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Fall 2011 Message from Interim Dean Tracy

Gene Tracy, Interim Dean of Arts & Sciences, sent the following beginning-of-year message to members of the faculty on September 5.

Dear Colleagues,

Gene Tracy, Interim Dean of Arts & SciencesWelcome to a new academic year. I hope you had a productive and enjoyable summer, and that you feel charged up and rejuvenated. We seem now to be back on track despite our bumpy start, and I'd like to take this opportunity to update you on a few major issues.

Let me start by thanking all of you for the commitment and passion you bring to your work every day. Serving you this year in the role of Interim Dean is a great privilege, and I am honored by the good will and offers of assistance many of you have extended. I look forward to working with you in my new role.

Let me also thank the Provost, Michael Halleran, and my predecessor as Dean, Carl Strikwerda, for their help and support; my new deanly colleagues, Kelly Joyce (and Sue Peterson before her), Teresa Longo, Laurie Sanderson, and Joel Schwartz; and the staff in the Dean's Office and in the Brafferton.

I know there is great unease about the economic situation in general, and our budget situation in particular. As you know, the economic situation is volatile, and that volatility makes it even more important that we have a clear sense of who we are and what we value.

The university has a "vision statement," of course; but if I were asked what I think our "vision" is, my answer would boil down to two interlocking themes: opportunity and transformation. We are committed to providing opportunities for our people to grow and learn, and we aim for our educational and creative efforts to be transformative. We want our students to be changed by their time here at W&M, and we want our creative work to be influential in the wider world. In practice, this means we maintain high academic standards, and we pursue our creative work – our research, our scholarship, and our artistic efforts –at a very high level of quality throughout Arts & Sciences. This is an expensive way to educate students, and it is the one we are committed to.

Before the start of the semester, the Dean's Office hosted a workshop for new chairs and program directors. As part of the discussion they identified their priorities – a fairly long list that I think we can group into a few broad categories, which shows we were largely in agreement about what needs attending to. These include, but are not limited to: faculty and staff compensation, a successful and energizing curriculum review, increasing the visibility and support of the creative life at the College, more effective fundraising aligned with A&S priorities, adequate stipend support for A&S graduate students, and successful completion of capital projects that are underway or in the planning or conceptual design stages.

Let me spend a moment on the curriculum review, because this is a major undertaking that we (the faculty) will be working on together this year. The Curriculum Review Steering Committee, led by Teresa Longo and Michael Lewis, has been hard at work since last spring. They have been meeting to brainstorm ideas, and to inform themselves about current thinking in the national dialog about the future of liberal arts education. They are also designing a process for the coming year that will allow them to work in an open and inclusive way with the rest of us. You will be hearing regular reports, and you will receive periodic requests for input this year. I hope you will take part as much as you are able. A curriculum review is a tremendous amount of work for the faculty involved. And it is a vitally important chance for our institution to renew itself, as well as a chance for our faculty to engage one another in creative and intellectually rich discussions about our educational philosophy, and whether we live up to our ideals as a liberal arts institution.

Let me now turn to more prosaic matters having to do with the budget and strategic planning. The external turmoil – and the potential impact it might have on our budgets – is why strategic planning has become an ongoing activity rather than the decadal exercise it used to be. One important priority of the strategic plan, one that has been endorsed for many years by the Faculty University Priorities Committee, is the need to ensure that faculty and staff compensation is competitive. This need has become acute because of the multiple years we have gone without salary increases. While current faculty and staff salaries have been frozen, we have had to continue to offer incoming salaries where the levels are set by the national and international competition for high-quality talent. This has led to serious salary inequities known as "compression" and "inversion." Such inequities are corrosive to morale, erode our sense of common purpose, and need to be rectified as soon as possible.

Budgetary and other resource allocations are where our values are translated into concrete actions. In addition to the need for competitive compensation, priorities identified in the university’s strategic plan include replenishing the M&O funds for departments, significant new investment in the faculty research program, investments in the library, our instructional, research, and creative performance spaces, and a host of other needed investments. We should also anticipate new needs that might arise as part of the new curriculum, whatever form that might take. It is clear that all of these investments will have to be made over multiple years, and that we will need new revenue to begin making any significant headway. We are already working too close to the bone, and any further cuts will do damage. The fundraising that is underway holds promise but will take some years to have a significant impact. In parallel, a new six-year plan was sent to Richmond on July 1 making a strong case that William & Mary should be treated as a special category-of-one in Virginia higher education. The plan includes several aggressive tuition models that – if the strategy is implemented and sustained – would allow us in coming years to allocate significant new resources toward our strategic priorities.

I should note that my discussions with President Reveley and Provost Halleran indicate that they, too, understand and share the goals I've described.

Before closing, I'm pleased to announce the 23 new tenure-eligible faculty who begin their work in 2011-12. Great care and effort goes into these hires, and we value the vitality their fresh perspectives bring to our community. We will introduce and welcome our new colleagues formally at the FAS meeting on September 6 and informally at the reception following. I look forward to seeing you there.

Alexander Angelov (Religious Studies)
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Paul Bhasin (Music)
D.M.A., University of Wisconsin–Madison

Mark Buntaine (Government)
Ph.D., Duke University

M. Victoria Costa (Philosophy)
Ph.D., Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina)

Melanie Dawson (English)
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh 

Isil Dillig (Computer Science)
Ph.D., Stanford University

Thomas Dillig (Computer Science)
Ph.D., Stanford University

Jonathan Glasser (Anthropology)
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Monika Gosin (Sociology)
Ph.D., University of California at San Diego

Caroline Hanley (Sociology)
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley 

Cullen Hendrix (Government)
Ph.D., University of California at San Diego

Scott Ickes (Kinesiology and Health Sciences)
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mike Jabbur (Art and Art History)
M.F.A., Ohio University

M. Drew LaMar (Biology)
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

John Parman (Economics)
Ph.D., Northwestern University

Philip Roessler (Government)
Ph.D., University of Maryland

Joanna Schug (Psychology)
Ph.D., Hokkaido University (Japan)

Admasu Shiferaw (Economics and African Studies)
Ph.D., Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Robert St. Clair (Modern Languages and Literatures)
Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Ayfer Stump (History)
Ph.D., Harvard University

Kara Thompson (English)
Ph.D., University of California at Davis

Xin Wu (Art and Art History)
Ph.D., University of Bristol (U.K.)

Douglas Young (Chemistry)
Ph.D., North Carolina State University

Thank you for your hard work, and best wishes for the fall semester,

Gene Tracy
Interim Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences