Skip to main content
Photo of the Purdue drum statue.

Office of the Dean

January 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to campus. As we begin the new year, I want to share some thoughts on the coming semester and to celebrate the work of some faculty members.

Before doing so, I can’t help but reflect on a few milestones. The middle of this semester will mark the start of my eighth year as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University. Looking back on what we have been able to accomplish and the outstanding team of leaders we have assembled, I continue to believe in our effort to help establish a new model of liberal arts education and scholarship at the state’s top public research university. When Fast Company magazine named Purdue the only university of its list of Brands That Matter, the Degree in Three program, launched in the College and now offered across campus, was noted among the University’s top innovations. That is one very public measure of progress toward our goal of emerging as a leader in innovative liberal arts education and scholarship. While we have made much progress towards this goal, much work remains. I continue to be energized by the task and look forward to advancing these efforts with you.

As I write this letter, the pandemic continues to take its toll on our world and our industry, and it continues to substantially disrupt many parts of our daily lives. Purdue University made a commitment early on to do whatever was necessary to maintain its in-person educational and research operations. Over the past two years and continuing into the current semester, the College of Liberal Arts has delivered the majority of our classes in-person and has provided hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. This collective effort, notably including faculty and staff across the College, positioned Purdue to stand apart from its peers for its determination to affirm the essence of university life which depends on bringing human beings together in a physical space to help cultivate their minds and hearts. Our success in the College at delivering one in five credit hours on this campus with so many in-person classes is one of the main reasons a record number of prospective students decided last fall West Lafayette offered the higher education experience they wanted. As an example, with over 4,000 students from across campus taking classes this fall in the first year of the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program, our faculty rose to the challenge, offering almost all of those sections in-person, and surpassing expectations of what could be achieved during the worst public health crisis in a century. I continue to be extremely proud of our collective efforts to remain true to our educational and research mission.

In that spirit, it was a real joy to participate in our in-person winter commencement which was back in the iconic setting of Elliott Hall. Our very own 150 th Anniversary Professor and Distinguished Professor of History Randy Roberts delivered his first ever commencement address to doctoral graduates from across the university. I believe this is the first time a College of Liberal Arts faculty member has been given the honor of delivering a Purdue commencement address. His remarks were lucid and piercing, reminding graduates of the need to listen to those whose point-of-view may not be in favor or well-received by the crowd. Professor Roberts is one of Purdue’s most outstanding scholars, and it was wonderful to see him address this winter’s doctoral graduates.

A good bit of my time this fall semester has been spent working to implement the new Civics Literacy graduation requirement for all incoming Purdue undergraduate students. I was humbled to be asked by President Daniels to lead the implementation effort for the campus and the Purdue system. In partnership with Professor Robert Browning (Political Science/Lamb School of Communication), Professor Jay McCann (Political Science), Professor Phil Van Fossen (Education), and an expansive team of colleagues from across many administrative units of the university, we successfully launched the new graduation requirement and the civics literacy exam. Much work remains on this critically important initiative for the University. The College will continue to play a central role through its ongoing faculty involvement, and I will chair the University’s Civics Literacy Advisory Group.

As many of our organizational rituals returned to something familiar, across the College we are hard at work continuing to shape our future, thanks to nearly $3.5M in recurring investment from the Central Administration and the Office of the Provost. Search committees are deeply engaged in over 40 faculty hires, and some have successfully completed their work. I am proud that we highlighted our commitment to freedom of inquiry with our job ads, inviting applicants to tell us how they can contribute to freedom of expression, a commitment (often referred to as the Chicago Principles) adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2015. The vast majority of these hires are grounded in our ongoing efforts to integrate our disciplines within the landscape of a future which is increasingly defined by rapid technological advancement and pathbreaking scientific discovery. In many ways, the new faculty we recruit this year and in the next several years will define and redefine the social sciences, humanities, and arts at Purdue and beyond. Again, thank you to all of the faculty who are serving on search committees and those meeting with prospective colleagues.

I am particularly proud of the continued research and creative endeavor of our faculty amid these complicated times. That work has resulted in significant external grant support for Professor of Sociology Fenggang Yang and his Center on Religion and the Global East (Templeton Foundation, $2,050,493); Associate Professor of Anthropology Ian Lindsay and the ROSETTA Initiative, directed by Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education Sorin Matei (National Science Foundation, $1,000,000); Lamb School faculty ( I-HOPE/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $750,000); Professor of Philosophy Daniel Smith’s Deleuze Seminars Project (National Endowment for the Humanities, $299,276); and Professor of Political Science Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, $200,000). Please join me in congratulating these colleagues on their work.

With generous investment from the Provost and additional funds from the College, we continue to review applications for our faculty and graduate student support programs, Aspire ($425,000), PROMISE ($200,000), Engage ($100,000), and Create ($50,000). Where those programs can assist your scholarship, I encourage you to apply.

These are only a few stories of our recent achievements. Across the College, faculty and staff continue to contribute to our shared success. 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