From the Dean: Welcome Message for Faculty and Staff, Fall 2022
August 19, 2022
Dear CLAHS Colleagues:
What a glorious time of year. My spirits lift each August as students and their loved ones arrive on this picturesque campus, arms full of boxes, and hearts brimming with excitement. The beginning of the fall semester serves as a time of replenishment and connection. Academic buildings and faculty lounges are abuzz. Final drafts of syllabi entering Canvas. Advisors prepping their offices and minds to welcome students. Throughout all my years in higher education, this time of optimism and elation serves as a perennial reminder of the beauty of higher education and our vital role in society.
It's my honor and pleasure to welcome you to the 2022-2023 academic year in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. For faculty and staff who are new to our vibrant college, thank you for joining us. For returning employees, thank you for your continued commitment to students, colleagues, and our entire college community.
As we begin a new academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the college’s leadership team continues to prioritize the safety of our employees and students. We will work to ensure school and department leaders are kept abreast of the latest university guidance. COVID-19 related news and resources for the Virginia Tech community are also available at ready.vt.edu. We recognize the pandemic is ongoing, and we pledge to continue operating with the best interests of our employees and students in mind.
I have led this remarkable college since fall 2019, shortly before the pandemic began, and I remain in awe of the perseverance of our faculty and staff. I know these past 2.5 years have been especially challenging for many of you on a personal level. As we navigate this phase, please know how much I appreciate you and your fierce dedication to our mission.
We have much to be thankful for in our college. We also have, perhaps, more reason for optimism than ever before. We enter this fall semester riding a wave of electrifying new developments.
First, we welcome the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) as part of a major reorganization involving two of our fellow colleges. While we will certainly miss having the School of Performing Arts as part of our college, I am absolutely thrilled by the addition of SPIA, and I’m confident the school’s presence will benefit our faculty, staff, and employees for years to come. SPIA brings a rich history of collaboration with our award-winning Department of Political Science. From cross-listing classes to collaborating in the Diplomacy Lab, the school shares our vision of educating future thought leaders and conducting research to make the world a safer and more equitable place.
Our college has also strengthened our commitment to foster a culture of inclusion at Virginia Tech. We are pleased to sponsor the Lavender House, the newest living-learning community on campus and the university’s first academic hall specifically for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Students of the Lavender House are eager to learn about the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people, and how those experiences are shaped by intersecting and marginalized identities. Open to students of all majors of study, the Lavender House is located in O’Shaughnessy Hall.
We made this commitment because in our college, we understand the need for values-based leadership, and the need to send a clear and lasting message to our students, employees, and broader society. We celebrate the diversity of the human experience and will continue to shape our curriculums accordingly. We reject bigotry and oppression of any kind and understand the need to educate and affirm through our vital role as a leader in higher education.
We also understand that while we have made significant strides in developing strategies to best serve our student body, faculty, and staff, we have more work to do in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the student population of our college was 28.9 percent last fall, an increase of 10 percent since 2012. We will continue to seek ways to support our students through college programming initiatives, mentorship, and community-building while partnering with university programs to attract and retain students of diverse backgrounds.
We are proud to offer a Departmental Diversity Grants program with the goal of building a more inclusive and equitable environment in our college. We invite proposals from faculty for projects that meet two or more of the following criteria:
- Advance scholarly, curricular, and/or public engagement projects that center the knowledges of historically marginalized groups
- Engage multiple populations, including those that are historically underrepresented in higher education in the United States
- Increase access to opportunities and resources
- Prioritize equity in decision-making, power-sharing, and resource distribution in their design and implementation
- Help fulfill departmental or college diversity plan goals
If interested, please submit your application by Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. More details about the grant program and the application process are available here.
Diversity mini-grants are available for schools, departments, and programs seeking supplemental funding for events related to the college’s priorities for inclusion and diversity. You can find more information about these requests for proposals and other opportunities for support on the Office of the Dean Announcements and Resources page.
We are also pleased to announce a staff speaker series focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion launching this fall. Organized by leaders of the CLAHS Staff Association, the series is part of a phased rollout of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives designed specifically for staff. Invitations and more details for the speaker series will be delivered in the coming days.
We value the work of our staff members and want to ensure the staff evaluation and development process receives the time and attention needed for all employees. We look forward to incorporating the university’s new staff performance management system scheduled for implementation this academic year.
Our college carries excellent momentum into the fall semester in the areas of enrollment and retention. Our three-year average for enrollment is up 7% college-wide. The first-year retention rate for undergraduates is 92%, 20 points higher than the national average. We continue to introduce new programs, with 23 new majors and minors added in the past five years.
Faculty continue to make waves internationally. Major news outlets around the world seek the expertise of our faculty on a variety of issues facing humanity, from the ongoing war in Ukraine to climate change to the Jan. 6 hearings. Our prolific faculty also continue to produce important literature through research articles and book publishing. In fact, faculty in our college have published more than 130 books since 2019, by far the most of any Virginia Tech college.
The Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies, another exciting initiative in our college, begins its third year. I’m pleased by The Academy’s progress in establishing partnerships, along with programming, that emphasize the power of transdisciplinary work and its importance in solving complex problems.
We are also celebrating the third year of the Juneteenth Scholars program, an initiative focused on recognizing the importance of university scholarship in understanding connections between the Juneteenth holiday and contemporary struggles against institutional racism, the exposure of structural inequality, and support for vulnerable populations. This year, eight of our faculty are conducting research through the program, and we are proud to support their vital work.
As we close out Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial, our college is well positioned for success in the coming months – and the next 150 years.
We, along with the entire university, raised a record-setting amount in terms of annual giving this academic year. Our college achieved over 22% participation among alumni, a record signaling that our graduates support our mission. This achievement was only possible through the hard work of our Advancement team and all of our faculty and staff. Through your relentless pursuit of knowledge and dedication to service, you have created lasting bonds with alumni who are pursuing noble careers across the world, thanks in large part to the experiences they shared with you.
I look forward to sharing with you more exciting news about our college on Sept. 29 during our second-annual State of the College Address and Reception. I hope each and every one of you will join us. Be on the lookout for more details for this important event in the near future.
Thank you all. I am honored and grateful to serve as dean of this wonderful college, and I wish you a healthy and successful fall semester!
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences