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Advance Our Core Academic Mission

Even as the pandemic has disrupted our academic lives, we have been intentional about continuing to advance our core mission. In addition to our ongoing efforts in faculty recruitment and retention mentioned above, we have also 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 fifth 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 achieve 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.

The College’s research activity has grown during the pandemic. The total grant proposals submitted in AY 2020-21 has risen considerably over previous years. In AY 2019-20 we had 59 proposals in the period between May and September, including applications to the HARP program. In AY 2020 we had 54, not including 30 for HARP (deadline for HARP was moved back this year to November 2020). The dollar amounts sought in the two years also tells a tale of far more ambitious and complex proposals. In AY 2019 the total was more than $11M across 59 proposals from May-Sept. In 2020, the total was about $19M across 54 proposals. Through remainder of the Fall semester, we saw the total rise an additional $7.5M for an increase of about 140% over the same period last year. Gender of PIs and co-PIs on grants has been remarkably balanced across both years. Distribution of participation by rank is like prior years. Three-year running average total grant awards rose 43%, from $2.1M to just over $3M in the period from 2013-2016 to 2017-2020.

Of particular note during the time of pandemic has been the success of the Center for Interdisciplinarity (C4I) which has, over the last two years, attracted $1.5 million in external funding with the majority coming from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF has funded several collaborative projects through C4I and its Toolbox Dialogue Initiative. Funding also has been provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as foundations, partner universities, and MSU sources. This success testifies to the central importance of the arts and humanities in leading transdisciplinary research.