Though the University’s Museum of Modern Art offers a number of renowned exhibitions, Tuesday night at the UMMA was as much about literature and science as the arts.
LSA Dean Andrew Martin, who assumed the dean’s office in September 2014, held a discussion with students in the Multipurpose Room of the UMMA, where he explained both his short- and long-term administrative goals. He held a similar discussion in November.
The chat follows the inauguration of five new minors by LSA for this year’s winter term: Yiddish Studies, Arab and Muslim American Culture, Art and Design, Intergroup Relations Education and Entrepreneurship.
Martin spoke to about 20 students on a variety of issues, including interdisciplinary studies, the Race and Ethnicity requirement and his main priorities as LSA dean over the next few years.
He said one of his main goals as an administrator is to ensure all classes are engaging for both students and faculty.
“The environment that I’d like to create for the faculty is an environment that encourages collaboration and encourages experimentation and is a place where different types of approaches are embraced, to see if they work,” he said. “And if they don’t work we will get rid of them.”
He noted that he would like to maintain the University’s academic excellence, and added that having a competitive faculty body contributes to that high quality.
“University of Michigan is one of the world’s greatest universities, and LSA is the country’s best liberal arts college,” Martin said. “We are the best liberal arts college because we have the best faculty in the country across the board. Across all three divisions we have world-class scholars who are doing state of the art research and are teaching undergraduates every year.”
To maintain a high level of excellence, Martin said LSA is planning to review its Race and Ethnicity requirement. He added that Angela Dillard, the recently appointed associate dean for undergraduate education, will spearhead this effort, working with students and faculty to evaluate the requirement and amass feedback.
He said it would be interesting to further integrate the Race and Ethnicity requirement into the LSA curriculum by potentially granting more upper-level classes R&E certification.
Last year, the Black Student Union called on the University to adopt a R&E requirement across all of its schools and colleges as part of their demands to address campus climate and diversity.
On this subject, Martin also said one of his main focuses is diversity for undergraduate students and among faculty. He wants to see low rates of attrition across all demographics. He added that faculty diversity has decreased over the last decade possibly due to lack of strategy.
“I will be, in the next month or so, charging a task force with the job of radically rethinking the way in which we do recruitment and retention with the eye of non-incrementally improving the diversity of our faculty,” he said.
Martin added that he wants to make access to the University easier through scholarships and financial aid. He stressed that the University’s national standing with regard to provision of aid needs to improve.
LSA junior Ananya Mukundan, who went to the event because she wished to learn Martin’s mission and his plans for improving the campus, said she liked his discussion on diversity.
“It’s really important that we have frank discussions about diversity and how even faculty have to get diversity training, not just students, and so I really liked hearing about that,” she said.
Martin also discussed interdisciplinary degrees. He noted that LSA’s collaboration with some schools like the School of Education and Ross School of Business is better than it is with others.
He said physical distance between LSA and the College of Engineering, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance had been a problem in the past — and added that he wants to work closer with them in the future. Martin also informed the students that some LSA classes will be taught on North Campus starting in Fall 2015.
“I think the thing that would be most helpful for my perspective would be for you students as a group to think about what are those interdisciplinary cross-school undergraduate experiences that would be most beneficial to you,” he said.
LSA junior Jennifer Liu, also a Business student, said she attended the event to learn more about the expanding interdisciplinary nature of LSA. As a dual major, she said she feels there is animosity and unnecessary separation among schools.
“What he said was promising from his point of view, but what I would like to see is engagement across all different colleges on campus and I think that is going to take a lot more time and a lot more effort,” she said, adding that she would like to hear from a panel of deans from across the University’s colleges.
“I was surprised and somewhat happy with how blunt he was,” Liu added. “I think Dean Martin comes across as someone who wants to be honest with the students and who is here to learn.”