Building and sustaining a sense of community is one of the hallmarks of CLA, and the past year has reinforced just how important community is.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the killing of George Floyd to a bitterly-contested election, our communities have faced incredible pressures. How do we maintain a sense of community when we can’t even get together in person? How do we rebuild ties that have been frayed by political divisions? How do we change our communities to make them genuinely inclusive for all? These are difficult questions without easy answers, and we all continue to grapple with them.
At the same time, the past year has shown us how the hallmarks of a liberal arts education--critical thinking, recognizing connections between different issue-areas, the importance of engagement, a commitment to diversity and justice, fostering innovation, and building sustainable systems--give us the tools that allow communities to emerge, flourish, and thrive. We may engage with our communities in different ways these days, but the connections can be just as meaningful.
The stories in this issue of CLArion provide some wonderful examples of how CLA alumni, students, staff, and faculty have found new ways to create and sustain our communities. As you read the stories, I hope that you feel the same sense of hope, admiration, and optimism that I do.
Building and sustaining this sense of community is happening within the college, too. This past July 1st, the merger between the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Fine Arts became official—and one of our most important (and ongoing) tasks is creating a sense of community among the students, staff, and faculty in ten different departments in the fine arts, humanities, and social sciences.
As part of this process, the college has spent much of this year engaging with each other around coming up with a new name--something that reflects the diversity and wide range of programs that we offer and celebrates everything that our college has to offer. By the time you read this, the Board of Regents may even have approved our new name. Stay tuned!
Once our new name is official, we’ll be working together—as a community—to craft a new constitution for the college, along with a mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan. These frameworks will help guide us as we move into the future, and they will be developed through collaborative processes that bring us all together to reflect who we are and who we want to be. These discussions are key parts of building our shared community, and I look forward to sharing the results of our efforts with all of you in the coming months and years.
Our CLA community is strong, and I appreciate all of you being a part of it.