Stories that Inspire

Commitment to students and the liberal arts inspire a CLA-2015 planning project.
By Dean James A. Parente, Jr.

Photo of Dean James Parente, Jr.

Dean James Parente, Jr.
Photo by Kelly MacWilliams.

Imagine the brain-power, the creativity! Imagine the experiences and perspectives that students from all over the world bring to our classrooms!

And imagine the impact that 15,000 smart, independent, original thinkers will have on the world, as they become the citizens and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

This issue of reach tells that undergraduate story.

It traces the adventures of some of the world's best young minds into challenging new worlds of inquiry: the underlying blueprint of language, DNA to cure cancer, hip hop and Shakespeare, health in the Amazon jungle, the aging brain, leadership as an out-of-body experience. There are subplots, too, about backbends and boxing, chutzpah and geekdom, dancing, drumming, and, of course, love.

Could we have been more fortunate than to have America's great storyteller, our own CLA alumnus Garrison Keillor, interview the students? He wanted to write about undergraduates who are successful because they take full advantage of what this great university has to offer.

The students inspired Garrison, and we hope they will inspire you, too.

Our other feature story is about a recent graduate who is already fulfilling the promise of his CLA education. He is inventing a new way for communities, from New York to Minneapolis to Seattle, to support their local artists. If it becomes a national trend, remember: he's one of our own and you read it here first!

Perhaps, as you read about these young people, you will remember that higher education here and nationally is facing a watershed moment. For example, this year, for the first time in history, more student dollars than State dollars are supporting the University of Minnesota--much of it in the form of student loans.

Why is public support for education dropping? It is partly because of the recession, partly because of a trend toward considering a college education an exclusively private good. But as the stories of our students and alumni so clearly illustrate, higher education benefits the public at least as much as it does the student.

In fact, the more complex our world, the more we need higher education. We especially need the liberal arts, which bring judgment, ethics, art and beauty, deep understanding of each other and of the full range of the human experience to bear on what might otherwise be a mechanical, materialistic world.

Our challenge will be to re-imagine and re-think the way we educate.

Exactly what will CLA of the future look like? The college has embarked on a planning process--CLA 2015--to reposition CLA to achieve higher levels of academic distinction during a period of shrinking resources and narrowing focus.

Uppermost in our minds will be the responsibility we have to the tens of thousands of students who place their trust in us to prepare them for the future. We shall not waver in our commitment to provide them excellent teachers; cogent, relevant and up-to-date curriculum; technological access to the world; quality advising; financial support; and the skills for successful professional lives--in other words, an exceptional educational experience to help them realize their highest ambitions.

They are our future!

Thank you for the support of our college.


James A. Parente, Jr.

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This page contains a single entry by CLA Reach Magazine published on June 1, 2010 2:10 PM.

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