UW-Platteville History


For 150 years, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has been an educational leader thanks to a determined Pioneer attitude that has enriched Southwest Wisconsin and the tri-state region.

That Pioneer spirit has launched not one, but two higher education institutions, led to the eventual merger of the rivals, and enabled the university to overcome all obstacles and thrive as one of the top universities in the Midwest.

The birth of the university

UW-Platteville began in 1866 as the first state teacher preparation institution in Wisconsin, then called the Platteville Normal School. Classes were held in Rountree Hall, located at the corner of Main and Elm streets. Rountree Hall was actually built 13 years earlier in 1853 to accommodate the rapidly increasing enrollment of the Platteville Academy, founded in 1839 (even before Wisconsin's statehood) by the city's Presbyterian Church.

The university also has roots in the Wisconsin Mining Trade School, established in 1907 to train specialized technicians to work in the mining operations surrounding Platteville. In 1917, a third year was added to the curriculum, making the Wisconsin Mining School the first school in the United States to offer a three-year course in mining engineering, upon completion of which a student received a diploma. The first mining school was located in Rountree Hall after the normal school vacated the building, which still exists today.

One of the university's oldest traditions originated in the year 1936 when the mining school students began work on the world’s largest “M" by placing rocks in a pattern on the southwest slope of the mound, located a few miles east of the city. Completed the following year, the "M" measures 214 x 241 feet and consists of some 400 tons of whitewashed stone. The lighting of the "M" is now a tradition at UW-Platteville and is the featured ceremony each fall during Homecoming weekend.

The mining school became the Wisconsin Institute of Technology in 1939 and later merged with the Platteville State Teachers College in 1959 to become the Wisconsin State College and Institute of Technology at Platteville.

During the 1960s, the college experienced a period of rapid growth resulting in the construction of several new halls. In 1966, the name was changed again to the Wisconsin State University-Platteville. The university and all other public institutions of higher education in Wisconsin merged in 1971 to form the UW System, governed by a single Board of Regents. As a result of the merger, the university experienced its most recent name change to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Fastest-growing university

UW-Platteville is the fastest-growing university in the UW System. From 2004 to 2013, total enrollment experienced a record increase of nearly 40 percent, from 6,192 to 8,662 students. Today, enrollment growth is still strong, with 8,901 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 41 majors and 78 minors in academic programs across three colleges: Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture (BILSA), Engineering, Mathematics and Science (EMS), and Liberal Arts and Education (LAE).

UW-Platteville encompasses 821 aces, including a 400-acre education and research farm, 20 academic and student services buildings and 13 residence halls.

With Rountree Commons opening in 2012 and Bridgeway Commons in 2013, residence hall capacity is now over 3,700, giving all first- and second-year students the opportunity to live on campus and take advantage of the more than 200 clubs and organizations. 

Rebounding from a disaster

The Pioneering spirit is still very much alive today, as evidenced in 2014 when an EF-2 tornado significantly damaged three residence halls, Engineering Hall, the greenhouse, Pioneer Stadium and Memorial Park. Behind a unified effort, the university pulled together and readied campus for occupancy in the fall, ensuring the outstanding tradition of high quality and affordable education continued uninterrupted.

UWP: About UW-Platteville

About UW-Platteville

Quick Facts, Fall 2018

  • Founded: 1866
  • Campus: 821 acres
    • 400-acre education/research farm
    • 20 academic/services buildings
    • 13 residential facilities
  • Undergraduate programs:
    • 41 Majors
    • 66 Minors
    • 17 Pre-Professional
  • Graduate programs: 2
  • Online programs:
    • 2 undergraduate
    • 5 graduate

  • Total enrollment: 7,979*
    • Undergraduate: 7,170
    • Graduate: 809
  • Student/faculty ratio: 20:1
  • Average class size: 25
  • Freshman to sophomore retention rate: 77%
  • Student clubs and organizations: 200+

*All data is from the 10th Day Enrollment Reports in the UW-Platteville Business Intelligence environment. Data reported is based on enrollment as of the 10th day of term with the exception of students enrolled solely in print-based distance learning courses.