Core Commitment to Undergraduate Studies and Student Success

MSU Spartan Head logoThe College has undertaken several initiatives at the undergraduate level to advance our commitment to equitable access and student success. The Excel Network establishes and supports a holistic approach to experiential learning, career education, student advising, and alumni networking in the College of Arts & Letters to chart successful paths to meaningful careers. Drawing on our new experiential learning requirement, the Excel Network supports our students as they seek to put their core values into practice and chart their own paths to intellectual leadership.

The Citizen Scholars Program, now in its fourth year, continues to provide open access for any aspiring College of Arts & Letters undergraduate to perform their way into academic excellence and advanced cultural and civic understanding through a combination of course-based and co-curricular requirements to the designation of “Citizen Scholar”. The program prepares students for meaningful careers and leadership roles by providing structured and self-directed paths that help them explore their own interests in diversity, inclusiveness, social justice, and civic service. Citizen Scholars access resources to fund an enhanced capstone experience that sets them apart from their peers both through self-knowledge and career preparation.

With these signature programs in place as the infrastructure through which to enrich the undergraduate experience, the College needs to encourage more engagement with and support for the undergraduate mission through incentives that provide more robust rewards for undergraduate teaching and experiential learning. To this end, we appointed Cara Cilano as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in July 2019. This newly formed role draws together the College’s investments in undergraduate student and academic affairs with direct reports from Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities, advising, assessment, the Excel Network, the Citizen Scholars program, and all undergraduate programs, minors, and majors in the College. By leveraging the collaborative potential derived from this reorganization, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies has already undertaken several initiatives that address a mandate to diversify the curriculum, to live up to our commitments to access and equity, and to enhance faculty engagement with undergraduate education in their units and in the Integrative Arts & Humanities program.

Given the College’s considerable contributions to general education, the Associate Dean’s office has initiated two efforts that address changing curricular needs as well as student success and well-being that align with President Stanley’s priorities. Both initiatives anticipate a general education revision and, as a core college, assert the abiding centrality of the arts and humanities to MSU’s undergraduate mission. The Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities Advisory Committee, for instance, has appointed a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Steering Committee whose charge is to articulate clear learning outcomes that will infuse DEI content into all IAH courses. This group is also working closely with our Assistant Director of Assessment to structure this curricular shift in ways conducive to our abilities to gauge student learning and development. The result of these efforts will be readily transportable to a new general education curriculum and the University’s strategic planning initiative around DEI.

Additionally, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies has convened a First Year/Transfer Experience work group whose goal is to define “student success” anchored in the College’s values of equity, community, and openness. To date, this work group has sketched First Year/Transfer Experience programs that begin with recruitment and yield, continue through NSO and welcome week, and get developed further through first-year and transfer seminars potentially linked with specially designated sections of first-year writing and major gateway courses. This approach takes advantage of the combined student and academic affairs expertise that operate within the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. 

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