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A Once-In-A-Generation Opportunity

Earlier this month, I sent a note to all CAS heads outlining the process for requesting tenure track searches in AY18-19 as part of the Provost-led Institutional Hiring Plan (IHP). To give you further context for hiring priorities, I want to share the evolving CAS vision document that I and others have been developing for the college since last July (download the vision statement).

This vision, which I have discussed previously with department heads, the Senate, campus leadership, and our CAS Advisory Board, establishes a framework for priority-setting for the next several years. Among its many uses, I hope this document helps you think strategically about your requests for tenure track lines for your departments or your clusters.

As you will see, the vision strongly emphasizes the idea that, in addition to individual discipline-based faculty lines, we should work to create nodes of collaborative faculty excellence that address pressing social and scientific needs of our time—and also speak powerfully to student academic and career interests. Successful hiring proposals will be distinguished by their support of one or more of these priorities.

But beyond the IHP, I hope our vision prompts even deeper college-wide conversations about how to improve the student experience and how departments want to direct their research agendas. I am very hopeful that this plan will engage the CAS community, because it relies on CAS faculty and staff to bring their best ideas forward to help shape the future of our collective success.

In fact, I believe we are on the verge of a once-in-a-generation transformation. In the 1960s and 70s, higher education was reimagined by a new wave of faculty and a profound critique and reinvention of curriculum. It is increasingly clear that we are in the midst of a similar sea change; our vision for CAS is designed to shape the future of the UO for decades to come—relying on the imagination and leadership of our faculty to create the forward-thinking research and teaching initiatives that will define us.

Why a Vision? Why Now?

Why develop and share a vision statement now? It was helpful to have a prompt from my new boss: One of the first things our new provost, Jayanth Banavar, did when he arrived last summer was ask all of the deans to create a vision for their colleges. Recognizing that vision statements are a dime a dozen in higher education (and often go on for 100 pages, aspiring to do everything under the sun), the CAS deans undertook to craft a concise, relevant statement for our college that builds on our strengths and our potential for capitalizing on those strengths.

First and foremost, we recognized that we have many assets to build from:

  • The quality of our existing faculty, their commitment to excellence, and their longtime track record of collaborative endeavor
  • Major initiatives undertaken over the past four years, which have included:
    • The most aggressive tenure track faculty hiring program in the history of CAS
    • A first-ever college-wide Diversity Action Plan
    • The largest development campaign in our history
    • An ongoing rethinking of programs for student advising
    • Launching the design and construction of Tykeson Hall, a building designed for student success, scheduled to open in Fall 2019
    • Major science lab improvements
    • Efforts to revitalize student interest in our languages and humanities
    • And many, many more efforts ranging from individual activities to the college-wide development of personnel and management systems.

Proceeding from this baseline of strength, I originally thought the best approach to producing a vision for the provost would be to ask the divisional deans (Karen Ford, Hal Sadofsky and Phil Scher) to write separate plans for the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, respectively. Each of them delivered a well-considered divisional plan, but we soon realized that we needed a cohesive, simplified vision that unites the entire college. Accordingly, we distilled the many aspirations for our divisions into two main college-wide goals:

The UO College of Arts and Sciences will be a leader among public research universities in preparing students for lifetime success, by:

  • Reinventing both advising and undergraduate curriculum to dramatically improve both academic and career success;
  • Rewarding and recruiting faculty who 1) pursue solutions to social and scientific needs, 2) advance our curriculum, and 3) model for students the modern collaborative workplace.

You will notice these goals foreground student success, which is intentional. We must articulate our vision to many constituents besides ourselves—prospective and current students, parents, alumni, donors, etc.—and framing academics, advising and research in terms of student benefit is designed to help the rest of the world embrace our collective purpose: to help students “do well” as they pursue their passion for “doing good.” (More on this later.)

Student-Centered, Faculty Led

As the vision statement makes clear: we aspire to be student-centered in the context of being faculty-led. Faculty are the engines of both research and educational excellence, and our goals for attaining national leadership must focus on initiatives that engage, support, and build our faculty. As you know, President Schill aims to advance our AAU status by increasing our numbers of research faculty, many of whom will be in CAS. Concurrently, dozens of CAS faculty retirements are taking place, allowing us to realign our hiring priorities to emphasize major social and scientific issues. In 2017, there was a 9% turnover in CAS faculty; we will have a similar turnover in this year, perhaps a total of 40% in a matter of just a few years.

We will call upon—and reward—both current and future faculty to propose bold new research agendas, reinvent the curriculum, and reimagine their deep involvement with our students through their research, their classroom activities, and their role as advisors and mentors. Our success will depend on our faculty joining together in an energized intellectual community that embodies the Oregon spirit and our long-term commitment to the ideals of public education.

Along with our necessary emphasis on faculty, we must also focus on our staff, who play an essential role in realizing our vision. Our staff are leaders in student advising, personnel management, diversity innovations, and the development of management solutions that support all our daily operations.

Do Well, Do Good

Together, all of our activities are in service of guiding future generations to “do well and do good.” One of the abiding characteristics of UO undergraduates is their earnest desire to make a positive difference in the world (do good). At the same time, today’s students also feel intense pressure to graduate on time, succeed academically, and make the best use of family resources (do well). They worry about their future job prospects in a world that is evolving at dizzying speed.

It is our obligation to help students both do well and do good. The vision helps guide our efforts in this regard. Collectively, we will accomplish this through:

  • Modernizing our advising and curricula to directly address the aspirations and needs of the modern student,
  • Rewarding and recruiting faculty who specialize in areas of highest relevance to today’s society and our students,
  • Promoting team approaches to problem-solving, and
  • Demonstrating to students the relevance of skills acquired throughout the liberal arts—not only in their own fields but also in collaboration with colleagues across disciplines (thus learning from their faculty mentors how to navigate the increasingly permeable boundaries of today’s workplace).

This vision and the objectives we will pursue to attain it will, by their very definition, evolve. This is a process vision, not a fixed vision. The goals we set and the measures we follow will be informed by the evolving expertise and opinions of our faculty and staff, the changing issues of our time, and—most critically—the changing needs and skill sets of our students.

I encourage you to join me in helping to bring this vision to life for our students and our entire community. We are at a pivotal moment, with a profound opportunity to transform our curriculum and research profile to serve future generations in imaginative new ways.

In the near-term, you are invited to participate in this vision and crafting our future through the many collaborative efforts already underway, including: the Institutional Hiring Plan process, the college- and university-wide Tykeson working groups, the many planning committees at work in venues ranging from University Senate Committees to the Knight Campus Advisory Board to our department-level diversity committees and curricular planning groups. The decisions made in these settings help launch us on our new trajectory; now is the time to be engaged.

Andrew Marcus
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences



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