Dedman College Scholar
Anthropology and History double major, Human Rights minor
There is a rising sense of excitement on campus and in Dallas, as the University begins a four-year celebration of the centennials of its founding and opening. Expectations are high for SMU after a century of achievement and a recent history marked by rapid progress and growing distinction. The evidence of SMU's ascent is readily apparent – in the University's steady climb in the national rankings, in the quality and accomplishment of the student body, in the range and scale of research conducted, in the expansion of campus facilities and in the establishment of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. At a time of retrenchment in most colleges and universities, SMU's trajectory of growth and the ambition of its institutional vision set it apart in the competitive landscape of American higher education. Location also favors SMU: The University's rise and the ongoing evolution of Dallas as a vibrant and entrepreneurial global city are inextricably intertwined.
Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences has contributed actively to SMU's emergence as a leading national university. Dedman College has long and justifiably claimed to be the heart of SMU. Most first-year students begin their careers in the College, and half of all undergraduate degrees awarded are in Dedman College. The College has the largest faculty and offers more graduate programs than any other SMU school. Dedman College has historically generated the University's highest totals of external grant funding for research. Dedman College also takes pride in being the intellectual core of SMU, bringing together the diverse disciplines of the liberal arts and serving as the academic cornerstone for the University's distinguished professional schools.
SMU will never realize its full academic potential or its ambitions of national prominence without a strong and energized Dedman College. Yet in recent years the College has lacked consistent leadership and a clear vision of what it could or should aspire to be. Strong departments have built the scholarly reputation of the College but have lacked the resources to cultivate interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration. The intellectual diversity of the liberal arts has enriched the campus and benefited students but has hampered the College in defining a clear message and a unified identity. Efforts within the College to engage with the Dallas community have been broadly based and innovative but have suffered from weak coordination and a low public profile. Financial resources, meanwhile, have been stagnant for decades. Dedman College's ability to dream, to think big and to plan for the future has been hamstrung by consistently tight budgets and the frustration and cynicism that so often accompany them.
Assistant Professor, Department of English
This strategic plan grows from the conviction that now is the time for Dedman College to define itself and its vision for the future. Now is the time for Dedman College to make good on the exceptional promise of its faculty, students and programs, and to be ambitious in pursuing excellence. Now is the time to propel Dedman College forward with the focus, determination and optimism that have driven SMU's rise as a great university. And now is the time to affirm Dedman College's place not just as the academic foundation of SMU but also as a vital, creative hub that drives the intellectual life of Dallas and the region.
This strategic plan asserts that Dedman College can and should combine the best features of the comprehensive research university and the best of the liberal arts college tradition. Dedman College should follow the model of the great modern research universities, fostering the process of scholarly discovery and its application to the countless challenges facing the world. As part of the quest to create new knowledge, the College should support focused graduate programs, sustainable in size and funding, of the very highest quality. While many public research universities today slight undergraduate education, Dedman College should honor its long tradition of training students broadly in the liberal arts. A rich undergraduate experience, based on individual relationships between faculty and students inside and beyond the classroom, must continue to be the hallmark of the College. By fusing high-level research and graduate training with a genuine commitment to teaching and mentoring undergraduates in the liberal arts, Dedman College can claim a distinctive place at SMU and in American higher education.
Toward the vision of a focused, cohesive and energized Dedman College, six goals, each with a number of associated objectives, are presented in this strategic plan. Metrics for each goal are identified so that progress can be quantified and the administration and faculty of the College can be held accountable over the plan's five-year span. An annual report on progress toward the goals of this plan, based on these metrics as well as other appropriate quantitative and qualitative data, will be prepared by the Dedman College Faculty Council and will be presented by the dean to the College's faculty, the Executive Board and the Campaign Steering Committee. As with SMU's Centennial Strategic Plan, which provided a starting point for this document, the Dedman College strategic plan is intended to be flexible in goals and objectives so that the College can have latitude in responding to ever-changing conditions, challenges and opportunities over the coming years.
MIKE (XINQ) REN
Dedman College Scholar
Biological Sciences major, premedical track
Attaining the standards of excellence outlined in this strategic plan will certainly not be easy. Existing resources will need to be used more effectively, and new streams of support will need to be tapped. Longstanding habits, institutional structures and ways of thinking about Dedman College will have to be reassessed as new goals and priorities guide the College's growth. Above all, as in any organizational transformation, the commitment to embrace a new vision and to welcome change will be critical to the success of this strategic plan. Without the active investment of all those who make up Dedman College – faculty and staff, students and alumni, supporters in the community – progress toward shared objectives will be impossible. Happily, all signs indicate that anticipation is high, that the hunger for meaningful change is real and that the commitment to moving Dedman College forward is deep and broad.
In an era of diminished expectations in higher education, Dedman College must be bold in its goals and daring in its tactics. Amidst widespread public handwringing over the value of the liberal arts, Dedman College must be resolute in supporting a broad and diverse liberal education. And at a historical moment, when SMU seems poised to join the first rank of elite universities nationwide, Dedman College must be ambitious and contribute actively to the greater success of the University.