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CLA Sept. 23 Open Forum Recap

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As a follow-up to this year's State of the College address, Interim Dean Raymond Duvall held an open forum on Monday, September 23rd where faculty and staff were invited to share their comments and questions regarding the 2013-14 collegiate agenda. Dean Duvall began the conversation by asking attendees to share their own sense of collegiate priorities for the upcoming year, and--bearing in mind the objectives laid out during the State of the College address--inquired about what CLA priorities should be. Conversations developed around the following themes:

• The continued relevance of a liberal arts education and the extent to which that is related to professional and career development.
It is essential that we maintain our unwavering commitment to the value of liberal arts education. We must also be vigorous in telling the story--broadly and effectively--of that value. However, we should simultaneously ask whether and how we might do more to equip our students for productive career paths. Is there room for us to be more attentive--both within CLA and in conjunction with other Colleges--to students' needs and interests? Connecting with former CLA students who can speak to the strength of an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts is a key component of the College's communication plan for the upcoming year.
• The necessity of increasing our student retention rates across the College over the next year (and beyond). Are there areas within CLA, specifically in relation to the student experience and the aim of increasing retention rates, where the College could be more nimble? Today's students have different skill sets and interests, and we must be able to engage them in a flexible manner while remaining committed to our core mission. Might it be possible to make it easier for students to graduate with a double major? Can we consider more clearly defined career tracks (health science, for instance)? Are we setting up unnecessary roadblocks to teaching and research? Acknowledging that nimbleness and flexibility can be difficult to achieve in a college of our size, we must be able to meet our undergraduate and graduate students' interests and our faculty's research needs more quickly and efficiently.
• Ensuring faculty participation and support in meeting financial and academic goals. Provost Hanson has charged Dean Duvall with two tasks--one financial, one academic. While we should not seek to draw faculty away from their research, graduate advising, and undergraduate teaching, it is imperative that administration and units work together to meet collective goals. It is the dean's office's hope that there will be sustained conversation between chairs and administrators about how academic units can work together more effectively to help the college move forward with collegiate objectives. Acknowledging that departments tire of bureaucratic systems, encouraging this kind of collaborative thinking will hopefully engage faculty on a deeper level and provide departments with the latitude they and their faculty need to take innovative risks with regard to research and teaching.
• Concern around President Kaler's recent announcement regarding $90 million in future administrative cuts and how this will ultimately impact academic units. Dean Duvall stated that CLA administration will begin distributing further information as it becomes available but doesn't anticipate that the administrative cuts will result in significant additional stress for departments. President Kaler has indicated that this is not a matter of cutting, but rather a reallocation of funds (specifically, allocating additional funds to mission).

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