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CLA State of the College 2013: Summary

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Summary of State of the College Speech - 2013
Interim Dean Raymond D. Duvall Interim Dean

Download the full text of the speech [PDF]

Interim Dean Duvall invites you to contact him at with your comments, questions, and reflections about this proposed 2013-2014 agenda.

The state of the College of Liberal Arts is strong. Faculty and students set standards of excellence through their extraordinary accomplishments; many of our programs are highly ranked; and we continue to add exceptional scholars to our faculty.

These strengths will serve us well during a time of transition: internally, we are changing leadership, and our external environment is changing, too. We are moving from an era of solid financial and cultural support for liberal arts education to one in which its value is challenged almost daily. And we may be transitioning into a strange new world of instructional pedagogies and attendant uncertainties about how a liberal arts education is to be delivered.

These and other changes have produced questions about which we have substantial disagreement within the college:

- Is our future better defined by a reinvigorated commitment to the intrinsic value of liberal arts education or by an increased attention to career preparation for our students?

- To what extent are new pedagogical technologies desirable, or perhaps even inevitable?

- As we become increasingly dependent on undergraduate tuition, how do we reconcile the undergraduate-education mission of a public university with our R-1 research- and graduate-education mission?
- How should we adapt to the changing frontiers of knowledge, without becoming unproductively attentive to academic fads -- rushing into the next "new thing"?
Part of our task must be to maintain, in the college's many forums, an active dialogue about these points of tension. How we address them will shape the College of Liberal Arts for decades to come. Collectively engaging them is among our most important responsibilities.

In this context of both strength and challenge, Provost Hanson has charged me, as interim dean, with two tasks: one financial, one academic.

Our financial task
CLA has a structural deficit. While not trivial, it represents only three to four percent of our total tuition revenue and thus is a problem at the margins, rather than a debilitating crisis. I believe we can make progress toward resolving it by strategically targeting opportunities for increasing revenue.

We will increase the number of students taking CLA classes, using retention and recruitment strategies that are more student-centric. We must:

- Tell the CLA story in ways that better emphasize our distinctive characteristics, and that describe a CLA education in terms that are relevant to today's students;
- Build on disciplinary strengths to align our programs with students' changing academic preferences;
- Create summertime academic opportunities;
- Create new interdisciplinary programs with broad appeal.

We must also work to generate greater gift-giving and external grants.

Our academic task
While our charge for this year is on one level about finances, it is more fundamentally about who we are academically.

The provost has charged me to move ahead with CLA 2015 Report recommendations to make strategic program investments. And, since CLA cannot be all things, we must prioritize -- balance any investment by some disinvestment. We will set these priorities together, determining collegially what, in the long run, will most effectively distinguish our college and best serve our students.

Signature programs on which we are already making progress and which will be priorities this year include:

Humanistic Commons: We will focus on extending this innovative, interdisciplinary program to the upper divisions and to graduate education.

Human Rights Academy: This collaboration with the Humphrey Institute and Law School will make us one of the first schools in the country to offer a professional master's degree in human rights.

Second-language acquisition: The second-language requirement is a CLA signature. This year we will work on strengthening second-language instruction, and integrating it throughout our curriculum.

Other areas of focus are: growing the Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute, further consolidating the cognitive and behavioral sciences, inaugurating a newly emerging consortium on the pre-modern world, and fostering deeper integration of the statistics department with the quantitative social sciences.

All of these projects grew out of faculty-led initiatives, are expressly interdisciplinary, and have significant scholarly benefits across multiple departments. They are models of the kind of work I propose we undertake together this year as we re-imagine and take steps toward creating a more robust CLA.

CLA State of the College 2012: Summary

Summary of State of the College Speech - 2012
Dean James A. Parente, Jr.

Download the full text of the speech (PDF)

At the start of this academic year we are delighted to be able to celebrate some significant CLA successes:

- We have enrolled the best-prepared freshman class ever, and have launched the First-Year Experience and common reading programs to help them succeed.
- We are searching for 23 new faculty--the largest number of searches since 2007-08.
- We've received 4.1 million recurring dollars from Central Administration--the highest amount since 1998.

Nevertheless, we do face fiscal challenges arising from the larger national economic climate and from increasing public skepticism about higher education and the liberal arts.

It is critical in this environment to champion the liberal arts--the arts, humanities and social sciences--both internally and with the public at whose behest we exist. In doing so, our argument must be based on more than the usual claims on critical thinking and other skills on which the liberal arts do not have an exclusive claim.

We must instead focus on how the liberal arts are unique: specifically, on how they transcend disciplinary boundaries and address the totality of human existence.

In addition, we must demonstrate how CLA distinguishes itself from other liberal arts colleges. Programs must be distinctive not only for faculty accomplishment, but also for their unique approach to their field. With disciplinary boundaries becoming more porous, we will define CLA's distinctiveness not only by specific programs, but also by the way in which we imagine and integrate programs across the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Our plans for the coming year articulate and animate our distinctive signature, building on the recommendations of the CLA 2015 report and on departmental plans.

We will re-imagine humanities education.
A group of humanities faculty members has prepared a proposal that will be shared for comment early this term. The proposal addresses how best to prepare Ph.D. humanities students for today's academic careers, and how best to orient undergraduates to the humanities and to major fields in the humanities.

We will advance human rights.
Given CLA's faculty commitment to studies relating to social and environmental justice, equity and diversity, and human rights, we will initiate discussions, in collaboration with the Humphrey School and Law School, to plan a human rights institute, explore the creation of a professional masters degree in this field, and heighten the visibility of this clear signature strength of our college across the University and the nation.

We will promote science and the liberal arts.
CLA research in brain sciences, cognition and language, biophysical geography and climatology, and biological anthropology and paleo-archaeology addresses some the most central issues confronting 21st-century society. We will ensure that we have both the faculty strength -- especially in those areas of increasing student demand -- across these fields, and the state-of-the-art facilities needed to carry out 21st-century work. We are beginning to plan, with the College of Education and Human Development, a new district for behavioral and cognitive sciences. Anchored by a planned new building for psychology and linguistics, it will bring together CLA's psychology, speech-language-and-hearing sciences, linguistics, and cognitive sciences with educational psychology and the Institute of Child Development in CEHD, and our affiliated clinics, to create a distinctive Minnesota signature in these fields. Paralleling its existing focus on the physical sciences, our philosophy of science program will explore the development of new ties with the social sciences, an area of CLA strength.

We will support our faculty.
The creative work and scholarship of our faculty are the essence of our Minnesota signature. We must provide them the infrastructure required for their work, including resources to conduct surveys and pilot studies necessary to compete successfully for sponsored research. We will develop strategies so that colleagues across the college will have the funding to pursue their projects and professional development, and share their work nationally and internationally.

We will support our students.
In order to sustain the academic integrity of our strong graduate programs, one of our highest development priorities will be to fund fellowships for graduate students.  

At the undergraduate level, we will pursue a strategy to help students minimize debt and advance through their academic programs in a timely way. We will collaborate with departments in defining clear arcs for success -- from the students' first two years, through their specific major, to their postgraduate lives. Lack of such definition disadvantages any liberal arts program and its students, and poses a special problem for the 1,800 transfer students who join CLA each year.

We will enhance our second-language curriculum.
CLA has long been a leader in second-language education, and even though the University no longer requires a graduation proficiency exam, we continue to aspire to help more students become proficient enough to use their second languages in their major studies. I have charged a working group to establish standards for various levels of proficiency and recommend how to attain them.

I have intentionally not highlighted fiscal matters, having observed how, in the past, that kind of focus has impeded our ability to dream as ambitiously as we might about the future of the college. We have a balanced budget, but we have a structural deficit, an issue that we must resolve in collaboration with central administration by establishing a firm tuition base that allows for stable multiple-year planning.

Meanwhile, we must respond to President Kaler's strong support of CLA by setting our sights high.

Let us work together to become a national, innovative leader in liberal arts research, education, and outreach. Let us work together to continue to build a liberal arts college of which we can be proud. Let us demonstrate with conviction the indispensability of the liberal arts to the human experience.

CLA State of the College 2011: Summary

Summary of State of the College Speech - 2011
Dean James A. Parente, Jr.
Download the full text of the speech (PDF)

We enter this academic year encouraged by the significant successes of 2010-11:
• We reopened Folwell Hall, the epicenter of international education on our campus. This renovated and modernized building manifests the University's continued commitment to research and education in global languages, literatures, and cultures.

• We received the largest scholarship gift in the history of the University of Minnesota: a $14 million gift from the late Myrtle Stroud, of Windom, Minnesota. Her generosity enables us to increase significantly our support of talented first-year and transfer students who have strong academic records and financial need.

• Our researchers garnered $18.5 million in grants, a new CLA record in sponsored funding (post-Minnesota Population Center). In addition, the Office of the Vice President of Research awarded CLA five I-3 infrastructure grants for social and behavioral science research equipment and the renovation of the Kilburn Theater into a state-of-the-art multi-media facility.

• In 2010-11 we appointed 16 new tenured/ tenure-track faculty--the largest number of faculty hires since 2008. Six searches have been authorized so far this year.
• Last month we were delighted to welcome President Eric Kaler, a distinguished chemical engineer, to our college. Dr. Kaler knows that Minnesota can never become a great university of the highest rank if CLA is not leading in research and creative work and providing an exceptional education to graduate and undergraduate students. He has pledged funds to enable us to replenish several unfilled faculty positions, which will help rebuild our faculty to the July 1, 2009 level.

• The CLA 2015 Report--a remarkable and important consensus document--was completed, providing us a set of strategic recommendations for advancing the college. The report generated useful critique and discussion in the college, which will inform its implementation.

As we move forward, it is important to recognize that we are in an environment where public support for higher education as a common good is eroding, economic considerations threaten to obscure academic goals, and the societal value of higher education, especially of the liberal arts, is challenged.  We are first and foremost an academic institution, and academic priorities will drive any programmatic changes that we make.

It is difficult to tack between the intellectual world that we inhabit professionally and the extramural communities who question our value, but what will most certainly imperil us even further would be the absence of engagement. It is therefore incumbent upon us, Minnesota's largest liberal arts college, to animate the liberal arts, demonstrating their essential place in a 21st century education and the significance and indispensability of our research. We must emphasize the academic rigor of our disciplines, the hard work needed to comprehend the multiplicity of issues for which there is sometimes no final, unambiguous answer. In the coming year we must work to bring the significance of the liberal arts publicly to life through our work and at every opportunity we have to communicate internally and externally.

Mindful of the overarching goal of animating the liberal arts, we will advance the following projects in 2011-12 as the first stage of implementing CLA 2015.

1.    Reinforce our academic strength in the arts and humanities
Building on the model of our successful partnership with the Guthrie Theater, we will work toward defining our relationship with Penumbra Theatre and advancing collaborations between the Department of Art and the Walker Art Center, between the Department of Art History and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We support the School of Music's emerging partnerships with several local and international organizations.

Associate Dean Michal Kobialka will work with faculty on a plan to strengthen the humanities, and in particular, the study of literature, culture and media, and to reinvigorate and re-imagine graduate and undergraduate education in those fields. We will have the opportunity to invest in this area over the next two to three years.

2.    Continue to build our research capacity
It is important to remain competitive for external funding at a time when such funds are declining. To that end, Associate Dean Alex Rothman will work with faculty to guide new investments in research infrastructure, with the aim of helping researchers and graduate students complete the surveys and pilot studies necessary to give their sponsored applications a higher chance of success. We will launch an effort to renovate or replace Elliott Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology, the Institute of Linguistics, and the university's Center for Cognitive Sciences, and we propose reimagining Elliott as the cornerstone of a university behavioral sciences district. We will complete the creation of an administrative hub on the West Bank to serve multiple research centers, and enhance the ability for centers to support resident scholars, seed new initiatives, and fashion external programs to showcase their work.

3.    Expand efforts to ensure graduate and undergraduate student success.
Associate Dean Jennifer Windsor and the Office of Undergraduate Programs will take a more active role in retaining and advising undergraduates and helping them to graduate on time, in recruiting transfer students, and in working with community colleges to ensure transfer students' preparedness for CLA.

We will establish the infrastructure to support and advance graduate education and accommodate the newly assigned Graduate School functions in the college.

In the coming year, as we launch a campaign to advocate publicly for the liberal arts, it will be critical to reaffirm our common mission and acknowledge the interdependency of our very diverse community. Already the boundaries of our research and creative lives are porous; now is the time to take the additional step of realizing our interdependence institutionally. Now is the time to work collaboratively, across our diverse disciplines, to ensure that our students and the public understand and appreciate the value of liberal arts research and a rigorous liberal arts education.

Minnesota Daily coverage of CLA 2015: April 21, 2011

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CLA 2015 Report in the News

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CLA's 2015 report was covered on Minnesota Public Radio and the Minnesota Daily earlier today. 

CLA 2015 Committee Final Report

CLA 2015 Committee Final Report
to Dean James A. Parente, Jr.
College of Liberal Arts - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Gary Oehlert and Chris Uggen, co-chairs

Download the full report (PDF)

Executive Summary

This report is a call for renewal, collaboration, and partnership:

• The College of Liberal Arts must reorganize internally and become more efficient and more focused in order to provide better education for our students and better support for our faculty's path-breaking research.

• CLA must form collaborations and connections, not only within the college but also across the University and with communities and organizations outside the University.

• CLA must pursue these changes in partnership with central administration, whose support is needed to realize and sustain the vision of the college with adequate resources.

CLA 2015 report to be released Monday, Nov. 8

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The final report of the CLA 2015 committee will be released to the college community on Monday, November 8.

An executive summary will be posted in full on this blog with a link to a PDF of the full report. Town hall meetings will be held next week to gather feedback from CLA faculty, staff and students. Please mark your calendars now and plan to attend.

Thursday, November 11, 2:00 - 3:00 in the Influx Room, Regis (west bank)
Friday, November 12, noon - 1:00 in 402 Walter Library (east bank)

CLA 2015 interim report receives media coverage

The most recent interim report (of April 23, 2010) from the CLA 2015 Committee has received media coverage from the following:

Reaction to CLA 2015 Report from Dean Tom Fisher

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College of Design Dean Tom Fisher commented on the CLA 2015 report of 4/23/10 in a blog post on Monday.

He writes, "Strategic planning can benefit from benchmarking ourselves against peers. Other colleges at the University represent one such peer group, and as you will see from the blue-ribbon-committee report just released by the College of Liberal Arts, we share many of the same challenges as CLA, such as how to do more with less and how to enhance quality without substantially more resources."

Also, Design's issues "are not easy to address or to answer, but if the CLA report offers any consolation, we will have plenty of company in doing so."