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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. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

CLA Career Readiness Pathways Initiative

I am pleased to announce that Associate Professor Ascan Koerner (Communication Studies) has agreed to lead the effort to develop and implement the CLA Career Readiness Pathways Initiative (some of my thoughts on career readiness appear here). The initiative is the new and improved name for what you have previously heard me describe as “career bundles,” the idea being to assist our students by tying together (hence the “bundle” terminology) suggested curricular experiences, experiential opportunities, and alumni mentoring relevant for particular career paths and interests. Please stay tuned for further news regarding the pathways initiative and, in the meantime, please thank Professor Koerner for taking on this important work. This effort is part of our broader CLA Roadmap goal of enhancing the career services we provide for our students. We’ve done significant work in this area over the past year, including extending career services to each of our departments.

New Talle Faculty Research Award for associate professors

One of the four goals of the CLA Roadmap, as we pursue our vision of establishing CLA as a destination college, is a relentless pursuit of research and creative excellence. Providing support for our faculty at critical stages of their careers is one key ingredient in building a supportive environment for excellence and was one of the recommendations of the CLA Roadmap Goal Group on research and creative excellence. Thanks to help from our wonderful supporters, Ken and Janet Talle, we were able to launch the first round of the Talle Faculty Research Award this summer, with the application period closing last week. Over the next five years the fund will provide $1.5 million of research support to associate professors who are in their first four years since being tenured and promoted to that rank. You can read more about the award here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


CLA has long played a central role in the international activities of the University of Minnesota. Our faculty and students are engaged around the globe and CLA students represent the largest group studying abroad. Read about the recently appointed CLA Task Force on Internationalization on the CLA Roadmap blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

State of the College - September 15, 2015

Last year at my first State of the College address, I shared observations from my perspective as a new dean who had spent the months prior to arriving on campus and my early time on campus talking to as many faculty, staff, students, and alumni as I could.

One thing that was clear in these conversations was the shared desire for the college to begin taking actions that are aligned with a strategic direction. We needed to act now to improve our situation, rather than wait for others to improve it for us.

This year I’m especially pleased to highlight the progress we’re making due to the exceptional efforts of our faculty, staff, and students, and the opportunities we have as we continue on the road ahead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CLA Fiscal Overview

CLA’s budget is large and complex. Brent Gustafson, CLA’s Chief Financial Officer, has written a helpful guide to the budget covering revenues, expenses, tuition, “cost pools,” and more. If you’ve been looking for a Budget 1001 quick course, you’ll find Brent’s big picture overview and tutorial on CLA's budget basics.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Update on FY 2016 Compact Process

The outcome of the compact process for the College of Liberal Arts is still a work in progress at this time. I’d like to share a bit about Central’s budget decisions for CLA as well as how our overall financial picture looks.

The Central budget process is heavily influenced by state funding, and the Higher Education appropriation bill this session resulted in lower funding than the U had originally requested for holding tuition flat for both undergraduate and graduate students. As a result, the budget for FY 2016 across the University will rely on a 1.5% tuition increase for in-state undergraduates, a 7% increase for non-resident undergraduates, and a 2.5% increase for graduate and professional students.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Annual Budget Cycle in CLA

Earlier this spring, I reported, in prize-winning form, on how the annual compact process works at the university, and CLA’s role in that process. In this post, I provide an overview of the annual unit planning and budget process within the college. This process has varied over the years. Here I discuss, in prose both gripping and compelling, the three-stage procedure for this year’s cycle.

Monday, February 16, 2015

CLA Cluster Hire Initiative

The College of Liberal Arts is home to faculty, staff, and students who are actively engaged in the scholarly analysis and creative exploration of diversity and its implications for understanding and addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century.

I am pleased to announce that, with the support and assistance of the Office of the Provost, the college will conduct a faculty cluster hire of four positions that will yield new faculty members who will contribute to field-shaping scholarly research and creative activity and undergraduate and graduate instruction on the issues and opportunities present in a diverse, vibrant society.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Compact Process and CLA

One of the annual rites of winter and spring on campus is “the compact process.” Because there may be some mystery about this process to those not involved directly in it, I wanted to provide you with a basic briefing on the topic. My discussion won’t be short, but I can say without hesitation that it could have been much longer. Maybe that isn’t particularly reassuring. Please hunker down and read on.

Key Features of the Compact Process

The compact process serves as a basic budget check-in for all the administrative and service units on campus (IT, library, student services, Central offices, facilities, and so on) as well as the academic units (colleges and schools). In addition, the process can serve as a means to reallocate resources across campus.

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.

Diversity and the CLA Roadmap

One of the concerns I heard from many of you prior to arriving on campus was that the college had made some progress, but not enough, on diversity. While there has been some positive news on student success (for example, retention and graduation rates), in other areas, such as retaining faculty, there was great concern.

To truly engage with the community, CLA must be a reflection of the community. To make better decisions and to be first rate in identifying emerging research questions, we need diverse perspectives. And to maintain the gains we achieve, we must establish a supportive, welcoming, and encouraging climate that attracts diverse faculty, students, and staff and enables them to thrive. Diversity at all levels is a critical challenge and priority and diversity is, accordingly, one of the five major goals on the CLA Roadmap as we pursue our vision of becoming a destination college. Our Diversity Goal Team has begun meeting to map out recommendations on how we make meaningful advancement toward achieving our diversity goals.