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Dean Anne Curzan meets with graduates on Regents Plaza. Photo by Austin Thomason/Michigan Photography

In the end, the excellence of this remarkable college we call LSA comes down to the people. I learned this from my grandfather, who was a long-time university administrator, and I have returned to this mantra again and again over the past five years as the dean. Yes, it matters that we have top-flight buildings, technology, and the like—and we invest in this infrastructure to support people. Key to the entire LSA enterprise is that we recruit and retain outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and we ensure that they can thrive here.

This notion of thriving represents a relatively new development and an important one. What do students need to succeed in meaningful ways in relation to their goals? It can take the form of help writing their first college paper, or getting support when life events challenge their mental or physical well-being, or finding a prestigious internship, or locating a point person to guide them as they navigate LSA’s many resources. We have learned a lot about what we need to build to have resources that are readily available to LSA students, especially those who have been historically underrepresented in higher education.

And when LSA faculty and scholars seek answers that will help us better understand our universe, our state, our history, and ourselves, we have resources for them. We have expanded our support for our research enterprise and for inclusive, equitable, effective teaching and mentoring. This is what LSA does: We support the people who study and work here. Indeed, such support is a fundamental part of who we are as a college.

This ethos of people-first support is in some ways a logical outgrowth of the core scholarship of LSA. After all, the liberal arts have always provided a foundation for a meaningful life and successful career, and for expanding our understanding of the human condition and the natural world.

Here in LSA, we’ve been thinking about what our community needs and adopting innovative approaches to research, learning, and wrap-around support. A few highlights: We’re building the new cross-college Quantum Research Institute. We launched the LSA Meet the Moment Research Initiative, which supports LSA teams addressing pressing issues including mass incarceration and climate change. In response to students’ desire for digital and computing literacy in a liberal arts context, we created the new Program in Computing in Arts and Sciences (PCAS), and the class enrollments are expanding exponentially. PCAS lives alongside the groundbreaking Digital Studies Institute, where humanists and social scientists come together to pursue essential work on technology, digital culture, and social justice.

In terms of wrap-around support at LSA, we are building upon what we have learned about some traditional models of education, in which students are thrown into the ocean to either sink or swim: It does not serve them, us, or society. Giving a student a tuition scholarship isn’t enough for them to thrive; students need more support for academic success and for well-being in order to fully succeed in the classroom and in the world they will enter when they leave here. We’re launching the new LSA First Gen Commitment, which expands to more students the kind of wrap-around support we provide in the Kessler Scholars Program and the U.P. Scholars Program, which are already national models. Our foundational introductory courses are being transformed to be more inclusive and equitable—and rewarding for instructors and students alike.


We have added new ways of connecting students with valuable internship and employment experiences, as well as LSA alums who are excited to be mentors, at the LSA Opportunity Hub. To foster the sense of community and well-being that is critical to student success, we have established a number of programs, such as LSA@Play, for students. This programming and event series helps to build the LSA identity among undergraduates—and events such as the welcome picnic and movie night and a book giveaway (“a blind date with a book”) are so much fun! LSA has also recently launched Intend to Attend (I2A), an online college prep platform that provides eighth-12th grade students the necessary resources and information to pursue a postsecondary education.

In all of this, I am especially heartened by the structural support we have given to diversity, equity, and inclusion and mental health and well-being efforts. These include convening and implementing recommendations from task forces on anti-racism, the prevention of sexual harassment, and support for the LGBTQ+ community; building out the Collegiate Fellows program; and the creation of two Disability Navigator roles and two Student Mental Health and Well-Being Advocates. 

All of this investment is setting up LSA students and graduates for even greater success—which is vital, especially during a time when we are all hearing the narrative that the liberal arts are not valuable. You know that is not true, and I know that is not true. Indeed, LSA is tackling the world’s most daunting problems, and creating foundational knowledge–which we will rely on in the years to come as new challenges arise. We focus on the human and the humane; we probe what we think we know about how the world and universe work; we ask the hard questions and hone our skills at creative collaboration in diverse teams to find solutions. 

At the end of June, my five years as dean will end. Serving as dean has been one of the greatest honors of my career, and I have found this leadership role meaningful and rewarding beyond what words can capture here. I am also excited about my next chapter, as I dive more fully into public intellectual work as a linguist and return to teaching more regularly. Both of these pursuits also bring me deep joy and purpose. 

I have worked with intentionality and purpose to live up to my initial promise from five years ago by keeping people at the center of every decision I have made. In my next chapter, I will continue to advocate fiercely for LSA, liberal arts education, and the people who make it all possible. LSA is my alma mater and has been my faculty home for the past 22 years, and I am grateful to have served as its leader during this remarkable time in our history.


Anne Curzan, Dean
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts



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Release Date: 05/08/2024
Category: Faculty; Students
Tags: LSA; LSA Magazine; Administration; Anne Curzan