The University Record, September 20, 1999

New LS&A dean details her agenda for the College

By Theresa Maddix

LS&A Dean Shirley Neuman at a faculty reception Sept. 10. She told faculty at their Sept. 13 meeting that at the end of her first five weeks here she feels ‘humbled, exhilarated, energized, proud to be joining you, willing to work hard for a great College.' Photo by Paul Jaronski, Photo Services
During remarks Sept. 13 at the LS&A Faculty Meeting, Dean Shirley Neuman outlined the college’s achievements during the past 182 years and, building on existing strengths, her goals for its future.

Neuman spoke of LS&A as “a college of exceptional intellectual vitality—an intellectual vitality that impresses all who walk onto the campus and that is very rare indeed in the contemporary university.” She had high praise for the College’s interdisciplinary work, its system of faculty governance, the diversity it has nurtured and the initiatives it has started. Neuman plans to continue the College’s tradition of excellence by recruiting and retaining top faculty and staff, recruiting the nation’s top student applicants to the University, increasing the diversity of the student body, and making financial aid available to all qualified applicants.

In terms of attaining these goals Neuman emphasized that she is not a supporter of a “global strategic plan,” one that “sets out mission statements, goals and actions that everyone from artists to zoologists must trim themselves to fit into.” She sees LS&A as “far too complex and various an organism for that.” Instead she wishes “to build on what has already been initiated,” possibly with a series of task forces to address the work of initiatives ranging from undergraduate education to the Life Sciences Initiative.

Neuman called the interdisciplinary work done by LS&A “exemplary in North America,” allowing faculty to “enact their intellectual trajectories” with an exceptional degree of flexibility.

Neuman noted that the College’s system of faculty governance is shared by only 20 percent of U.S. universities, “including the best of the public universities.”

She praised the diversity of the College, expanding the term to encompass intellectual, disciplinary, methodological, social and cultural, racial and ethnic, and sexual diversity.

She also spoke highly of the initiatives “reconnecting the academy with the larger community,” including Imagining America, the Detroit Initiative and Math Scholars.

Imagining America is a national consortium of universities and cultural institutions dedicated to supporting public work in the arts, humanities and design.

The Detroit Initiative was developed to provide opportunities for students and faculty in psychology to engage in further education, scholarship and service in the Detroit area.

Math Scholars, a program for high school teachers and students, provides summer mini-courses at the U-M on topics of current mathematical research.

Reflecting on what needs to be done to continue the College’s vitality, Neuman called for “continued vigilance and creative action around issues long familiar to us.”

Salaries, at a level designed to retain and attract the highest quality of faculty and staff, are a high priority for Neuman, as is finding the resources to cover their cost. The research infrastructure, physical facilities and flexible administrative units and procedures are another point of focus. Neuman hopes to “keep LS&A a college no thoughtful and reasonably self-serving person could bear to leave.”

Recruiting top student scholars also is a high priority for Neuman, revealing to prospective students “the advantage of studying in a large research university where one can be educated in current knowledge in a wide range of fields, and the advantage of being able to do so in intimate and interactive learning communities.” The College will continue its work toward a more proactive recruiting strategy with its brochures, Web sites and in conversations with prospective students. The College also will work to increase the diversity of its student body, both by attracting a diverse student body and ensuring that all students “feel themselves to be welcome members of the LS&A community.”

To help reach these goals, student financial aid, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, will be “a top priority” in future fund-raising activities.

Neuman described her aims as “threefold and simple—to attract a superb and diverse student body to LS&A, to provide those students with the kind of support that will enable them to do their best learning here, and to give them the best education possible.”

How does she feel at the end of her first five weeks on campus? “Humbled, exhilarated, energized, proud to be joining you, willing to work hard for a great College.”