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Welcome to the New Academic Year

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A message from Raymond Duvall, interim dean

As Interim Dean, I am honored to welcome you to the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year. With you, I share the hope--and the expectation--that this will be a good year for the College of Liberal Arts. For one thing, we look forward to the successful conclusion of the search for the next Dean. We also look forward to the launching of the University's strategic planning project, in which we will have the opportunity and responsibility to position CLA programs centrally in the vision of the future University. Within the College, too, we will make progress in strategic planning, as we work together collectively to imagine and build a more robust College of Liberal Arts. I invite you to join with me and with College administration in taking key steps toward that objective.

The College that we envision, like the current College of Liberal Arts, will have four foundational missions:

• to foster research and creative production of the highest quality and greatest possible impact;
• to provide graduate education that will equip the next generation of research scholars and creative artists to establish new frontiers of knowledge and creativity within and across the disciplinary fields of the liberal arts;
• to deliver outstanding undergraduate education geared to preparing young people skillfully and knowledgably to navigate and make critical sense of the complex and rapidly changing world that they face; and
• to reach out to the larger community to make accessible and useful the knowledge that we produce and hold, and the artistic works we create.

All that we do must be evaluated in terms of impact on those four core missions, and our commitment to them should not change. At the same time, however, we should recognize and accept that this unwavering commitment does not mean that everything about what we do and how we do it remains constant. To the contrary, we face a variety of changing conditions of higher education that call for adaptation on our part, including:

• reductions in federal research and creative arts funding;
• a long-term process shifting the basis of university financial bases from public support to private sources--both tuition and gifts;
• increasing concern about student debt (a product of the shift to tuition);
• broad cultural and political shifts in views about the value of liberal arts education;
• changing patterns of employment opportunities for recipients of graduate degrees in the liberal arts;
• increasing uncertainty about the most viable and effective modes for organizing the production and transmission of knowledge and creative artistry (including questions about disciplinarity and about instructional technologies); and
• changing expectations about responsibilities to community through public engagement.

In the context of such significant changes, I believe we must assume that some of the ways that we do things in pursuit of our four foundational missions should probably also change.

As Interim Dean, I will devote my energies this year to working with you to initiate several changes to move the College of Liberal Arts forward toward the more robust future that we collectively imagine. I encourage you to join me on this venture. Please participate with me in an on-going conversation about steps forward, beginning with some ideas I will share with you in the State of the College address, Tuesday, September 17. I look forward to your responses in a follow-up open forum to be scheduled for Monday, September 23.

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