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Office of the Dean

January 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin a new year and a new decade, I am pleased to offer updates on two ongoing initiatives within the College and to highlight the work of some faculty members.

This semester will mark the implementation of the new CLA Core 21. Building upon the University Core Curriculum, new plans of study will be entered this semester to publish with the University Catalog in June. This will simplify our students’ academic paths and will remove barriers to students across campus who might pursue minors or second majors in our College. Thanks to all of those who were involved in developing the new core and to those who are working on new plans of study.

Building upon the work of the committee that developed our new Strategic Plan, six task forces have been hard at work since the middle of fall semester in an initial exploration of ways to prioritize initiatives identified within the plan. Continuing to work with consultant Rab Mukerjea, who assisted the original committee, those task forces are exploring how the ideas in the plan might be implemented. Over the course of spring semester, the task forces will share those among colleagues for input as we consider which ideas might be implemented quickly, which might unfold over time, and how they might be woven together for greatest impact. A priority is to focus on those ideas that differentiate the College and can advance us beyond our peers.

As we look to the future via the Strategic Plan, I also want to highlight the research of some of our assistant professors, those colleagues who will advance our College initiatives in the decades to come.

Assistant professor of history T. Cole Jones published Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution  (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). The book has received glowing reviews and Cole has been awarded the King’s College – London Georgian Papers Fellowship to conduct research at King’s College – London. He also recently published a piece in the Washington Post Made by History blog (edited by associate professor of history Kathryn Brownell) on the recent events involving Iran.

Assistant professor of anthropology Melanie Beasley was invited to serve as an isotope expert at a forensic workshop hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in South Africa. Thousands of migrants die each year along perilous routes in Africa and beyond, many without identification. The workshop is a collaborative humanitarian effort to help determine how stable isotope methods can be implemented to help identify migrants who die each year. Melanie was one of six isotope experts invited to the workshop and was the only junior faculty member invited.

Assistant professor of anthropology Andrew Flachs has received significant notice tied to his book, Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India  (University of Arizona Press, 2019). The book draws on ethnographic fieldwork with farmers growing genetically modified and organic cotton in Telangana, India. Andrew investigated the human responses to global agrarian change, including the dangers of pesticides, inequalities in rural life, the aspirations of people who grow fibers sent around the world, the place of ecological knowledge in modern agriculture, and even the complex threat of suicide. His work has been recognized globally.

Thanks to all of our assistant professors for joining us in the College and for your contributions to our scholarly portfolio.

Late in fall semester Al G. Wright Chair, Director of Bands, and Professor of Music Jay Gephart was recognized with a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor the governor bestows for distinguished service to the state. A handful of weeks later, the University announced that Bands and Orchestras will have their own building near Third and Russell streets with construction expected to begin in September. Congratulations to our Purdue Bands colleagues.

Congratulations as well to the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance, which entered into a partnership with the College of Engineering to create a new center for Entertainment and Engineering. In collaboration, those involved will solidify Purdue’s leadership at the nexus of live entertainment and engineering. Thank you to clinical associate professor of theatre Richard Dionne for leading this effort.

The National Endowment on Aging awarded Distinguished Professor of Sociology Jill Suitor a $755,000 grant to continue her research on “Within-Family Differences-Bereavement” along a with Purdue grant of $30,000 from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships for “Within-Family Dynamics and End-of-Life Processes.”

As spring semester began, we received the good news that Professor of Philosophy Michael Jacovides was selected for a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. The $60,000 fellowship will support his project, “Springs and Principles of the Universe: David Hume on Laws and Causes,” an examination of Hume’s theories of law and causation.

To conclude this brief recap of achievements, a word of thanks to Associate Professor of English and Director of the Writing Lab Harry Denny who is working closely with colleagues in Student Life on renovations that will relocate the Writing Lab in the Krach Leadership Center. The move will bring the important services of the Lab into the center of Purdue’s student life corridor. The new space is expected to open early in fall semester.

In all of these ways, we face the new decade with high expectations for the ways in which the College will continue to emerge as a leader in innovative liberal arts education and scholarship. It is shaping up to be a very productive semester. Please accept my thanks for your hard work and commitment to the College of Liberal Arts.

Best wishes for the semester.


David Reingold

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