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Office of the Dean

May 2015

Dear Colleagues,

As the semester winds to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on my first two months at Purdue and to share with you my vision for our College looking forward.

First, let me express my sincere appreciation to all members of the College of Liberal Arts faculty and staff. I am grateful for your help as I have worked quickly to learn about our programs. Your generosity in helping me and your dedication to this College are a constant reminder that coming to Purdue was a great decision.

I have been struck time and again by the seriousness of this place. Whether it is our faculty in their teaching and research, our staff in support of the College, our students in both curricular and co-curricular activities, our alumni in a host of impressive careers, there is a deep commitment not merely to the work in front of us but to the world around us.

That commitment to being a force for good has been central to my professional career, and I think it provides the roadmap for Purdue Liberal Arts as we move forward.

As I have met more and more people associated with this College, I have learned that our faculty, staff, students, and alumni have consistently found meaningful ways to have an impact in the world. Collectively, the people of Purdue Liberal Arts have found ways to parlay their liberal arts education to solve problems as productive, engaged members of society.

It is worth reminding us that the development of a productive, educated, and engaged citizenry was the central reason for the passage of the Morrill Act – which created Purdue University and the idea of comprehensive, research intensive land-grant universities. The law was adopted to help advance the nation by ensuring a citizenry who could effectively engage in self-governance.

Despite evidence which supports our claims for relevance, I am struck by the number of students who feel a need to defend their decision to study the social sciences, humanities and/or arts but lack the narrative to do so. Equally troubling is the sense from many of our colleagues who express feelings of defensiveness, who feel that Liberal Arts at Purdue is perceived as a lesser part of the institution.

That stops now.

It is time for a new chapter.

No longer will our faculty apologize for their commitment to the Liberal Arts.

No longer will our faculty present themselves as second-class university citizens.

No longer will our students have to find their own way.

No longer will people wonder exactly what we do.

Looking forward, Purdue Liberal Arts will set our students on paths to success and impact whether their aspirations are for careers in the business world or the non-profit world, in academia or public service. We will celebrate the import of our faculty scholarship and the relevance of our disciplines. Collectively, we will be a force for good in the world.

We will do that by:

  • Ensuring that students graduate with sought-after, tangible, evident skills that will help them secure jobs and grow throughout their careers, and developing new courses and areas of study with that in mind.
  • Promising that all students will have an opportunity to pursue a meaningful internship or research experience, as well as cultivate a relationship with an alumni mentor.
  • Nurturing the next generation of scholars by fostering more research opportunities and collaborative faculty partnerships and providing our graduate students with the best blend of teaching and research to move them toward professional and academic success.
  • Articulating the benefits of studying the Liberal Arts in ways that resonate with prospective students and their parents as well as potential employers.
  • Lighting the way to paths of study, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences to move students toward their goals, while guiding those with a unique vision to create paths we have not yet envisioned.
  • Leveraging the College to build relationships with employers to enable students to complement their academics with practical work experience in the form of internships and to provide graduates with more employment opportunities.
  • Creating purposeful, integrated academic tracks for students with majors outside the Liberal Arts who want to include a Liberal Arts component to enhance their Purdue academic experience.
  • Nurturing faculty and graduate student research opportunities by creating a climate that empowers researchers to pursue external funding and promote important research.
  • Strengthening our graduate programs so more of our students are able to compete for positions at research intensive institutions of higher education, while providing meaningful support to graduate students who opt to pursue quality non-academic careers.
  • Championing the teaching and research accomplishments of Liberal Arts faculty, staff, students, and alumni with internal and external constituents.
  • Moving toward greater financial independence through increased private fundraising success and the addition of revenue-generating professional master’s degree programs.
  • Stepping up as a voice in the national conversation that champions the Liberal Arts as a force for good in the world.

The College of Liberal Arts will push all Purdue students intellectually, challenging them to be independent thinkers who drive decision making as bold, visionary leaders. Liberal Arts students will gain the skills that position them to improve society, push the bounds of creativity, generate ideas that propel economic growth, and advance the common good. Liberal Arts students will learn to think broadly in an increasingly complex world and to lead boldly as productive, engaged members of their communities.

I am mindful that Purdue University has a tradition of setting its own course. It has its own compass, and it moves in directions based on what is best for the institution. This organizational attribute has served the institution well since its founding in 1869. I embrace this tradition and am determined to guide us forward in ways that honor our past but do not constrain our imagination or limit our future. 

It is a bold agenda, one that will demand all of the best of our collective talents as we build upon a strong foundation to elevate the reputation and impact of Purdue Liberal Arts and Purdue University Our provost, Debasish Dutta, recently quoted the 1929 inaugural address of University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins. He said: “If the first faculty had met in a tent, this still would have been a great university.” Great universities are defined by the people who inhabit them. It is our responsibility to work towards excellence in all that we do.  I am confident we can rise to the occasion and redefine the liberal arts for the 21st century.

Over the summer, I will put the leadership team in place that will help develop the plan that will move us forward. When school resumes in August, I anticipate lively, thoughtful discussions among our various constituents as we talk about how best to move this College toward ever greater success.

In my time on campus, I have been consistently impressed by the rich traditions of the College. I look to each of you as we embrace a future that expands upon the potential for Purdue Liberal Arts to be a force for good in the world.

Best wishes for a productive and restorative summer. I look forward to working with each of you in the months and years to come.


David Reingold

David A. Reingold
Justin S. Morrill Dean of Liberal Arts