Dear LSA Alumni and Friends,

For the past couple of weeks, I have found  myself returning again and again to the stunning poem that National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman delivered at the Presidential Inauguration. Of the many lines that resonate for me personally and as dean of LSA, these words propel me toward the important work ahead for our college: “for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”

The last 12 months have been filled with challenges that have shaken us, social isolation and disruption to familiar ways of living and being in the world, dreadful loss, and much needed calls for racial justice. How we respond at this critical moment is the story that history will tell about us. Here in LSA, we have now laid the necessary groundwork to affirm our mission and responsibilities as a leading liberal arts college and create the kind of transformational change that we think is needed at this moment, in higher education and in the nation and world.  

When I became dean, one of my first goals was to connect with our community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to hear directly about what is important to you, what you think makes LSA an outstanding institution for research and learning, and what role the liberal arts and sciences should play in shaping the future of our global community.  The ideas, passion, and input you shared were simply tremendous. They shaped what has become the LSA Strategic Plan, which includes a re-articulated vision, mission, and values, and focused areas for action moving forwards. I’m proud to share this collaboratively created strategic vision with you today.

Our vision is to be a diverse intellectual community, working together to reimagine the world and create positive, purposeful change. 

As a public liberal arts college, our mission is twofold: to push the boundaries of what is understood about human experience and the natural world, and to foster the next generation of rigorous and empathetic thinkers, creators, and contributors to the state of Michigan, the nation, and the world. 

As a community, we champion the values of bold exploration, concern for the common good, inclusion, well-being,  and integrity. 

The true test of vision, mission, and values statements is how they weather a crisis. Ours have. Over the past year, our mission and vision provided clarity of direction, and our values anchored critical decisions at every step. And while they have helped us face tremendous challenges, I know they will be equally powerful in helping LSA seize emerging opportunities to make a difference.

The biggest challenges we face as a society—poverty and wealth inequality, climate change, systemic racism, global health crises, challenges to democracy, social unrest, and more—cannot be solved easily, or by a single approach. In short, they call out for the work that is core to the liberal arts. That is, courageous exploration and the rigorous pursuit of knowledge. The flexibility to seek out and understand perspectives very different from one’s own. A commitment to actively listening to, learning from, and collaborating with others in ways that open up new possibilities and make real and innovative solutions possible. Our fields of study, which encompass the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will continue to be core to finding cures, making discoveries, unleashing creativity, asking tough questions that lead to powerful answers, and fundamentally creating a more just and sustainable world in which to live.   

I am ready for LSA to lead a national dialogue about why the liberal arts are key to America’s successful future and the positive, purposeful change needed in the world.  I look forward to sharing more updates with you about the actions we are taking to meet our goals, and invite you to learn more about our strategic plan on our website or in the short video below. 

Thank you for all you do for our college and university and I wish you a healthy and productive 2021.