I am both humbled and honored to be joining the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at this point in its illustrious history. When I was offered the chance to become LSA’s dean, I knew it was a chance to join not only the largest and most multifaceted of U-M’s 19 schools and colleges, but also to further the legacy of the greatest public liberal arts college in the nation. My sincere thanks go to Dean Terry McDonald, Interim Dean Susan Gelman, and our outstanding faculty and staff for working so hard to make that so.
One of the first things you should know about me is the importance I place on using data to guide my research and decisions, and I would like to take a minute to celebrate some of the College’s impressive numbers:
- The first-year students arriving on campus this year do so with a median GPA of 3.9, a median SAT score of 1370, and a median ACT score of 30.
- We admitted only 36.6 percent of the nearly 30,000 applications we received for admission.
- We consistently have a first-year retention rate of more than 95 percent.
- One hundred percent of our tenure-track faculty teach undergraduates.
- Thirty-one U-M students received Fulbright Scholarships in 2013, and 24 of them were from LSA.
- LSA has 47 of Michigan’s 99 departments ranked in the Top 10, according to U.S. News & World Report.
These are remarkable accomplishments, but perhaps the number I’m most proud of is that nearly 100% of our seniors go directly on to enter the workforce, attend graduate school, or volunteer. Of course, much of that success is due to the commitment to academic excellence and the integrated value of a liberal arts education that will always be the cornerstone of LSA. In addition to my unwavering support of our academic pursuits, I begin my tenure with three other areas of focus:
- Access. Each of our students is different. They come from different high schools, different academic experiences, different families, and different communities. So when I speak of access, I mean not just providing support so that admitted students can enroll here, but also academic and non-academic support so that those who do come can reach their full potential. Every LSA student has the capability to graduate and to thrive; we have the responsibility to provide the tools necessary for them to do so.
- Diversity. Institutions of higher learning—especially public institutions of higher learning—should mirror the full diversity of the society they seek to challenge and improve. The research is nearly incontrovertible that universities with students from a variety of backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives produce graduates most prepared to succeed in the world beyond campus. It’s an idea that hit home with me last semester when teaching the political context of the Brown v. Board of Educationdecisions. Last academic year, this community renewed a discussion about the role of diversity at the University of Michigan, and I look forward to being a voice at the table to safeguard and enhance diversity in all of its forms at U-M. My family and I recently made our own Victors for Michigan campaign gift in an area that will provide support to the broadest possible set of diverse students in LSA.
- Engaged Learning. Through initiatives like the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, our Honors Summer Fellowships, and Research Experience for Undergraduates program, we are able to engage students in collaborative research. Programs like optiMize help empower our students to become social entrepreneurs and translate what they learn in the classroom to tangible results in communities. Through the Barger Leadership Institute, we help students develop as leaders on our campus and in our community so in the future they will be able to take that role in their chosen fields. Through the LSA Internship Network, we have provided summer opportunities for hundreds of our students to work in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and demonstrate to future employers how liberal arts students can make vital contributions in a variety of organizations.
Access to a broad liberal arts education in a diverse atmosphere of engaged learning means that LSA graduates leave here ready not to take on the world, but rather to work with others to change it for the better.
From meeting with members of our accomplished faculty and staff to talking with some of our extraordinary students (or even just spinning the cube for the first time with my daughter, Olive), I have found the College to be a delightful place to do important work.
I look forward to the year—and all the important work—to come.