Newly appointed LSA Dean Anne Curzan gave the annual state of the LSA college address to a room of approximately 20 students and 100 faculty members Monday in Rackham Auditorium.
Curzan began the address by sharing a bit about her work and some of her goals, such as improving the lives of people at a local and global level through sharing research information. Topics throughout the presentation ranged from community well-being, purpose, budget and recent exciting events in LSA.
Curzan began by acknowledging the Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomy people who donated pieces of land to the University of Michigan in hopes that their children would gain the opportunity to be educated at the University. She said she hopes to continue to foster a community that is purposefully inclusive and equitable for all. Curzan also encouraged students to come to her with additional concerns.
“Please know that my door is always metaphorically open, if it is not physically open,” Curzan said.
Additionally, Curzan spoke about new projects at the University such as the Laptop Program. The student-initiated project provides a laptop to University students who may not otherwise have access to one. She also discussed the Kessler Presidential Scholars Program, a program for first generation college students and often times first generation Americans from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The Kessler Scholars Program provides support networks and has an 82 percent graduation rate within four years.
Curzan also mentioned political commentator Van Jones’ sentiments from the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion keynote event from earlier on Monday. Jones discussed the burden minority groups have as educators for those who discriminate against them. Curzan said she hopes LSA continues to be a place where conversations between people of all backgrounds take place.
“Van Jones was talking about that this morning, in terms of saying that often it is the minority groups who are marginalized and they keep taking the burden, and have to keep educating,” Curzan said. “Van Jones said this morning said ‘It is not fair, and it is necessary,’ and I think these are the conversations we need to continue to have in terms of how we want to talk about this.”
Rackham student Jason Godfrey said that he really enjoyed the event. Because he knows Curzan on a personal level, he said, he appreciated her sentiments about her ideas for the future.
“It was amazing,” Godfrey said. “I think that Anne is an amazing leader. I’m from the English program and so I’ve been able to interface with her in a couple more personal settings and she’s always been so warm and so kind but also has a really clear direction for what needs to be done and she’s able to enact it.”
Curzan made an ending statement in which she shared how excited she is to put her all into the role of LSA dean.
“I am extremely honored to be working with all of you,” Curzan said. “I promise you that I will work very, very hard for this college. I take the responsibility of being the college’s dean with the utmost seriousness. I will aim to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity for the college. I also know that the best ideas come from everywhere and I’m excited to listen and learn from all of you in the years to come, across the breadth of the college.”
In a question and answer session after the address, Adam Eickmeyer, who works for the Health Science Scholars Program as an academic director, shared about his experience working with students after the 2016 presidential elections.
“My first semester teaching at Michigan after going to undergrad and grad school here was fall of 2016 and a lot of things happened that semester, if you remember,” Eickmeyer said. “A lot of students were hurt and confused, a lot of faculty were hurt and confused as to how to deal with everything and how to make sure that our students, no matter what they thought felt heard and felt valued.”
Curzan answered this question by emphasizing the need to have conversations with diverse perspectives.
“It’s something we are going to need to continue to work on,” Curzan said. “I honestly think that the work that we do in LSA is critical to the education we need, to be able to participate in conversations with people whose perspectives are not yours.”