The College of Liberal Arts, along with the entire University of Mississippi, is growing and changing. Growth and change, if managed thoughtfully, are good things.
Growth means that we are offering more opportunities to more students, that we are helping more people prepare for productive and fulfilling lives. In fact, we have seen enrollment grow by more than 20% in the last five years. We now have more than 6,000 students pursuing degrees from the College of Liberal Arts.
Of course, the College teaches core courses to all students in the University, not just to those majoring in our subjects. We taught, for example, 58% of all student credit hours and 63% of all undergraduate student credit hours in the University in 2011–12, the last year for which we have complete data. The next highest percentage of credit hours taught by a school or college in the University was 9%. The College continues to be the center of the University of Mississippi, and we continue to provide the foundation necessary for the university’s overall growth and success.
I am pleased to report that the recent increase in enrollment has translated into an increase in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by the College—from 791 in 2008 to 976 in 2013, an increase of 23.45%. We are teaching more students, and more of those students are earning their degrees.
This kind of growth brings significant challenges, including the need to hire new faculty and the need for additional space, especially laboratory space for the sciences. This year, we hired 24 new tenure-track faculty, all with very strong credentials. These scholars bring new perspectives to our curricula and new energy to our research initiatives. (For the list of new faculty with their credentials, click here). To help accommodate our need for space, we will begin construction this summer of a 30,000 square foot addition to Coulter Hall to make more room for our chemistry classes.
As we grow, we are also expanding our academic offerings to meet the interests of our students. We have now, for example, more Chinese majors than Spanish majors, and the number of majors in Public Policy Leadership has gone from 0 in 2007 to 174 this year. We have begun to explore online courses and hybrid courses where appropriate and supported by the faculty.
We are also growing outward, expanding our role in service to the state of Mississippi. Our special section in this issue of the View from Ventress newsletter highlights some of these service projects, and you can see a more complete list here. Faculty and students in the College are involved in innovative service activities that are making a difference in our state. The College will continue to support UM’s commitment to improving conditions in Mississippi. We are pleased to be leading and contributing in this area.
The College will continue to grow and change. New paths will be proposed and there will be healthy, vigorous debate as we make choices. I look forward to it, and I look forward to hearing from you about your ideas for the College of Liberal Arts. My sincere and deep thanks to all of you who have provided support for the College during this last year. Our growth and success would not be possible without your continuing help.
Finally, I am pleased to tell you that we are back in Ventress Hall after having been in exile for a year and a half because of water damage. If you are on campus, do come by to see the changes in Ventress Hall and to say “hello.”