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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The land grant mission, rightly understood

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 profoundly democratizing at its core, sharing what we in CLA would call “the liberal arts advantage” with larger segments of the population. It was a profound boost to individual growth and community development, spreading beyond the elite strata of society the skills and knowledge that encourage civic engagement. Individuals would be transformed, but so would families, peer groups, and future generations.

At their deepest, the values of the land grant gave a growing number of individuals the ability to shape their own destiny and the destiny of their communities and states. One way of thinking about all this is that, with an eye toward national political and economic development, the core of the land grant mission was to help citizens, careers, and communities thrive. In CLA we are dedicated to doing all three. The 1862 Morrill Act creating the land grant system called for colleges and curriculum “that will promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.” An 1871 report from the founding agricultural college at one of our Big Ten peers notes that in addition to the sciences in its curriculum, “other studies are taken from the course in the College of Arts, making it parallel with that course and in all respects equal to it in the training and discipline which it will confer.” The meaning is plain: the land grant mission is not pursued at the expense of liberal education and must not neglect it. Indeed, it is built upon a foundation of the liberal arts and it fails without that foundation being strong. The land grant mission and the liberal arts missions in research, teaching, and engagement are inseparable. I am immensely proud of the role CLA and all of our faculty and staff play in defending and advancing these vital values. We should be bold, loud, and proud about letting everyone know.

The University Compact process for CLA and CLA budgeting

Previously I shared the results of the U’s Compact Process for CLA. In case you missed that at the busy start of summer, you can review the results at the link above. I mention in that post that “the options we put forward [for reallocation] relied heavily on reductions in CLA college-level offices and included multiple positions eliminated as well as reduced Supplies, Equipment, and Other Expenses (aka SEE) funding
across our administrative units.”

Our overall budgeting is consistent with that premise and priority. Looking across CLA academic and administrative units -- i.e., setting to the side the roughly $87 million we have paid annually into campus-wide “cost pools” -- since the beginning of the decade spending on academic units has increased about 12% in nominal dollars (unadjusted for inflation) while spending on administrative units has held steady. This 12% has had to cover a lot, including everything from faculty and staff hiring to equipment, salary increases, increased cost of benefits, graduate support, and beyond. Of the nearly $150 million spent on CLA academic and administrative units in fiscal year 2017, 89% was spent in academic units. Looking at total CLA spending, including the large amount paid into the cost pools, about 6.5-6.8% is spent in the college’s administrative units overall.

If you’d like a primer on the University’s budget that takes less than 180 seconds of your time, check out this short video released by University Relations to explain how the U’s budget works.

CLA initiatives across the college, arts and humanities, social sciences

Earlier I reported on initiatives and calls for proposals funded by Penny Edgell and Ana Paula Ferreira, Associate Dean for Social Sciences and then-Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities, respectively. Further results are now in, and the investments do a wonderful job advancing CLA Roadmap goals of research and creative excellence and diversity and inclusion, in particular.

Talle associate professor research funds awarded

One of our Roadmap goals is the relentless pursuit of research and creative excellence. For the past two years, the Talle Faculty Research Award has funded projects of associate professors who are within four years of their promotion. Fifteen associate professors across 11 departments have been funded in the program’s first two years. Applications for this year’s competition are due September 29, 2017.

Career Readiness Guide a new resource for our students

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.

CLA’s growing presence at the State Fair

In the CLA Roadmap we set a goal of deepening the culture of engagement in the college and extending our reach and our reciprocal engagement with various communities. One particularly public example of that commitment coming to life is our visibility at the Minnesota State Fair. CLA will have a large presence at this year’s Fair and I encourage you to check out the list of participating units and projects and to visit our colleagues while you are at the Fair.

New website communicates CLA’s international and global efforts

One of the recommendations of the CLA Internationalization Task Force was to use the Web as one avenue to enhance the visibility of the work happening across the college on our international and global efforts. CLA Global Gateway has now launched. The site is a work in progress, so please take a look around and send your feedback on possible additions and improvements to Evelyn Davidheiser and Scott Meyer.