State of the College 2010

Dean Blaine Hudson delivered the annual "State of the College" message to an assembly of faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Sciences on August 27, 2010.

The State of the College of Arts and Sciences

 

Dean J. Blaine Hudson

 

August 27, 2010


Good afternoon and welcome to the 2010-2011 academic year.

Under our By-Laws, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences must present an overview of the “State of the College” at a meeting of the A&S Faculty Assembly that inaugurates each new academic year.  This is my seventh opportunity to deliver such a message——a message that highlights our achievements, describes the challenges before us from my perspective and how we propose to meet them, and reaffirms our mission, vision and values as a College.
Over time, I have come to realize that these messages—mine as well as those of my predecessors—represent an on-going chronicle of our evolution as an academic unit.  Each one captures a particular moment in our history and the context in which that moment is situated.  And, as I was writing the 2010 message, I was struck by an oddly pleasant paradox:  we have had a “very good year” under otherwise very difficult and trying circumstances—and that is a tribute to all of you.  So, I will begin, as in the past, with an overview of the College and our achievements—and then conclude with a discussion of this paradox and the challenges before us this year.

Any living community of faculty, staff, students and alumni has its own distinct life cycle, one stage of which is the departure of old friends.  Ours is no different and, in 2009-2010, these long-time colleagues retired:

Retiring Faculty

  • George Lager, Geography and Geosciences
  • John Wong, Chemistry


We commend them for their distinguished academic careers and their many years of dedicated service, and we wish them well in the next phase of their lives.  They will be missed.

After two years of “hiring freezes,” we experienced a “hiring thaw” last year and were able to add some outstanding scholars to our ranks.

New Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

  • Jason Abbott, Political Science
  • Pamela Beattie, Humanities
  • Simona Bertacco, Humanities
  • Latrica Best, Pan-African Studies/Sociology
  • Csaba Biro, Mathematics
  • Jongwoo Kim, Fine Arts
  • Jinjia Li, Mathematics
  • Eric McCord, Justice Administration
  • Diane Pecknold, Women's and Gender Studies
  • Kiki Petrosino, English
  • Paul Rosen, Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Mark Running, Biology
  • Stephen Schneider, English
  • Siobhan Smith, Communication
  • Hristomir Stanev, English
  • Cristiana Tone, Mathematics
  • Daniel Vivian, History
  • Margath Walker, Geography and Geosciences
  • Jennifer Westerfeld, History


We welcome these new colleagues—and look forward to working with them for many years to come.

Some in our ranks were promoted to associate professor with tenure, a singular milestone that marks the end of a very long apprenticeship.

Promotions to Associate Professor with Tenure

  • Jonathan Haws, Anthropology
  • Shawn Parkhurst, Anthropology
  • Awdhesh Kalia, Biology
  • Jon-Lark Kim, Mathematics
  • Granting of Tenure
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR GRANTED TENURE
    • Gerard Williger, Physics and Astronomy
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR GRANTED TENTURE
    • Selene Phillips, Communication


Congratulations to all of you.  I trust that you have savored this accomplishment by now, but, remember, the end of one journey is the beginning of the next.

Others were promoted to full professor, in recognition of their outstanding achievements over time and their stature in their respective disciplines:

Promotions to Full Professor

  • Tracy K'Meyer, History
  • Robert Luginbill, Classical and Modern Languages


Congratulations to each of you.  You have joined the intellectual elders of the College and, with that distinction, comes the responsibility to lead by your good example.

Academic self-governance requires the committed and informed participation of faculty and staff in the life and work of the College.  A&S is home to nearly thirty academic departments and programs—each headed by either a chair or a director.  These leadership roles are demanding and critically important—and, at least in my experience, immensely rewarding.  This year, the following colleagues assumed this responsibility:

New Chairs

  • Lisa Markowitz, Anthropology
  • Cynthia Negrey, Sociology


We commend your willingness to serve the College.  And I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of your predecessors—Dr. Julie Peteet and Dr. Allen Furr, respectively.

But, beyond these arrivals and departures and changes in rank or status, where do we stand as a College in the larger context of the University? 
Obviously, budget is one key measure.  Our annual budget has actually increased by slightly over 5 percent from 2009-2010 to the current fiscal year.  Unfortunately, this increase is due to changes in accounting for fringe benefits, expenses and “soft money,” not to an increase in state funds.  Still, once we include extramural funds, endowment income and other one-time sources, our actual budget approaches $80 million—“second” only to the School of Medicine.

A&S Budget Comparison

2005-2006

2006-2007

2007-2008

2008-2009

2009-2010

 2010-2011
 $46,393,482
$53,635,059
$58,079,457
$60,399,016
$60,023,034
$63,090,902

+15.6 %

+8.3 %

+4.0%

- 0.6%

 +5.1%

In A&S, we take pride in being the heart of the University—the foundation that supports nearly all academic programs offered by the University of Louisville.  We remain the University’s largest and most diverse academic unit—and the unit with, by far, the broadest and most complex mission.  Enrollment is one measure of sheer size.

 A&S Fall Enrollment Breakdown and Comparison

 2004-2005
  2005-2006 2006-2007
 2007-2008
 2008-2009
  2009-2010 2010-2011
 Undergraduate  8182  8191 7878
  7833   7795  7843
 8248
 Graduate 800  798  939  885
  848  875
 898
Total8982
8989
8817
8718 

8643
8718
9146
% change

+ 0.1 %
-1.9%
-1.1%
-0.9%
+0.9%
+4.9%

               
Because we offer nearly all general education courses, A&S serves the entire undergraduate population of the University and our role, unlike that of our sister academic units, extends far beyond our own students.  Consequently, the most accurate measure of our centrality is, not enrollment in A&S, but enrollment in A&S courses—which translates into credit hour production.  Using this measure, we generate more credit hours than ALL other academic units combined—nearly 52 percent of all University credit hours and more than 60 percent of all undergraduate credit hours.  And, of course, since students must pay tuition for these courses, credit hour production translates directly into tuition revenue.  Thus, in the breadth and magnitude of our responsibility for teaching and serving students, we lead the University—and no other unit is even a close second.  Need I say more?

Credit Hour Production by Academic Unit:  2009-2010

   Credit Hours%
A&S 277,73951.7
Education 59,62911.1
Business 51,7169.6
Speed 40,0137.5
Medicine 33,5396.2
Dentistry 19,589 3.6
Nursing 14,592 2.7
Law 12,609 2.3
 Music 11,591 2.2
Kent
10,1061.9
Public Health2,6770.5
Total536,999

 

Still, accommodating such a large number of students and maintaining the quality of their academic experience—with fewer resources in real dollars—is a daunting challenge.  We have minimized the adverse impact of recent budget cuts through careful management, but none of our management strategies has meant as much as your hard work, creativity and commitment to quality in making a difference in the lives of thousands of students. 

Although the overall loss of permanent funds has been significant, it has been offset, to some extent, by new sources of one-time funds—the most important of which has been revenue from on-line course offerings, with a 284 percent increase since 2004-2005.

Distance Education Revenue

  2004-2005  2005-2006 2006-2007
 2007-2008
 2008-2009
 2009-2010
 $1,009,529  $1,508,079  $1,915,204  $2,584,899 $3,300,462
  $3,879,203
  +49.4% +27.0%
 +35.0%
 +27.7%
  +17.5% 

Our summer tuition revenue sharing experiment has also become a permanent, albeit somewhat unpredictable, supplement.  In recent years, summer enrollment has remained stable, but summer revenue returned to A&S has dropped significantly as more and more departments have chosen to offer more distance education courses. 

Summer Tuition Revenue Sharing

2005-2006
 2006-2007
 2007-2008
 2008-2009
  2009-2010
 $546,762  $831,012 $467,504
  $463,124  $214,212
 +52.0 %
 -43.7%
 -1.0%
  -53.7% 

Along with generating new revenue, we remain effective in our fundraising efforts—even in a weak economy.  For example, 2009-2010, our Annual Fund and other giving campaigns garnered nearly $3.3 million.  We have established a national advisory board and are working to raise nearly $100,000,000 in the next few years through the University’s “capital campaign.”

As you know, increasing the number of tenured or tenure-track faculty in A&S is the centerpiece of our Strategic Plan—the goal that, if achieved, will make possible the achievement of most others.  We chose this goal, as a College, not simply to advance the interests of our many departments.  We cannot be a community of scholars without the presence of a critical mass of outstanding tenured and tenure-track faculty committed to teaching, research and service.  We have that critical mass, but must enlarge it significantly to become a truly great college of the liberal arts and sciences.

Number of Faculty Comparison

2005-2006
  2006-2007  2007-2008  2008-2009  2009-2010  2010-2011
 367.6 FTE  380.4 FTE  391.04 FTE  400.91 FTE  394.06 FTE
  399.90 FTE
 +3.5 %
 +2.8 %
 +2.5%
  -1.7% +1.5
 

As indicated in this table, our faculty numbers have remained essentially flat for the past several years—after steady growth in the years before.  Still, we have not lost faculty lines and we filled a great many vacant lines last year, even a few new ones created by budget manipulations of one sort or another.  However, I must admit that one of my greatest frustrations has been our inability to grow more substantially and more rapidly in this domain. 

    Despite the many demands on their time, A&S faculty members remain extremely productive in their scholarship and creative work.  In traditional terms, our faculty average nearly two refereed publications or creative works each year—impressive indeed, with many in the most prestigious venues. 

Faculty Scholarship:  2009

Refereed Publications:  Books
  25
 Refereed Publications:  Book Chapters
81
 Refereed Publications:  Articles
 423
 Other:  Exhibits, Performances, et al. 
121
 Refereed Conference Presentations
504

In addition, our faculty members have been extremely successful in attracting extramural research funding—although funding levels are fluctuating rather dramatically due to the vagaries of federal and other funding sources.

Extramural Research Funding (PIs Only)

2004-2005
  2005-2006
  2006-2007
 2007-2008
 2008-2009
  2009-2010
 $12,804,485  $10,966,772  $13,866,320 $8,472,228
  $11,009,153  $9,083,873
  -14.4 %  +27.4 %   -38.9%  +29.0 - 21.2%
 

We depend on the skills and dedication of a large contingent of support and administrative staff members.  They do the work that most of us are not trained to do—and are truly colleagues in the finest sense.  Please note that their numbers have grown because of grants, the expansion of Advising, and changes in the employment status of post-docs.

Number of Staff Comparison

2005-2006
 2006-2007
 2007-2008
 2008-2009
 2009-2010
 2010-2011
 147.55 FTE 164.50 FTE 
  170.80 FTE  184.80 FTE  185.32 FTE  203.53 FTE
 +11.5 %
 +3.8%
 +8.2%
 +0.3% +9.8% 

As an extension of our teaching mission, A&S plays a central role in retaining and graduating undergraduate students.  Put simply yet again, if we serve our large student population effectively, institutional retention and graduation rates rise, and the national stature and reputation of the University are enhanced. 

University Retention and Graduation Rates

 Admitted Graduated in
4 years
Graduated in
5 Years
Graduated in
6 Years
 1995 10.9% 25.8% 33.4%
 1996 10.9% 25.5%33.0%
 1997 12.7% 28.6% 34.9%
 1998 11.1% 27.1%33.2%
 1999 12.6%29.8%
 36.8%
 2000 14.3%33.8%
 40.6%
 2001 15.9% 35.6%43.6%
200219.3% 39.4%45.7%
200321.2%40.5%48.4%
2004            21.2%*

42%*

48.6%*

 * Prepared by: Office of Institutional Research & Planning


A&S houses and/or supports many programs that enrich the student experience—e.g., Honors, the McConnell Scholars, the Porter Scholars, and many others.  Students served by these programs fare extremely well academically.  Of course, these students were faring well when the University reported a 33.2 percent six-year graduation rate in 2004-2005.  What has changed most in recent years is how we serve all other A&S students.  After all, that is our mission—to educate all A&S students and all students in our service population as well as we can, not just some of them.  In other words, we have made student success a priority.  We can do much more, but, clearly, we have made and are making a difference—one student at a time.

In 2009-2010, we continued to lead University diversity and outreach efforts.  Over 20 percent of our tenurable and term faculty are persons of color; over 40 percent are women.  Award-winning programs such as the Saturday Academy, NETWORK and U of L at the Yearlings Club have established themselves over the past several years.  Furthermore, at the request of the President and Provost in 2007, we have coordinated University efforts to forge partnerships with most local museums, historic homes and cultural institutions.  The resulting “Arts and Culture Partnerships Initiative” network is growing in numbers and impact—and has the potential to become a regional model.

We have also taken great strides in global education.  We have formal relationships with institutions on all continents—except Antarctica.  Increasing numbers of A&S students are pursuing studies in other countries and the A&S Office of International Programs is exploring even more opportunities for exchange and study abroad.
So, this is the proverbial “bottom line,” the “state” of the College of Arts and Sciences as we begin the 2010-2011 academic year.  These data support the claim that, by any reasonable national or international standard, we have become a “very good” college of the liberal arts and sciences, with many faculty and staff members, and many academic programs even considered “great” by their peers.

We are not the same A&S that I attended forty years ago—and most of the changes since then have made us better.  All of you have contributed to these achievements in some way, large or small, and I commend and thank you.

But numbers do not—and cannot—tell the entire “story.”  We are living through what may be a defining moment in our history and making sense of “where we are” is no simple task.

In the 2007 “State of the College” message, I spoke confidently of our ambitious plans, of what we had achieved and what we hoped to achieve in 2007-2008 and thereafter.  We had developed the first A&S Strategic Plan.  We were investing our own discretionary funds to strengthen existing programs, start new programs and even to improve the classrooms and other facilities used by our faculty, staff and students.  Our faculty numbers were growing, as was faculty productivity.  We were becoming more diverse and better at the same time, and we were forging a broad range of new institutional relationships both locally and globally.  Our students were performing better and persisting at much higher rates.  Of course, we needed more funds and more space, but we had managed to tap our most important resource—ourselves—and, by working together toward a few common goals, what we were accomplishing was surprising even some of us.

Then, a few months later, the University was first impacted by a structural imbalance in the state budget and a national economic collapse unmatched by any economic downturn since the Great Depression.  And this “perfect storm” still rages against the backdrop of war, terrorism, and deepening divisions along racial, ethnic and religious fault lines at home and abroad.

What we hoped would be a moment of discontinuity has become one of the more difficult periods in American and global history.  There seems to be room for only so many “haves” in the global, post-industrial economy—but seemingly limitless room for ever-increasing numbers of those who “have less,” or “have too little” or simply “have-not.”  The world, we are learning, is not flat—it has steep hills and deep valleys—and only appears flat to those who can look from hill-top to hill-top.

In charting our course through this storm, we must revisit a few old and fundamental questions:

  • What is the relation of higher education to government, to the corporate sector—and to wealthy private donors?  As public dollars decrease, what strange bargains with what strange bedfellows will colleges and universities be willing to make just to survive?
  • If “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” how “free” is academic freedom these days—and what threats to academic freedom must we and the next generation of scholars face in the years to come?
  • Will tenure survive—or will the next generation of knowledge workers occupy a status little different from that of glorified high school teachers?
  • As tuition and other costs rise, to which students will we open the gates of the academy?  Will we provide knowledge and the opportunity for upward social mobility to the many—or become credentialing finishing schools for the privileged few?

We have answered these questions, not only in our governing documents and our strategic plan, but more concretely in the thousands of hours that we devote to teaching students, to advancing knowledge and creating culture, and to serving our community and society.  Implicit in our actions is the conviction that there is a higher purpose that informs and guides our work, a purpose beyond earning a paycheck or the necessities of a difficult and transformative moment in our history.  Even those who may lack this sense of purpose must serve it nonetheless.  We are, in essence, working to preserve and protect something of value and importance in a nation striving to become a truly free society—working to remain a place where faculty can teach and pursue the truth, and where students can learn it.  If we and others in our profession fail, the world will not end in some grand and fiery catastrophe, but it will become, over time, an increasingly different and less humane world—in which each of us will be a little more ignorant and a little less free.

And, so, how we respond to this prolonged budget crisis depends more fundamentally on how we answer these questions, on what informs our choices—not just how we solve a budget arithmetic problem.
So, what is our answer?  First we must understand the nature of the crisis and how it impacts A&S.  In this respect, our current budget is the product of the interaction of three factors, two of which are entirely beyond our control:

  • Funds lost through state-mandated, permanent budget reductions;
  • Funds never received , i.e., the 3 to 5 percent annual increases in state funding that never appeared; and
  • New revenue generated by the University and its many programs, including A&S.

As a rather painful and imperfect example, if an A&S faculty or staff member was earning $50,000 in 2007-2008, he or she is earning $50,700 today—notwithstanding a $1200 bonus this year.  Had this same employee performed satisfactorily and received an average salary increase of 3 to 5%, he or she would be earning roughly 10 percent more today than is actually the case.  Once one factors in 6 percent inflation, we are all living on around 15 percent less than we had only a few years ago.
Obviously, this is better than no income at all or the plight of academics in states such as California.  But, it is fair to say, I believe, that none of us anticipated being in this position, personally or professionally, in 2010-2011.  The same is true for A&S.  In essence, just by standing still, we have lost ground.

Second, given these facts, we have chosen to adopt and execute the following strategy:

  • To protect the capacity and integrity of our existing programs;
  • To manage our permanent and one-time resources as carefully and as transparently as possible;
  • To extend the time horizon for the achievement of all strategic goals that require new resources;
  • To generate new revenue—tuition, grants, gifts—to replace lost or foregone state funding; and
  • To initiate new programs—if they are revenue neutral or can “pay for themselves.”

Budget Strategy:  2010-2011

  • Protect existing programs and personnel;
  • Manage resources carefully and transparently;
  • Extend the time horizon for strategic goals;
  • Generate new revenue; and
  • Initiate new programs—if cost-effective.

 

This last point is crucial.  Once, a good idea or an urgent need would have led to a funding request.  Now, a good idea must be accompanied by, not a funding request, but a funding plan—whether that plan is based on distance education revenue, research incentive funds from grants, major gifts or some other sources.

These strategic adjustments have worked effectively.  They may be temporary and the “old dispensation” may be restored in a year or two.  Or, these adjustments may become the “new normal.”  In either case, we are committed, first, to doing what we must—and then, second, doing what we can to realize our vision.

Make no mistake.  Our response is not unique.  Public institutions across the country are behaving more and more like private institutions, or research and development arms of government and the corporate sector.  They have become increasingly dependent on revenue from tuition, clinical practice in some states, extramurally funded research, gifts from donors, and all manner of “business deals.”  Far more than any of us may realize, our University is following this same trajectory.

Despite this mixed picture, the “State of the College” can be viewed from another perspective as well, and one perhaps even more important.  As I mentioned at the outset, we have fared unusually well in these difficult and uncertain times.  We have made wise choices, we have worked hard and worked smart, and we have worked together, and the wisdom of our programmatic and budgetary choices was confirmed a few months ago by two singular events in our history as a college.  First, one of our students won a Rhodes Scholarship, followed by the awarding of fourteen Fulbright Fellowships to other students, thirteen of whom were A&S students.  Second, we were notified in late April that the University had advanced to the second round of review for membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

Neither of these milestones represents the end of our journey.  But each signifies recognition of the strength of the liberal arts and sciences at the University of Louisville—and the quality of our faculty and academic programs, the impact of the new graduate programs, area studies programs, study abroad and languages programs, a strong Honors Program, more student research opportunities and a heightened commitment to student success that have all been among our highest priorities in recent years.  And, consistent with our vision, we have invested our scarce resources in these domains not merely to create an “elite college” or benefit a handful of selected students, but to benefit all A&S students.

Although we have much more to do and eventual membership in Phi Beta Kappa is not guaranteed, we have at least been deemed “Phi Beta Kappa worthy”—and only 10 percent of the colleges and universities in the nation have that distinction.  This sense of affirmation and validation is immensely fulfilling and something in which we can all take pride.

These milestones also confirm how formidable we can be as a unit if we work together.  We did not reach this stage of Phi Beta Kappa review simply because we wrote a better application—or because our “spin” and “word-smithing” improved.  Rather, as I reported to the Board of Trustees in May, what Phi Beta Kappa recognized was that we had become a better academic institution.  That did not just happen.  We made it happen.

Our agenda for 2010-2011 is both simple and challenging, and reflects our guarded optimism.  We have several key priorities:  First, we must maintain our existing programs, functions and other initiatives.  Second, we must manage our resources with care and prepare for yet another budget reduction.  Third, we must take the next steps in our pursuit of membership in Phi Beta Kappa.  Fourth, we must complete the process of revising our Strategic and Diversity Plans.  Fifth, we must continue to press for additional space and the renovation of existing space.

I must add that our space limitations have become an even more intractable problem than our lean budget.  We are crowded and our ability to grow, even if we had the funds, is constrained by lack of space for new people, programs, laboratories and other functions.  And, since the state will not even consider appropriating funds for a new academic or research building, we have ventured into the real estate business.  Renovating parts of Davidson and Stevenson Halls, at our own expense, are our first forays.  We shall see what the future holds.

A&S Priorities:  2010-2010

  • Mission
  • Budget (and possible reduction)
  • Phi Beta Kappa (site visit March 2011)
  • Revise and Update Departmental Diversity Plans
  • Revise and Update A&S Strategic Plan
  • Acquire Additional Space


Sixth, even with no new funds, I will ask the faculty to explore the desirability and feasibility of establishing a few new programs—if at least 90 percent of the resources needed to support that program are either:  1) already in hand or, 2) can be generated by the program itself. 
By applying this formula, we have several new graduate programs nearly ready for full consideration, but none have met either of these conditions—yet.

New Graduate Program Ideas

  • M.F.A. in Fine Arts
  • Ph.D. in Justice Administration
  • Ph.D. in Pan-African Studies

 

There are also some significant opportunities on the undergraduate level.  Specifically, we have sufficient faculty scattered across many departments already teaching courses in Asian Studies, and Latin American and Latino Studies to offer four-year degrees very soon.  Joint appointments are also possible now, with the concurrence of interested faculty and their chairs—and, in the future, when we are able to add more full-time faculty, these programs may evolve naturally into departments, much as Pan-African Studies in the 1970s and Women’s and Gender Studies only a few years ago.

And, if we can achieve the resource threshold noted above with Film Studies and Digital Media, a few very exciting new programs may evolve in the College.

Selected New Undergraduate Programs

  • Asian Studies
  • Film Studies and Digital Media
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Latin American and Latino Studies

 

The Provost and, most recently, the Undergraduate Deans Council have asked us to explore, again, the idea of a “completer degree.”  To that end, I convened a small task force in Spring 2010 and, as our group studied similar programs, we found that some of the most prestigious institutions in the nation—e.g., the University of Michigan and Columbia University—offer “general studies” or “interdisciplinary studies” degrees.  We realized that, by adapting their model, it might be possible to construct a degree program that did not compete with Liberal Studies, that was not an easy route to a degree, that could actually enrich our undergraduate program mix and that could offer a very attractive option to hundreds of students.  I hope the faculty will reconsider this idea.

In any case, the most salient facts related to our planning and program development are profoundly simple.  We cannot stand still.  We must continue to grow and evolve.  And, while, as the poet Virgil once wrote—“Fortune favors the bold”—we must temper programmatic boldness with fiscal prudence and make wise and selective choices.  These choices, I believe, will provide significant new options for students, create new possibilities for faculty and—by staking our claim to these academic domains before other Kentucky institutions do so—will position us favorably for future growth.

None of this would have been remotely possible without your efforts.  There are some of you with whom I interact daily—and others I may only see in Faculty Assembly or in passing on campus.  The life of a dean is always full and never dull.  But I am painfully aware of how little I do in relation to all of the outstanding work done by all of you.  So, let me conclude by thanking all of you for your incredible commitment to moving the College forward—and for the support on which I have depended for the past six and a half years.  All of you—and our thousands of students, alumni and other supporters—are the College of Arts and Sciences, a living and ever-changing community of scholars in the finest sense.  Working with you has been a privilege and an honor.

Once again, I thank all of you.

 

Dean J. Blaine Hudson

8/23/10