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State of the College 2010: Summary

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What follows is a summary of the State of the College speech delivered by Dean James A. Parente, Jr., on September 28, 2010. The full text will be available at the Dean's page on the CLA web site.

In the past two years--with falling state support, growing public anger about escalating college costs, and an intensified emphasis on a vocational approach to undergraduate education--we have seen changes in public higher education that are unprecedented since the end of World War II.

CLA's reduced operating budget has impaired the academic well-being of the college and the morale of its employees. We have lost the capacity to fund up to 60 faculty lines. Our undergraduate student-faculty ratio has reached 28:1. We are limited in our ability to offer competitive graduate student support. Reduced infrastructure means increased workloads for all and postponed growth in targeted areas.

We have sustained, proportionately, a greater reduction in funds than any other college, and are the only college with substantially fewer resources in FY11 than in FY08.

These reductions place an ever greater burden on our students. We will rely on their tuition--much of it in the form of loans--to cover 72 percent of the college's operating expenses this year.

Our size and centrality to the University's educational mission gives us grounds for arguing for no further erosion to our operational base. I will continue to advocate forcefully for our college, reminding the administration that the U's academic success is in large measure dependent on CLA's, and that every distinguished comprehensive research university has multiple programs of national and international distinction across the liberal arts.

Meanwhile, CLA must commit fully to changing in ways that enable us to thrive with fewer resources. This is a monumental but exciting challenge. It means shaping a new paradigm for higher education--something no single institution has yet been able to do.

We shall create the new paradigm through collaboration:
• Working together as a collective--not as in a zero-sum game where the advancement of a few departments precludes seeding new initiatives in others, and
• Through increased cooperation among collegiate units, collegiate partners, and colleagues at institutions world-wide.

Technology will be our ally. It will open hitherto unimagined doors to new collaborative opportunities in the delivery of classes and in facilitating research, teaching, and advising.

We will think of ourselves as in a world where collaboration and networks define the work that we do, disciplinary boundaries are porous, and institutions profit more by collaboration than by competition. Our goals will be to improve access to higher education, create global networks of universities, and expand learning across the lifetime and across generations. This envisions higher learning across global populations on a scale unimaginable today.

The good news is that we are already moving successfully within this new collaborative paradigm, with
• The CLA 2015 planning process;
• Faculty groups re-examining foreign languages, literatures and cultures; European studies; and strengthening ethnic studies.
• Model administrative and technological systems developed within the college--like the enrollment tracking system, Media Mill, and the Digital Content Library.
• The resolution of a $1.4 million deficit in fall 2009 necessary to complete our total $11.9M reduction for FY10, and securing state funding to renovate Folwell Hall.

We must meet the following challenges this year:
• Finish the work of the CLA 2015 Planning Committee and address its recommendations;
• Improve our communication to the external community, University administration, and our own undergraduates about the value of the arts, humanities and social sciences;
• Advance the humanities at the undergraduate and graduate level, and help prepare humanities Ph.D.s for non-academic opportunities;
• Nurture the creativity of the faculty, encouraging greater interdepartmental cooperation;
• Develop distinctive academic programs that will energize us and our students;
• Design a system to support graduate education;
• Continue to internationalize the college, especially by building relationships with institutions in the global south;
• Pursue collaborative educational programs, including facilitating the transfer of students from two-year colleges, and creating professional M.A. or M.S. programs, and degrees that can move students seamlessly from undergraduate to professional education in health sciences, business, or law.

It is through our collective efforts that we will transform our college in ways that will strengthen and promote the foundational role of the liberal arts in Minnesota.

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