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Letter from the Director

By Albert R. Tims

Using virtually any metric you like, the University of Minnesota has entered an era of tranformational change.

Albert R. TimsThe institution’s goal of becoming one of the top three public research universities is center stage: driving a comprehensive strategic planning process, innovative thinking and broad engagement. Much of the initial planning is taking place in 34 separate task force groups composed of senior administrators, faculty, staff, and students.

These groups are striving to involve the entire university community in asking how we can teach better, how we can lead the world in new research and discovery, how we can build and reward a world-class faculty, how we can attract the best and the brightest students, how we can organize ourselves to enhance cross-disciplinary collaborations and how we can manage resources to insure that we have the talent and the infrastructure to lead the world.

Even as we plan for the next big steps, we find compelling evidence that the U of M has already built tremendous momentum in attracting academically gifted students – those best prepared to take advantage of the special resources a top research university can offer. This year’s freshman class in the College of Liberals Arts is arguably the best prepared in the U’s history: CLA’s freshman class entered with an average high school rank at the 85th percentile: nearly four in 10 students were in the top 10 percent of their high school class. As competition for admission increases, we’re seeing the attractiveness of the University surge: the Office of Admissions reports an unparalleled 30 percent increase in freshman applications compared to the same period last year.

More importantly for the SJMC, the record suggests that one of the magnets drawing top students to the College of Liberal Arts is the opportunity to study in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The School offers the most “in demand? degree program in the college, with more than 1,000 undergraduate majors and pre-majors, and it remains the only program in which students go through a “secondary? review by the School to gain admission. Not only are we attracting wonderful students, we have independent evidence that we’re serving them well. Recent exit interviews with graduating seniors conducted by the Provost’s office rank the SJMC at the top tier of both the College of Liberal Arts and the University in terms of overall student satisfaction, satisfaction with instruction and more specific learning outcomes such as contributing to ability to think creatively and write clearly.

Our faculty and staff are working to recruit and serve highability students by strengthening scholarship opportunities for freshmen, by allowing those who come into the University as honors students to gain direct admission to our major, by redesigning our honors program, by experimenting with new teaching tools, by emphasizing the importance of leaning abroad experiences and by continuing to promote and develop community partnerships and field-based learning experiences. And as the cover story in this issue highlights, we respect, value and are nurturing responsible citizenship and professional ethics among our students. These robust initiatives are indeed transformative – and wonderful to see.

In my next letter I’ll focus on our graduate programs. In the meantime, I encourage you to stay in touch and continue to be a part of the life of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Albert R. Tims, Director