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Dean's Blog

Dean John Coleman's updates and communications to on and off-campus communities. 

On the death of George Floyd

May 28, 2020
Disgusting. Infuriating. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Those are words that came quickly to mind when I first learned of the outrageous and senseless death of George Floyd. To then watch a slow-motion killing is one of the most horrifying sights imaginable. And to see the cruel casualness by which it all happened, by which a man had his life taken away, was an assault to the senses. Mr. Floyd was an African American man. It is difficult to fully understand what happened on Chicago Avenue without centering the basic fact that race ran through the entire sordid event. I know that many staff, students, and faculty in our CLA community are hurting right now and grieving. For our African American colleagues and...Read more

Tackling the Challenge of COVID-19 Head On 

March 18, 2020
Throughout the past few weeks, and especially in recent days, the news about COVID-19 has increasingly occupied our thoughts and energy. The surge in cases across the world and in Minnesota have made us all think ever more of each other’s needs. In CLA, we have discussed our concerns for our students; our alumni, friends, and donors; our faculty, staff, and community partners; and all of those around us. We have shared our worries for friends, neighbors, and family members whose lives have been abruptly turned upside down through isolation, health fears, and the loss of income. Like you, we hear inspiring stories of clear-thinking, collaboration, and caring. I’ve said to you often that the disciplines of the liberal arts...Read more

Gains in undergraduate student diversity

September 4, 2019
In fall 2018, the undergraduate African American student population in CLA exceeded 1000 students for the first time, with 1,040 students. That number represented an improvement of 38% since fall 2014. Hispanic student enrollment reached 670 students, up 44% since fall 2014. Asian student enrollment increased 20% over that time period, to nearly 1,610 students. And American Indian student enrollment was at about 225, an improvement of 9%. Thank you to everyone who works hard to recruit and retain American Indian students and students of color in CLA, a key objective of the CLA Roadmap. Note: the counts in this post are based on University data on students’ self-identified primary race or ethnicity, including when multiple-racial/ethnic designations were selected.Read more

Letter to a New Department Chair

July 30, 2019
Earlier this year, a former advisee indicated his department was interested in having him serve as chair and asked me for some advice. I sent along the following thoughts that came quickly to mind and perhaps some might be helpful to other aspiring department chairs. 1. Everyone has a story and a history. Try to get some sense of it. Ideally, that means sitting down with everyone — certainly faculty, but staff also — and listen and learn how things are going for them and what would improve their quality of professional life. The question “how can I be helpful to you,” or some variant, goes a long way. This should all happen either before you begin or in the...Read more

On belonging and mutual respect

November 20, 2018
Recent weeks have brought news about hate-inspired violence from around the country. The work of the liberal arts -- our research and creative work, instruction, engagement -- is always vital, but perhaps never so directly and meaningfully as when we grapple with and process these terrible events. Insights, perspectives, and analysis from our college help both to understand the present as well as envision paths toward a better future where mutual dignity and respect thrive. All of you can be rightly proud that you contribute to that knowledge creation. When I met with our first-year students at the beginning of the semester, I said the following: The world is shrinking. People of different religions, backgrounds, languages, and cultures work together...Read more

The Northeast Middle School Class of 2026

June 15, 2018
Last week I watched 175 middle school students cross the Northrop stage. They were the 8th-grade class of Northeast Middle School (NEMS) in Minneapolis, receiving their completion certificates. Over the course of the semester these students had worked with Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies (GWSS) Professor Jigna Desai and GWSS Research Associate Kari Smalkoski and their undergraduate students on a unique project: The Minnesota Youth Story Squad . Meeting once a week, the undergraduate mentors and Dr. Jigna and Dr. Kari (as they are known to the students) would lead the 8th graders in discussions ranging from social justice to bullying and ultimately led the students in the creation of their own personal digital stories. During the ceremony at Northrop...Read more

Advocating for the Issues That Matter to You

February 26, 2018
Last fall, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association conducted a survey of 8,000+ alumni. Over 2,700 of those who participated were CLA graduates and I want to thank you for taking the time to respond. Your input, opinions, and suggestions will boost our efforts to establish and maintain CLA as a destination college that empowers our students and transforms our communities. Among the insights that emerged from the survey was the wish by alumni to remain well-informed about opportunities to be involved with the U. Respondents also noted that they credit their education from the U with a passion for contributing to their communities. This is hardly surprising for us at CLA, as preparing our students in active citizenship is...Read more

CLA Shattering Expectations campaign update

December 28, 2017
The Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch and the Center for German and European Studies received a combined $5 million gift from the estate of Hella Mears ( read about the gift and about Hella Mears). Hella was a delightful and funny person who was passionate about her interests in German and European studies. I was saddened by her passing but am pleased that her legacy will have such transformative impact. A salute to former Dean Jim Parente, Department Chairs Rick McCormick and Charlotte Melin, and CLA Principal Gifts Officer Mary Hicks for building a wonderful relationship with Hella that led to earlier gifts and to this estate commitment.Read more

The importance of CLA in the U’s climate and tone

November 30, 2017
The College of Liberal Arts has a special role to play in creating a campus climate in which we can all thrive. As a significant proportion of the faculty, staff, and students at the U, we in CLA must lead by example in building and driving a university culture and tone that values diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and identities. In the CLA Neighborhood (aka intranet), we have gathered a list of resources on diversity, inclusion, and campus climate. Please let us know if you have suggestions for additions. Along with our leading-by-example role in building the U’s climate and tone, we all have the same obligation within our college. Whether by the way we treat each other within our departments and...Read more

Announcing CLA's capital campaign

October 20, 2017
On November 4, CLA will formally announce Shattering Expectations: The Campaign for Liberal Arts. Through this campaign we'll seek to raise $150 million to recruit top students and develop their potential; spark research, innovation, and collaboration with our communities; and build a more diverse and inclusive community. These focus areas are closely aligned with our CLA Roadmap. As such, our campaign aims to support the work you do so well now and build the foundation for a strong CLA into the future. An Update on CLA's Campaign As is the nature of capital campaigns, the work technically runs for ten years and has already been underway. The planning phase (or "quiet phase") for the University's Driven campaign and the College's...Read more