Looking Back on Spring 2012

Dean Beth Wright

This has been a whirlwind semester, and one of many “firsts.”

College Park Center opened in February. On May 12th we will have our first graduation ceremony there. Because it holds 7,000 people, all of the graduating Liberal Arts students – nearly 800 of them – and their friends and family will be able to celebrate that wonderful milestone together.

Last week we had another “first” — a celebration of the College and University awards for achievements by students, faculty and staff in the College of Liberal Arts: acCOLAdes. We applauded the student teams who have represented us in Model NATO in Washington, D.C. and in the International Mediation Moot Court Competition in Vienna, Austria; the Archer Fellows who take courses in Washington, D.C. and hold internships in federal agencies, the White House, the U.S. Department of State, and non-profit organizations; the students winning awards in the ACES competition; and the many COLA scholars whose exceptional achievements were recognized by their departmental advisors.

Two “firsts” were celebrated in acCOLAdes: two endowed centers had their funds mature so that they could begin to fund awards for students and to faculty. The Charles McDowell Center for Critical Languages and Area Global Studies awarded grants for undergraduate students to study in Argentina, Jordan, Korea, Rome and Russia, and for faculty to engage in research and creative activity in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Sierra Leone. The Mustaque Ahmed Festival of Ideas Global Research Institute designated its first graduate student recipients and its first faculty fellow for research on the significant topic: “Immigration, Migration, and Diaspora.” It is wonderful to see the impact of the generous support of our friends in the community.

We also celebrated the national and international recognition of our students. Throughout this year we’ve learned of many reasons to celebrate. A senior major in Broadcast Communication won the national Mercury Award for best radio public service announcement. A senior double major in Political Science and Philosophy was awarded a U.S. Department of State internship in the American Embassy in the Vatican City during Spring 2012. A master’s student in Anthropology (on his very first excavation in Italy) discovered what may be the earliest representation of childbirth in Western art. He is supported by a National Science Foundation fellowship. He is legally blind. And remember the Moot Court competition in Vienna? Our team was the only team (of 300 teams there) comprised of undergraduates (majors in Political Science and Modern Languages). They performed alongside teams from Harvard and Oxford – and were repeatedly complimented (and even won some of their meets!). Our students are magnificent.

One significant reason for stellar student achievement: our magnificent faculty. Dr. Ken Roemer (Professor of English) was given the Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring: the first time that a faculty member in the college of Liberal Arts has won this award. Yake’ Smith’s first full-length film, Wolf, won first place in the Texas Competition in the Dallas International Film Festival. We are very proud of our exceptional faculty and the students whose education, research scholarship, and creative activity are being nurtured and advanced through their efforts.

We are hiring 13 impressive tenure-stream faculty members: Guggenheim winners, U.S. Department of State interns, holders of NSF grants. They accepted our offer because they want to work with our wonderful faculty and students, and they value what we are already doing.

Our generous supporters value what we are doing as well. We appreciate the funds which are coming to us in Dean’s Excellence (where they support undergraduate scholarships, graduate student research travel and conference presentation, faculty scholarship and presentation, visiting lecturers and many other aspects of our scholarly and creative activity) and in the establishment of student scholarships. Five thousand undergraduate and graduate students thank you!

During the summer we’ll continue to teach, to engage in research, to study (at home and abroad), to enlighten the community. Two faculty members will be Fulbright Fellows. Another will be participating in an NEH seminar in Oxford, London and Antwerp. I know that it will be a wonderful creative and productive time for all of us. And when we return in August we’ll let you know some of the ways our faculty and our students have been using their knowledge and their talents to have an impact in their discipline, their community, and around the world. For now – let’s celebrate the achievements of Spring 2012. Congratulations!

Dr. Beth Wright
Dean of Liberal Arts

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