The University Record, October 9, 2000

LS&A has 'three large obligations' to fulfill, Neuman says

By Theresa Maddix

LS&A Dean Shirley Neuman focused on “manifestations of vitality” and forward-looking obligations for LS&A in a detail-filled “State of the College” address Oct. 2.

Neuman celebrated the increase in external research funding brought in by faculty, saying, “Research awards coming into the college [in 1999–2000] increased by 41 percent, and those coming into ISR [the Institute for Social Research], a great many of whose researchers are LS&A faculty members, increased by 197 percent.”

Neuman also celebrated external recognition of faculty, particularly awards to Susan Alcock, Hyman Bass, Michael Kennedy, Bogdana Carpenter and Piotr Michalowski. Alcock, associate professor of classical studies and assistant research scientist at the Kelsey Museum, received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Bass, professor of mathematics and of education, was named president of the American Mathematical Society. Kennedy, director of the International Institute, along with Carpenter, professor of Slavic languages and literature, and Michalowski, professor of Near Eastern studies, was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit by the president of Poland.

The undergraduate application rate continues to escalate in the College, Neuman said, with “higher and higher levels of early achievement” and an enrollment count this year of 16,285 students. Support of former students also is strong with alumni donations last year of more than $21 million.

Neuman mandated “three large obligations” out of the College’s achievements:

  • Fostering and enabling strong academic leadership and accountability in the departments, programs and College.

  • Setting high standards for achievement and performance, and enabling the realization of those standards through the creation of incentives and opportunities, as well as through the allocation of resources.

  • Serving as an agent for thinking across department, program, and school and college boundaries, and into the future.

    To accomplish the mandate, Neuman highlighted specific areas the College is focusing on this year. Areas include a “leadership initiative,” extending planning initiatives beyond single programs and departments, moving budget management away from the dean’s office and into individual departments, looking at tenure and promotions, furthering research in areas of broad-based strength and systematically reviewing the results of the undergraduate initiative. The College also will concentrate on developing a stronger recruiting office and move planning forward on the upcoming fundraising campaign.

    “The College has asked all departments and programs to engage in long-term planning,” Neuman said of the leadership initiative. Chairs and directors have been asked “to imagine where their field of study is likely to be some five or 10 years from now.”

    Plans arising from these reports “will be reviewed by the Executive Committee and will become the basis of support for new research and curricular initiatives in the College, of new interdisciplinary connections, and of the allocation of budgets and positions.”

    The College will continue to work to extend planning beyond single programs and departments. A recent report, for instance, addresses ways “to rebuild the College’s once formidable strength in the study of Asian cultures.”

    Strong departmental leaders are encouraged within the College. Such leaders, Neuman feels, “quickly find themselves fettered if their every move is micro-managed by the dean’s office.” Phasing-in a system in which departments and programs are responsible for administering their own budgets will work to alleviate micro-management. “Chairs and directors,” Neuman said, “are in the best possible position to evaluate needs and priorities within a department or program, and ought to have the decision-making power that will allow them to respond to those needs and priorities.”

    In the area of promotions and tenure, LS&A approved a Program Enhancement Initiative, designed to allow interdisciplinary programs to initiate program requests and become tenure homes. The Executive Committee also has recently received a report examining tenure and promotions procedures.

    To strengthen areas of broad-based strength, a core instrumentation facility will be developed in laser optics, a five-year program in Comparative Global Ethnic Literatures will be created, as will a Michigan Atlantic Studies Initiative.

    “It is time for us to go back and systematically review the results of the Undergraduate Initiative,” Neuman said, “and perhaps to amend, improve that initiative in light of what we find.” Neuman would like to see a particular focus on “the impact of the information revolution on our disciplines.”

    Neuman reemphasized the need to draw in better and better students. Susan Horning, a new student recruitment director, will soon be joined by Peggy Burns, a director of communications and marketing. The two will together work “to enable the recruitment of the best undergraduates possible.”

    A successful fundraising campaign is a huge priority for the College, enabling it to achieve many of its goals, “We must begin to raise a lot more money,” Neuman said. This year LS&A will move planning forward and develop the overall campaign plan, with a proposed theme of “Connecting Learning.”