One year after extensive budget cuts shook the Faculty of Arts, Dean of Arts Lesley Cormack gave a public address Monday Sept. 17 to talk about its current state.
Around 100 people came out to a busy Tory lecture theatre, curious to hear the faculty’s current condition and anxious to voice their concerns.
Cormack kicked off her nearly hour-long address by bringing up some accomplishments the faculty and its students have seen since the budget cuts came into effect.
This included creating two new certificate programs in International Studies and European Studies, initiating discussions on creating a Bachelor of Economics degree and creating new graduate student professional support.
“In the midst of the budget woes and the reorganization … we’ve continued to work hard towards a shared goal of excellent teaching and research — work that I really want to say matters more now than ever,” Cormack said.
She also said the November Plan of Teaching, drafted in Fall 2011, and the four point plan aimed at engaging students in their studies through opportunities such as CSL, were being implemented successfully.
The new plan incorporates aspects such as enhancing communication, further expanding research networks and funding, fostering collaboration and making structural adjustments to the faculty.
Cormack noted the faculty has had a strong international year through student exchanges and through forming partnerships such as a dual degree program with Ritsumeikan University in Japan.
Last academic year, the faculty saw the largest number of international students to date, at 18.6 per cent of undergraduates and 22.5 per cent of graduate students.
“My goal is not to increase that number any further, but to ensure we have students from diverse parts of the world and diverse interests coming to our campus,” Cormack said.
Since the beginning of Fall 2011, the faculty has received $10.4 million in donations. There was also a $51 million endowment principle with endowment spending at nearly $4 million.
But despite increases to the province’s post-secondary budget Cormack said the faculty still cannot live within its means.
More than $3 million will be further redistributed by 2014, meaning a cut of around 10 staff positions this year and more to come in the future.
“I would estimate that something like 100 positions have been altered in the process of doing this whole reorganization, so it is a huge undertaking,” Cormack said.
“Basically, this is a reorganization such as this faculty has never seen.”
In order to continue to retain and attract students across the province, country and world, Cormack delved into a plan to create an “honours college” — already a popular initiative in the United States. The plan, which would be the first of its kind in Canada, will create an academy for arts and science programs that will take a new multidisciplinary approach to learning experiences in order to create exceptional leadership.
“If we can be the leaders in change in undergraduate education at the University of Alberta, I think that would be very exciting,” Cormack said.
Funding is needed to create scholarships to attract students in addition to getting this program off the ground, but Cormack is ambitious to have it inaugurated by fall 2014.
The dean also wants to do a curriculum review to ensure programs are meeting students’ needs to address rapidly changing current issues.
“How do we ensure (the students) have the skills, the knowledge, the ways of thinking that will let them take that role that we need them to?” she said.
Cormack plans to deliver a proposal at the Arts Faculty Council by May 2013, drafted by members and students from the Arts community.
During question period, Cormack stated the importance of gearing arts research towards learning and contributing to the field. She also noted that last year’s student enrolment was five per cent under the government cap amongst undergraduates and even more for graduates, and speculated that number had dropped this year.
“It’s definitely concerning,” she said. “It’s not a good year for student numbers.”
A biweekly newsletter will be sent out amongst the Arts community to update information on the faculty’s changes, with Cormack looking forward to hearing input from students, staff, and faculty members.
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