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Lead Transformative Change

The transformative change the College hopes to lead is, in many ways, embodied by the creation and development of our new Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS), which was established on July 1, 2019. This year we welcomed Ruth Nicole Brown as inaugural Chair of the Department and Tamura Lomax as our first foundational professor. Together with other members of the AAAS transitional faculty, the Department has undertaken a complete revision of the PhD, MA, and undergraduate minor; they have also created an innovative new undergraduate major and had curriculum reforms approved through the College of Arts & Letters process and is currently moving its way through the relevant processes as the University. AAAS is also undertaking an aggressive hiring plan this semester, having received over 100 applications for the positions we have posted. We have also advanced conversations with Barb Kranz and Eric Boatman to identify new space for the new department. Embracing the intellectual substance of African American and African Studies by building curriculum, investing in faculty, and supporting an organizational structure that conveys, with clarity and urgency, the importance of Black and Africana Studies is at the heart of the transformative change we hope to lead.

Drawing on the creative power of art to change the ways we understand the world and respond to one another is another way we are advancing transformative change during the pandemic. The College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University received a $3M Mellon “Just Futures” Mellon grant led by Professors Natalie Phillips, Nancy DeJoy, and Julian Chambliss entitled “Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Inequity and Injustice.” This grant is part of a larger approach in the College rooted in the recognition that art empowers us to make deep meaning during periods of tumultuous change. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Dean’s Arts Advisory Council, established a CREATE! Micro-Grant Program led by Divya Victor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English, to give students an opportunity to care for themselves and create meaning with one another through artistic expression.

The College’s strength in establishing trusting collaborative partnerships around education technology and accessibility enabled us to play a leadership role in MSU’s pivot to remote teaching and learning in March 2020. The College Educational Technology (EdTech) team members lead by example, producing resources, materials and training sessions in collaboration with others on campus with the intent of support all faculty across MSU. The development of the SOIREE and ASPIRE programs that helped support MSU faculty as they made the transition to online teaching and learning were based on existing programs and resources developed by the College’s EdTech team in collaboration with colleagues in the Broad College of Business, the College of Natural Science, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSUIT and the HUB. For the leadership we demonstrated in this area, Melissa Woo invested MSU IT funds in the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative (EDLI) discussed further in the section on Existing cross-college and internal areas of collaboration below.

Further, as we consider how we advanced transformative change during this difficult year, it is important to emphasize that we are having a very successful fundraising year. By adopting a proactive strategy in responding to Calls for Proposals from foundations and corporate sponsors, the College has, as of January 2021, already exceeded our fiscal year goal ($5.04M) by raising $5.14M.