Go to the U of M home page

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Where are CLA students from?

To find out, you can check out these maps of the countries, states, and Minnesota counties from which CLA undergraduate students hail. Very interesting! Thanks to CLA/CFANS/CSE Analyst Luann Hankom for creating these and hat tip to CFO Brent Gustafson for sending these along.

Enrollments from CLA students versus non-CLA students

I am sometimes asked whether it is better for CLA to enroll CLA students in our courses or better to enroll non-CLA students in our courses. The answer is . . . both. Substantively, we have much to offer students, so we want to be sure they are in our classes, whether they are from the college or from outside the college. None of us should like seeing a sparsely-enrolled class in our college. Financially, the way our system works at the U is the following: If a CLA student enrolls in a CLA course, the college receives 100% of the tuition. If a non-CLA student enrolls in a CLA course, the college receives 75% of the tuition. If a CLA student enrolls in a non-CLA course, the college receives 25% of the tuition. CLA students now take about 37% of their credits outside the college, compared with 27% ten years ago. That trend has happened at the same time that CLA has been doing better at attracting “CLA first choice” students to the college. These students, who indicated at admission that their first choice was a field of study in the college, are now about 74% of our total. The bottom line is that we are better off substantively and financially if we create the kind of curricular opportunities that encourage CLA students and non-CLA students alike to take our courses.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Six things Fiscal Administration wants you to know

Our Fiscal Administration office plays a vital role in facilitating the mission of the college. I asked our friends in Fiscal for 5-6 things they would like us all to know. Here’s their list:

  • We’re all in this together. Fiscal Admin is a support unit that intersects many activities that span the breadth of the college. Things work best when we’re working in partnership.

Creating Inclusive Cohorts

Congratulations to the Departments of American Studies, Sociology, and Communication Studies, each of which won Creating Inclusive Cohorts Training Program grants this year from the Graduate School. CLA received three of the six grants awarded, which is a great outcome. Two years ago, the Department of Psychology received a CIC grant, and last year American Studies/RIGS Initiative received one.

Internships and alumni outcomes

Through sites like CLARA, our data portal, we make data available to all faculty and staff to assist in planning and strategy, or simply to browse and learn. We are also committed to being data-transparent and data-informed to our students and our external audiences. Check out these interactive tools to see where students take internships and what they are doing, and what our alumni are doing soon after graduation. With each interactive tool, you can explore data by department. The Office of Undergraduate Education is continuing to work to pull more complete data into both of these tools. The Graduate School also has publicly-facing pages with data on CLA graduate programs. Some of these data are already in CLARA and we will likely pull more into our data portal. Both the Graduate School and CLA will be adding and highlighting graduate placement data as well. The Graduate School anticipates presenting placement data along the lines of their Rackham colleagues at Michigan (scroll down at the link), and in CLA we anticipate providing additional data refinement as is done for some departments there.


Over the next month or so, many of us will celebrate holiday traditions with family and friends. It’s a season where we express and celebrate gratitude.

We may also reflect on all the many things we have to be grateful for as a college -- and this year we have much to celebrate. Our undergraduate graduation rates were recently released and they show all-time high four, five, and six-year CLA graduation rates (68.5%, 78.6%, 79.2% respectively.) That means more students achieving their goals on time, benefiting themselves and their families, and more well-prepared graduates going out into the world and effecting positive change.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New investments in research, creative activity, and engaged scholarship

CLA has developed a new Research Services website that is a one-stop-shop for all collegiate research development support and research support services. We are also rolling out a new web-based program called InfoReady Review to assist with managing various aspects of funding and leaves. And in a significant new investment, we are hiring a new Research Development Coordinator who will expand our capacity to assist faculty and students across the college. These moves and others, such as our first-at-the-U move into fully-funded sabbaticals, are among the latest ways we are continuing the relentless pursuit of research and creative excellence called for in the CLA Roadmap.

Liberal Arts Engagement Hub Launch

The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub has launched with five pilot Hub Residencies. The Hub was another initiative imagined by the faculty, staff, and student Roadmap goal team focused on public and community engagement. Among the funded projects will be efforts to build stronger University relationships with Twin Cities public middle schools and high schools through public humanities projects, and to bring together recent and long-established ethnic, national, and religious communities in the Twin Cities to facilitate constructive conversations. During spring semester 2020, CLA faculty, staff, and students, and community members will have another opportunity to apply for a Hub residency for the 2020-21 academic year. Stay tuned for more information about the application process.

Advancing the Civic Readiness Initiative

Large majorities of Republicans and Democrats Say it is Very Important for the Other Side to Compromise.” No, that’s not a headline from The Onion. The survey, conducted by Pew Research, simply provides another data point concerning the difficulties around dialogue, discussion, and discourse in the United States. For me, these trends put into ever-clearer focus our vital work as a college.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Celebrating 50 years of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Program

(Remarks made at the MLK Program's Inaugural Alumni Networking Event, October 19, 2019)

Thank you for having me and thank you all for joining us this evening for the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Program’s inaugural Alumni Networking Social. It’s wonderful to have you back on campus, whether you graduated a few years ago or a few decades ago.

It’s a great pleasure to be here to honor the accomplishments and legacy of the MLK program and to look forward to its future. Before I continue, I’d like to thank the staff of the MLK program for their work in organizing tonight’s event. I’d also like to thank Ascan Koerner, CLA’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, and Steve Davis, Director of Affinity Engagement at the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, for their support of this event.

For 50 years, the MLK Program has helped students transform their lives. It has helped them find and define their passions, their voices, and their goals. And it has helped create a more equitable campus through its leadership around the issues of inclusion, access, and the equity gap.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

CLA Indigenous Staff and Staff of Color Community

The CLA Indigenous Staff and Staff of Color Community (ISSCC) has been a tremendous addition to the college. You can read more about it at the link. Supervisors, please ensure that you are making it possible for staff to participate in the Community. The ISSCC vision statement states: “We want to help advance the college’s goal of cultivating a welcoming and respectful climate in its diverse intellectual community. Through a grassroots effort, we initiated the CLA Indigenous Staff & Staff of Color Community. In so doing, we strive to make CLA a destination college not only for students and faculty, but also for Indigenous staff and staff of color.” I consider ISSCC fundamental to our work as a college and the participation of our staff in ISSCC activities to be vital.

“Sexism in the Academy”

Harvard postdoc Troy Vettese has written a detailed essay exploring numerous patterns of disparate outcomes for female and male faculty. The essay explores a wide range of issues from the societal to the institutional, disciplinary, departmental, and individual. At the level of individual, the essay joins other analyses in noting the problem of differentials in letters of recommendation: “Scholars’ enthusiasm for male protégés extends into graduate school and beyond. One study found that referees tended to write shorter and less keen recommendation letters for their female protégées and were less likely to comment on the quality of their research. While another study of recommendation letters for men and women applying to faculty positions at medical schools discovered no marked difference in the length of letters written for men and women, male protégés were much more likely to be bestowed “standout” compliments.” You need not agree with the persuasiveness of the evidence for every argument in this lengthy essay, but there is nonetheless much to be gained by reading it. I encourage you to read the essay and hope it will generate discussion among faculty. Reminder: in past monthly memos, I shared with you a tool to evaluate your letters of recommendation and also a tool developed by Assistant Professor of Political Science Jane Sumner to evaluate gender and racial balance in your syllabi.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Building an ever-stronger culture of teaching

(Excerpt from the State of the College address, September 10, 2019)

Teaching obviously plays a large role in defining the experiences of our almost 14 thousand undergraduate and sixteen-hundred graduate students. While striving for research excellence is understandably first of mind for us as scholars, and the relentless pursuit of research and creative excellence is a core pillar of the CLA Roadmap, it’s as teachers that we have the most direct impact on our students.

Our students benefit from being taught by the world’s leading researchers. As a student, it matters that you are taking your classes with the people who are writing the articles and the books and creating the art, not just assigning the articles, books, and art. It matters that you may have an opportunity to engage in research and creative work with those scholars. So we offer our students something special in that regard.

Addressing the opportunity and achievement gap in CLA

(Excerpt from the State of the College address, September 10, 2019)

Nearly a third of CLA’s students are the first in their families to attend college. About a fifth are Pell-grant-eligible. Around 40 percent of our population is made up of transfer students, who are on the whole more ethnically and racially diverse, more low to lower-middle income, and more first generation than students joining us directly from high school.

College is supposed to be rigorous, challenging, and even unsettling. There will be setbacks that you have to overcome. That’s part of a college education. We expect that all of our students will have those experiences, and, in some respects, we want them to have and learn from those experiences.

Civic Readiness Initiative to promote productive dialogue

(Excerpt from State of the College address, September 10, 2019)

For the past five years, we have been deeply engaged in CLA on our Career Readiness Initiative. In addition to expanded career services and employer relations led by our terrific Career Services team, we’ve set the standard for thoughtful ways to integrate career readiness into the lives of our students from Day One. Our departments have been involved in career readiness, and we have engaged our alumni in numerous ways in this work, including an outstanding series of “We are Liberal Arts” video profiles.

Our work -- which emphasizes student acquisition of ten Core Career Competencies; has students engaging in the Reflect, Articulate, Translate, and Evaluate process to map their liberal arts experiences in and out of the classroom; and involves faculty through the Faculty Fellows program and in other ways -- has generated great interest around the country. Thank you to Associate Dean Ascan Koerner, Professor and Career Readiness Faculty Director Amy Lee, and Career Readiness Director Judy Anderson for your leadership.

Those of us in CLA always knew that a liberal arts education prepares students well for successful and meaningful careers, so we were working from a strong foundation. But we also knew that there was a negative narrative about the liberal arts and career opportunities that we needed to respond to. We wanted to advocate and not apologize for the liberal arts, and we wanted to be on offense and not defense. Our Career Readiness Initiative did exactly that. It has enabled students and employers to see the connections between liberal arts education and great career outcomes more clearly. Rather than deficit thinking, our Initiative has been premised on -- and helped students recognize -- the many strengths they bring to the table, what we call their Liberal Arts Advantage.

In the same way, we in the liberal arts believe we prepare students for lives of civic and community engagement. But here, too, like with career readiness, we can take steps to help students build skills and see the connections between their education and the next stage of their lives as civic participants. And here, too, we know there are some challenges.

Financial update from State of the College address

(Excerpt from the State of the College address, September 10, 2019)

Advancing on our new and continuing priorities is dependent on resources, so I’d like to give you a quick overview of where we finished the fiscal year and what we’re looking at in the year to come.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

State of the College 2019

In this year's State of the College address, I discussed initiatives around civic readiness, the achievement and opportunity gap, and a culture of teaching. In addition, the address touched on some of our ongoing projects and initiatives, a fiscal update, and some highlights and accomplishments of the past year. You can read my remarks here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Gains in undergraduate student diversity

In fall 2018, the undergraduate African American student population in CLA exceeded 1000 students for the first time, with 1,040 students. That number represented an improvement of 38% since fall 2014. Hispanic student enrollment reached 670 students, up 44% since fall 2014. Asian student enrollment increased 20% over that time period, to nearly 1,610 students. And American Indian student enrollment was at about 225, an improvement of 9%. Thank you to everyone who works hard to recruit and retain American Indian students and students of color in CLA, a key objective of the CLA Roadmap. Note: the counts in this post are based on University data on students’ self-identified primary race or ethnicity, including when multiple-racial/ethnic designations were selected. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Results of the Compact process for fiscal year 2020

The Board of Regents approved the University budget at its June 19 meeting. By approving the budget, the Regents also authorized the University's decisions in the Compact process. I wrote to you about the basic parameters of the FY 2020 Compact earlier in the spring.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Thoughts for an incoming department chair

Earlier this year, a former advisee indicated his department was interested in having him serve as chair and asked me for some advice. I sent along the following thoughts that came quickly to mind and perhaps some might be helpful to other aspiring department chairs.  

1. Everyone has a story and a history. Try to get some sense of it. Ideally, that means sitting down with everyone — certainly faculty, but staff also — and listen and learn how things are going for them and what would improve their quality of professional life. The question “how can I be helpful to you,” or some variant, goes a long way. This should all happen either before you begin or in the first weeks after you begin.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Compact and budget update for FY 2020

Last month I provided an overview of this year’s Compact and budget process. Here is the latest news on these matters.

With regard to the University budget, the Governor, House, and Senate have released their proposed incremental funding levels for the University—i.e., funding beyond the level currently provided for by state appropriations. The Governor proposed $51m, the House proposed $114m, and the Senate proposed $24m. The University had requested $87m. The House figure exceeds the University’s request, with the intent being to freeze resident tuition for two years.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Compact process for fiscal year 2020

In past years, I've shared with you how the Compact process works and the annual results of the process for CLA. You can peruse a collection of these posts to get more elaborate detail. For now, I'll provide the thumbnail view of the process during the academic year 2018-19, which affects the budget for fiscal year 2020.

At the general level, the Compact process provides an opportunity for a general overview of collegiate plans, priorities, and financial operations with our colleagues in Central administration. At a more specific level, the process involves a reallocation exercise and, in most years, an investment exercise.

Results from the 2018 CLA Public Engagement and Volunteerism Survey

Engagement is a word used quite frequently by universities and colleges and certainly something we talk about quite a bit in CLA. It is one of the four pillars in the CLA Roadmap, and we can point to many individual faculty and staff examples of significant public engagement.

How widespread are our efforts? It can be difficult to track, so in 2018, we conducted the College of Liberal Arts 2018 Public Engagement and Volunteerism Survey. Administered in April 2018 of last year to 1400 CLA faculty and staff (with about 27% completing the survey), the results are now available -- and they are significant.

Check out this infographic for an overview of the results and some of the open-ended comments. Check out this report by CLA's Director of Public Engagement Amelious Whyte for a more thorough analysis of the results.