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Monday, November 2, 2015

What could possibly be more interesting than research by a dean?

Well, lots of things probably. But I thought I’d share anyway. Back in the spring, my co-author Timothy Werner wrote a blog post on some of our recent research on campaign finance. We have been looking at potential policy consequences of the kind of independent expenditures made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and subsequent rulings. Our earlier work found little connection between these expenditures and big, visible issues like the minimum wage, inequality, and overall policy liberalism or conservatism. In this study, we find effects for a more narrow, technical policy area. You can read and be mesmerized about it here.

New joint master’s program in human rights

The Board of Regents recently approved a new Master’s of Human Rights degree to be issued jointly by CLA and the Humphrey School. This approval followed years of hard work by faculty and staff in both colleges. You can read about the new program here and here.

Career services help available for departments and faculty

Help is available for departments to provide career assistance for their students. You can learn more about the Career Services Departmental Initiative here. Preparing students--ensuring they are ready--for life after graduation is one of our obligations, and this readiness includes careers. None of this means that we discourage students from exploration or that we model ourselves as vocational education.

Reviewing the CLA major project requirement

CLA has only a few college-wide requirements for its undergraduate degrees. One of those is the Senior or Major Project. Last year, the Curriculum, Instruction, and Advising (CI&A) Committee recommended to me that the Major Project requirement be re-examined. CLA’s website states only that


CLA requires that students complete a major project. The project demonstrates analytic and conceptual skills as well as an understanding of the mode of inquiry characteristic of the discipline. For most majors the format of the project is a paper.


The committee noted that “while CLA currently requires a senior project, there are no guidelines for such a project, and to say that practice across the College is widely varied is a tremendous understatement.”

Providing undergraduate students with research opportunities is good for students, good for faculty

On a recent trip I took to New York, an alum said to me that wanting to provide more research opportunities for undergraduates is all well and good as a component of our CLA Roadmap goal of student readiness for their life after college, but do faculty really want to work with undergrads on research? I was pleased to be able to describe our Dean’s Freshman Research and Creative Scholars program, in which first-year students work with faculty members in the spring semester. I explained that CLA faculty are participating in the program in a big way in spring 2016, with 72 faculty working with 155 students.

Intellectual Diversity and the University

The university’s Campus Climate Report, issued in January 2015, provides a wealth of information to explore climate on the Twin Cities campus. In addition, the report details a number of diversity efforts at the university over the past 10-15 years. The report is tremendously rich, well worth reading, and we can all learn much from it. I would also recommend reviewing the university’s helpful Improving Campus Climate site, which pulls together analysis, news reports, and university news on climate-related issues.

One of the less-noted aspects of the student survey results in the 2015 climate report concerns the expression of political and religious beliefs on campus. These results were obtained in the annual Student Experience in the Research University survey over several years preceding the climate report. Response rates range from 24 to 34 percent across the years of the survey. The respondents are not necessarily a representative sample of the entire population of students.