“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences contributes significantly to the University of Illinois at Springfield’s aspiration to be a premier small public university with innovative high-quality liberal arts and professional programs.”
In fulfillment of our mission, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences remains committed to delivering a dynamic and challenging curriculum that combines the values of a liberal education with the practical knowledge and skills required to solve real-world problems. Our courses provide vibrant and valuable opportunities for student-faculty interaction, mentoring of student research and creative projects, and experiential learning through field placements. Drawing on existing strengths in study abroad and a general education curriculum with comparative and international perspectives, as well as emerging online partnerships with selected colleges and universities in other countries, we are becoming a model in globalizing the curriculum, and in preparing citizens for lifelong learning and effective participation in an interdependent, diverse, and rapidly changing world. We also work in interdisciplinary ways to address complex problems. Consistent with our history of accessibility, we provide a first class-liberal arts education to location- and time-bound through selected online degrees. We also contribute substantially to the campus and regional communities by sharing the talents and achievements of our faculty and students through public events and strive to make a difference in the world.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences aspires to teach students in a transformative environment that stimulates engagement with ideas, each other, and the world.
Statement of Strategic Intent
Our overriding intent is to support the University of Illinois at Springfield’s intention to become “one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the United States.” Accordingly, the College will create a premier liberal arts oriented educational experience – an experience reflecting many of the characteristics and best practices of small private liberal arts colleges – for both undergraduate students and graduate students, and for those on the physical campus as well as online. However, we will also develop a distinctive identity.
On the one hand our benchmark will be to attain the degree of excellence embodied in members of the prestigious Council on Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). On the other hand we will develop stretch ideas and distinguishing characteristics that will constitute a model both within and beyond this group. These are no small objectives.
It is especially important that CLAS attain its goals. It is the largest of the four colleges at the University of Illinois at Springfield, generating over 44% of the total UIS credit hour production and incorporating 45% of the UIS faculty (FY 06). The ability of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to rise to the challenge has important ramifications for UIS as a whole.
We lay out a pathway to a brilliant future that is concrete and attainable. It is based on an extensive analysis of the curricular offering and distinctive features of our aspirational peers in COPLAC as well as our regional competitors. We also examined our own comparative strengths and weaknesses. The following were our chief curricular findings:
- We are lacking in a number of majors/minors compared with regional competitors and COPLAC schools, and several existing majors need strengthening.
- We have areas of curricular strength that include a strong internship program, the only online liberal arts degrees among our competitors or COPLAC, a strong graduate program compared with all but one COPLAC school, and our GE program is a liberal arts model.
- We have opportunities to build on our existing and emerging strengths to construct a distinctive curriculum that would not only equal COPLAC but would be a national model in the areas of student engagement and active learning, globalization, diversity and interdisciplinarity. We can also establish a model liberal arts online campus that complements and interacts with that on the ground.
This strategic planning exercise has been both opportune and of great importance as we chart the future.
Strategic Goal # 1
Baseline curricular excellence depends upon offering a curriculum consistent with COPLAC and our regional competitors. To do so we first need to increase our number of majors and minors and enhance some existing programs. However, we will also go well beyond that.
The Actions we propose to establish a baseline of curricular excellence include enhancing breadth/depth in existing majors/minors; and creating new Majors (Theatre, Global Studies, and Journalism), new minors (Music, Art History, Physics/Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Pre Med, and Public Relations), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Studio).
Though many colleges have espoused globalization and diversity in the curriculum, few have attained it any systematic way. Similarly, though the importance of interdisciplinarity has long been recognized, its concrete realization in college curricula has been piecemeal. This is true of much of the COPLAC cohort and of our regional competitors. We can do better. Building upon our new and model general education curriculum (“Citizenship From Local to Global) we will enhance globalization in the curriculum by a series of steps including developing area studies tracks (starting with Latin America and Asia); instituting language Majors/Minors (Spanish, French) to complement our existing extensive introductory offerings; and expanding the number of courses with global content in existing disciplines. We will also systematically enhance diversity in the curriculum by strengthening Women’s/Gender Studies and African American Studies. Additional important steps directed towards globalization and diversity are also developed under Goal #2. Finally, we boldly pursue an objective that has remained elusive in higher education: interdisciplinarity. In addition to a variety of interdisciplinary fields of study, such as bioinformatics and global studies, as well as a variety of incremental interdisciplinary enhancements, we propose a radical reintegration of the sciences with the “arts” through a new and rigorous BA/BS degree to produce a new generation of leaders.
Strategic Goal #2
Intellectual engagement with ideas, each other and the world
Many of the curricular initiatives identified under Goal #2 will also bring us beyond baseline curricular excellence. Reflecting our vision statement “to teach students in a transformative environment that encourages imagination and intellectual engagement with ideas, each other, and the world,” we will encourage student-centered and active learning along multiple dimensions: undergraduate and graduate research/creative activities, service learning, global engagement and dialogue across difference in the classroom.
The robust expansion of research/creative opportunities in every discipline will not only align us with COPLAC norms, and help to create an intellectually vibrant campus, it will give us a distinctive edge regionally. This will be done through a research fund, an annual college-wide (or university-wide) student research conference, and establishing a student research journal for both on campus and online students. Upper-level Honors tracks, commonly involving a research component, are a common feature of premier liberal arts and sciences institutions. They are not widely available in CLAS and we will encourage their development.
On the graduate level we will also explicitly strengthen the graduate student culture/community through brown bags, research symposia, clubs and general opportunities for more peer interaction outside the classroom.
We will also enhance service learning. This is consistent with the pioneering role that SSU/UIS played in linking the classroom to the community through its AST Program. Such linkages are now considered “cutting edge” in American higher education, but our historic and current achievements are insufficiently recognized. We need to recapture momentum and visibility, and also further “mainstream’” service learning in appropriate courses.
We also believe we are uniquely positioned to develop a national reputation as a model for globalizing the curriculum through direct cross-cultural engagement. We will continue to support study abroad programs, and their expansion. We will also develop international internship experiences for grad students; and establish partnerships with third world NGO’s to provide international service learning opportunities. However, because of constraints of time and finances, only a minority of students are likely to participate in these “on the ground” opportunities. Online can provide an alternative. We will expand our pilot program of shared online courses involving ourselves and universities in other countries (currently Poland and Bangladesh), which encourage direct cross-cultural dialogue. Our online capacity can also be used in other ways to encourage cross-cultural contact, including marketing our programs to international students who currently make up less than 1% of online enrolments.
Engagement with each other and the world, and active student learning, also imply robust but respectful classroom discussions of difficult topics including diversity issues and differences of values. Civil and rational discourse is essential to the academy. Yet the current polarized political and cultural climate can on occasion lead to difficult classroom dynamics. We will structure thoughtful dialogues on our campus and join national coalitions that foster this. None of our regional competitors are similarly engaged and only two COPLAC schools, providing us with another opportunity for distinctiveness, and one entirely consistent with the historic involvement of UIS in public engagement.
We also have an opportunity to attain national eminence in providing a model online liberal arts “campus” that breaks down on-campus/off-campus boundaries. Peer learning and a rich co-curricular life are intrinsic to liberal arts and sciences excellence in traditional settings. Through the use of technology we will minimize the distinctions between the Springfield and online campus, and create a model for collegiate online learning. We will create a “gateway” online campus orientation; bring the on-ground campus online by web casting campus speakers and concerts; provide opportunities to interact with speakers; sponsor virtual “brown bags; create an online “global dialogues” course for online majors; create an online journal for student research with participation open to all students; and market the online campus as a unique opportunity for a high quality and engaged public liberal arts education.
Finally, we continue to embrace the SSU/UIS tradition of educational innovation. Accordingly, we will establish a fund to encourage educational innovations at the programmatic level. As we pursue our vision to become a premier liberal arts and sciences college, it is important that this tradition of innovation be retained, and that we are not merely imitative.
Strategic Goal #3
Mentoring and Faculty/Staff Development
There are important internal faculty and staff development issues to address in order for us to reach our goals. There has been a rapid turnover in senior faculty ranks due to retirements. Consequently over 60% of our faculty are young, imaginative, and energetic, but they are largely untenured. Faculty development and mentoring are of paramount importance as is recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty. Establishing college-level structures for effective faculty mentoring and development as teachers, advisors, academic leaders, scholars, professionals, and as individuals within an academic community is an urgent need. College growth and curricular change also places great demands on college staff who too need expanded professional development opportunities.
In addition to creating a faculty mentoring network, we will support workshops and discussions of pedagogy and grantsmanship, press for the establishment of informal meeting spaces, improve internal college communications, and establish programming for adjuncts. We also recognize the need for faculty load incentives to fully implement a college-wide and enhanced student research program, as well as the need for competitive opportunities for release time to encourage new areas of teaching expertise and to encourage scholarly/creative activity.
Strategic Goal #4
Making a Difference In The World
As the American Association of Colleges and Universities notes, the liberal arts and sciences free us from “the constraints of ignorance, sectarianism and myopia.” As such they are very directly relevant to the development of self-awareness, the construction of informed public policy, and effective citizen action. “Making a Difference in the World,” or public engagement, implies that we make knowledge accessible to the general public beyond familiar professional channels of dissemination. Our goal is to inspire public debate and to directly enrich community cultural and intellectual life. Accordingly, we will support public arts, humanities, social science and natural science programming, including Emiquon; participate in the “Imagining America Consortium” (a nation-wide public humanities initiative); support the forums or dialogues offered by the Center for State Policy and Leadership and other units.; make “Difficult Dialogue” expertise available to the community; enter into P-16 discussions; and establish a CLAS “Making a Difference” Award for students, staff, and faculty.
Strategic Goal #5
Strengthening college infrastructure and visibility
The College is a comparatively young one, and inherited a highly fluid administrative infrastructure as part of an earlier innovative SSU tradition. While fluidity helped to foster broad-based collaboration and numerous initiatives, it has also carried organizational costs into the present, among them an absence of “departments” or chairs as defined by the University of Illinois statutes. This sparse infrastructure no longer serves us well.
The ability of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to ensure a first-class learning environment, to manage further change and expansion, and to implement this Strategic Plan will depend in no small measure upon efficient operational systems and strengthened infrastructures including adequate staff in programs and in the college. We will encourage the development of a department/chair model in larger programs, some clustering of smaller ones and an enhanced Science Division and professional development for chairs. College administrative procedures will also be better documented and disseminated. Equipment, space, safety and facilities are also serious issues. As well, despite the College’s long tradition of path breaking academic innovations, these achievements and its current academic strengths are not well recognized externally. A clear communications message and coordinated marketing will be developed in consultation with relevant units. Building a committed base of alumni is also important to a strengthened college. Finally, enhanced staffing is essential as many new but important initiatives and duties have already been added to the college over the past four years, and absorbed largely by redeployment or as “add-ons”.
Stretch ideas for the college of liberal arts and sciences
In a profound sense much of this Strategic Plan is a “Stretch Idea” for the College of Arts and Sciences. We have taken very seriously the UIS statement of Strategic Intent to become one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the United States. We have analyzed and identified the benchmark curriculum, faculty/staff development and infrastructure to make us competitive with our COPLAC aspirational peers. However, we have also identified potential areas of exceptional excellence and distinctiveness to reach the very highest rankings, and ones consistent with our heritage.
35.0 (-8FTE/ estimated UIS plan overlap)
$160,000 ($100,000 non-recurring)
Space: 36- faculty offices; 6 additional program/staff offices; 9 GA offices; Performing/Visual Arts complex; Science project (5) & teaching (3) labs; Lounges (2).
Resource Procurement Strategy
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a constituent unit of UIS has limited internal sources of funding. Though we will be largely dependent upon centralized funding sources, we nevertheless will make every effort to secure internal college resources for a plan that we regard as vital to our collective future.
Resource Procurement Strategy #1 Centralized allocation.
Though some of the Strategic Thrusts developed in this plan can be achieved through CLAS internal resources, most will depend upon University commitments. There are many areas of overlap and synergy between CLAS Goals and those of the University. Future enrolment growth should bring additional revenue streams. Programs proposed by CLAS have the potential to attract new majors and increase application yields.
Resource Procurement Strategy #2 Donors
The following items that directly reflect CLAS needs are part of the UIS Campaign; globalizing the liberal arts; Arts Programming; Theatre and Visual Arts facilities; and the Emiquon Project. In addition, the following items relate to CLAS as well as other colleges: Student research support; Service-learning support; Endowed chairs/professorships; Faculty research support.
Resource Procurement Strategy #3 Course Fees
Given the substantial additional expenses involved in delivering science and many studio art courses, a case can be made for special lab course fees in these courses.
Resource Procurement Strategy #4 Grants
We will pursue grant opportunities both for curricular initiatives but also for faculty research and equipment (sciences).
Resource Procurement Strategy #5 Continuing Education Revenue
We believe we can develop a modest revenue stream by mounting continuing education classes, and have already initiated an online pilot project.
Resource Procurement Strategy #6 Annual budget reallocation
The College will attempt to find a minimum of $25,000 per year internally to fund initiatives. This represents a substantial undertaking for our college budget.
Resource Procurement Strategy #7 Reallocated faculty/staff time
Internal reallocations of faculty effort have already taken place as part of the lower division expansion. Some modest further reallocations are possible, but the more realistic option is shared lines and cross-listed courses to maximize efficiency. In addition, some initiatives will involve faculty on special assignment (“NIAs”). Existing staff will also assume additional responsibilities in some instances.