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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.

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.