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CLA 2015

November 2009 Archives

CLA State of the College 2009: Summary

Summary of speech delivered 22 September 2009
by Dean James A. Parente

Higher education is at a turning point. It is unclear what higher education, and CLA, will look like after the recession. Steps we take over the next 18-24 months will determine CLA's long-range fiscal health and academic excellence. We have already experienced an effective FY10 $13.4 million reduction on our $230 million operating budget, and expect additional short- and long-term reductions in funding.

The coming year should be a time of intense intellectual engagement as we discuss what the college should look like in 2015 and beyond. The conversations will be difficult; they will require all of us to be engaged and forthright, even as we unite as one community for the good of the entire college, and remain staunchly committed to academic excellence. These are some of our priority considerations:

  • The role and nature of the liberal arts in undergraduate education, especially given our dependence on undergraduate tuition. How we can provide students more opportunities to interact with faculty, to engage in research, internships, service-learning and study abroad, and to use technology to enrich their academic experience? What communication strategies can help them better understand the value of their liberal arts education?
  • Graduate education. How should we approach our greater responsibilities for administering graduate programs and ensuring the quality of the graduate student experience?  How shall we provide financial support for our students and prepare them for post-doctoral careers in a rapidly changing academic environment?
  • Faculty. CLA's future ultimately depends on the quality of our faculty. In the face of economic restraint, how do we attract and retain great faculty in the face of economic restraint? Support their research efforts? Encourage them in developing new curricular directions, new community and global networks?
  • Physical environment. Our major capital project this year will be to secure funding from the legislature for the renovation of Folwell Hall. I will ask your help in conveying to the governor and legislators the importance of this project.
The past year has been a productive one. We have recruited an outstanding freshman class, welcomed 10 new faculty and are searching for 13 more. We have increased the number of grants funded and dollars received, and hired a new arts and humanities grants coordinator. We are working to give departments more creative space in curricular planning, planning for a freestanding Department of Linguistics, pursuing internationalization initiatives, and making progress in helping students become more language-proficient.

We renovated history department spaces and laboratory space in Speech-Language-and Hearing Sciences, renovated departmental space and created a new student study space in the Social Sciences Building, and are establishing a paleoarchaeology laboratory. The Course Transformation Project has allowed faculty to bring multimedia learning experiences into the classroom. And despite the economic downturn, we raised $7.3 million to fund scholarships, fellowships, and endowments.

Together we have weathered the sharpest threat to the fiscal health of CLA in more than a quarter century. I am deeply grateful for your generosity and readiness to help. We still have much work to do together; given the strength and creativity of our community, I am confident that we can continue to make progress on our common goal of building the academic distinctiveness of our college.