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LSA Dean Anne Curzan gave the annual State of the College address to approximately 40 faculty and staff at Rackham Auditorium on Wednesday afternoon. This is the second in-person address given by Curzan in her time as Dean, and third overall.
As in 2019, Curzan opened by acknowledging that the University of Michigan is located on the land donated by the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Native American tribes and acknowledged “their profound contributions to this institution.”
Curzan then addressed the difficulty of the past twenty months, mentioning both the stress of returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic and “the reckoning with race, justice and anti-Black racism” within the United States.
Kierra Trotter, director of the Comprehensive Studies Program, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that she appreciated Curzan’s use of direct and precise language when dealing with sensitive topics.
“Last summer, when she was talking about anti-Black racism, she called it anti-Blackness,” Trotter said. “She called it racism. She called different events that are happening murders instead of deaths. And I appreciate that.”
A key part of Curzan’s plan to improve the college is to focus on LSA faculty and staff. Her emphasis on the people in LSA being the backbone of the college was a theme throughout the address.
Angelo Pitillo, director of the English Language Institute, said in an interview with The Daily that he is always impressed by the way that Curzan puts people at the forefront of her work.
In her discussion of the University’s commitment to research, Curzan said the expenditures last year for research reached close to $200 million despite the pandemic. She also mentioned that during 2020 and thus far in 2021, faculty and graduate students published over 3800 journal articles and over 90 books.
In reference to this year’s budget, Curzan acknowledged the many sacrifices that had to be made over the last year but said LSA will be expanding its non-essential spending going forward. She specifically cited a hiring search for two Disability Access Coordinators to support staff with issues of accessibility and renovations to the Willard H. Dow Chemistry Building with an environmentally conscious focus.
Curzan also announced the new LSA Meet the Moment Initiative. This initiative will support the $2 million LSA Change the World Award and the $250,000 LSA Vital Impact Award.
Curzan said she hopes this award will reward faculty and their teams to address pressing societal issues.
“This new opportunity will support interdisciplinary research with the goal of leveraging our strengths here in the college across fields to amplify the impact of pathbreaking research collaborations to contribute to positive, purposeful change in the world,” Curzan said.
To conclude the address, Curzan acknowledged many people’s hope that things return to their pre-pandemic state but said she hopes to embrace many of last year’s changes.
“I would like us in the college to aim for different positive narratives,” Curzan said. “That we take this moment as a chance to recreate how we work and learn and live and that we come back doing things differently, to align ourselves even more closely with our mission.”
In an interview with The Daily after the event, Curzan echoed the importance of facing racism and structural inequality head-on. She noted that her work both as a graduate student and a teacher helped her to understand some of the discrimination students face in the education system and said she had a responsibility to combat this in her work as Dean.
“I realized that as a linguist, my work mattered to create a more socially just world,” Curzan said. “As a teacher, my work matters to create classrooms where everyone can thrive. That’s why I stepped in as Dean, to elevate all the expertise we have in the college. This is the most important work we can do.”
Daily News Contributor Isabella Kassa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.