Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Blog

One of the great things about working in CASL are the very many incredibly dedicated and talented faculty members that I have the privilege of calling my colleagues. I recently announced an open invitation to my faculty colleagues to contribute a guest blog post highlighting their experience in CASL, strategic planning, or sharing their thoughts about the value of the humanities and liberal arts. The following represents the first of what I hope will be many such posts. Enjoy!

Is A College Education Worth its Cost Anymore? (Jorge González del Pozo, Associate Professor of Spanish)
There is no doubt that the cost of higher education is significant and it is well known that those costs will continue to rise. Increasingly, many are questioning the value of a degree and whether it is even worth the effort to try to finance one.

When layered onto the widening economic gap in the United States between haves and have nots the question is all the more prescient. As the 2014 documentary The Ivory Tower reveals, the declining accessibility of a college education renders this milestone an increasingly unattainable one for many. Moreover, this growing gulf between those who can afford college and those who cannot captures in a striking manner the gap between those who have a shot to succeed and those who do not. The documentary filmed by Andrew Rossi is worth watching, and provides much food for thought. Is the cost/investment of a college degree worth the amount of debt that the nation’s underprivileged students will need to amass to finance their educations? Does the benefit of the degree outweigh its cost?

These are not easy questions to answer nor do the many points of view offered up necessarily put us at ease. Nevertheless, these questions are vital and they are questions that inspire the faculty in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (who all share the belief that a college education is the wisest investment that anyone can make) to keep looking for solutions to both the issue of affordability as well as to how to make the value of the degrees we offer even more useful for our students. Experiential learning courses, internships, co-ops, study abroad experiences, or jobs related to specific fields of study are all educational practices that add to the value of the learning process and tend to balance the costs associated with paying for a college degree.

A college education, particularly one grounded in the humanities, arts and letters, offers students a broad outlook on the world and a wide array of disciplinary perspectives and tools to apply to any problem they encounter, thus easing their transition into the world outside of the university. That we do it at a reasonable cost is all the more noteworthy. Learning for life and being able to live one’s life fully should be the top priority for all students. University faculty represent the body that is instrumental in the facilitation of this path for students. Let´s not forget who we serve and why we are here: to share knowledge, to improve and advance lives, and for the students.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CASL Student Blog

Among my greatest joys as dean are the conversations that I have with CASL students. I am constantly inspired by their intelligence, their work ethic, their thoughtfulness, and the gratitude that they exhibit for the opportunities that the college and university provide to them. It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of a new CASL student blog page:

I invite you to subscribe to the page and to learn more about our incredible student body. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Opportunity for CASL Students

Recently, one of my fellow deans shared an article with me from the January 5, 2015 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek. The article’s opening paragraph brightened my day:

“If you're marching into the new year ready to ace job interviews by boasting about the half-dozen startups you launched in school, reconsider your game plan. For all the career advice about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and being a global citizen, data show that recruiters don't necessarily value cosmopolitan self-starters or even people with lots of industry credentials. What they do want: employees who can write clean e-mails, work in a team, and think analytically.”

Of course, as a denizen of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters this is something that I have long held to be true. But reading this in a leading business periodical and knowing that this was what the nation’s business leaders were also thinking is refreshing. Indeed, this line of thought runs counter to much of what we are told that business leaders value. Within the last year, for instance, North Carolina Governor Patrick McCrory, proposed the elimination of state funding for university programs that do not help graduates find jobs. His targets, of course, were the humanities and liberal arts. Following his model would relegate disciplines such as history, philosophy, anthropology, art history, literature, etc. to general education. Worse yet, such a plan, if adopted, would ensure that only the nation’s privileged class would experience the rewards associated with studying the disciplines that are at the heart of what it means to be human and that only they would possess the skills (writing, critical thinking, etc.) that the nation’s business leaders believe are needed by the workforce of tomorrow.

As part of our strategic planning conversations and in response to this ongoing national debate, CASL has been busy exploring ways to position our students to step right into the world of work prepared to succeed. Beyond our ongoing emphasis on writing and critical/analytical thinking, the college is also partnering with our College of Business to provide CASL students with opportunities to build their finance, marketing, and management skills.

It is a great point of pride for me to be able to announce a new degree program open to CASL students beginning in the fall term of 2015. Starting in September, CASL students will have the opportunity to declare a second major in Business Studies. The major, which can only be taken as a second major in partnership with a CASL degree, can be completed without adding additional credit requirements and offers students a choice of four separate tracks: General Business; Economics; Communications; and Psychology. This powerful combination of liberal arts and practical business skills, I believe, will provide our students with alternate career paths and widen their employment opportunities after graduation. I look forward to the degree launch in September.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to Think About Change

What is the most important change you would like to see happen in CASL?

“Opening a Starbucks!”

As we head into 2015 and our strategic planning conversations, I’m thinking about the kinds of ideas we come up with and what they mean – and this comment from a student is a great example.

Just by letting my own imagination roam, this sounds both like a need for more communal spaces, for more energy to get our work and learning done, and for convenient and satisfying resources to be close at hand.

I can also imagine the discussions that might ensue: from the merits of corporate versus local businesses to coffee versus tea versus chai versus… And what we might learn from each other as we share who we are and what we know.

Meanwhile, this response evokes the importance of “small wins” – finding tangible changes we can make soon and easily to help fuel our confidence in the bigger changes.

This first strategic planning survey is closed, but the conversations are just beginning. Stay tuned for news about how strategic planning is coming to a conversation near you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Giving Back

“I am an alumnus, and a current staff member. Being on the campus for over 30 years means that I grew up there. It is home to me, and I want to do all that I can to make it better for those that follow me.”

This voice captures one of the uniquely defining characteristics of a CASL education: many CASL graduates return to the Dearborn community, making it their home, and a number of us continue making a difference through careers in CASL itself. For CASL grads, giving back is not just about sending a check to their alma mater – it's a tangible investment in the people and activities that make CASL what it is. Because of this, we have an extensive network of community and industry partners, as well as faculty and staff who have been in the shoes of our students, who know intimately how to support them in their educational goals.

In our globally connected and transient world, this is a rare quality, creating an unusual capacity for community and connection. This is the CASL community.

Join the conversation. The CASL Strategic Planning survey is open through Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tending to the Details that Matter

“Flowers/Plants. Without Susan's gardening, CASL would be a tin can with windows!”

I have been inspired by the passions and visions that you have been expressing in response to the CASL strategic planning survey – and I am inspired as well by responses like this one, offered as an answer to the question: What aspect of CASL would you most like to see preserved?

Even as we reach for new understandings of who we are and what we can do, it is also important that we tend to the details that matter, and that we recognize the individuals who make our lives better. CASL’s commitment to strategic planning is meant to incorporate comments just like this one, the appreciations and awareness that make us stronger, and that make it worth making CASL our home.

Join the conversation. The CASL Strategic Planning survey is open through Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Your Vision for CASL

“Continue with panels, discussions, & opportunities to learn about race, culture, gender, world issues, etc... The more learning we do inside & outside of the classroom, the better! The atmosphere is also important in CASL. Building community is key. Continue to host events to get to know others & new things.” CASL Student

“Grow interdisciplinary learning opportunities - our world is complex and we need to help educate students to think beyond a single discipline to succeed in today's world and address our largest social, economic, and environmental issues, help students craft messages about why their liberal arts degree is meaningful and helpful in today's job market.” CASL Faculty

“As hard as it is to imagine, I see CASL only getting better. With how engaged the faculty are with students, the demand for certain classes will continue to grow. I find it exciting if all of the majors can be further involved with one another so that social sciences, science, math, etc. majors can meet other CASL students with different majors. This helps provide a collaborative and well-rounded atmosphere. My vision for CASL is to continue to graduate well-rounded, diverse, and informed students through the use of more collaborative community efforts so that students are taking more seminars and classes where the information they learn is applied to the community at large.” 2014 CASL Alum

“We have a small college feel, coupled with the excellence of a solid curriculum. The faculty is focused more on teaching than research. CASL has a diversity of skill sets to offer its students. We need to enlarge our curriculum to keep pace with the kinds of skills appreciated not just in the work place, but classes that would spark more creativity. CASL is a perfect environment for students who would benefit from the attention and guidance from support staff and faculty. Larger institutions would perhaps make them feel like a number.” CASL Staff

“I think that we can better showcase the interface between the humanities/social sciences/sciences and the "real world" by engaging with alumni and other stakeholders to create more of a cohesive story about what the college does and its impact beyond the degree. We could also work better across disciplines and departments to tell this story and aside from the one that is being told by *just* administrators. We can tell real stories about what a metropolitan university is and has been with some better opportunities to do so. We can also do a better job telling the story of what we have to offer via our proximity to the Metro area (internships/hands-on learning) and how our teacher/scholar model, coupled with small classes, provides the kind of instruction not available at bigger campuses. Rather than riding on the coat tails of Ann Arbor's branding, we can be more explicit about what we can do better, because of the very nature of our infrastructure (so far) being smaller and also serving many students who are local and who also plan to stay in the region.” CASL Faculty

Join the conversation. The CASL Strategic Planning survey is open through Wednesday, December 3, 2014.