CLAS Strategic Plan

2020-2025

As the largest and most academically diverse college at the University of Connecticut, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is fundamental to the success of the University and its students, faculty, staff, and other constituents. The College provides critical ideas, infrastructure, and employment for the State of Connecticut, and its impacts have global significance.

The College embarked on a strategic planning process during the 2019-2020 academic year, which resulted in this document. It is intended to articulate what we are here to do, the values that guide our work, what we intend to become by 2025, and the path we will take to reach that vision.

Overview and Background

Four committees, comprising more than 80 CLAS faculty, staff, and students from across our units (acknowledged below), worked sequentially from September 2019 to April 2020 to generate the information and ideas represented here. A group of alumni and advisors from other areas of the University also contributed at the points where each committee completed its work. The Dean’s office synthesized their reports and posted a draft for comment on the CLAS website, before completing this text. At each step, information was gathered broadly with the goal of obtaining diverse input to be used in an inclusive process.

This strategic plan identifies a shared College mission, vision, and values; offers benchmarking data; articulates specific objectives and strategies; and provides some metrics for defining success. It embraces the broad priorities of UConn, including these highlighted by UConn President Tom Katsouleas in 2019:

  • Promoting a top-quality liberal arts education
  • Advancing scholarship and increasing our research enterprise
  • Aligning our efforts with the economic needs of the State of Connecticut

The plan represents a dynamic entity, a roadmap of guiding principles with the flexibility to adapt to the changing environment in which we work and respond to opportunities as they arise.

Importantly, in the year of this plan’s creation, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world. It reached Connecticut in spring 2020 and changed dramatically the way the University taught classes, engaged in research, and carried out business. As of this writing, the long-term academic and financial implications are unknown. Development of a flexible guide that can adapt to situations we cannot control, including both negative outcomes and positive opportunities, has become even more critical than we could have imagined. Incredibly dedicated individuals worked through the crisis to complete this plan on schedule, and their legacy is the impact this work will have during years following this unprecedented time.

In some cases, the strategic planning process served to highlight items that were already in progress, either within CLAS or external to our College within the University, because the work was in early stages or had not been adequately communicated. Communications and promotion of these opportunities should be as much a priority as establishing new initiatives.

In other cases, the planning process identified areas for desired improvement over which CLAS has little to no control, such as the library’s ability to provide access to materials critical to support research and teaching, classroom space concerns, University research oversight, and support for fundraising and alumni relations activities. In these cases, and for all other areas related to university-level policies and practices, our approach to move these priorities forward is to form strong internal and external partnerships and to advocate for the College and its interests. Selected examples are included below.

An important component of implementing this plan will be the creation of a Strategic Plan Advisory Committee to advise the Dean. Members will include undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, and faculty across a range of disciplines. The committee can aid in assessing progress toward our goals, recommend course corrections, and identify new opportunities consistent with the plan.

Our Vision

The vision of the College should serve as a beacon for conduct and decision-making surrounding areas not specifically addressed in this document. All College efforts should serve our mission and should be in line with our shared values. The Visioning Committee surveyed all CLAS faculty and staff for their ideas and incorporated the values of the University and the State to synthesize and articulate the College’s vision, mission, and values.

Vision

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be UConn’s recognized and supported hub of learning and research, where an engaged, innovative liberal arts and sciences community facilitates student success, crosses boundaries of study, and reflects the diversity of our state and our world.

Mission

The UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences transforms lives. Through critical research and inquiry, creative education and mentorship, and ethical social engagement, we generate the foundational, collaborative environment that empowers all members of the UConn community to discover their agency and do meaningful work in the world.

Values

Community

We create inclusive spaces for disparate views. We actively seek individual and group relationships that support achievement at UConn, in the State of Connecticut, and across the world.

Creativity

We pursue new ways of thinking, innovative approaches to problems, and imaginative forms of expression, and we acknowledge that mistakes, past and present, are opportunities for growth.

Dedication

We value a deep commitment to our work. Dedication leads to excellence in the pursuit of inquiry and knowledge.

Diversity

We engage differences of thought, experience, perspective, culture, and field.

Empowerment

We cultivate personal agency and the ability to act with ethical and thoughtful conviction.

Integrity

We embrace our responsibility to each other and the world through the promotion of equity, environmental stewardship, social justice, accessible space, and opportunity.

Foundational Data

To create relevant, impactful, and achievable goals, the College benchmarked its programs to determine the gap between its state in 2019-2020 and the vision for 2025. This section highlights background data and the analysis by the Data Collection Committee of quantitative and qualitative data obtained from existing sources, including UConn’s Offices of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Institutional Equity, and the Vice President for Research, and the UConn Foundation; as well as from surveys distributed to the College’s approximately 30 department heads and directors, 800 faculty, 250 staff, and 10,700 undergraduate students, and a selection of the College’s approximately 1,700 graduate students.

Background Data

College Statistics: 2019-2020 Academic Year

(sources are internal CLAS data unless otherwise noted)

  • 25 academic departments; 13 centers, institutes, and programs; 7 service and outreach units
  • 51% of UConn faculty
  • 10,708 undergraduate majors; 46% of UConn
  • 54% of undergraduates are female; 39% are members of underrepresented groups
  • 67% of UConn credit hours at the Storrs campus are taught by CLAS faculty
  • 1,705 graduate students – 26% of UConn
  • 52 undergraduate majors, 65 undergraduate minors, 53 graduate programs
  • 748 scholarships and fellowships awarded by CLAS and its departments in FY19 (source: UConn Foundation)
  • 110,000 alumni (source: UConn Foundation)
  • $10.2M received by the UConn Foundation to support the College (FY19; source: UConn Foundation)
  • $59M in external research funding awarded (in FY19, most recent complete year available; source: Office of the Vice President for Research [OVPR])

Employee demographics

(for 2019-20 academic year; source: Human Resources)
 

Tenure System Faculty

Ethnicity Female Male Total Percent
American Indian 1 1 2 0.3%
Asian 25 45 70 11.9%
Black 6 9 15 2.5%
Hispanic 9 14 23 3.9%
Not Specified 23 27 50 8.5%
White 165 256 421 71.5%
Multiracial 4 4 8 1.4%
Total 233 356 589
Percent 40% 60%

 

Non-Tenure System Faculty

Ethnicity Female Male Total Percent
Asian 10 8 18 8.7%
Black 1 3 4 1.9%
Hispanic 1 1 2 1.0%
Not Specified 33 41 74 35.9%
White 67 41 108 52.4%
Total 112 94 206
Percent 54% 46%

 

Staff

Ethnicity Female Male Undeclared Total Percent
Asian 2 3 5 2.1%
Black 3 1 4 1.7%
Hispanic 3 3 6 2.5%
Not Specified 46 10 1 57 23.9%
Pacific 1 1 0.4%
White 117 48 165 69.3%
Total 172 65 1 238
Percent 72.3% 27.3% 0.4%

 

*Definitions: Non-Tenure-System Faculty: Faculty-in-Residence, Research Faculty, Visiting Faculty, Clinical Faculty, Lecturers, Instructors; Tenure-System Faculty: Professors, Department Heads, Deans; Staff: Academic Assistants, Research Assistants and Technicians, Professional Staff, Administrative Assistants. All tenure- and non-tenure system faculty are inclusive of assistant, associate, and full professor levels.

Data and Analysis from the Strategic Planning Process

The following ideas highlight key ways in which CLAS can optimize building on strengths and take advantage of opportunities. In moving forward in these areas, some weaknesses should be addressed, which are noted below. Many more aspects were noted (both favorable and representing challenges) by the Data Collection Committee. The material described here represents what is most relevant to the ideas developed through the remainder of the strategic planning process.


Strengths and Opportunities

Student Engagement

CLAS surveys revealed that students and faculty have a transformational learning mindset. For both groups, success included applying classroom learning to “real world” experiences. Students especially noted the importance of transferable skills that directly apply to future career goals and reported that their success was about learning and retaining information and new knowledge.

Our faculty offer a range of opportunities for interactive learning experiences, such as research and independent study. One-third of the students who responded to our survey said they have worked independently with a faculty member. Further, 14% of those who had not yet had the opportunity responded that they plan to engage in this way. Students responding to the survey overwhelmingly reported wanting to engage more in research and scholarship projects, but often didn’t know how to connect with faculty. By creating more opportunities for these types of connections, student experiences and research could be enhanced.

Interdisciplinarity

Our work is highly interdisciplinary, and faculty secure funding for their scholarship. Nearly half of those who responded to the faculty survey report that they always or frequently collaborate with researchers in other departments, and 80% report doing so at least occasionally. More than 1 in 5 awards in CLAS are in collaboration with faculty from other schools/colleges (source: OVPR, 2015-2019). Among UConn schools and colleges, CLAS is second only to the School of Medicine in annual number of proposals submitted and research expenditures. According to the OVPR, CLAS awards received between FY16 and FY19 increased by more than 20%. CLAS average proposal success rates are also higher than University averages for the majority of sponsors. Our faculty apply for fellowships to support their scholarship; 40% of those responding to our survey did so within the last year.

The College is therefore poised to become a hub for interdisciplinary scholarship at UConn that spans research and teaching. By facilitating work across CLAS and working more closely with other colleges, schools, and centers and institutes, we can build bridges that will significantly advance our work. Faculty and department heads identified several areas that could be the focus of interdisciplinary research and education initiatives (see Academic Themes, below).

We also have opportunities for facilitating team teaching in novel ways that could foster communication, collaboration, and learning. CLAS is leading the university in online and hybrid teaching and development. From fall 2015 to spring 2020, CLAS offered more than 1,600 online and nearly 500 hybrid courses (source: Registrar’s Office). This wealth of experience provides a strong base from which to build across teaching modalities.

Impact

According to our surveys, CLAS faculty see their scholarly activities as having significant impact on economic and social factors, as well as influencing diversity, equity, and inclusion in Connecticut, New England, and the nation. Strengths within departments and opportunities unique to the regional campuses can be leveraged.

CLAS undergraduates make contributions to the state, region, and beyond. Of the Class of 2019 undergraduate alumni, 88% were employed, in graduate school, or engaged in service six months post-graduation (source: Center for Career Development). They primarily work within the state and region. We are also poised to increase contributions to the Connecticut workforce. Programs that connect CLAS students to careers are desired by our students and would be beneficial in both supporting our students’ career aspirations and retaining talent in the state.

Climate

CLAS students, faculty, and staff are on the whole glad to be at UConn. Results from our surveys showed 85% of staff, 85% of students, and 75% of faculty are happy at UConn, and 90% of students, 88% of faculty, and 81% of staff report feeling safe in their office buildings and classrooms.


Areas for Improvement

Balancing and integrating across our missions of teaching and research can present challenges. Differences in teaching across and within departments have the potential to negatively impact morale and overall research productivity. Over half (61%) of CLAS departments have 2+2 teaching load for tenure-track faculty, and many departments heads singled out heavy teaching as a barrier preventing faculty members from writing grants. Departments should develop strategic plans for advancing both our teaching and research missions – 62% of department head survey respondents reported having an active strategic plan.

Research and scholarship productivity and funding levels also vary across the College. Among the faculty survey respondents, about half report no research support this year. When examining the number and amount of external awards by faculty rank within the tenure-track, a lower than expected percentage of awards are observed among associate professors.

Staff, faculty, and department heads reported concerns about the lack of staffing and support in grants management. Most faculty survey respondents (57%) perceived that UConn has weaker grant-related support than other research institutions; only 3% indicated that UConn has better support.

Our student survey revealed that 12% of respondents lack adequate resources to sustain themselves and meet their basic needs. In fact, 28% of the students who said they would consider leaving UConn gave as a reason the cost of tuition and their lack of financial resources. Student survey responses reveal that some students are not able to pursue independent research, internships, and study abroad opportunities because of the financial burden.

A diverse group of faculty and staff is essential to excellence across our missions; retention is as important as recruitment. The most cited reasons for faculty survey respondents considering leaving UConn were: lack of internal resources (39%), competing offers from other institutions (38%), feeling their scholarship isn’t valued (30%), a lack of an intellectual community of collaborators (25%), lack of opportunities to do interdisciplinary work (15%), academic bullying (13%), being excluded from decision-making because of title (9%), and inadequate income (9%). Some faculty respondents also reported feeling that their achievements were assumed to be due to affirmative action (6%), and/or that their contributions are undervalued because of their gender (17%), race (6%), or ethnicity (6%).

Some staff survey respondents (36%) felt as though their work wasn’t valued, and 37% reported that they are excluded from decision-making processes as a result of their position or title. Additionally, 19% felt as if their contributions were minimized due to their gender, and 6% reported being excluded, discriminated against, or marginalized because of their gender.

Between 8% and 13% of student survey respondents reported feeling their contributions are dismissed because of their race or ethnicity; that people seem to presume they are successful because of affirmative action; or that their contributions are devalued because of their gender.

A range of factors related to philanthropic giving was identified. One is the small number of staff dedicated to CLAS development and alumni relations. The UConn Foundation is a separate entity from the University, which limits our ability to influence processes. However, the working relationship between the College and these professionals is positive and productive. We would benefit from capitalizing on the mutual desire to increase alumni and donor engagement at the department level. Department heads surveyed express a desire to get more involved with alumni engagement, and CLAS UConn Foundation staff are eager to partner with the College.

Academic Themes

As the arts and sciences college at a land-grant, flagship state Research I university, CLAS’s mission is firmly rooted in disciplinary scholarship that defines a liberal arts education and research program. To that end, the College is structured so core disciplines can flourish within departments. They not only serve as the foundations for basic inquiry, but also as pillars supporting interdisciplinary scholarship.

The following areas of interdisciplinary scholarship were identified by the Planning Committee as the most promising areas in which to build on existing strengths across the humanities and social, life, and physical sciences, with clear connections to other colleges and schools across the University. They will guide priorities for growth and investment at the College level and serve as inspirations for our community to generate novel ideas and approaches that span the College’s strategic goals below.

The Earth and Its Future

Sustainable Systems, Global Resources, and World Cultures

Big Data: Science, Policy, and Ethics

Inequalities, Social Justice, Truth, and Belief

Health, Disease, and Well-Being

Brain, Mind, Language, and Logic

Goals and Potential Outcomes

The CLAS Planning and Implementation committees established four overarching goals, along with tactics and metrics to identify success, for achieving the College’s vision. Their work has been merged and consolidated to provide transparent direction and clear examples of the types of approaches to be taken. These goals are meant to serve as a framework that can shift with time and changes in circumstances. The order of items does not indicate relative priority.

A number of the objectives and strategies intersect, which should create a substantial impact. Beyond these specific connections, a range of factors are broadly relevant across our goals, including appreciation of the diverse people and places that are the greatest assets of our institution. These include the unique aspects of each of our campuses and the students they serve, as well as our faculty and staff across appointment types and career stages. Graduate students are critical to both the teaching and research missions, as well as what we offer to the State of Connecticut and beyond.

While not specific to any of the articulated goals, it is also critically important to all that we do that our rewards are aligned with our values and priorities. In concert with our units and their constituents, we will strive to use various mechanisms to that end, including the faculty promotion and tenure process, evaluations for faculty and staff merit-based salary increases, College-level awards, and publicly highlighting the efforts that make us proud.

Goal 1: Climate, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Build and continually support an academic environment and workplace where diverse faculty, staff, and students feel valued and thrive.

Objectives


Recruitment

Develop a comprehensive plan to attract more diverse individuals (e.g., with regard to ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status) for all positions.

  • Ensure diverse search committee membership across multiple dimensions for all CLAS hires.
  • Provide support for units to be aware of and utilize best practices during interviews, candidate selection, and negotiations.
  • Develop a systematic process to accommodate partner hiring that includes best practices and innovative approaches.
  • Create a pipeline program for predoctoral and postdoctoral scholars for faculty positions at UConn upon completion of their programs.
  • Work with graduate program directors within units and the graduate school to increase the diversity of applicants.

Retention

Develop policies and practices that improve retention of all faculty and staff.

  • Value scholars with diverse perspectives and lived experiences who can contribute to the production of knowledge in all disciplines.
  • Create and implement a transparent plan to identify and mitigate existing issues in salary compression and inversion.
  • Promote an environment of social and professional support for faculty by strengthening our centers, institutes, and programs, as well as developing their support for the academic work of underrepresented faculty.
  • Gather information on why faculty and staff leave UConn by conducting exit interviews with those who are willing to provide feedback and use the ideas to enact change where feasible.
  • Promote regular collection of College workplace perception information and use the data to enact change.

Mentorship and Professional Development

Provide training and mentorship programs for CLAS employees, including tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, and staff.

  • Develop an evidence-based set of best practices and support mechanisms to facilitate mentoring of faculty at the College and unit levels. These efforts should occur across all aspects of the faculty career, including mentorship of graduate students.
  • Establish and support an onboarding program for new faculty, including mentorship, peer connections, and work-life balance.
  • Facilitate the development of leaders at various levels within the College.
  • Acknowledge mentors for their service through opportunities to apply for professional development funds.
  • Develop and pilot a mentoring program for College staff.
  • Develop a training course offered to staff who meet routinely as a cohort to engage in professional skill development.

Amplifying Voices

Seek out new ways to give College constituents greater influence over the conditions of their work and/or education.

  • Work toward providing units increased flexibility in the use of resources to better advance the mission of our College.
  • Establish a set of advisory committees for the College to offer ideas and recommendations to the Dean on a range of topics, including but not limited to diversity, equity, and inclusion; research; staff support and development; and student experiences.
  • Encourage all faculty, staff, and students to participate in creating an inclusive environment by developing opportunities and programs that provide for meaningful interaction and understanding of diversity.

Progress during Academic Year 2020-21 (Fiscal Year 2021)

To make this report a useful and indexable document, the text is divided into sections, but many of the articulated goals and strategies overlap and complement one another. For each of the four major College goals, we summarize the objectives set out in the original Strategic Plan and report progress on specific strategies (indicated with bold text) during the time period of July 2020–June 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021; FY21). In some cases, initiatives were added as we progressed through the year, which are also described below.


Recruitment

Develop a comprehensive plan to attract more diverse individuals (e.g., with regard to ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status) for all positions.

Recruitment of a diverse workforce is a critical step to ensuring a broad community of equity and inclusion. This year, our Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Kate Capshaw, worked with every tenure system faculty search committee to ensure diverse membership, as well as examine the advertisements for invitational language, advise committees on recruitment efforts, and consult on ways to keep DEI in the foreground through the interview and selection process.

Kate assessed each candidate pool by working with the UConn Human Resources Department (HR) to examine the demographics, and she asked for further advertisement and recruitment until the pools were diverse and representational of the field. Kate then evaluated all “long lists” of potential candidates for initial interviews and “short lists” for prospective in-depth interviews (virtual visits due to the pandemic). She advised committees and unit leaders throughout faculty searches on best practices for interviews and candidate selection. The Associate Deans overseeing individual units and the Dean worked with department heads on negotiations to provide attractive and equitable startup packages.

We are working to institute similar processes for non-tenure track hires going forward.

Recognizing that to attract the best new faculty it is often important to provide employment for their partner, CLAS also aggressively pursued partner hires during the past year. The College worked with the Office of the Provost to provide resources. For faculty searches conducted during the 2020-21 academic year, the College facilitated four partner accommodations.

Late in the spring 2021 semester, the College instituted changes in staff searches to help recruit wide-ranging candidate pools. Every staff advertisement now contains a preferred qualification that allows search committees to consider the candidates’ ability to support and work with diverse student, administrative, and faculty populations. Candidates are considered for their “commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in an educational setting.” The interview process also now involves a standard question that allows candidates to discuss their perspective on DEI as core values to the College.

In concert with the Provost’s Office, the College conducted a cluster search for faculty pursuing antiracism scholarship. In addition to advancing areas of research where the College has particular strengths in line with our Academic Themes, this initiative increased the diversity of faculty members across several departments. See details in Goal 2, Hiring Initiatives.

We also pursued cluster hires for some tenure system faculty in the 2019-20 academic year, while this Strategic Plan was being developed. Therefore, we report data on that year in addition to 2020-21 and compare them to the demographics of total CLAS tenure system faculty in the 2018-19 academic year (FY19). While it is too soon to assess effects on hiring due to strategic changes in the search process for non-tenure track and staff positions, we can report meaningful progress for tenure system hires in the last two years. Compared to the 617 tenure system faculty employed by CLAS in 2018-19, the 34 new hires in 2019-20 and 21 hires from 2020-21 searches were far more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity (see Fig. 1).

Three charts that show the demographic makeup of Tenure System Faculty as of the 2018-2019 academic year and faculty hired during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years. See text for description.
Figure 1: Tenure-system faculty data. Information for 2018-2019 is from Human Resources. To obtain more complete information, we collected data on hires in the two more recent years from application materials submitted by the candidates.

The proportion of women hired has also increased. Compared to 39% of our full tenure system faculty in 2018-19, individuals hired were 53% and 76% women from searches in 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively.

We had intended to track the demographics of applicants to tenure and non-tenure track faculty positions, as well as those for staff. However, the implementation of the PageUP hiring system in the middle of the 2019-20 academic year has presented some challenges. We cannot get an accurate baseline from that year for comparison to 2020-21 due to the timing of the implementation. In addition, the data are not as complete as we would hope. For example, 19% of the applicants for tenure track positions have not disclosed data on race and ethnicity. We plan to work with HR on how to best capture the information going forward.


Retention

Develop policies and practices that improve retention of all faculty and staff.

We worked this year to value scholars with diverse perspectives and lived experiences by elevating their stories and work. Articles produced by our Communications Office include announcements of new faculty the College hired through cluster searches (see details in Goal 2); and marketing articles that elevated research themes in the strategic plan, including antiracism work, health disparities research, and climate science. The stories grew out of monthly meetings between the Associate Dean for DEI and the Director of Communications, Christine Buckley.

We also revised and expanded our Annual CLAS Faculty and Staff Awards so that they reward College employees for work conducted across the goals of this plan, further emphasizing leadership, service, DEI initiatives, and notably, a new series of endowed awards for mentoring by faculty.

To create a more transparent and fair process to identify and mitigate existing issues in faculty salary compression and inversion, we had developed in 2019 a tool to make salary data relative to years of experience readily available within our office and to CLAS unit leaders. Using these data in concert with the process outlined in the AAUP contract, in the past year we worked with department heads to begin to systematically make salary adjustments for faculty in both tenure and non-tenure tracks. The College provided two-thirds of the funding for this initiative.

We promoted an environment of social and professional support for faculty by strengthening our centers, institutes, and programs. Beginning in Summer 2020 and extending through Fall 2021, we facilitated collaborative conversations among these non-departmentally organized units focusing on race, gender, and ethnicity. They have begun considering a unified structure that would promote greater research and pedagogical intersections and productivity. They have formed a working group to conceptualize the new structure, involve faculty vision and feedback, and execute a plan for institutionalization. The group is faculty-led and, with the College’s support, has consulted experts in interdisciplinary academic structures.

The College also actively negotiated packages to increase retention of faculty. We did not wait for faculty to receive an outside offer before working on an accommodation. Depending on what was most important to the individual, these included salary increases, hiring partners, and research funding. In the 2020-21 academic year (FY21) our offers were sufficient to retain 8 of 9 individuals (89%). While far more retentions were negotiated in the prior year (FY19), the proportion in which we were successful increased (84% of 16).


Mentorship and Professional Development

Provide training and mentorship programs for CLAS employees, including tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty and staff.

We began to develop an evidence-based set of best practices and support mechanisms to facilitate mentoring of faculty. In academic year 2020-2021, we developed and implemented a series of four Research Workshops for early-career faculty. We also produced one peer-mentoring session specifically for assistant professors-in-residence. The inaugural session, on the topic of the importance of mentoring, attracted 82 participants, and the remaining four sessions attracted 50-56 registrants. We also hosted a specific question-and-answer session for in-residence and clinical faculty to talk with the Dean about their concerns; 62 faculty attended this session. Responses to an end-of-year evaluation suggest that the sessions were appreciated by the attendees, with 22 percent of respondents reporting that they were extremely satisfied with the offering and 48 percent somewhat satisfied. Over three-quarters of the respondents replied that they would like CLAS to continue offering mentoring programming in the next year.

We also began work to facilitate the development of leaders at various levels within the College. In this area, we updated and expanded the CLAS Department Heads’ Manual (originally introduced by Dean Jeremy Teitelbaum in 2013) to provide new information on UConn and CLAS policies, as well as the responsibilities of department heads and best practices for accomplishing the work. The Dean’s Office also offered a series of leadership workshops for CLAS unit leaders, including department heads, and center, institute, and program directors. We encouraged these individuals to invite emerging leaders within their units. The sessions included: an overview of the CLAS budget and financial strategies; time management and running efficient meetings; rewarding, valuing, and retaining faculty; working with support staff; and difficult conversations.


Amplifying Voices

Seek out new ways to give College constituents greater influence over the conditions of their work and/or education.

This year we worked toward providing units increased flexibility in the use of resources to better advance the mission of our College. Decisions on course releases provided to faculty were transferred from the College to the unit level with the goal of empowering unit leaders with the ability to use this resource to advance research. Two new systems were also put into place to ensure student success and equity in workload. First, Assistant Dean Mansour Ndiaye worked with CLAS units to articulate the schedule of courses that would be offered in a predictable pattern. Second, a reporting system was created to capture the releases afforded to faculty and their intended purpose.

Advisory committees were established to offer ideas and recommendations to the College on a range of topics, including faculty research; graduate student affairs; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Associate Deans hosted the meetings of the committees within their portfolios.

The College also issued a Request for Proposals on antiracist teaching, research, and climate in Summer 2020. We funded four initiatives, including: an Activist-in-Residence program developed by Africana Studies, American Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, El Instituto, Judaic Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; a series of lectures and pedagogical developments focusing on decolonization and curricular reform by professors and graduate students in Literatures, Cultures, and Languages; an undergraduate course on Language and Racism developed by faculty in Cognitive Science and Psychological Sciences; and the Racism in the Margins project, which spawned a conference with 900 virtual attendees from universities around the country to discuss antiracist practices in teaching writing. This initiative also pursued pathways to more fair and inclusive assessments of student writing across disciplines, and has plans to build working groups and trainings for UConn’s faculty and graduate students.

Toward creating an inclusive environment by developing opportunities for meaningful interaction and understanding of diversity, we created a set of suggestions for units to develop Community Norms. The Dean’s Office Senior Staff then followed the process, which led to thoughtful conversations about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and a document to guide our professional interactions. In addition to encouraging our departments and other units to engage in the process, we offered to share the Dean’s Office document as a model.

Goal 2: Innovative Scholarship

Promote interdisciplinary research by building on a foundation of core disciplines and engaging novel intersections to address major challenges to knowledge, well-being, and our world.

Objectives


Synergistic Activities and Internal Research Support

Create opportunities to stimulate convergence among disciplines and foster collaborative relationships that spur innovative thinking and advance scholarship in priority areas.

  • Support College-level symposia to facilitate conversations among scholars from multiple CLAS departments or new collaborations among scholars within a discipline.
  • Fund small grants to pilot collaborative work among different areas of the College and facilitate novel, interdisciplinary studies that generate external funding proposals.
  • Create a competitive mechanism for newly-recruited scholars from fields in which summer salary is difficult to obtain and/or typically not part of startup packages to apply for these resources.
  • Develop creative funding models, in partnership with departments, to provide postdoctoral training opportunities.
  • Create ways to facilitate public-private research partnerships.
  • Encourage departments to develop strategic plans for enhancing research and fostering equitable workloads that facilitate accomplishing our mission across the profile of our faculty.

Hiring Initiatives

Pursue hiring into targeted clusters to increase the College’s interdisciplinary capacity in the thematic areas identified, while also maintaining our strengths in high-level basic research and education. These clusters might be within a department, across units within CLAS, or span colleges and schools.


External Funding Support and Infrastructure

Increase support for faculty in funding applications and publication activity through mentorship and training (see Mentorship and Professional Development section above), especially in fields where underexplored external funding opportunities exist.

  • Formalize a grant-writing mentorship program for junior faculty to increase success in securing research funding. Identify and incentivize faculty mentors based on a proven track record of obtaining grants and fellowships, basic familiarity with the research topic, and a predisposition to help others.
  • Evaluate and determine ways to increase support for grant proposal preparation, submission, and post-award support, both by determining appropriate steps within CLAS and by advocating for greater support through the OVPR.
  • Encourage departments to adjust teaching loads to allow for intensive grant and fellowship application writing or externally supported research activities.
  • Consider ways to strengthen the research infrastructure to increase our ability to respond to major federally funded research initiatives and requests for proposals.

Fundraising

Work with UConn Foundation colleagues to secure funding across CLAS with emphases on research areas in the academic themes identified above, and to retain existing donors to the College.

  • Raise funds to support endowed professorships.
  • Develop new funds for scholarships and fellowships for graduate students.
  • Secure resources for additional, lower-cost initiatives related to recruiting the most competitive graduate students and sustaining research missions within units (i.e., top-off money in recruitment packages, summer grants, additional travel grants).

Progress during Academic Year 2020-21 (Fiscal Year 2021)

To make this report a useful and indexable document, the text is divided into sections, but many of the articulated goals and strategies overlap and complement one another. For each of the four major College goals, we summarize the objectives set out in the original Strategic Plan and report progress on specific strategies (indicated with bold text) during the time period of July 2020–June 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021; FY21). In some cases, initiatives were added as we progressed through the year, which are also described below.


Synergistic Activities and Internal Research Support

Create opportunities to stimulate convergence among disciplines and foster collaborative relationships that spur innovative thinking and advance scholarship in priority areas.

The College hosted two symposia, which we called Research Conversations, among scholars in areas for which we conducted cluster searches in the 2019-2020 academic year: Health Disparities and Native American and Indigenous Studies. More than 40 faculty and students attended the Health Disparities event in February 2021, which introduced our cluster of three new faculty in this field. With the leadership of political science professor Sandy Grande, and involving faculty from our cluster hire in Indigenous studies and faculty who identify as Native or Indigenous, the April 2021 workshop drew 60 faculty, staff, and students. Attendees expressed enthusiasm about the College’s orientation towards a more just engagement with the historical and contemporary implications of colonization.

The College invested $408K in supporting small grants to pilot collaborative work across departments and units, based on calls for proposals this year. Resources were designed to stimulate externally-funded research in three of the six Academic Themes: Big Data: Science, Policy, and Ethics; Inequalities, Social Justice, Truth, and Belief; and Health, Disease, and Well-Being. They also included funding for the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL;) to provide a mechanism for supporting faculty both in and outside of the tenure system). We also issued a call for proposals to faculty and staff for funding to develop research, pedagogy, and programming that advances work against racial injustice. See the description of these projects above in Goal 1, Amplifying Voices.

The College created a competitive summer salary mechanism for scholars from fields in which it is difficult to obtain or typically not part of startup packages to apply for these resources. We funded 11 proposals that supported 13 faculty for a total of $264,631.

The Associate Deans also began working with departments and non-departmentally organized units within CLAS to encourage development of strategic plans for enhancing research and fostering equitable workloads. This effort was facilitated through the division meetings, and in other conversations.


Hiring Initiatives

Pursue hiring into targeted clusters to increase the College’s interdisciplinary capacity in the thematic areas identified, while also maintaining our strengths in high-level basic research and education. These clusters might be within a department, across units within CLAS, or across colleges and schools.

We are particularly proud of our cluster hires in antiracism and environment and human interactions in this past year, which will advance our research and teaching in critical areas such as social justice and climate change, respectively. The Environment and Human Interactions cluster will bring a total of seven tenure-track faculty to UConn, five of which joined the College this fall in the Departments of Anthropology, Chemistry, Political Science, Public Policy, and Sociology. The faculty study how human activities are impacting a range of Earth systems, and how changes to the Earth itself are impacting humans. The Antiracism cluster brings eight faculty in departments across the humanities and social sciences, all jointly appointed with a CLAS institute or program focusing on race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. From searches framed through the concepts of Catalyzing Antiracist and Decolonial Futures and Racial Justice, the faculty are joining the Departments of English; Political Science; Philosophy; Journalism; Literatures, Cultures, and Languages; History; and Communication. Their scholarship focuses on centralizing Black, Latinx, Asian and Asian American, and Indigenous voices in the humanities and social sciences and on building transdisciplinary research.


External Funding Support and Infrastructure

Increase support for faculty in funding applications and publication activity through mentorship and training (see Mentorship and Professional Development section above).

To support junior faculty in their scholarship, we offered a series of five Research Workshops on topics such as applying for NIH R01 funding, writing a book proposal, developing interdisciplinary collaborations, and continuing research during COVID.

To evaluate and determine ways to increase support for grant proposals, in spring 2021 the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, Ofer Harel, began bi-monthly meetings with the Corporate and Foundation Relations team at the UConn Foundation to increase opportunities and relationships to facilitate funding from corporations and private foundations. These have been mostly mutual fact-finding meetings that will lay the groundwork for future partnerships. The team has also begun to regularly forward information on funding opportunities to be shared with our units.

The College has worked with units toward increasing equity in teaching loads for faculty both in and outside of the tenure system and encouraged them to complete or update governance documents on faculty workload. We have also provided flexibility to units to offer course releases in service of advancing research (see details of working with departments on flexible teaching in Goal 1, Amplifying Voices).

To strengthen research infrastructure, we issued a call for proposals for equipment funding, particularly large pieces that will facilitate collaborative research. The College contributed more than $1.2M to this initiative, distributed across 10 groups of faculty. Departments provided additional resources ($291K in total), as did the Office of Vice President for Research in one case ($200K).

The College implemented a new dashboard to facilitate tracking and analysis of external funding for both principal investigators (PIs) and co-investigators (co-Is) by department and faculty career stage.

We are proud of the funding success of our faculty in the past year (FY21; see Table 1). Compared to the previous year, the number and level of funding increased for both proposals submitted and awarded for CLAS faculty as PIs. The values for awards also increased for our Co-Is, although the submissions were lower. It is difficult to interpret those data, however, due to the relatively small number. The small drop in research expenditures from FY20 to FY21 likely reflects disruption of research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 1. External funding to College faculty in FY20 and FY21.

Fiscal Year 2020 Fiscal Year 2021 Percent Change
Research Expenditures $36,434,788 $35,406,645  -3% 
PI Proposals Submitted (Count) 427 530 19%
PI Proposals Submitted (Amount) $197,953,901 $262,674,704  25%
PI Proposals Awarded (Count) 158 212 25%
PI Proposals Awarded (Amount $48,667,249 $62,359,720  22%
Co-PI Proposals Submitted (Count) 15 14 -7%
Co-I Proposals Submitted (Amount)   $22,476,996  $13,222,646  -70% 
Co-I Proposals Awarded (Count)   6 8 25%
Co-I Proposals Awarded (Amount)   $9,072,507  $9,597,783  6% 

Note: Data were pulled from the CLAS College Holistic Academic Data dashboard CHAD, which collects information directly from Sponsored Program Services in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Data for Co-Is are distinct from those listed for PIs and they reflect proposals submitted with a PI outside of CLAS.


Fundraising

Work with UConn Foundation colleagues to secure funding across CLAS with emphases on research areas in the academic themes identified above, and on retaining existing donors to the College.

More than $8.6M was raised through the UConn Foundation in the past year, which included support for research ($2,097,692); endowed faculty positions ($2,026,827); and students ($2,984,806), including support for graduate students ($448,004).

Goal 3: Teaching, Learning, and Student Success

Enhance through experiential learning, mentorship, and innovative pedagogy the College’s opportunities for undergraduate education.

Objectives


Course Development

Provide new opportunities for engaged learning in cutting-edge areas.

  • Provide more flexibility and incentives for faculty to develop new courses or redesign existing courses that enhance opportunities for active student engagement, as teaching capacity is available.
  • Fund an internal grant competition to create or redesign interdisciplinary undergraduate general education courses, prioritizing the thematic areas identified within this strategic plan.
  • Incentivize teaching professional development for graduate students by creating or sponsoring workshops and providing support for the graduate students that participate in them.

Student Support and Engagement

Create multifaceted opportunities for students and reduce barriers to participation in undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, and service learning.

  • Work with the UConn Foundation to secure scholarships for undergraduate students.
  • Encourage units to develop new ways of facilitating faculty-student interactions outside of the classroom, including those that advance faculty collaboration across interdisciplinary areas.
  • Work with departments to increase opportunities for students to engage in course-based research experiences.
  • Support the development of scalable course-based undergraduate research experiences targeting first- and second-year students, and transition them from these courses into independent faculty-led research projects.
  • Recruit and support peer mentors for undergraduate students.
  • Create ways to better connect CLAS students with campus resources on experiential learning opportunities, including learning communities and career services.

Progress during Academic Year 2020-21 (Fiscal Year 2021)

To make this report a useful and indexable document, the text is divided into sections, but many of the articulated goals and strategies overlap and complement one another. For each of the four major College goals, we summarize the objectives set out in the original Strategic Plan and report progress on specific strategies (indicated with bold text) during the time period of July 2020–June 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021; FY21). In some cases, initiatives were added as we progressed through the year, which are also described below.


Student Support and Engagement

Create multifaceted opportunities for students and reduce barriers to participation in undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, and service learning.

We continued our ongoing efforts of working with the UConn Foundation to secure scholarships for undergraduate students. Our UConn Foundation partners were successful this year in obtaining a $1,350,000 bequest for the Martin Horn Scholarship in Communication. As noted in Goal 2, $2,984,806 was raised in funding for student support.

The College and the Director of Alumni Relations, Elyssa Kelly, created a new program for CLAS undergraduate women, the CLAS Women’s Leadership Collective. This program is a unique leadership learning experience coupled with group mentorship from UConn alumnae. Nearly 70 students and alumni were grouped into 16 “mentorship circles” focused on career communities. They met virtually 5-6 times throughout the course of the academic year. Nearly all students reported a high efficacy of their alumnae mentors. The majority of the students also reported an increase in their confidence, personal and professional development, and community-building. In addition, based on surveys asking how likely students were to recommend the program to their friends, the program achieved a 78 Net Promoter Score, which ranks it as a “world-class experience” according to the score’s description.

We began tracking in earnest the work our students are doing in experiential learning, including internships, practicums, and other out-of-classroom experiences. This year, 233 students registered for CLAS internship courses, 117 enrolled in CLAS practicum courses, and 386 registered worked on research with faculty members for credit. Another 871 undergraduate students enrolled in independent study courses, despite the largely virtual format. In addition, faculty across the CLAS departments reported more than 100 research projects in collaboration with students not associated with course credit.

Since COVID-19 had deep and broad effects throughout our academic year, teaching and classroom experiences were difficult to accomplish in a regular way, let alone in a strategic way. Thus, we plan to further address our student success strategic goals as COVID-19 subsides in the coming years.

Goal 4: Broader Impacts, Service, and Visibility

Support existing and new initiatives that impact the welfare of Connecticut and highlight the advantages that we provide.

Objectives


Facilitate Community Engagement

Expand and incentivize engagement with Connecticut communities, and increase the visibility of what CLAS does with and for citizens of the state.

  • Advance community-based research and education; provide opportunities to both facilitate research in this area and increase opportunities for undergraduate active engagement.
  • Develop procedures for reporting and recognizing the work of CLAS faculty, staff, and students, and their community partners across the state, as they address public issues in Connecticut.
  • Partner with University Communications to develop and offer trainings to departments and faculty in public communication and engaged scholarship.

Engage Government and Nonprofits

Engage with state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to promote meaningful evidence-based policy and enhance opportunities for funded research.

  • Provide support for applied research and other activities with state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
  • Develop an engaged scholarship program to provide seed funding to fuel faculty and graduate student research, internship partnerships, and projects with local and state agencies and nonprofit organizations.
  • Seek ways to enhance employment opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students by aligning curricula with the needs of the state.

Leverage Alumni Networks

Work with UConn Foundation colleagues to develop and strengthen CLAS alumni networks and engage alumni and corporate and state leaders as donors, mentors, and teachers for CLAS programs.

  • Host an annual alumni networking conference, with talks by alumni and faculty members.
  • Engage alumni in guest lecturing and classroom visits.
  • Facilitate mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students by alumni.
  • Recognize alumni contributions to the University, their communities, and society through the establishment of alumni awards and sharing of information online and through social media.
  • Strengthen connections with alumni that may help to identify potential internship sites and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students.

Progress during Academic Year 2020-21 (Fiscal Year 2021)

To make this report a useful and indexable document, the text is divided into sections, but many of the articulated goals and strategies overlap and complement one another. For each of the four major College goals, we summarize the objectives set out in the original Strategic Plan and report progress on specific strategies (indicated with bold text) during the time period of July 2020–June 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021; FY21). In some cases, initiatives were added as we progressed through the year, which are also described below.


Facilitate Community Engagement

Expand and incentivize engagement with Connecticut communities, and increase the visibility of what CLAS does with and for citizens of the state.

One way to measure the efficacy of our internal work to increase outreach of the College is positive media attention recognizing faculty, student, and College contributions. In this fiscal year, 440+ articles featuring CLAS faculty and alumni were published in the news media, and more than 200 were published in UConn Today. We also began developing procedures for reporting and recognizing the work of CLAS faculty, staff, and students, and their community partners across the state, as they address public issues in Connecticut. In many cases our departments collected data on outreach and community engagement for the first time, signaling a step forward for valuing this kind of work in the College.


Engage Government and Nonprofits

Engage with state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to promote meaningful, evidence-based policy and enhance opportunities for funded research.

Faculty reported giving 234 presentations to the Connecticut community this year. These presentations included 116 to interested civic groups, such as local historical societies, antiracism collectives, Rotary Clubs, and events hosted by local public libraries. Faculty gave 71 presentations to non-profit organizations and 29 schools (public and private).

Fourteen presentations were made to local governments and state agencies, and four presentations were made to the Connecticut state legislature: one to the legislature’s Committee on Higher Education and three to the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors Equity and Opportunity. These data represent those reported to department heads and directors.


Leverage Alumni and Donor Networks

Work with UConn Foundation colleagues to develop and strengthen CLAS alumni networks and engage alumni and corporate and state leaders as donors, mentors, and teachers for CLAS programs.

More than 120 alumni served as speakers or presenters in CLAS virtual events this year, including panel discussions, classroom visits, and guest speaking roles. The topics ranged from cognitive science to women in the pandemic to branding, marketing and product management. The Women’s Leadership Collective also had its inaugural year – see Goal 3.

In the past year, the UConn Foundation surpassed its $8.5M fundraising goal for CLAS with support in total of $8,633,258 from alumni donors, friends, corporations, private foundations, and others. The amount was down from the previous year ($10,050,301). However, we saw an increase in the number of individuals, with 1,916 contributors. This jump of nearly 700 new donors indicates a significant increase in alumni engagement.

Conclusions

The ideas represented here constitute a roadmap for the College to achieve its vision over the next five years and articulate the values by which we operate. Guided by this Strategic Plan, our CLAS community will strive to:

  • Increase the diversity of faculty, staff, and graduate students, and be sure there is a supportive, inclusive culture so that all individuals can thrive.
  • Enhance interdisciplinary scholarship and education by building on a foundation of core disciplines and facilitating novel intersections.
  • Augment student success by advancing engaged and experiential learning for undergraduates across all disciplines.
  • Connect our work in the classroom and our research to the greater good of Connecticut and beyond.

We in the College adopt this strategic plan as a framework to scaffold ideas in the coming years. It will be a living document that will guide our work, and will evolve in the context of our successes and failures and the world around us.

At the heart of this work is the College’s passionate commitment to the values of a liberal arts and sciences education, encompassing the diversity of disciplines, and their transformative value to the lives of students and scholars alike.

Participants

 
The four strategic planning working committees included faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students in the College.

Visioning Committee

Chair: Katharine Capshaw, Professor of English

Dean’s Office Liaisons: Christine Buckley, Director of Communications

Members

Mohamad Alkadry

Debanuj Dasgupta

Holly Fitch

Yasaman Homayouni

Alessanda Introvigne

Brendan Kane

Steven Kim

Kerry Marsh

Joseph McAlhany

Mark McConnel

Nancy McMahon

Gustavo Nanclares

Shayla Nunnally

Mark Peczuh

Stephen Stifano

Data Collection Committee

Chair: Amy Gorin, Professor of Psychological Sciences and Director of InCHIP

Dean’s Office Liaison: Edith Barrett, Associate Dean

Members

Jorge Agüero

Leighton Core

Amanda Denes

Jennifer Dineen

Lisa Eaton

Debarchana Ghosh

Ofer Harel

Michael Hren

Alexander Jackson

Eleanor Ouimet

Heather Parker

Andrew Puckett

Aaron Rosman

Daniel Schwartz

Anji Seth

Lynne Tirrell

Mark Urban

Penny Vlahos

Ryan Watson

Xiaodong Yan

Yashan Zhang

Planning Committee

Chair: Samuel Martinez, Professor of Anthropology and Director of El Instituto

Dean’s Office Liaisons: Cathy Schlund-Vials, Associate Dean; Lisa Park Boush, Associate Dean

Members

César Abadía-Barrero  

Leelakrishna Channa  

Amanda Crawford  

Megan Delaney  

Allison Goldsnider  

Fumiko Hoeft  

Eva Lefkowitz  

David McArdle  

Alexus McLeod  

Bandana Purkayastha  

Lionel Shapiro  

Cindy Stewart  

Jennifer Terni  

Anastasios Tzingounis  

Eduardo Urios-Aparisi  

Anna Ziering  

Margaret Rubega  

Implementation Committee

Chair: Jon Gajewski, Associate Professor and Head of Linguistics

Dean’s Office Liaison: Andy Moiseff, Associate Dean

Members

Deborah Bolnick  

Thomas Bontly  

Eric Brunner  

Shardé Davis  

Miranda Davis  

Niloy Dutta  

Victoria Ford Smith  

Sirrah Galligan  

Jose Gascon  

Jane Gordon  

Julie Granger  

Ken Lachlan  

Kane Lynch (ex officio)  

Vicki Magley  

Mansour Ndiaye (ex officio)  

Jeffrey Ogbar  

Rebecca Puhl  

John Redden  

Natalia Smirnova  

Damin Wu  

Advisory Committee

Alan Bennett '69 (CLAS), CLAS Dean's Advisory Board, UConn Foundation Board of Directors

Indrajeet Chaubey, Dean, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources

Deborah Chyun, Dean, School of Nursing

Kent Holsinger, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School

Kazem Kazerounian, Dean, School of Engineering

Radenka Maric, Vice President for Research

Scott Roberts, President, UConn Foundation

Annemarie Seifert, Director, Avery Point Campus