Convocation held for College of LAS

Dan Mackenzie

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had its annual convocation Wednesday evening to welcome new faculty and recognize outstanding staff. The ceremony was in the Sun Room at Memorial Union, with a reception afterward.

The new dean of the College, Beate Schmittmann, led the event by giving a “state of the college” address to give her vision of where the college will be in the next few years.

Schmittmann, who has been with the college for only six months, said during her interview process she heard consistently the college needs more faculty members, increased salaries to remain competitive and most of all to build an identity for the college. 

All three will be key issues during her tenure, she said.

Schmittmann also said she envisions several key research fields that will give it an identity within the academic world. 

While the idea is still in its infancy, suggestions for the areas of focus are complex materials, biological structures and systems, environment and sustainability, and educating global citizens.

Schmittmann said ideally all of the programs within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences would participate in the program by encouraging students and scholars to contribute to the proposed areas; however the five specific areas are still up for debate.

After the event, Schmitt-mann said that her first six months have been “a great experience and a real challenge.”

Among the most challenging aspects, she said, was dealing with the sheer size of the college. 

“Names, faces and personal stories take a while [to memorize],” she said. “I tell people I’m on this spiral, and each time I go around I get a little bit deeper.”

After the state of the college address, Arne Hallam,  the college’s associate dean, introduced and welcomed new faculty. This year the college has a net gain of 11 new tenured or tenure-track positions. 

This is welcome relief for the college as the past two years have seen net losses of 20 positions in 2009 and 29 positions in 2009.

Finally, awards were handed out for various achievements including acknowledgements for outstanding teaching, endowed chairs and research achievements.