State of the College 2018

Updates on accomplishments of the past academic year, a new model for the liberal arts, and future planning
Dean John Coleman presents the 2018 State of the College address
Dean John Coleman presents the 2018 State of the College address

Remarks as prepared for delivery at the State of the College address, September 20, 2018.

Progress and accomplishments

I am pleased to say that the college is in strong condition as we enter into the academic year. Let me give you some indicators that would suggest that we're doing quite well.

On the undergraduate side, we've exceeded our admissions targets assigned by the University this year. We were one of only two colleges to do so this year. We have been exceeding those targets now for several years running. We have an all‑time high in our four year and six‑year graduation rates, and our retention rates are exceptionally high as well.

The proportion of our students who are students of color, first‑generation students, students who are Pell eligible, all of those are going up, both with our new students, our new high school students, and with our transfer students, as well. All of those are great signs.

We have been doing a very good job and have been very active in hiring faculty over the past several years. Right now, in September of 2018, 22 percent of the faculty who are here were not here five years ago. The college has changed significantly over the last five years. We have new energy, new thinking, new methodologies, and different kinds of questions being asked. We are refreshing our ranks, and we are moving to new generations of scholars. In addition to increasing our diversity among our students, we've increased diversity among our faculty and staff. 

We have also had a great deal of success with award‑winning among our students, our faculty, and our staff, including two Regents Professors over the last three years. One, Chris Uggen from our Sociology Department, and then last year, Erika Lee, from our History Department. So we're doing very well being recognized at the very highest levels of the university.

Throughout the college, I believe we're doing a much better job communicating the work that we're doing and communicating the accomplishments of our alums, our faculty, our staff, and our students. 

Much of the credit for that improvement goes to an innovation in the college, which is referred to as CLAgency. It's a student‑run marketing and communications group that drives a lot of the content that gets our message out about the work going on in the departments. They create newsletters and web content for the departments.

We have, over the past three years, engaged in a collaborative planning process with our departments to try to identify what the key issues are and what some of the potential solutions might be. Overall, I've been quite satisfied with how that process has worked out.

This year, we will be entering into our next round of three‑year planning. The first set of departments that came up for three year plans a few years ago will be coming up again this year. We'll be making a few tweaks to the process to enhance the collaborative nature of it that much further.

Overall, three-year planning has helped us develop more of a culture of innovation in our college and in our departments. We've encouraged risk taking. We've encouraged pilot projects, seed projects, and so on.

We have, across the college, established a strong set of interdisciplinary initiatives. What I particularly like about these initiatives is that they create intellectual communities that people inside and outside the college can join. I think it's particularly important for new scholars, new faculty members, new grad students to have a place to plug in, to have communities that are working on questions that they find of interest and to meet people outside their disciplines.

We can look at our RIGS (Race, Indigeneity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) Initiative, which has been doing great work under the leadership of Karen Ho the past two years, our Environmental Humanities Initiative, our Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshops, or any of the other initiatives that we've been doing that have been trying to bring people together across disciplines. There’s also the Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World, which was founded due to the substantial efforts of Professor J.B. Shank from the History Department. There are communities now in place that weren't in place five years ago.

On the nuts and bolts practical side of things, I am pleased to say that we ended our year with a balanced budget, which is not always the case for colleges both around our system and around the country. We ended the fiscal year in a good position. 

One of the things that I've been committed to doing is providing more information about the college. As you know, we have a website called CLARA, CLA Reporting and Analytics. If you want any data on the college, I encourage you to go there and take a look. We will soon be adding additional financial data on the college in CLARA, and we are working to pull more graduate program related data there as well. 

We will also soon release what we intend to be an annual data pack, a set of facts and figures on the college. Within the next month or so, we will have a data pack of slides, mostly at the college level, some comparing CLA with other colleges on campus. Some are across time. Some are a snapshot of the most recent year, giving you a sense of where we are as a college. How are things changing? What's growing? We'll update that every year in September or October. 

Another way to look at the accomplishments that we've had is through our Roadmap report, which we’ve been publishing every fall. The 2018 CLA Roadmap Report is available at the link above. All of you who are here, as well as all of our department chairs, will be getting a hard copy of that in your campus mail sometime over the next couple of weeks.
There have been many good developments and accomplishments in the college. Now what’s next?

Shifting realities in higher education

Today, I want to focus on three particular areas. First, the shifting realities in higher education, where I’ll focus the bulk of my remarks. Second, the CLA Roadmap, Volume II. And last, our fundraising campaign progress and some of the outcomes that we've seen so far.

Concerning challenges in higher education

Negative narrative about liberal arts 

On the screen behind me, you see one of the challenges that we face. There is a negative narrative about the liberal arts around the country regarding whether it gets you ready for life, for careers, or a successful work life.

Economic challenges

The second challenge we face is economic. We all know that state financial support is not at the levels that it was before. It has not recovered to where it was prior to the economic downturn. That is not Minnesota specific. That's true in almost every state in the country. I believe there are only six states where the dollar amount is actually higher now than it was back in 2008.

That support is not likely to grow substantially. That's the reality we face, in particular, with the health care costs that states now confront. Obviously, K‑12 costs are high also. There's a lot of competition for a limited number of state dollars. The likelihood of seeing a dramatic change in state financials is not very good.

Of course as part of the U of M system, our financial situation is linked to our various colleges and campuses. We're part of a system which sometimes means that colleges are subsidizing each other when they are facing budgetary shortfalls. So resources, state dollars in particular, sometimes need to be shifted around the system to balance the budget. 

There is also an increased sensitivity among families and certainly a political sensitivity to increasing tuition rates. That is an issue that we are all having to think through. In Minnesota, at the U, our in‑state tuition actually hasn't changed that much for the time of President Kaler's presidency. But out-of-state tuition has gone up dramatically for non‑reciprocity states. Rates have been increasing at over 15 percent per year for the past few years. And we have another year or so to go with those increases.

We did see in our student recruitment this year that we have fewer international students in our freshman class than we had recently as well as fewer students from non‑reciprocity states. It’s not a huge effect, but it is a few percentage points. The entire U is monitoring these effects.

Skepticism about higher education

Third, some of you are aware that a number of surveys have suggested a degree of public skepticism about higher education and its value. Whether it's really worth it to get a degree. There's some skepticism about cost and there's some skepticism about what some view as the ideological nature of the university.

This skepticism comes out in different ways in different surveys. I think it's been a little bit overblown, to be honest with you, if you look more carefully at these surveys, the skepticism is less severe or more nuanced than the headlines suggest, but nonetheless it's out there. 


Another challenge that we all are facing, and it's not CLA specific, is a demographic challenge. There are fewer students of traditional college age on the horizon in Minnesota, and even more so in the surrounding states that we tend to draw on very heavily. The competition for students will become even more severe.


Lastly, we have the challenge of technology and how it's changing teaching modes and methods of instruction. It's an area that we have to be sure that we're keeping up and that we are on the leading edge of those innovations. 

Good news amidst shifting realities

Those are some of the challenges, but there is good news in the shifting realities as well. 

Growth of the liberal arts model

First, we are, in my view, on the cusp of a period in which the liberal arts model will be growing around the world. We already see it in China and throughout Asia. The liberal arts model is growing, even in parts of Europe that had adopted different kinds of education models. The model itself is proving to be appealing around the world and other nations are seeing the value.

Appreciation in other disciplines

Second, I believe that the value of the liberal arts are recognized by people in other disciplines, whether it's engineering, business, or medicine. When I talk with people from those areas, when I talk with my counterparts from those areas, they're extremely interested in how we can collaborate.

They know, as we do, that you'll be a better engineer, or a better doctor, or a better businessperson with some additional grounding in the liberal arts beyond the mandatory university requirements.

Businesspeople get it

Third, businesses are receptive to our message. We're having exceptionally positive dialogue with businesses, with employers in general, about our students and what they bring to the table in terms of being future employees at their organizations. 

Google did a study of this through Project Aristotle, where they looked to identify the strongest teams and leaders.The study showed that while technical skills mattered, what I think of as thinking skills -- instead of the term “soft skills” were as important to the success of strong teams at Google.

In my conversations with businesspeople, and there are many studies that make the same point, industries are seeing that the flexible, adaptive nature that should be generated by liberal arts study -- the ability to collaborate, be creative, be flexible, engage diversity and inclusion, and ask the right kind of questions -- is something that's increasingly valuable to employers, given our very dynamic economy and society, and our increasingly interconnected world.

The right time for career readiness

Fourth point, our Career Readiness initiative is a national model. Internationally even to some extent, but certainly, a national model of how to help students articulate their liberal arts advantage. People are noticing that model. Some students are coming here because of it. At the very least, it has us in the forefront of that discussion.

It's important for us that all of our departments engage in Career Readiness. 

It's not just about the workplace, either. It is about creating a life of meaning. We know from surveys that today's students, and the ones coming up right behind them, are very concerned about living a life of meaning and purpose. They somewhat get a bad rap as being only interested in their jobs, or their careers, or money, or income.

But I don't think they separate it the way that some of us older folks tend to separate it. They actually think of those two things as intersecting, that you can have a good life, you can have a meaningful life, a purposeful life, and that can be tied in with the career that you do. They think of it that way from the start.

This life of purpose, life of value, life of meaning is the kind of thing that we're teaching our students from the time that they arrive in CLA. 

Liberal arts on the front page

Lastly, the research and the creative work that we do is very present in our day. It's very apparent to people. I always say, "If you look at the front page of the newspaper or you look at the home page on a news website, the liberal arts are all over that page."

Whether it's talking about something related to art, whether it's something about economic policy, crime, education, achievement gaps, media and culture, international conflict, diversity and inclusion, or whatever it might be. All of that is us. That's the work that we do. We have an extremely strong case to make that we're doing the work. We are asking the kind of questions that are driving national discourse. That's important for us to keep emphasizing and to keep reminding people that that's the work happening in this college.

Flipping challenges to opportunities

All of those are on the plus side. Let me touch a bit on the more worrisome trends that I pointed to before, because while they do pose challenges, I think that there's also some opportunity there as well.

A new liberal arts model

In my view, we're going through a time where we will shift the way that we think about the liberal arts model. To some degree, we're relying on concepts from a bygone age. The traditional model of the liberal arts, befitting something from a bygone age, is the Model T.

With the Model T, the liberal arts are across the top of the T, that’s your breadth. You take a course here and here. You walk across the top of the T. You're sampling a lot of courses in different disciplines. You're getting that broad distribution.

Then, there's the stem of the T. That's the depth. That's your major. So you're getting the breadth and you're getting the depth. Traditionally, that's been the way that people have talked about the liberal arts. Even if you don't use that language, that's the way that we've tended to talk about it.

That's an old transportation mode, the Model T. I also think it's an old way of thinking about the liberal arts. Let me suggest another way of thinking about it. I don't know why I'm comparing the liberal arts to air travel, because why would you ever want to compare yourself to air travel, given how much people don't like traveling by air? 

But I'm going to use it anyway. The hub and spoke model in air travel is an extraordinarily democratizing model because it gets you from anywhere to anywhere. You don't have to have a direct flight somewhere. You have all these hubs and all these spokes coming out of the hubs. You can come to Minneapolis. From Minneapolis, you can get almost anywhere, whether it's directly from here or through connecting flights.

So I'm thinking of what we do as being more like the hub and spoke model. Those hubs, you can think of them as interdisciplinary questions, or you can think of them as majors.

What our students are doing is they're diving in at some point in this hub and spoke, and then they're moving out to other areas. They're bringing that back, let's say, to this interdisciplinary question that's in the center or hub, or to their major if we think of those as the hubs. Then they're flying out again to do some more work that’s related in some way, and then coming back. They keep moving in and around this particular web. They are looking for connections.

Our students are not walking across the top of a T in a fairly random form, unconnected to anything. They're actually moving through this web, this network, and we hope they're pulling things together across fields.

The Model T is very much a bunch of separate disciplines, not necessarily talking to each other. The hub and spoke model is more about trying to get disciplines to talk to each other and trying to get students to see the connections.

I think where we're moving is to try to help students make the connections. Most of you who have taught have probably had the experience of a student coming to you and saying, "This was so amazing. What we talked about in class today is exactly related to what we were talking about in this other class I had three days ago."

Of course, it was probably totally unplanned by the two professors. So I think we need to move towards deliberately creating more of those “Aha!” moments that get students so excited and so passionate about their knowledge.

Doing so gives students a much richer map of the knowledge universe. It gives them a better way to think about how the analytical tools of different disciplines fit together. As I said, I believe it keeps them more excited about the work they're doing in the liberal arts.

Our Career Readiness work provides somewhat of a model for thinking about this because, while certainly respecting what the majors bring to the table, the career readiness work is also a liberal arts readiness model. It’s, "What is your liberal arts advantage?" more so than, "What is your specific advantage from being in major A, B, C, or D?"

So we’ve started to go down this path with the career readiness initiative, and as I mentioned earlier, we do a substantial amount of this knowledge connection through our interdisciplinary research initiatives. But I'm not sure we yet know what to do in terms of our teaching. That’s where we have to innovate.

One thing I could imagine doing, for example, is developing far more modular courses for students and short‑term courses for students. A student who is interested in a question can go out, take a course for three weeks to get some additional background on something, and then move on and do something else.

In my case, for example, if a student wanted to learn about third parties or wanted to learn about social movements, as much as I want to believe that every usable form of knowledge comes in 15-week chunks, two times a week, that may not necessarily be the case. It could be that they could get perfectly what they need in three weeks, or five weeks, rather than going through a whole 15-week class.

Maybe we start to think about creating streams or themes of courses. Not majors, not minors, necessarily, but a set of course that we're encouraging students to consider taking because they intentionally have some significant connections. Some might be a full 15 weeks, some might be three weeks. This isn't a tomorrow kind of thing, but over time, we'll have to rethink what we're offering to students. 

Of course as soon as you start saying any of this kind of thing to anyone at a university who has to deal with classroom space assignment and scheduling, a panicked look may understandably set in because we just haven’t been set up that way. It won't be easy, but I'm quite sure it can be done. There are a lot of smart people here. We can figure it out, especially if we also use technology as a tool to alleviate the space concerns.

Employing all of our financial options

One of the challenges I mentioned earlier was an economic challenge as reflected in cost pressures and the issue of state dollars. What can we be doing in that area?

Certainly, we'll be advocating for higher ed. We'll be advocating for the U. We'll be advocating for CLA. That's in our conversations on campus, with legislators, with regents, as we're searching for a new president, and so on.

There’s fundraising, as well as building stronger grant-seeking capacity.

We have to explore new revenue options. It could be professional certificates, for example, catering to the business community or to other parts of the professional world. We have research knowledge that would benefit these communities. 

We have to be very mindful and intentional about what we do and how we operate. Last year, I convened an Instructional Budgeting and Planning Task Force co-chaired by Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Social Sciences Penny Edgell and Director of the School of Music and Chair of the Council of Chairs Michael Kim. We had representatives from the Dean's administrative team, from chairs, and from administrators.

Their job was to think through our instructional budgeting and planning model, come up with some recommendations for places where we might be able to be more efficient in what we do, and to free up resources.

Department chairs and administrators provided feedback on the task force report over the summer. We'll begin to implement some of those recommendations over the course of the fall and the early spring. If we can find even some small ways to operate more efficiently, it opens up opportunities to do other things.

Within departments, departments have to be thinking about how can resources be refocused to think about the department of 5, 10, or 15 years from now, and not so much how do we reclaim the department of 5, 10, or 15 years ago.

In the three‑year planning process, I thought that our departments were really quite good at that. We need to reinforce that momentum and to make it worthwhile to think that way. That means making sure we're able to provide or move resources so a department can pursue its vision of where it wants to be some years down the road.

All of those are financial areas where we have to focus. As I mentioned before, our budget this past fiscal year was balanced but we do have to do a consistently better job of aligning our structural expenses with our structural revenue so that we're more confident that we'll hit a balanced budget, or even have annual surpluses over time. We are not in the balanced budget business per se, but as a college we can’t do what we want to do if we can’t consistently align our expenses with our revenues and adjust to be where we want to be and not where we were. 

My basic guiding principle in all this is, how do we create the most robust environment for the staff, faculty, and students who are in the college to make this a place to thrive? I will say I am less interested in the college becoming net larger in terms of how many faculty we have or how many staff we have.

That doesn't mean there might not be targeted growth in certain places, but overall, the college is unlikely to be getting any bigger in terms of people. My commitment is that I want the people who are here to be supported in an environment where they can get their work done at the highest possible level.

Embracing technology

Last on the challenges that may be opportunities, I want to mention changes in technology. We are not going to be the only major industry that manages, somehow, to survive unscathed through technological change. To think that we are would be risky. 

Of course, many of us have already started to change our behavior pretty dramatically. Think of faculty recruitment and how Skype interviews have taken over interviewing at meetings, for example. Our own research has integrated technology a lot and depends on it heavily. Our teaching and our outreach has, to an extent, also. It's already there, to some degree.

For me, as we think about the technology issues, the key is to focus what we do with  technology that we couldn't do before? What’s the upside? As opposed to: what do we fear that technology might bring.

Technology could give us new audiences. It could give faculty more flexible time as we teach an online class, for example. If you don't have to be in the classroom at a certain time, your research time is a little more flexible.

Jeff Simpson, the Chair of the Department of Psychology, reminded me the other day this is also a skill for our undergraduate students. For them to work through and with online materials, that's something they're going to be doing in their careers very extensively over time. 

And for our grad students who are going into teaching positions, if they can say that they know how to conduct their work in an online environment, including if it's a hybrid environment, that's going to be a net advantage for them as they're applying for jobs. So there are many good reasons to embrace technology and not to view it with fear.

It is expensive. It's not necessarily a cost saver but it does provide us with some potential flexibilities that all of us as faculty and staff demand and expect now and our students may increasingly demand as well. We have been developing a CLA digital learning strategy that will guide our efforts. 

CLA Roadmap, Volume II

The second area I wanted to talk about more briefly is Volume II of our CLA Roadmap. The Roadmap began in 2014. We pulled together five goal teams of over 100 faculty, students, staff, and alums, who generated recommendations for us around four key goals: The relentless pursuit of research and creative excellence; improving diversity and inclusion throughout the college;  building a deeper culture of public engagement; and ensuring that our students were ready to hit the ground running in both life and career upon graduation.

These goals contributed toward our larger vision of becoming a destination college, the kind of place that would be on the short list of students, faculty, staff, and community partners from around the country who would want to come here or work with us because of the high quality of what we do.

Over the course of this past summer, we did some refreshing of the Roadmap and outlined a series of next steps to further implement these goals. Let me give you some examples of what the Roadmap, Volume II looks like.

First, we are reinforcing this idea of being a destination college. But we’re making the clear statement that our goal in becoming a destination college is not just to make us feel good about ourselves. Our goal of becoming a destination college is -- and I'm sorry if it sounds corny -- it’s how we help make the world a better place.

How do we do that? It's through the work that we do. It's through having great and diverse graduates -- undergraduate students and graduate students. It's through great research and creative work. It's through high level engagement. That's what starts to change lives -- on campus and off. Ultimately, that's our goal. That's why we do what we do.

We want to make sure that this commitment is very clear as we're talking about the Roadmap, that it is the driving principle of the Roadmap. We aim to be a destination college with a very defined purpose: to do the most good we can for others. The better we are at our work, the better our research and creative work, the more ready and diverse our graduates -- the greater good we can do.

As I said, in Volume II we're expanding and further developing some of the things that we've already accomplished. In the area of readiness, for example, we are implementing a comprehensive internship strategy for the college. We're also providing new support for graduate students who are considering careers outside of academia.

In the area of research excellence, we are working to increase small grant funding and to increase and regularize summer funding for graduate students. We know it's ‘important from a humane living perspective and it's also important from a recruitment perspective.

In engagement, we will be aiming to develop courses for faculty and grad students who are interested in being public scholars, being more in the role of a public intellectual, and helping people develop that particular skill set. We'll be working to launch the humanities engagement hub.

In the area of diversity, we will be formalizing a diversity initiative for the college. And we will be creating a dedicated leadership position for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Those are some examples of the kind of things we're working on in Volume II. We will be releasing the Volume II document in fairly short order so you can see some of the other plans that we'll be working on over the next three years.


Shattering Expectations: The Campaign for Liberal Arts

Lastly, I want to talk about our capital campaign which we launched back in November 2017. It was a great event, and it's been a terrific year in our Shattering Expectations campaign.

In fiscal year 2018, we raised almost $20 million for the campaign. We have raised $112 million total since the campaign started. Our goal for the campaign is $150 million, so we're 75 percent of the way toward that goal.

Since the start of the campaign, we've had over 17,000 donors, nearly 7,000 first-time donors, and over 650 faculty and staff who have given to one fund or another.

We have three major support areas in our campaign. The first is career readiness, providing scholarships and fellowships where students participate in internships, research opportunities, learning abroad, and all the extra skills that students develop beyond the classroom. As you can see, we've reached $34 million of our $50 million goal, which we refer to as “Attracting top students and developing their potential.”

Next is our goal around inclusiveness, access, and diversity, which we refer to in our plan as “Engaging every voice in the drive to discover.” We have achieved 70 percent of our goal here, about $24 million. This would be scholarship support for low income students, for transfer students, first generation, and so on.

Lastly, in the middle group on the screen, our largest goal is around research and engagement, or “Spark innovation and collaboration with our communities.” This area is traditionally the hardest to raise money. It's a little harder, overall, to convince people to support faculty research, or grad student research, or public engagement. But we've actually been doing exceptionally well -- we're at 74 percent of our goal in that area.

In the Roadmap report, you'll get a more detailed listing of the various gifts that we've received, but let me give you a few examples. We’ve increased our internship support by 1,500 percent during this campaign. In other words, we had $300,000 for internship scholarships in July 2011. We now have almost $5 million in internship scholarships as of June 2018.
As I mentioned earlier, we have increased our diversity among our faculty. The funds that we've gotten through the campaign have helped to support some crucial hiring and over the last three years, one-third of our faculty have been faculty of color or American Indian.

We selected the third cohort of the Talle Family Faculty Research Awards. This is a program to help new associate professors launch their next project. We've had over 20 of our associate professors over the past three years receive these awards. This is a $1.5 million fund over a five year period.

We’ve been able to fund nine mini and two full Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshops. Again, ICWs create interdisciplinary communities where there's a theme, a question, a topic that brings together people from across the college and beyond the college. Deadlines for the next round are coming up and I encourage you to apply.

We also were able to use gift money to launch the Commons for Research in the Social Sciences. The Commons is a convening spot for conferences, competitions, discussion groups, workshops, and training courses that are focused on managing, analyzing, visualizing, interpreting, and presenting data. We see this as a great resource that will grow over time.

Lastly, we've received transformative gifts of faculty and grad student support in a number of departments. I'll mention three: Asian Languages and Literatures; German, Nordic, Slavic, and Dutch; and Philosophy have all received exceptional gifts that have allowed them to do things and support faculty and students in ways that they were not able to do before.

The next 150 years and the “why” of it all

CLA is on a strong road as we are heading into our next 150 years as a college. But all of these accomplishments that I've talked are not about plans on a sheet of paper. It takes people like you in the room, it takes the faculty and staff throughout the departments and the college offices, to make it a reality.

I'm incredibly grateful for the work that everyone does on these projects, day after day, week after week, and month after month. You've made an amazing amount happen over the last several years.

There are many great examples that I could point to. I will give you a few by way of example. The RIGS initiative, which I mentioned earlier, created a critical race and ethnic studies graduate student group. They hold biweekly meetings throughout the academic year where they can support and share their writing, their research, their proposals, and can come together to create a community.

GWSS Professor Jigna Desai and Research Associate Kari Smalkoski have worked with middle school students from Northeast Middle School in Minneapolis and helped them create their own digital stories on important questions, ranging from social justice to bullying, and introduced them to college.

The Economics Department and the Heller‑Hurwicz Economics Institute has had very well-attended public sessions on public pensions, climate change, and trade policy, among other topics over the past year.

And we've had a great deal of success with our faculty engaging in career readiness. I will say, this is something that marks us as distinctive around the country, that our faculty have been so heavily involved in this career readiness work. Last year, we had 24 faculty fellows who worked on integrating career readiness into their coursework. We have 14 more this semester. There's space in the spring semester for faculty who want to participate, as well.

It's critical that faculty be involved in these efforts. When a student hears a professor say, "This is how what you're doing connects to your future,” it’s a powerful thing. We know that mentorship is a huge factor in a student’s success. It is one of our advantages as a residential college, and it's one thing we never want to lose. It has an amazing effect on students and it’s something that they remember forever. 

For those of you who saw my Monthly Memo a couple of weeks back, as an undergrad student I had an amazing mentor like that who recently passed away. I wrote a little bit about him, what he meant to me, the life‑changing effect he had on me, and how he affected the way I thought about the world. That gets replicated hundreds of times every day here at CLA -- and I’m very grateful to the many departments who have committed to being very extensively involved in working career readiness concepts throughout their curriculum. 

Those are just a few examples among many examples that I could give. As I look back, four years ago in October of 2014, I gave an address we called The Road Ahead. In that address and in my State of the College address I said that as we look back four or five years down the road, there are some areas where we would want to be able we saw progress. 

I said at that time that we aimed to: 

  • provide tools and resources for faculty research 
  • remove or at least reduce obstacles to innovation and creativity
  • make great faculty hires and strengthen our national reputation 
  • ensure our students have the kind of exceptional educational experience only possible at an R1 institution, and they understand how their education directly translates to life after college 
  • improve our ability to recruit and support the best graduate students 
  • establish excellent relations with our alumni, our community, and our employers 
  • commit ourselves to diversity and inclusion through all that we do 
  • create an environment in which our staff can develop professionally and thrive
  • be strong advocates for the power of the liberal arts.

Thanks to all of you, thanks to the people in your units, in your departments, I believe we've made great progress on all of those goals. 

To me, that list is not just a list of interesting criteria or potential goals. It's the “why” of it all. It ties back to the point that I made earlier -- I think all of us in this room are in the business of asking, “How do we transform lives? How do we improve lives?”

It could be the life of an individual student. It could be a family that benefits from one student's education. It could be a community. It could be the whole society or beyond. That is the work that we do in the college. I'm proud and grateful for the work that all of you do to make that happen.

As you know, we are in our 150th anniversary year. We have a number of events coming up.

Next week, September 27th is CLA Day, that will be out on Northrop Plaza from 11:00 to 2:00. It's time to have some fun with colleagues and students. 

“CLA: Time Past, Time Present, Time Future,” is the 150th anniversary faculty celebration. A set of panels, performances, and presentations. This week is intended to give us all a sense of the wide variety of work being done in CLA, the very interesting work being done as we start thinking about the next 5, 10, 15, and 150 years of CLA.

Some of the sessions in that October 9 through 12 period include "Neuroscience and the Human Condition," "Digital Humanities and the Future of Liberal Arts," and "Space, Land, and Environmental Humanities." 

And the Arts Quarter Festival will include performances and presentations by faculty and students that will also be part of that October 9 through 12 period.

In politics, there's an old saying that was once very popular, “vote early and vote often.” I will encourage you to attend these panels early and attend often. It's a way to explore what your colleagues are studying without having to fly to a conference.

With that, let me thank you again for everything that you do to transform lives, and to transform our college. Thank you.


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