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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Culture of Engagement and the CLA Roadmap

The College of Liberal Arts does not end at the borders of our campus. As the liberal arts heart of Minnesota’s flagship university, CLA has deep ties to multiple communities: those who work and study with us; those who support us; and those who occupy spaces, both physical and theoretical, with connections to us. The CLA Roadmap promises as one of its five goals that CLA will deepen a culture of engagement for our alumni, community, and state. In a practical sense, this commitment means dedicating time and resources to increasing access in both directions—our access to the community, and theirs to us.

Extensive two-way community engagement and sharing of what we have to offer in CLA is vitally important. It is not only important to us as a college per se, but the work we do here matters and needs to be shared broadly. The liberal arts are central to the work of this land grant institution and they contribute significantly to the Twin Cities, the state, and beyond. We need to communicate better what we already do—many units and individuals in our college are deeply engaged beyond campus, but we do not have adequate tracking to show the extent of this involvement.

We also need to develop new ways to share what we do with the state and provide the citizens of Minnesota with a friendly front door to learn about and access the research expertise of our faculty. Key stakeholders on and off campus should not be wondering what it is we do in CLA--we have to let them know by a determined effort to ramp up and improve our engagement strategies.

The Minnesota Compact is our term to signify CLA’s dedication to engagement. The Compact is CLA’s commitment through which we invite community involvement and the community invites ours, through which our research and creative work is shared and made relevant, and through which we fulfill our land grant mission. The Minnesota Compact will be the framework for CLA’s commitment to share the fruits of our research expertise and creative excellence with the state.

In the liberal arts, global and cultural awareness is built into our curriculum extensively. Our top students are competitive on a national and global scale. Many would like to stay in Minnesota. Through the Minnesota Compact, we will build mutually beneficial partnerships with government, non-profits, business, and others who are interested in hiring liberal arts students here in Minnesota.

Through the Compact, we can consider post-baccalaureate certificates or degree programs that provide additional opportunities for individuals already in the workforce. Among Minnesota colleges, CLA has the largest number of graduates who go on to live and work in the state. Such post-baccalaureate programs would further expand our already substantial contribution to the state’s economic development and its social, cultural, and political life.

The Minnesota Compact can also deepen our connections in the arts, as we contemplate ways in which our Arts Quarter on the West Bank might best serve as a gateway between the University and our exciting metropolitan arts communities.

These are just a few examples—there is much more we can achieve through the Minnesota Compact, and our Engagement Goal Team is considering possible strategies. How we will provide the citizens of Minnesota with a friendly front door to access the research expertise and creative excellence of our faculty? How we will keep our alumni engaged in the life of the College and seek their help to make CLA stronger? How might we have our students search as research ambassadors who share our expertise with groups, organizations, and associations around the state?

I am encouraged by the possibilities afforded by the Minnesota Compact because, in addition to providing public service consistent with our land grant status, it is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the power and reach of the liberal arts. Research and creative work from the College of Liberal Arts changes the world and, accordingly, CLA’s commitment to engaging the Twin Cities, the State of Minnesota, and the world beyond with its research and teaching must be strong.

Feedback welcome via the Dean’s Suggestion Box or at clasugg@umn.edu. See the status of the CLA Roadmap here.