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Office of the Dean

August 24, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

As the fall semester opens, I am excited to embark upon my first full academic year at Purdue. In May, I shared a rallying cry for our College and a vision to move forward. Today, I’m pleased to report on a busy summer during which elements of that vision have begun to take shape.

In July, I announced the leadership team that will work to move the College forward in the coming years. Already, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and International Programs Joel Ebarb, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education Melissa Remis, Director of Financial Affairs Kirke Willing, Chief Operating Officer Lori Sparger, and Executive Assistant to the Dean Kristen Hunt are deeply engaged in moving forward elements of the plan I sketched out in May. Below, I have outlined progress on a number of projects that will direct us over the course of the next year.

My spring message enumerated a number of initiatives intended to prepare our students for successful careers and to celebrate the important research of our faculty. To begin moving toward those two worthy goals, I have established the INNOVATE Undergraduate Education Fund and the ASPIRE Research Enhancement Grants fund.

INNOVATE supports an energized commitment to undergraduate education. The INNOVATE Fund  provides funding to faculty members to develop new, forward-looking majors, minors, and certificates in its undergraduate programs as well as polishing and improving established programs and curricula. During 2015-16, the fund will distribute up to $300,000 for bold, new ideas that transform course offerings, fuel meaningful innovation across the curriculum, and enhance the student experience.

The INNOVATE Fund announcement is available on the College website as is the online application. I encourage all faculty to give serious consideration to ways to enhance our undergraduate curriculum with a particular eye toward preparing our students for success with sought-after, tangible, evident skills that will help them secure jobs and grow throughout their careers. Associate Dean Joel Ebarb will administer this fund.

ASPIRE addresses the importance of the scholarship of our faculty to enhance institutional excellence and to promote all areas of intellectual inquiry. Funding will support expenses related to scholarship and creative activity both domestically and internationally. Provost Deba Dutta and I are committed to championing CLA faculty research. The Provost has allotted $500,000 annually for ASPIRE in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The ASPIRE fund announcement is available on the College website as is the online application. Again, I encourage tenured and tenure-track faculty to apply to the ASPIRE fund to advance academic scholarship. The Provost and I share a goal of providing CLA faculty better and more opportunities for research and collaborative partnerships to advance our scholarship and foster more national and international recognition for the College of Liberal Arts and Purdue University. Associate Dean Melissa Remis will administer this fund.

To further support our scholarship, this fall the College will launch a new resource for researchers in the Social Sciences. The BRASS (Boiler Research Analysis for Social Sciences) server will provide access to a number of statistical software packages and tools for Purdue researchers without any fees. Running on a secure and scalable server environment, this platform can grow to meet evolving needs. In the near future, the platform will also provide some commonly available data sets.  Director of Information Technology Brett Chambers is leading this effort.

To begin to envision ways in which we will move forward in the coming years, two committees are developing recommendations regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs.

Philosophy Department Head Matthias Steup leads a task force charged with drafting a plan to develop an integrated program in liberal arts. The goal is to provide CLA and non-CLA students the option of pursuing a coherent introduction to many of the great intellectual traditions in the liberal arts. Committee members are:  Rayvon Fouché (American Studies), Ellen Gruenbaum (Anthropology), Doug Hurt (History), and Krista Ratcliffe (English). A draft report will be shared with the Heads mid-semester with a final draft late in the semester.

A second task force, led by Lamb School of Communication Head Marifran Mattson, is charged with developing recommendations for strengthening graduate student support to ensure that the College’s graduate programs remain vibrant, nationally recognized, and positioned to advance the research mission of the College. Committee members are: Mady Henry (Languages and Cultures), Rosie Clawson (Political Science), and Harry Bulow (Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts). This draft report will be shared with the Heads in mid-September and finalized in mid-October.

The success of the college is reflected in the success of our students. Every effort needs to be made to ensure we are organized effectively to deliver efficient and high-impact student services. We must re-double our commitment to student career and academic advising, mentoring, internships, recruitment and retention, diversity, and study abroad and at-home programs. To this end, COO Lori Sparger has been charged with analyzing our current organization in these critical areas and developing a plan for a 21st century student services operation.

Critical to this effort and the advancement of the College is our ability to tell our story and communicate effectively within the college, across the university, and outwardly to the nation and the world. Efforts are underway to create an Office of Marketing and Communication in the College under the COO. 

I am pleased to congratulate Su’ad Khadeer (Anthropology), who completed the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity Faculty Success Program this summer. In partnership with the Provost, five additional faculty, Lori Czerwionka (SLC), Ann Clark (Political Science), Maria Venetis (Communication), TJ Boisseau (SIS), and Kim Marion Suiseeya (Political Science) will participate this fall. The NCFDD program mentors tenure and tenure-track faculty with an eye toward increased research productivity, better time management, and healthy work-life balance.

Finally, as the academic year begins, please join me in welcoming Krista Ratcliffe, our new Head of English to Purdue. I also want to thank Ken Ferraro, who will serve as Interim Head of Sociology while that search continues.

All of these initiatives and others to come will propel our College toward continued and ever more noteworthy success. In May, I shared a message that called for a new chapter for the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University. Those were strong words, and they elicited strong feedback. Now, we have reached a time for action. It is incumbent upon those of us who believe in the Liberal Arts, who believe in the potential for this College to be a force for good in the world, to breathe life into those words. A bold agenda means little without bold action. Today, I ask that you lend your creativity, your talent, your intellect, and your passion to define and explore the place of Purdue Liberal Arts in the world.


David Reingold

David A. Reingold
Justin S. Morrill Dean of Liberal Arts