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Friday, September 18, 2020

First glance at fall enrollment numbers and welcoming new faculty

I hope that your transition into the fall semester has gone reasonably smoothly. Many of the issues we’ve wrestled with over the late spring and summer to get ready for the fall have now settled into the routine of the fall semester, if one can label anything “routine” these days. Students moved into the residence halls this week and previously scheduled in-person classes that were moved to online or remote status for the first two weeks of the semester will begin to meet in person on Monday. 

Over the course of the summer, concerns about student enrollment in the fall were elevated around the country given the unusual nature of instruction and the college experience during the pandemic. This concern was true for us in CLA as well. Although we won’t have the official University reporting until after the 10th day of instruction, here’s how things are looking at the moment. Currently, first-year enrollment is at about 2400, which is 150 below the target we were aiming for. (A little history: CLA’s target had been 2450 prior to this year but based on our solid recruiting over the past five years we advocated successfully in summer 2019 to increase the target to 2550 for the incoming fall 2020 class. I don’t recall “but what about the pandemic” being on our agenda for that meeting, alas.) For transfer students, the college is currently at about 1125 new students, which is 125 lower than our target. The college also granted around 130 requests for a delayed start by one semester or one year. Those 130 students are in addition to the 3525 first-year and transfer students mentioned above. I will report on graduate student recruitment and enrollment in a future message.

Altogether, with the combination of students graduating in the spring and summer and the influx of new students, CLA is at about 13,350 undergraduate students, which is a net reduction compared to fall 2019 of about 375 students. On the upside, our undergraduate student credit hours are up by about 1% compared to fall 2019. This increase results from stronger enrollments in some departments as well as changes the college advocated for which resulted in more students taking First-Year Writing. My thanks to the Department of Writing Studies for their excellent work incorporating this new enrollment and their exceptional efforts to improve the experience and impact of First-Year Writing, with a particular recognition to Professor Amy Lee (FYW Director) for her leadership on this initiative. 

In another bit of good news, CLA welcomed 20 new tenure stream faculty across 15 departments this fall. This number does not include faculty who deferred a start date until fall 2021. You will learn more about our new colleagues soon. And to our new colleagues: we are delighted to have you join us in CLA and are dedicated to creating an environment in which you can thrive. We are excited by the new questions, methods, and approaches you bring to the college and the U in your research, creative work, teaching, and engagement. Welcome!

The arrival of new faculty and new undergraduate and graduate students is a wonderful part of the annual academic cycle. It is exciting to know that we will move in new and productive directions with the arrival of terrifically talented faculty, students, and staff. And we likewise find ourselves better positioned to fulfill our Roadmap goals to prepare our students for careers and civic life, to elevate our research and creative strength, to deeply embed diversity, equity, and inclusion within the culture and operation of the college and its departments and offices, and to engage reciprocally with partners from the local to the global. 

Ultimately, we do our work in CLA so that we do the most good we can do for others. That’s our purpose. That purpose is accomplished through your research, teaching, and engagement. Each of you in every position plays a part in making that happen. The work you do changes the lives and futures of individuals, families, and communities. It is noble work. When the noise is whirling around about higher education, please remember that: you are doing noble work. Thank you for doing it to high levels of excellence, commitment, and impact.