the first teaching
college in what would become the State of Wisconsin. In 1907, the mining college came about
due to a lead mining boom in the area. Since the mining college was made up of only male students and the teaching college made
up of mainly female students, their close proximity to each other also created a much sought after social environment for the
students. In 1959, the two colleges merged and in 1966, they joined the University
of Wisconsin System. In 1971, it officially changed its name to University of
Wisconsin-Platteville.Starting in the late '60s, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville expanded its
academic program and founded other colleges within itself. The biggest new college being a business college. The old mining
college was transformed into an engineering college encompassing mining,
chemical, electrical, mechanical, and eventually electronic engineering. In the late 1980s, the mining engineering degree was gradually phased out due to falling enrollment. By this time, however, it
had been overshadowed by the other engineering degrees. UW-P's engineering program has an international reputation for producing
solid engineers and attracts students from around the world.
The Night the Students Rioted
Like all college campuses across the United States, UW-P experienced its share of student protests over the Vietnam War. One
night these protests took a violent turn. The students marched from UW-P campus down Main Street and smashed windows of retail
businesses along their way. News of the riot spread fast through Platteville and residents armed themselves with rifles and
pistols in case the students marched against their homes. The students marched to the bottom of Main Street, started a bonfire in
the intersection there, and turned over a fire truck that responded to put out the bonfire. However, before the riot got too far
out of hand, Dr. William Russell Jensen, chair of UW-P's psychology department and a very popular professor, waded into the mob,
got up on the turned-over fire truck and talked to the students. No recording is known to exist of what Dr. Jensen said to the
students, but it must have been quite persausive as the students peacefully disbanded and returned to their dorms. Unfortunately,
relations and trust between the town folk and college students took decades to repair themselves. Many of the town folk kept
rifles next to their front doors for years after the incident in case another student riot might take place.
How a elementary school divided a community
Due to being a teaching college, UW-P once had its own elementary school, named Doudna Elementary. The elementary school was
used as a laboratory setting for teaching those seeking teaching degrees. All classrooms had observation rooms that used one-way
mirrored windows to watch the classes being taught. The school was only designed and built as an educational tool for UW-P's
teaching college. Because of this limited scope of operations, enrollment to it was limited. Preferences were then given first to
the children of university faculty and staff then children of university students and then, if there were still any vacancies,
children of the town folk. No consideration was given to children of rural residents. Due to having a very high
teacher-to-student ratio and education professors overseeing its operation, admissions into the elementary school was highly
sought after by town residents. Local residents that were UW-P alumni were able to get their children admitted over town folk
that were not alumni. And if there were still vacancies left, influential people in town used their influence to get their and
their friends' children those spots.What eventually resulted was some parents trying to bribe university officials to get their children into the elementary
school and strong resentment by the town folks that couldn't get their children into it. Relations between the university and
town soured over this issue. And when the students rioted one night in the 1960's (see previous section), relations between the
university and town were at the lowest they could be. The university then took measures to repair community relations. One of
those measures was closing of Doudna Elementary and sending teaching students out into local schools to do their internships
there. Today, the building that was Doudna Elementary is used for college lecture classes and named Doudna Hall. The old
observation rooms with their one-way mirrors still exist but now they're used simply as storage rooms.
While UW-P still has a teaching program, its enrollment has leveled off over the decades. It producing teachers for mainly
just southwestern Wisconsin.Meanwhile, the fastest growing college at UW-P has been the business college. As of 2004, the business college and engineering
college graduate the most students and relatively tie each other in number of graduates.A recent development at UW-P has been an effort to foster relationships with the business community to bring businesses to the
Platteville area to take advantage of what the university has to offer, namely its engineering college. Rockwell
started this trend in the
1980's when it recruited a husband-and-wife team who were engineering professors at UW-P to start up an engineering firm.
Rockwell providing them financing to get up off the ground and giving them major contracts with them to get them going. The
resulting business was Insight Industries, which later changed to Avista Inc.
. However, until UW-P expands its business college so it
can offer MBAs, this development of industry isn't expected to take off in any significant or rapid way.In 2004, UW-P received approval from the UW system to increase its enrollment from 5,000 to 7,500 students.
UW-P's campus is unique in that there are no city streets that cut through its campus. During the 1960's, all city streets and
parking lots within the campus were torn up and replaced with wide sidewalks and manicured lawns. Not only did this improve the
aesthetic sense of the campus, but single-handedly eliminated all pedestrian accidents of students getting hit by vehicles while
running from one classroom building to another.In 2004, a new student union was built in the center of the campus. The old student union was located in the corner of the
campus closest to downtown and the former campus of the mining college. The new location makes the student union now the heart of
the campus.As for the future, there is talk about connecting the new multi-story student center with the surrounding buildings by way of
second-story skywalks. This way during the harsh winters, students can comfortably walk between the buildings without their
coats. This improvement is expected to further increase student morale and the attractiveness of attending UW-P to prospective
Unlike the UW system's flagship university University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW-P isn't a party college. Due to serious-minded
engineering, business, and teaching students, the school has long had a serious tone to itself. UW-P is also what is called a
commuter college. A commuter college is one where most of the students leave for the weekend to work weekend jobs to pay for
college. Because of this, the campus life is on the quiet side on weekends and the main party night is Thursdays since students
quickly leave Platteville after classes are over on Fridays. This social environment is expected to continue until industry in
the Platteville area is developed that will employ more students so they remain over the weekends in town. Unfortunately, such an
opportunity was lost in the 1980's when the City of Platteville lost the bid to get the mail-order clothing catalog company
to relocate its corporate headquarters from Chicago to there.
Instead Land's End choose Dodgeville, a town northwest of Platteville, which many UW-P students now commute to for work, which
has more cemented the commuter nature of UW-P.As for unique celebrations by UW-P students, the biggest one is the twice-annual white-washing and lighting of the Big "M".
The Big "M" is the capital letter "M" on a nearby large hill. The Big "M" is the largest "M" in the world. It was created in 1936
by the mining students with the "M" standing for mining. Today, due to there no longer
being mining students at UW-P, the Big "M" is now maintained by all the UW-P students. During the university's annual homecoming
in the fall and after the "Miner's Ball" in the spring, UW-P students freshen up the "M" by white-washing it. After white-washing
it, the student then, at nightfall, place coffee cans full of fuel outlining the "M" and light them. The lit "M" can be seen for
miles and is a popular event for local photographers.