Go to the U of M home page

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The place of the university in unsettled times

Remarks prepared for delivery at "Reaffirming Our Values, Rebuilding the Social Compact: A Campus Forum," November 14, 2016

I’d like to start by thanking the Provost for organizing this forum and for the inspirational comments made by my co-panelists. Where I will enter this discussion is by talking a bit about the educational and research missions of the university and their connection to our topic today.

Let's think first about education.

The university ensures that each of our undergraduate students is grounded in liberal education. There are many ways to think about this grounding, but I will highlight two  aspects of that education.

Monday, November 14, 2016

We All Own This

We are a College of many different backgrounds, viewpoints, and beliefs. We are Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. We are Chicano, Latino, Asian, Black, White, and American Indian. We vote for Republicans, Democrats, and other candidates. We are LGBTQ and straight. We are from Minnesota, from the United States, and from countries around the world. We are liberal, conservative, socialist, and libertarian. And we are many more individuals and groups.

We are all in this together. All of us, across all of our differences of background and viewpoint, have valuable contributions to make and must be confident we are fully free to be ourselves and be fully embraced as part of our community. Our differences of background, identity, and viewpoint strengthen our community.

You belong here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Liberal Arts and Democracy

The liberal arts are fundamental to healthy democracy. Excerpts from my recent piece at MinnPost:

Politics is not easy -- nor should it be. Much is at stake. Vigorous and forceful argument and counterargument capture our attention. They energize us and stir us to participate. We should not pine for dull and boring politics.

But we must be open to different perspectives. The liberal arts teach us to act toward others with humility and respect because we recognize there are multiple ways to look at the world. 

Placing value on empathy and community allows individuals and groups to engage in productive debate while maintaining a commitment to societal well-being.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Career Readiness Initiative rollout

You’ll be hearing more about the Career Readiness Initiative from our Office of Undergraduate Education in the near future. CRI is the latest version of something we discussed as “career bundles” earlier on. CRI engages students in a four-year conversation about career readiness. It is framed around core career capabilities or competencies most commonly sought by private, public, and nonprofit employers: Analytical & Critical Thinking; Applied Problem Solving; Ethical Reasoning & Decision Making; Innovation & Creativity; Oral & Written Communication; Teamwork & Leadership; Engaging Diversity; Active Citizenship & Community Engagement; Digital Literacy; and Career Management.

CRI enables students to relate competencies to their interests and goals; reflect, assess and build their own competencies through curricular and co-curricular activities; and articulate their capabilities and translate them to an employer's context. One of the virtues of CRI is that it puts students in a position

Associate Deans for Arts & Humanities and Undergraduate Education searches

We are beginning searches for the position of Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. Ana Paula Ferreira has served with tremendous dedication, determination, and thoughtfulness as Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities the past two years, helping to organize fruitful conversations and action within the corridor and across the college, and served as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs in the previous year. Gary Oehlert has served the past two and a half years as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and in previous years as the Associate Dean for Planning and the Associate Dean for Faculty. He has done a wonderful job implementing the reorganization of the Office of Undergraduate Education to better integrate the academic and student services functions of the office, and has been a leader in our career readiness transformation.

I will be appointing search committees shortly and you will receive email from me when the committees have been assembled. In the meantime, you can view the position descriptions on our intranet. These are crucially important leadership positions for the College. I urge faculty to consider applying or to nominate colleagues you believe would be strong candidates for these positions.

Calculator of gender bias in recommendation letters

Do your letters of recommendation show signs of gender bias? Some research suggests that the characteristics and qualities of candidates that are emphasized may vary across letters written for men and those written for women. Give this calculator a spin to see how your letters fare. Compare your letters written for men to those written for women. Is the ratio of male-associated words to female-associated words, as defined by the tool, about the same across the letters? The calculator doesn’t pretend to be a perfect tool, but it can help you be more self-aware of subtle or not-so-subtle differences in your letters. If you are assuming you have no need to check your letters, why not check and confirm your assumption?

Summer tuition sharing initiative results

The College introduced a Summer Session Tuition Sharing Initiative in the summer of 2016. The initiative offered the opportunity for departments to share incremental summer tuition growth with the College. Enhanced summer enrollments benefits students by keeping them on track for graduation or allowing time to explore new areas of interest.  Departments benefit by receiving discretionary income that can be directed to key priorities. For summer 2016, the following departments exceeded their summer baseline and will be recipients of tuition revenue sharing: Asian Languages and Literatures; Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies; German, Scandinavian, and Dutch; History; Philosophy; Psychology; and Theatre Arts and Dance. Going forward I hope we will add more departments to this list.

Success in summer involves course offerings that interest students, advertising, and recognizing student needs. Regarding the latter, online options are critically important. Students who are not in the Twin Cities during the summer, or who are involved with jobs or internships or other responsibilities, benefit from the flexibility of online instruction. Students have a number of online options at other universities such as Arizona State and Penn State among many others, but I suspect they’d prefer to take course right here at their home institution if they could. Our summer credit hours have been declining for a decade or so now, and the overall credit hour total this summer dropped yet again. Summer revenue is important for the college budget and my hope is we are able to provide departments with more ability to invest in their key priorities.

CLA presence in funded Grand Challenges Research projects

Last week you heard from Provost Hanson about the results of the first round of funding for Grand Challenges research projects. In our CLA Roadmap, we committed ourselves to CLA being an active participant and leader in the Grand Challenges efforts. All along the way, CLA faculty have participated at a high level. Of the collaborative work group projects funded (these were submissions by the work groups established around each GC), CLA had 10 faculty involved. Highest was CFANS at 15. The next in line after CLA was CSE at 7. For the exploratory research projects funded (these were submissions by groups of faculty), CLA had 24 faculty involved. Highest was the Medical School at 27. Next in line after CLA was

Monday, October 3, 2016

CLA wishes from the Administrative Insights Meeting

At the Administrative Insights Meeting (AIM) in April, I received a nice surprise in the form of a stack of small envelopes. Each contained up to three wishes for CLA, written by the staff from across the college units and college offices attending the AIM. Here is the compiled list. Improved communication between offices, opportunities for training and professional development, and greater recognition and chances to come together as a community were among the issues cited. The list provides a great way to identify and highlight some areas for action in CLA both at the unit and college level. Take a look at the list to get a sense of what is on the mind of our staff. Let me know what stands out for you at cladean@umn.edu.

Accountability in positions so things get done
Actual promotional ladder in new positions through job family study instead of terminal positions
Additional staff/office space
Alignment of administrative processes & procedures across admin offices (HR, Dean, Fiscal)
All would assume good intentions
Be open to new ideas, new information when changes occur
Be patient as staff get grounding in new position
Better collaboration between employee groups, especially instructional
Better communication between CLA Admin and units
Better communication that help processes across offices
Better interpersonal skills among staff and department administrators
Better on-boarding and continuing "get to know cla" for new employees
Better streamlined processes and open channels of communication
Better workspace/environment (climate control, etc)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

State of the College 2016 - September 20

Thank you Tim. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon, and thank you to the CLA Assembly for hosting us. 

The State of the College address is our annual occasion for a review of the past year of activities in the College and a discussion of some priorities going forward. But before we get into those details, I’d like to talk about something that was on my mind this summer.

It’s something that speaks directly to the importance of our work when we pull ourselves back from the day-to-day business we must attend to.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Building compassion, imagination, and communities through the liberal arts

Remarks delivered to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, University of Minnesota Board of Regents, September 8, 2016, panel on Developing and Preparing Students through a Liberal Education.

Chair Cohen, Vice Chair Rosha, Provost Hanson, and members of the Committee, I’m delighted to be with you today to share my thoughts on liberal education in general and the liberal arts specifically here at the University of Minnesota. Thank you.

Professor Leopold did an excellent job explaining what we mean by a liberal education and what we hope to achieve from it. The habits of mind he discusses are those we want to develop in all our students, regardless of major. I won’t repeat what he so effectively discussed about liberal education, but will focus my comments more specifically on the contribution of the liberal arts to this enterprise, both in serving CLA students and students from across the U.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Budget Advisory Committee report on center reviews

I reported previously that in fall 2015 I asked the Budget Advisory Committee to put individual center reviews on pause and, instead, to engage in a broader conversation about the review process and to provide us with an overview of center support, review, and administrative arrangements, along with any recommendations the BAC might have. Centers provide a key intellectual and interdisciplinary role in the college and the time was right was a comprehensive overview. The BAC report is now available (click on the BAC Documents link). I thank the committee for its hard work and I encourage you to read it and provide feedback to cladean@umn.edu.

Faculty recruitment 2016-17

2015-16 was an exceptionally busy year of recruitment activity in the college. The college added 32 tenured and tenure track faculty across 18 departments. This is an unusually high level of recruitment and we look forward to the surge of new intellectual energy these colleagues will bring to our college. 

Adding world-class faculty to our roster drives our success. They will significantly accelerate our research and creative excellence with a diverse faculty, provide inspirational instruction and life-shaping opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students, and serve our communities through outreach and engagement. Through advancing our Roadmap goals of student readiness for their lives after campus, a relentless focus on research and creative excellence, diversity and inclusion as central values of the college, and deepening a culture of engagement, our new faculty will join our current faculty in demonstrating the continued vitality and critical importance of the liberal arts and moving us toward fulfilling our vision of CLA as a destination college. Thanks to all of you who were part of the recruitment efforts and departmental visits and to Associate Deans Ana Paula Ferreira (Arts and Humanities) and Penny Edgell (Social Sciences) for their work on successfully recruiting these outstanding scholars to CLA. 

In the 2016-17 academic year, CLA will conduct searches for regular faculty positions across a number of units. Searches authorized include departments involved in three-year planning as well as departments submitting requests as part of the annual budget process. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Internationalization task force follow up

The CLA Task Force on Internationalization issued its report in the spring. Based on your feedback on the report, we will be following up on three areas of recommendation in the report as first steps:

  • Enhancing visibility: The Task Force agreed that there is a great deal of international activity around teaching and research already underway in CLA, but that we have not yet done enough to pull this together to demonstrate the scale and scope of our efforts. 
  • Improving the quality of learning abroad: The Task Force was eager to improve the quality of learning abroad opportunities for our students.  It was agreed that the Learning Abroad Center (LAC) offers a plethora of options, but students do not receive the guidance necessary to select the best opportunity or to prepare adequately for that opportunity, and that programs are uneven in how well they intersect with the academic goals of our majors. To address these shortcomings, CLA’s Office of Undergraduate Education will hire a staff member in a position shared with LAC as well as appoint a faculty member to lead initiatives in this area.
  • Going “glocal": CLA should take fuller advantage of the diverse and global community in which our campus is situated, creating opportunities for students to connect the global and the local. The Institute for Global Studies and the Office of Undergraduate Education will begin discussing next steps in this area. 

The Task Force report also included a number of other recommendations that may warrant future action. Some of the recommendations, as noted in your feedback, intersect with more general issues and are not limited to the international arena itself. Support for research and travel would be one example in that category. Thanks again to the Task Force for its dedicated work and to all of you who provided feedback.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Departmental career services and student readiness

The CLA Roadmap commits the college to a goal of student readiness: making students with CLA degrees the most desirable graduates for their career pursuits and for engagement in their communities. This past year, as one of our Roadmap initiatives we rolled out a new model of providing career services assistance for all departments across the college. The results to date have been encouraging and in some respects dramatic. For example, our career advisors visited 5 classes in fall 2014, and 74 in fall 2015. Read more in this analysis by Maggie Heier and Katy Hinz.

What do first-year students think?

Kat Albrecht and Rebecca Xiao, two students serving as First Year Experience Team Leaders in 2015-16, set out to examine six "myths" about first-year students, including their optimism about college, their interest in careers, and their social media habits. Well worth reading.

CLA Transfer Student Initiative

Every year, CLA welcomes 1800+ transfer students to the CLA community. I’m proud that CLA provides opportunity for so many students who started at other institutions. We can rightly say that we are Minnesota's opportunity college. Transfer students are a vital part of CLA and we have been working to improve the transfer student experience.

Our CLA Transfer Student Initiative has several components. Prior to launching TSI, we had about 1 FTE devoted to transfer advising. Now we expect to have about 3-3.5 FTE. This fall we will also be piloting a Transfer Semester Experience course for new transfer students, much like the First Year Experience course for new freshmen. And our new Transfer Coordinator will be working with our departments and advisors at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities institutions to prepare transfer guides which will help students succeed in their transfer to CLA.

The college and campus environment for transfer students was an area of focus for our CLA Student Board in 2015-16. They found a number of ways in which the experience could be improved, including relatively small changes beginning with orientation at the campus level. There is work being done at the university level as well as in CLA to enhance the transfer student experience, and this is all to the good.

Friday, July 22, 2016

This Summer's Events and the CLA Community

This has been a summer of tragic and challenging events, nationally, internationally, and right on our doorstep.

In the face of the conflict, violence, and division we have seen, I write to you to reaffirm that our work in the college can offer hope, understanding, and perspective to our students and to the people of Minnesota and beyond.

We in CLA analyze disparities and conflicts and place them in historical, economic, and social context. Across the arts, humanities, and social sciences, we explore and work to dispel confusion, understand sorrow, discuss individual and societal challenges, study what brings communities together and what divides them, and present beauty amidst grief. We describe and explain the past and present and imagine possible futures.

In the College of Liberal Arts, we are a community of intensely dedicated staff, outstanding faculty, and bright and passionate students. Together we offer something positive, something meaningful, to our various communities. I am immensely proud of the work we do and of the vital nature of that work.

We are committed to an inclusive and welcoming campus and college. We are committed to hearing and learning from diverse voices and perspectives. And our commitment to deep public and community engagement holds a prominent place in our CLA Roadmap.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Results of the FY 2017 Compact Process for CLA

In the spring I provided an update on the fiscal year 2017 Compact process, which was preceded by an overview of the fiscal year 2016 Compact process. If terms like "reallocation pools" do not immediately stir your heart, you may want to refer to one or both of the previous posts as background.

Now, with the third time a charm, here are the results of this year's process.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Enhanced support for improving diversity in graduate student recruitment

The college provided additional support to assist departments in graduate student recruitment in 2015-16. First, starting fall 2016, recipients of university DOVE fellowships receive a supplemental Beverly and Richard Fink First Year Fellowship to bring the stipend to the level of the CLA Graduate Fellowship. Second, the college provides four years of guaranteed summer support at $4000 per year (2 years for MFA) through the Beverly and Richard Fink Summer Fellowship. We thank the Fink family for their generous support of our Roadmap goal of increasing diversity and inclusion in the college and fostering research and creative excellence. Third, with additional one-time funds from the Provost’s office, we were able to provide DOVE recipients with a research, creative activity, and travel award fund. These efforts helped boost our acceptance rate among DOVE recipients to 73%. The average the preceding six years was 54%. CLA also provides a $4000 first-year fellowship to students nominated for a DOVE fellowship but who were not awarded one. The increase in our CLA base stipend to $17,500 likely also improved our acceptance rate. Thanks to Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs Alex Rothman for his leadership on these initiatives. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Seed grants awarded for projects promoting diversity and engagement in CLA

The Joan Aldous Innovation Fund was launched in 2015 to provide seed grants for faculty and staff to test new projects or initiatives that advance CLA’s four Roadmap goals. The Aldous Innovation Fund focuses on one or more Roadmap goals annually.For 2015-16 the awards focus on the two key Roadmap goals of diversity and engagement. Diversity grants test new projects that promote equity, inclusion, and diversity throughout CLA. Engagement grants focus on new projects that connect CLA research, creative work, instruction, and outreach with communities beyond the boundaries of the campus. Read this list of the 25 projects funded in this year’s competition to learn about some of the exciting diversity and engagement pilots occurring across the college. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shared governance activities 2015-16

In addition to their ongoing responsibilities, CLA’s governance bodies have been exploring a range of significant issues this year. As mentioned in a previous Monthly Memo, the Curriculum, Instruction, and Advising Committee is examining the Major Project requirement and how this is implemented across the college. The Budget Advisory Committee is reviewing and making recommendations on how the college supports and reviews centers. The Council of Chairs has provided feedback on a variety of issues, such as salary equity processes. In the fall, the CLA Assembly discussed the length of the CLA tenure clock, in which faculty currently, on the standard timeline, come up for promotion review in their sixth year. The Assembly was asked to consider whether CLA should, as some of our peer institutions have done, consider a lengthening of the tenure clock to compensate for grant funding challenges, difficulties at university presses, and other developments. The Assembly discussion concluded there was insufficient reason to adjust the clock at this time and some good reasons not to do so.

Enhancing transparency

Two of my goals to improve operations in the college are enhancing our shared governance and improving our data and informational transparency. One simple step to advance both is to make it easier to find information about CLA governance online. We’ve developed a new governance page on our intranet that pulls together agendas and other materials for our governance committees and the Assembly. This new page is a work in progress and will become more robust in the weeks and months ahead. Please let me know at cladean@umn.edu if you have suggestions for what should appear on the page. If you are involved with a CLA governance or representative group that has a web presence, please let Ellen Miller know and we will add the link to the page. Ellen is new to the Dean’s Office, joining us recently as Executive Assistant to the Dean and Chief of Staff, the position formerly held by Kelsey Cook. Ellen provides administrative support for the Assembly and governance generally.

Another move toward improved transparency is making it easier to view data about the college. We have launched a new data portal called CLARA, for CLA Reporting and Analytics. The site pulls together data concerning budgets, enrollments, staffing, SERU survey results, and so on. Currently chairs, administrators, and select administrative staff have access to the site. We will soon be rolling out college-wide access.

Understanding the university’s FY 2017 budget compact process

Last year I wrote a long blog post explaining how the university’s annual compact process works. Words such as “stirring,” “riveting,” and “deeply moving” were uttered by readers near and far. Because I was not sure I could capture that poetic lightning in a bottle twice, this year I penned a shorter post that provides the key facts facing CLA for the fiscal year 2017 compact process. Since that post, CLA has had our compact meeting with our friends in central. In the contribution side of the reallocation pools -- refer to the links above to understand these terms of art -- by far the largest line item we submitted was faculty attrition due to resignations and retirements. On the investment side, we focused on requests to support our CLA Roadmap goals. In the standard reallocation pool, we requested funds to invest in graduate support; hire faculty; and increase support for our research office to improve and expand our services for faculty, staff, and graduate students. We requested funds to promote our Roadmap goal of student readiness and curricular innovation through investment to develop of an online suite of Liberal Education courses. In the strategic plan reallocation pool, we requested support for a Social Science Methods Commons; Minnesota Humanities Engagement Hub; human rights research and programming joint with the Humphrey School; and Islamic studies (two faculty positions and programming support). We will learn the outcome of our Compact requests sometime in May.

Three-year departmental planning and budgeting

In my departmental visits in the fall, I discussed the college’s move to a new planning practice where we will have three-year planning arrangements with departments. These are intended to provide the basis for a collaborative and partnering relationship with departments, to reduce us versus them perceptions and tone, and to reduce uncertainty. Our goal is to have conversations about substance and academic merits first, and the discussion about budget and finances second. The former, not the latter, drives what we want to do, but the latter obviously provides some parameters around how we can achieve the former. Each of the next three years (including this spring), one-third of our departments will have their three-year planning meetings. You can see the list of questions/topics departments are asked to address and the year in which departments will be having their three-year planning meeting.

The three-year planning process differs from academic program reviews. If you are curious when your department will be part of the academic program review process, which includes external reviews, the schedule has been posted.

A shared responsibility to transform lives

The transformation of lives that emerges from the liberal arts is a shared and collective responsibility and privilege. Our CLA Roadmap goals are motivated by these transformative effects. In the college administrative offices, my goal is for us to build an environment and provide the resources that best position faculty and staff to thrive as you pursue your important work. We’ve made progress but still have more to improve.

My thinking about the Roadmap and what we do in the college offices and throughout the college is driven by considering whether what we are doing is pursuing (yes, relentlessly) the highest level of research and creative excellence, providing outstanding opportunity for our students, and delivering tremendous service internally as well as to our alumni, stakeholder, and communities.

What do we do in the liberal arts?

A couple of weeks ago, while desperately awaiting my bag of 5 pretzels on a flight, I got to thinking about the idea that in the liberal arts and in this college we transform lives. I have used that expression myself many, many times. Whether within the college, in discussions with folks in other parts of the university, or with alums, donors, friends, regents, and others, I have conveyed that message many times. I deeply believe it to be true.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Compact Process and CLA, 2016

In a post last year, I described in some detail how the University’s compact process works. In this post, I provide the basics to understand this year’s process. If you would like a fuller understanding of the compact process, I encourage you to read last year’s post. If you’d like a primer of many other aspects of our budgeting, check out Chief Financial Officer Brent Gustafson’s overview. [PDF]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

CLA has increased graduate student stipends

During my visits to department meetings in the fall semester, many of you heard me mention that we would soon be announcing improvements in graduate student support. In December we were pleased to announce to chairs and directors of graduate studies that the base stipend for a graduate assistant in CLA (50% time; 9-month appointment) will be $17,500 beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, an increase of approximately 14%.