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     Spring/Summer 2011 Connecting with Alumni & Friends
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All issues  >  Spring/Summer 2011  > Dean's message

Photo: Doug Epperson

Dean Doug Epperson

Message from the dean

Dear Alumni, Friends, and Colleagues,

It's hard to believe summer is here. Another academic year has come to an end, and the next will soon begin. At commencement in May we were reminded of WSU's long and rich history in liberal arts education when the 100th class of general studies majors received their diplomas.

Since first opening its door to 59 students in 1892 as Washington Agricultural College and School of Science—the state's land-grant college—WSU has grown into a university that is internationally respected and highly ranked among American research institutions. Now 26,000 students attend WSU on campuses in Pullman, Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and through WSU Online. The liberal arts at WSU have also evolved over the decades, and today the College of Liberal Arts is the heart of the University and central to fulfilling WSU's land-grant mission, to make education attainable for everyone. A liberal arts education continues to be integral to the economic and cultural advancement in the state of Washington and the nation. Most liberal arts graduates work in the private sector, and nearly 40 percent of corporate CEOs possess liberal arts degrees. Clearly, a liberal arts education prepares students for success in a variety of fields.

Last year, approximately 30 percent of all bachelor's degrees and 28 percent of doctoral degrees awarded by WSU were in liberal arts disciplines. Currently, CLA faculty teach more than one-third of all university credit hours, and that may increase this fall when WSU welcomes its largest freshman class ever.

In addition to teaching and mentoring, our faculty continue to be highly productive scholars, researchers, and/or artists. Focusing on three cross-cutting themes—Cultural Understanding and International Relations, Just and Sustainable Societies and Policies, and Human Health and Well-Being—proposals for external funding continue to climb, and our success rate is 55 percent, which is outstanding in the highly competitive environment of federal agency funding. During the past fiscal year, 182 proposals were funded by external agencies, totaling more than $17 million. As reflected in the few highlights that follow, the range of funding sources and projects is impressive and as varied as is the college.

Multiple awards from the National Institutes of Health supported research that ranged from finding new pharmacologic therapies to treat alcoholism to helping an aging population live safely and independently in their homes for longer. The National Endowment for the Humanities funded a book project on the history of the American evangelical movement, a historical accounting of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and a national conference on civility in politics that was hosted by the Foley Institute in March. Through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a gift from the Boeing Company, and a partnership with the 4-H Youth Development Program, our arts faculty connected with Washington youth to provide thousands of children hands-on art lessons. We also received significant grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Not only are CLA faculty working to make a positive impact in Washington and the world, they are also being recognized for that work, as reflected in five recent Fulbright awards and recognition by national organizations for student mentoring and lifetime contributions. Within WSU, CLA was exceptionally well represented at WSU's Academic Showcase this year. Tim Kohler, regents professor in the Department of Anthropology, was selected to deliver the Distinguished Faculty Address; William "Bill" Lipe, professor emeritus of anthropology, received the Emeritus Society Legacy of Excellence Award; and Gregory Yasinitsky, regents professor in the School of Music, was presented with the Eminent Faculty Award. In addition, CLA associate dean Carol Ivory received the Association for Faculty Women's Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award.

In a time of extraordinary budget challenges, where state support for WSU has declined by 52 percent over the past three years, you may ask yourself how the college has been able to remain so productive. One reason is that the many dedicated teachers and accomplished scholars and artists on our faculty enabled me to highlight to higher administration the value and centrality of the College of Liberal Arts to WSU's mission and strategic goals. Their recognition of our value and centrality was reflected in smaller-than-average budget reductions for the college.

Although our reductions were lower than average, they were still very substantial. CLA departmental and college leaders have been both creative and effective in streamlining the college with regard to structure and efficiency, and that is a second reason for our continued productivity. Changes that already have occurred or will soon be realized include the creation of service centers that reduce administrative overhead and provide consistent administrative support for our academic units; the discontinuation of low-demand programs, including the Department of Theatre and Dance and the German major, in order to continue to sustain high-demand disciplines; relocation of the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences to WSU Spokane, where it will be aligned with the health science disciplines; and combining the Department of Women's Studies, Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies, and the American Studies Program to form the single Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies. In addition, CLA has received approval from the provost to move forward with the process of merging the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science into a single unit with a focus on policy, government, and public administration from normative, ethical, and empirical perspectives.

The third important reason for our continued success is the generosity of our alumni and friends. Your philanthropy has enabled us to continue to support excellent students and faculty in the college. In fact, a number of the large, federal grants highlighted earlier in this message resulted directly from "seed grants" provided through philanthropic dollars.

In short, it is because of the dedication of outstanding faculty, staff, and supporters, like you, that CLA continues to excel in teaching, research, artistic creativity, service, and outreach, but we still face significant and continuing budgetary challenges. Now more than ever we need your help. I once again ask you to consider investing in the College of Liberal Arts through The Campaign for Washington State University.

Your gift to support scholarships, faculty research and teaching, college initiatives, and college or department excellence funds will enable us to continue to provide the world-class education our students deserve, keep that education as affordable as possible, and facilitate faculty excellence in research and creative activity that positively impacts lives in Washington, the nation, and the world. For these reasons, I urge you to consider contributing to the college. Our development team, headed by director Ellen Jampol, is here to assist you and answer your questions. You can also visit our website for information on giving options at libarts.wsu.edu/give.

Best wishes,

Doug Epperson
Dean, College of Liberal Arts



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College of Liberal Arts, PO Box 642630, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-2630 • 509-335-4581 • Contact Us