Dear LSA Students,
Welcome to the new school year! And if you’re starting your first year in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), welcome to campus! We are delighted you are here.
I love the energy that comes with all of you returning to campus and fall classes beginning. I hope you too are feeling excited about the year ahead.
I am honored to be writing this message as the new dean of LSA. I’m a professor of English, linguistics, and education, and this is my eighteenth year on the faculty at the University of Michigan. I feel lucky every day to be working in this remarkable college, surrounded by faculty, staff, and students who inspire me with their curiosity and creativity, their commitment to creating and sharing knowledge, and their dedication to advancing the common good.
You’ll hear me talk a lot about values such as exploration and discovery, purposeful inclusion, collaboration, and well-being. I relish the value of play, for its own sake and as a powerful tool for research and learning. In my own academic work on the history of the English language, for instance, I love to study slang and both the systematic and quirky ways language changes. I’m also a firm believer in identifying what gives us purpose—as individuals and as a college—so that we can remain mindful and focused on work and relationships that really matter to us.
As we begin the year, some of the best advice I can give you is about people, actually. I strongly encourage you to seek out faculty mentors. Faculty here care deeply about teaching and want to know you as individuals—and these mentoring relationships can change your life. Also, stretch yourself to make new friends—friends who will teach you about worlds and perspectives different from your own.
I also want to share with you a few of my priorities as dean. At the top of my list is you, LSA’s students. I want to hear from you and learn from your ideas. Your well-being and experience here are important to me, and I will be creating ways to connect with you in meaningful ways.
I will keep LSA focused on the core activities that make us excellent: research and teaching, diversity and inclusion, demonstrating the power and relevance of a liberal arts education, and building a community that supports all its members.
Creating an inclusive community is at the center of our diversity, equity, and inclusion plan, which remains a top priority for me and LSA. We’ve done important work in this area, providing more than 2,000 laptops and 360 passports to students with financial need; hiring 24 Collegiate Fellows, each a rising star with deep commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion; developing new resources for inclusive teaching; expanding innovative student support programs for first-generation college students and students who are underrepresented on campus, come from under-resourced high schools, and are transferring from community colleges such as the Kessler Presidential Scholars Program and Comprehensive Studies Program; and more.
The LSA Opportunity Hub is another priority. The Hub was created specifically for LSA undergraduates; please take advantage of it! The Hub can support you with internships, coaching, networking, and professional workshops—and LSA offers scholarship funding so anyone can take advantage of internship opportunities, regardless of financial situation. As importantly, Hub coaches and mentors will support you in connecting what you’re learning in your liberal arts classes with your life aspirations, so that you can study what you’re passionate about.
Finally, in the coming year, we’ll be talking as a college about our mission and core values. I will be seeking your input as we think about how to make LSA and its community even stronger.
I look forward to working alongside all of you in the coming year and celebrating your accomplishments. We will also undoubtedly confront challenges as a community and can expect that the stresses and conflicts in the world will have an impact here too. To sustain a strong community, where everyone has a chance to learn and thrive, it's more important than ever that we embody core values of the liberal arts such as deep listening, engaging across difference, and trusting that together we can find answers to the hardest of questions.
I value what each of you brings as a member of the LSA community. Please know that I and the rest of the team in the LSA Dean’s Office are here to support you in doing your best work. You can reach out anytime with questions, suggestions, or (and I do mean this!) to share the latest slang.
I wish you a rewarding, meaningful, healthy, and fun academic year.