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Office of the Dean

May 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we close out an unprecedented semester at Purdue University, I want to begin this note with a sincere word of thanks. The effort of every faculty member, graduate student, and staff member to successfully transition the instructional and administrative work of the College online in little more than a week was truly a monumental effort. I am humbled by the extraordinary work each of you contributed to carry out our shared mission of educating and supporting the students of our University. I am grateful for your diligence, dedication, and professionalism.

In the swirl of recent events, it’s easy to forget the semester and a half that preceded it. But those months offered many memorable events for our College. Before we all turn our thoughts to summer and next fall, let me point to a few of them here.

The CLA Core Renewal Task Force had already paved the way to establish Degree+ before turning its attention to developing Core 21 for all CLA BA majors. Degree+ launched in Fall 2018 and removes longstanding barriers for students from across Purdue’s campus to add a bachelor of arts degree from our College. As we conclude the second year since Degree+ was announced, and the first since students were recruited to the University with the program in place, more than 500 students have added a second degree from the College of Liberal Arts to their academic plans of study. Degree+ enhances our connectivity across campus, enriches the educational experience for these students, and brings more students into our classes.

Another key undergraduate education initiative, our Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program, was the subject of two major articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education in early November. Since it launched in the fall of 2017, the program has garnered national attention and has grown significantly. Nearly 2,000 students are expected to enroll in the first year classes during the upcoming Fall semester and over 300 are pursuing the 15-credit Cornerstone certificate. 

Thanks in part to those articles, President Mitch Daniels highlighted Cornerstone in his January letter to the Purdue family as “the product of some remarkable leadership by our faculty colleagues.” Congratulations to all who have played a role in creating and expanding Cornerstone. A recent Washington Post column by President Daniels championed the importance of quality written expression and general education for all students further cementing our place at the University.

This academic year also has brought an array of important grants in support of research efforts across the College. The Lilly Endowment, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Institutes for Health, The Templeton Foundation, Wenner Gren, and others funded faculty research that will enable us to continue to advance our scholarship on an array of topics. Our research productivity also includes numerous books, articles, and creative works.

Along with our programs and research, several faculty and staff across the College received recognition for their work. 

Kenneth Ferraro, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, was one of two faculty recipients for this year’s Morrill Award. Purdue’s highest career achievement, the Morrill Award recognizes professors who most strongly exemplify the spirit of the land grant university through the quality of their instruction, engagement, and scholarship.

Jennifer Hall, senior lecturer in the Brian Lamb School of Communication, became a new affiliate of the Teaching Academy.

Olga Lyanda Geller from the School of Languages and Cultures received the 2020 Purdue University Excellence in Teaching Award for Lecturers, the highest lecturer teaching award for undergraduate education at Purdue. 

And also from Languages and Cultures, Betty Lewis, schedule and building deputy, received Purdue’s Eudoxia Girard Martin Memorial Staff Recognition Award. 

Governor Eric Holcomb named Al G. Wright Chair, Director of Bands, and Professor of Music Jay Gephart a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor the state of Indiana bestows. 

The Department of Bands and Orchestras announced a major gift in February and plans to construct a new building. Marc and Sharon Hagle Hall will serve students from every corner of campus. Another unit which serves all Purdue students, the Writing Lab, will relocate to the Krach Leadership Center. While construction timelines are delayed in light of COVID-19, having both spaces in the student life corridor will provide tangible reminders of the centrality of our work to all Purdue students. 

Also delayed as a result of COVID-19 was the work of task forces charged with developing recommendations for how we might bring to fruition some of the opportunities outlined in the College’s strategic plan. We had hoped to share those with the CLA Faculty Senate in the spring, but paused in light of the circumstances of the last half of the semester. We will revisit those as the events that have captured so much of our time and effort move toward some new normal.

What that might be is hard to know. As I’ve said a number of times, my crystal ball is no better than yours. University leadership, with recommendations from the Safe Campus Task Force, continues to work on plans for fall semester. We do know, from his March letter, that President Daniels is committed to accepting students to campus this fall. How that will impact our teaching and research remains a work in progress for the moment.

What we know is that our capacity to change and adapt is great, in ways most of us might not have imagined when the semester began. Our shared resolve, our shared commitment to this university, and our willingness to find ways to support the lofty goal of delivering exceptional higher education for successive generations of students will position us to continue to move this College forward whatever the coming months might bring.

For now, thank you for your work. I wish you a peaceful summer as we all replenish our energies and position ourselves for continued success in the year ahead.

Stay safe. Be well.


David Reingold

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