Dean Marty Hershock presented his State of the College address, "Charting our Course," in which he spoke about the budget, enrollments, and the opportunities ahead of us. There was also a question and answer session at the conclusion of the presentation.

Below is the video recording of the Town Hall, as well as answers to the questions submitted during the event (and not responded to during the Town Hall).

Questions and Answers

Reorientation of CASL's Identity

Could CASL leadership provide a model for us to evaluate? If Marty could design this vision of a new identity himself, what would it look like? It would help us understand the scope and scale of what he is talking about.

Here is one recent example. This one is grant seeded but offers a glimpse of what might be possible: https://www.albion.edu/academics/student-research/humanities-labs

Here is another, department specific program, from Ann Arbor. This approach could readily encompass multiple disciplines/programs. https://lsa.umich.edu/history/history-at-work/programs/u-m-historylabs.html

My office will continue to explore other relevant models and will be happy to share ideas that are emerging from our conversations around this topic. The college plans to share a vision statement, that will take into account feedback provided in the upcoming listening sessions, for consideration by the end of the calendar year.

What disciplines, if any, do you feel do not have a place in this new format?

I truly believe that every discipline has the possibility to participate in this new approach. I am aware, for instance, of some conversations currently underway regarding the arts that would fit nicely into this model. Language skills and cultural awareness would be necessary prerequisites for engaging with elements of the regional population. Likewise, public humanities initiatives across the country offer numerous examples of applied work that could be directly connected to these big problems. In the sciences, the work around environmental issues, water quality, sustainability, human health would certainly all be relevant, etc.

Will additional resources--especially faculty lines--be allocated as part of this reorientation of CASL's identity?

Will additional resources--especially faculty lines--be allocated as part of this reorientation of CASL's identity? How can identity and authentic reflection of regional priorities happen if the faculty profile does not change, and numbers are actually reduced?

Good question. I agree that this sort of reorientation will require the addition of new faculty lines and the recalibration of some existing positions when they become open. One possibility will be that the college borrows centrally to make these hires and then repays the loan by increased tuition revenue generated by future student enrollments. It may also be the case that this new model enables the college to make targeted requests to donors for money to support endowed faculty lines. Finally, with a number of faculty retirements pending over the next three years, there is the possibility of using some of these salary lines to help seed this vision. The college would also have to engage in some serious conversations about line priorities and, perhaps, about the sustainability of some of what we are currently doing.

How does moving toward a lab school approach solve the budget problem? I'm assuming that there are cuts involved, not just attracting more students.

I am not envisioning a pathway where we have to make cuts to start this transition. As mentioned above, we have a number of pending faculty retirements. The money from those lines can be reallocated to make hires in support of this vision. In the question prior, I share an example of a school that received external funding to see this sort of work. This would be a possibility. Hopefully too, a vision of this sort, if articulated soon enough, could influence campus conversations around the new campus budget in ways that would see CASL rewarded for its creativity. It may also be the case that the structural foundation needed to support the new model reduces cost by increasing efficiencies.  Finally, I do believe that this approach could very well draw new students to the college along with new revenue resulting from an enhanced research base.

It’s hard to hear a place for us in this reimagined college. What would you say to that?

Not all of us have chosen areas of study with direct application to our local region in the present—like those of us who study history, or other regions of the world. We may have come here in part to open up our students’ worlds to other times and places, because we think that is valuable too. It’s hard to hear a place for us in this reimagined college. What would you say to that?

Your point is well taken and I would not want to lose this important component of a student’s experience (this is an especially important consideration for our student demographic). Having said that, while the lab approach would focus on problems with local relevance, I have absolutely no doubt that parallel issues/concerns exist or have existed elsewhere and at other points in time. Similarly, learning to think like an historian (for instance): how to interrogate evidence; how to use evidence to construct an argument; how history is used to shape memory/remembrance; how the discipline is a living and ever changing dialog interacting with and interpreting the past, etc., is, in and of itself, an incredibly vital skill for students working on addressing local problems to have. We might think a bit about Arizona State’s curriculum where students who are interested can pursue a traditional history degree or be exposed to history through the pursuit of a more broadly defined, issue-oriented degree program.

 

How is this different from the “bands” transformation that didn’t fly a few years ago? It seems like just new marketing of that same idea?

I do not feel that I gave the bands, especially the food band, their proper due. In discussing the food band, in particular, I failed to recognize both the course and certificate that came out of that initiative, both of which are highly relevant to the vision I shared and both of which represent significant accomplishments for the pilot.

I heard that we are going to move toward interdisciplinarity and applied work and moving away from liberal arts. Can you be more concrete at all? Are you planning to abolish departments?

The proper organizational structure necessary to support the kind of work that I described would have to be worked out. In my view, however, our current structure, given the constraints that it puts on program autonomy and the service that it requires from our faculty, will have to change to support the proposed shift.

Do you recognize that faculty are burned out from just teaching their courses, and that an existential shift like this might be impossible to imagine given the stress being experienced by faculty in this moment?

I recognize that all of us are working very hard (I acknowledged this as well in my opening remarks) and that there are some of us who cannot muster the strength or who do not have the time to play a significant role in discussing/planning for such a shift. That’s a reality. I understand that demands on faculty/staff time are intense and never-ending. Given the ever shrinking size of our college and of our budget, however, there will never be an ideal time for such a conversation. There are not enough of us to cover all of the work that needs to be covered. We’ve been pressed for many years and the pressure will continue. The alternative to doing nothing, though, could lead the university down the path followed by other schools such as Adrian College and to a point where decisions are made for us. Doing nothing and continuing to lose students leaves us vulnerable. The elimination of programs and further forced cuts aren’t going to alleviate the stress you reference either. In short, those of us who are able should start the conversation and rely on others to contribute what, and when, they can but I do not believe that we have the luxury of waiting for an ideal moment that will , frankly, never materialize. Since the meeting, a number of faculty members have approached me expressing a great deal of enthusiasm for the initiative. Discussions have already begun in a number of disciplines.

What timeline are you imagining for this type of pivot? And are you imagining a gradual shift or a sharp one?

Given the intensification of campus-level strategic planning conversations and the imperative need to shape the campus budget conversations as they evolve, I am imagining this playing out in a timespan that is no longer than 3 years. We obviously need time to define what this would look like and to create a corresponding organizational structure to support a reimagined CASL (my plan is to offer a Vision statement by the end of the calendar year). We also need to be realistic about our current finances and keep in mind the timetable for pending retirements, a timetable that should provide the college with needed capital to make new faculty hires in alignment with this shift. Having said this, the sooner that we begin to flesh this out the better positioned we will be to help shape the campus level conversation about the university’s future.

I'm having a hard time understanding how the lab school will run practically. Can you give a concrete example based on what we have now and what it would look like?

I can, off the top of my head, think of a handful of such initiatives (that have some tangible campus presence) but will name two. 1) Carmel’s work in southeast Dearborn on environmental health (https://www.secondwavemedia.com/metromode/features/summer-academy-081718.aspx). This, it seems to me, is a focus that could readily employ expertise from across the college (environmental science/studies, public policy, history, statistics, sociology, biochemistry, economics, etc.). Likewise, we have a number of faculty, in many different disciplines, who work in the area of restorative justice. This approach could bundle what we do in the areas of the Inside/Out program, Psychology, Sociology, History, Public Policy, Economics, Statistics, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Communications, etc.

What other specific colleges or universities use a liberal arts “lab” model? Where can we see such ideas in action and how such models could possibly play out in our unique and diverse student populations?

Here is one recent example. This one is grant seeded but offers a glimpse of what might be possible: https://www.albion.edu/academics/student-research/humanities-labs

Here is another, department specific program, from Ann Arbor. This approach could readily encompass multiple disciplines/programs. https://lsa.umich.edu/history/history-at-work/programs/u-m-historylabs.html

I believe that the types of issues that we could focus on would be highly relevant to our student population.

Proving relevance is all I’ve done since employed here. So, for example, physics has a very low number of majors and highest cost. Will physics have to “prove its relevance” to the same degree as “art history”?

All of the programs struggling with few majors are having to engage in planning for their major and a rethinking of their offerings/major. Areas like Physics have the advantage of being connected to the engineering curriculum and thus their lower level courses are often very well enrolled. But, one thing that I have said to many disciplines as I meet with them to discuss their current situation and to lay out the need for a different course of action is that we may need to offer courses in a particular discipline but we do not necessarily need to offer a major in that particular discipline. In short, let’s work together to think about what we might do differently to shake things up a bit while remaining true to our learning goals for our students.

You have been very insistent that LPA and LCC merge, and form a large "division" rather than a department. You are now relinquishing that idea?

Not at all. First off, the college simply cannot afford to operate 6 (7, if you count our College Wide Program operation as the equivalent of a department) stand alone departments offering duplicative services and requiring identical service obligations from the faculty. We do not have the money, the staff, or the faculty necessary to do this. Secondly, the Divisional model could, given that its goal is to provide support/service to a number of affiliated disciplines/programs, actually facilitate the lab model that I offered. The merger of LPA and LCC is still a necessity and, I believe, a good thing to do.

Why do we need monumental structural changes to change faculty approaches? What evidence shows that such structural changes are indeed necessary?

Many of us faculty have been teaching for years in the kind of student-engagement courses you’ve discussed. Why do we need monumental structural changes to change faculty approaches? What evidence shows that  such structural changes are indeed necessary?

Your faculty colleagues (three different sets of them), working through a series of Task Forces, made a strong case for how our current structure inhibits flexibility and creativity and how it also requires too much in the way of redundant/unproductive service. In short, the current structure does not even support our current work particularly well. A better model, it seems to me, is the College Wide Program model where programs have a much greater degree of flexibility and freedom to engage in their scholarship and pedagogy. If we hope to instill this student-engagement focused approach more broadly, we need to free up faculty time and create a structure that enables greater flexibility and nimbleness.

Is the structure of the Colleges part of the “relevance” problem rather than individual disciplines within those Colleges?

Did the creation of the College of Health Human Services and Education make CASL appear more irrelevant than it is?  In other words, is the structure of the Colleges part of the “relevance” problem rather than individual disciplines within those Colleges?

Your question is a good one and merits a campus-level discussion about the best way to structure/organize the university as a whole. The professional orientation of 3 of the 4 colleges (Education already had such a focus before it became part of CEHHS) certainly can, in certain eyes, make CASL appear to be an outlier and (I fear) a relic. The prevailing national narrative questioning the value of the humanities and arts does not help us either. The arts, sciences, and humanities have made a valiant effort to explain their relevance/importance to critics. I think it now time to show people our relevance in direct and tangible ways.

How would students be prepared for graduate school admissions at larger Universities if their degrees are not discipline-specific?

How would students be prepared for graduate school admissions at larger Universities if their degrees are not discipline-specific?  Does the “laboratory” degree model inadvertently hobble their chances of admission in graduate schools not organized around the laboratory model?

A fair question. I’m not certain that the lab model necessarily means that those who are looking for a more traditional disciplinary degree would not be able to pursue one. Areas such as ENGL and HIST, to name but two, would have to work closely with their peers in CEHHS to ensure that their students could still take the necessary curriculum to complete their state certification. In this regard, some adherence to our current disciplinary curriculum may be impossible to shake for some disciplines. My experience with graduate applications, as of late, suggests that PhD programs are less and less inclined to take students directly out of their undergrad institutions, that they are looking for students who have done interesting things, and that they are very open to students with non-traditional backgrounds. It may be, as well, that the ground in grad admissions is also moving.

Budget, Enrollment, Other

Can we know exactly how many staff and faculty were laid off?

As personnel matters are confidential, we are not sharing information about specific people impacted. We have been working with Human Resources/Academic Human Resources and department chairs to assist those faculty and staff impacted by layoffs or effort reductions.

Will there be significant layoffs?

As indicated, for the time being the college is not looking at additional cuts. The financial situation is, however, fluid. Should circumstances warrant additional cuts, and should those cuts have to be made to the college’s base budget, additional personnel cuts would be a necessity as 98% of what remains in our base is committed to faculty/staff salaries and benefits.

Is there likely to be any shuttering of existing majors and programs?

The college is not considering any such move nor has there been any such explicit conversation at the campus level. There have been general remarks made about the need to examine the sustainability of our programs but, to date, nothing has been said about eliminating programs/majors. At the same time, should the scaling back of certain programs, or even their elimination over time, be viewed as a necessary prerequisite to moving this new identity forward, the college should not shy away from the conversation.

I believe MSU and Wayne State have increased their enrollments this semester. What do we know about their methods of attracting students? Can we do something similar?

This is something we can explore, though it is likely that any such initiatives would have to be undertaken by our campus Enrollment Management team.

How can we market ourselves as a destination rather than as a gateway to Ann Arbor?

Too many of our students seek to transfer to Ann Arbor. Some of that comes from their advisor interactions, some of that comes from their conversations within their Admissions contacts. How can we market ourselves as a destination rather than as a gateway to Ann Arbor?

This is, indeed, a perennial problem for the Dearborn campus. On the one hand, the fact that Dearborn sends more students to Ann Arbor than any other college/university, is something to be proud of. Undeniably, many students who either were not able to gain admission directly into Ann Arbor or who could not afford to attend Ann Arbor, make their way to Dearborn. We actually have a good record of holding onto many of these students who love the more intimate feel of our campus. We also see many of the students who transfer to Ann Arbor return to Dearborn (even though they did well academically there--they just feel more comfortable here). It is also the case that some of our students apply to Ann Arbor because they see it as advantageous to their professional or career goals or because they have a major that we do not. The latter we cannot remedy and the former is, in my view, largely a function of Dearborn’s lack of a distinctive identity. Here, I think, a move toward a lab school could possibly provide that identity and could be a powerful draw for students to choose Dearborn first. I can assure you that advisors do not encourage our students to leave (they do, of course, help students chart a path to Ann Arbor if that is what they want). I cannot speak to what admissions says relative to Dearborn as a pathway to Ann Arbor but will explore this.

Schlissel only has given us more $ because of a three-year 1U effort. Please give credit where credit is due. It is not because of Schlissel's big heart.

Not being privy to discussions that led to the decision by Ann Arbor to allocate money to the Dearborn and Flint campuses, all I can say is that some money is forthcoming. If I suggested any particular motivation for the decision to allocate the money in my remarks I did not intend to do so.

Just a comment: please let’s make remote learning an area of expertise and a priority for growth.

Just a comment: please let’s make remote learning an area of expertise and a priority for growth. Please, please. I don’t think becoming the University of Phoenix in the sense of becoming mostly or fully online is bad. only their manipulative businesses practices that are. with good online pedagogy you can have retention online.

Agree. We are doing fantastic work on this front and should continue to prioritize it.

 

Has there been a study of how many of our lost credit hours have gone directly to CEHHS and its creation of “science courses” and other duplications?

I am aware of no such study.

Is Dean Hershock’s middle name really Joh, as it appears on the screen?

Actually, that is a typo. My middle name is really Job! Ok, seriously, Zoom limits the number of characters for screen names. My middle name is John.

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