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CLA 2015

October 2011 Archives

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.