Opinions on the future of our planet usually fall into two camps: “we’re screwed,” or “we’re screwed if we don’t do something NOW.” For the latter, the task of convincing the former to adopt a more productive mindset is an exhausting undertaking. Enter Arthur Kneeland, senior biology lecturer and Plant Science Innovations concentration director at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
Kneeland knows Stout better than most. He initially sought a studio art degree here before being inspired to pursue Applied Science after taking introductory biology and physics courses. “I have some more in-depth [professional] relationships here, which is cool, but I also know what it’s like to be a student at Stout,” says Kneeland. After receiving a master’s degree in agricultural entomology from the University of Wyoming, he returned to Menomonie and began teaching in September of 2010.
Diversity in technique and material are cornerstones of Kneeland’s ever-evolving instruction philosophy. “Some people learn by drawing, some by listening, other people learn by touch,” he says. Spend an hour in one of his classes and it becomes clear that he isn’t your typical educator. His Plants and People course (BIO 141) effectively unites biology, philosophy, environmental science and a slew of humanities, creating what many of his students hail as a “class on life.” His enthusiasm for bettering humankind is matched only by his ambition.
His goals are threefold: inform students on the most pressing issues, empower them with effective tools to make change and inspire them to act. “[Students] have the most power over this institution,” he says, stressing the importance of action: “The world is run by those who show up.”
The classroom is only the beginning for Kneeland. In his six years as a professor, he has acted as a key facilitator (alongside Stout’s sustainability coordinator Sarah Rykal) for the wildly successful UW–Sprout campus garden. Now in its third year, the garden exemplifies Kneeland’s grandest vision—a sustainable future. He intends to develop it into a purely student-run CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), eventually incorporating an aquaponics system. “We want the student garden to make the money that pays the students who work there.”
From food to fish to local government, Professor Kneeland is working tirelessly to ensure his students make worthwhile contributions to society. He’s turning doubters into doers. “We’re at the precipice of a massive environmental cataclysm,” he says. But with his help, Stout is on its way towards becoming part of the solution.