Creating a CLA identity

Incoming CLA dean John Coleman should work to build a sense of community among CLA graduates.

The University of Minnesota announced Jan. 8 that John Coleman, who has served as political science department chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2007, is set to become the next College of Liberal Arts dean in July, pending Board of Regents approval.

CLA is the University’s largest college and boasts 15,864 students and more than 60 majors. It has taken more than $30 million in state budget cuts since 2008.

After turning things around for Madison’s political science department, Coleman is expected to make similar improvements to CLA. Coleman told the Minnesota Daily on Jan. 23 that he plans to develop more relationships with University alumni to gain their financial support and to improve employment opportunities for CLA graduates.

Coleman is on the right track with his strategy for boosting CLA. Administrators in the college should work to enhance the alumni network, taking advantage of the great number of CLA graduates.

To improve future and current relations with alumni, Coleman and his staff should begin with a broad discussion of how to make the CLA identity stronger. Other colleges at the University, such as the College of Biological Sciences and the Carlson School of Management, have distinct identities, which facilitate an important sense of community among students, professors and graduates.

By virtue of the wide range of academic disciplines CLA offers, creating a similar community within the college is more difficult. But by stressing the valuable skills all CLA degrees teach — such as how to think critically, communicate effectively and to have a deeper appreciation of the world around us — the college can build an identity. An identity would cause students to take pride in CLA, leading alumni to feel connected long after graduation.