A&S update from Interim Dean John Ferré

As the fall semester started, I was reminded of a line in Fiddler on the Roof:  “We haven’t got the man we had when we began.”  Back in July, Dean Hudson underwent cranial surgery and then started a medical leave.  At that time, he recommended to the Provost that I step in as Interim Dean of the College, so that’s what I have been doing for the past few months – that and wishing Dean Hudson well as he works on his recovery.

I’m pleased to report that the College is continuing to think ahead.  In September, the University’s Board of Trustees approved the Certificate in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Transformation and the B.A. in Asian Studies, so undergraduates in the College can now receive formal preparation in these two subjects essential in our present context of globalism.  The College faculty replaced the outdated student evaluation forms with a new online questionnaire that focuses on learning and engagement.  And proposals for an MFA in studio art and a graduate certificate in diversity literacy are making their way through committee review. 

There is, of course, so much more work to do.  The College needs to come to terms with our overreliance on contingent faculty, and our six-year graduation rate needs to continue to improve.  And, as President Ramsey has said in his call for “the 21st Century University” initiative, we need to reassess how we can best serve our students, our community, and the commonwealth in this era of declining state funding and rising student debt, not to mention social, economic, technological, and environmental flux.  If ever there was a time to put into practice the competencies that we teach -- understanding cultural diversity, thinking critically, and communicating effectively -- it is now.

The College, that is to say, is as strong as ever, but it faces tremendous challenges.  Meeting them will require that we match our devotion to the liberal arts and sciences with flexibility, innovation, and will.


- Interim Dean John Ferré

November 2012