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The Next 150

August 6, 2019

This 150th year has been a remarkable one for CLA. From thought-provoking commemorative exhibits to the best fundraising year on record, it’s going to be hard to beat. But as we wrap up this year of celebration, it’s important to consider the future. What will the next 50 years bring? The next 100, or 150 years? How will the College of Liberal Arts change? What problems will we have solved? What will be the challenges of those times? What will have stayed the same? Of course, no one can say. The world will change in ways we can’t even imagine. But while we can’t predict what will come, there are three things I know for sure.

The first is the College of Liberal Arts’ primary mission will always be to give back and do the most good it can for others.
A hundred and fifty years ago, CLA was founded as a land-grant institution. The vision of the land-grant system was to empower individuals who would then go on to empower their communities. This vision was about extending the learning of a liberal arts education to a larger population in a growing country. It was profoundly democratizing at its core, spreading skills and knowledge beyond the elite strata of society. The land-grant tradition will always be about educating individuals for the good of communities. As a college, we will always aim to be better, to train the finest minds, to graduate the most accomplished students not to pat ourselves on the back, but because the better we are at our work, the better our research, the more ready our graduates, the greater good we can do. As long as CLA is around I know that that will remain the core of who we are: a liberal arts education for the betterment of individuals, families, and future generations.

The second thing I know is that the future of CLA’s legacy is bright, because of our students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
In our students, we have the stewards of a remarkable legacy. They are bright, ambitious, and dedicated to contributing to the people around them. In our staff, we have institutional knowledge, ingenuity, and commitment to the land-grant mission of service. In our faculty, we have cutting-edge researchers, stellar instruction, scholars dedicated to tackling society’s most compelling issues. And in our alumni, we see the liberal arts advantage play out every day. Our alumni start businesses, run organizations, and create better futures for their communities. Their leadership is proof of what the liberal arts offer. Our students, staff, faculty, and alumni they are our best ambassadors, and the future of CLA’s legacy could not be in better hands.

The last thing I know is that the future for everyone is bright, because of who we are as a college.
We live at a time of enormous challenges, from polarized politics to poverty to disease and beyond. But I don’t agree with doomsday depictions of the future because every day I see evidence of the liberal arts impact on the world around me. What we study in the liberal arts is literally front-page news. The CLA community includes leading scholars, innovative artists, dedicated professionals, passionate philanthropists, and leaders of industries. This community of people has mentored and empowered individuals and communities for 150 years on campus and around the globe. They’ve analyzed disparities and conflicts, placing them in historical, economic, and social context. They’ve asked the difficult questions. They’ve provided evidence, information, and perspective. They’ve offered direction and clarity in the face of what others may perceive as insurmountable obstacles. I know that the future is bright because of all the wonderful things that our students, staff, faculty, and alumni have already accomplished, and all they will contribute in the years to come.

The next 150 years
What we’ve begun in our first 150 years here at CLA is a legacy of excellence, of giving back, of service. CLA was founded with a vision that a liberal arts education can be used as a tool towards a better life. One hundred and fifty years ago, CLA in the form of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts was more a dream than reality. It was small, untested, unproved. The CLA of today is the result of 150 years of hard work and passion. A century and a half of dedication and brilliance, of questioning: where do we excel? How can we be stronger and more effective today than we were yesterday? And where will we go next? Those questions will continue to guide us. And as long as we continue to ask them, we’ll continue to head in the right direction.