Fall 2011 / Spring 2012
A Message from the Dean
As Dean, I’ve always believed that the collective ethos by
which we create, administer, and maintain our initiatives, curricula, and
programs in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences are deeply rooted in the
history of the college. These ideals, set forth by visionaries past and
present, guide us as we continue the legacy of providing students with the
intellectual, analytical, and creative capacity to succeed in whatever fields
they choose to pursue.
As the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences enters a new year, I’m mindful about this history, this legacy, and the strong leadership that has brought us here.
When Mirron “Mike” Alexandroff became president of Columbia in 1961, the college was entering a new chapter in its history. The institution had lost the critical funding of the GI Bill, causing enrollment to drop and leaving the college with fewer assets, a changing business model, and a narrower curriculum. We live in similarly interesting times.
Rather than see Columbia struggle, President Alexandroff oversaw and implemented significant changes to the college and its curriculum—changes that are responsible for the way we currently approach teaching and learning.
In 1964, the college began offering arts-related majors within the strong context of a liberal education. The number of what we then called “general education” courses available to students rose, and the percentage of these required classes jumped from about one fifth to nearly half of a student’s course load. Ten years later, in 1974, President Alexandroff saw the college gain full undergraduate accreditation, which shifted Columbia’s status from a trade school to a world-class college with the liberal arts at the center of a student’s education.
President Alexandroff’s decision nearly fifty years ago to place a stronger emphasis on a broad, thorough, and well-rounded education endures.
In the last eleven years, Dr. Warrick L. Carter’s presidential leadership, vision, accomplishments, stature as a musician and educator, and his strong support for the liberal arts and sciences have contributed to Columbia’s becoming the largest and most diverse private arts and media college in the nation.
“We are a ‘whole-brain’ institution,” Dr. Carter said in the summer of 2010. “Look across our programs: we have a large requirement of liberal arts and sciences for all students, and even within each major there are required courses that cover theory, not just practice. Across the board, in all our majors and electives, Columbia College gives students a full education. That’s probably the biggest difference between Columbia and other arts and media schools.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Carter.
Since I became Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2007, one of my main goals has been to maintain, support, and further build upon the foundation built by these two important visionaries. Last Fall, for instance, we welcomed our first cohort of students in the new Creative Writing—Nonfiction MFA program, a program that has doubled in enrollment over last year. We also saw faculty members and students work together over the last academic year to complete important Undergraduate Research Mentorship Initiative projects. Both developments, and many others, are highlighted in this issue of @LAS.
Last year saw many successes, and we continue to move forward. This Fall, we are welcoming the first cohort of students in the new Art and Materials Conservation degree program in the Department of Science and Mathematics, that department’s first major. We are also continuing to strengthen and build our Honors Program, which I am proud to report has received an overwhelming amount of praise since launching in the Spring of 2010—especially, and perhaps most importantly, from students. We also continue the very important audit of the courses comprising the LAS Core Curriculum, and this fall, we will cut the ribbon on a new organic chemistry laboratory—a boon to the educational pursuit of every student at the college.
Although the ways in which we educate our students at Columbia have changed since Mike Alexandroff became president in the early ’60s and since Dr. Carter assumed the presidency in 2000—changes meant to reflect the revolutions in technology, history, literature, culture, science, media, and the arts—our reasons for providing students with an education embedded in the liberal arts and sciences have remained the same. Of course, this is also true for those students majoring in one of the disciplines within LAS. The LAS Core Curriculum, as we now call what others term “gen ed,” is a part of every student’s education at CCC, a commitment that transcends time and change.
We seek to provide students with an informed, diverse, and well-rounded education. We seek to challenge, to enlighten, to open minds in ways that will benefit students academically, creatively, and personally. We seek to instill the intellectual might and creative confidence to change the world for the better.
These are our objectives, and we institute them dutifully, with pride, and with passion, mindful of those who came before us, of those currently among us, and of those who will follow us.
Deborah H. Holdstein, PhD
Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences