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Dean's Blog

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

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

The land grant mission, rightly understood

August 13, 2017
In public discourse, and even sometimes in higher education discourse, the land grant mission of universities is rhetorically reduced to the teaching of mechanical or technical skills. And no doubt, these skills are important and were an important focus of the land grant mission. But this interpretation is a thin understanding of the land grant purpose. The full vision of the land grant system was to empower the individual in the interest of building their futures and building their communities. This vision was about conveying the knowledge that would lead to both economic development and political development. The land grant mission also aimed to extend the learning of liberal education to a larger population in a growing country. It was...Read more

Career Readiness Guide

August 13, 2017
During the spring semester, the Office of Undergraduate Education released the first edition of the CLA Career Readiness Guide. Former Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Gary Oehlert and current Associate Dean Ascan Koerner shared the document with you via email at that time. It’s a terrific product that has been well received by our students and by our alums and friends outside the college. For more information about the Career Readiness Initiative and the Core Career Competencies, please consult the Career Readiness pages in the CLA Neighborhood. See also this Star-Tribune report on our efforts.Read more

CLA’s pivotal role in the University’s diversity and inclusion objectives

March 26, 2017
In the CLA Roadmap, we as a college dedicated ourselves to the improvement of diversity, inclusion, and access among our students. The University is also committed to inclusive excellence in Driving Tomorrow, the University’s strategic plan. CLA will be an essential part of the University’s ability to meet this objective. To give you some sense of what I mean, CLA is 44.2% of the Twin Cities undergraduate degree-seeking population and we comprise the following proportions of Twin Cities undergraduates: 48.4% of female students 47.1% of students of color 63.8% of American Indian students 41.6% of Asian/Pacific students 52.1% of African American students 73.1% of Hawaiian students 52.1% of Chicano/a & Latino/a students 48.2% of multi-racial students 53.3% of international students...Read more