George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, discusses the state of the college.

'State of CAS'

College of Arts and Sciences dean delivers annual address, welcomes new faculty


8:28 a.m., Sept. 13, 2013--In his 2013 State of the College address, George Watson, dean of the University of Delaware's College of Arts and Sciences, discussed goals and priorities, with special emphasis on what he referred to as “the Delaware difference.”

His first example of this difference was the opening of the new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab), and the DuPont Interdisciplinary Learning Laboratories, in particular.

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“While the building has taken four years to design and build, the ‘signature first-year integrated science curriculum’ developed by John Jungck and a faculty team across several science departments represents the culmination of 20-some years of faculty work on transforming undergraduate education through problem-based learning practices,” said Watson. 

The dean also thanked the CAS faculty members for their leadership and commitment to realizing this vision of engaged student learning.

While noting that pressing facility needs related to science instruction and research still remain to be addressed, he then outlined briefly the work that is underway currently in planning a new interdisciplinary social sciences building.

To be sited next to the University of Delaware Library, he called this building “a major focus” of the college’s current development effort, adding it “will help facilitate the sorts of cross-disciplinary collaborations to address the ‘grand challenges and great debates’ of our time about which Provost Grasso has written and spoken.”

Watson also noted how the arts, humanities and social sciences contribute in critical ways to “the Delaware difference” and invited the faculty and staff in the audience to help the college envision new ways of leveraging interdisciplinary partnerships and enhancing public engagement and community outreach activities.  

“We often talk about how we ‘change students’ lives' through our teaching,” he said.  “But we also ‘change our community.’”

The arts, he noted, make a “critically important contribution” to the cultural life of this community and the state, bringing “many community members to our campus for outstanding performances and exhibitions.”

Watson highlighted events like the Saturday Symposium series, the history department’s Emancipation Semester programming, and the “Earth Perfect?” conference this past June for bringing UD alumni back to campus and leveraging new partnerships with cultural institutions in the area.  

The School of Public Policy and Administration’s pilot project to catalog its community engagement activities has helped “develop UD’s confidence” to pursue Carnegie Engaged University status this year, he said.

He also cited associate professor Yassar Payne’s participatory action research project in Eastside and Southbridge, which “not only engages community members in research but opens them up to career and education opportunities.” 

“Many members of CAS make such a Delaware Difference, said Watson, adding, “Our work in these arenas is important and valued.”

Watson’s address was preceded by remarks from new Provost Domenico Grasso, whose long tenure at Smith College, renowned for its liberal arts education, made him feel “at home” in the “oldest and largest of UD’s seven colleges.” 

“In a world that’s changing as rapidly as ours, we have an obligation to ensure that our students can think broadly across disciplines and consider the human dimensions at the heart of the grand challenges of our day,” said Grasso. “That is the hallmark of a liberal arts education,” he said, adding, “And it’s the very foundation every UD graduate needs.”

The annual State of the College event concluded with Watson introducing the 10 new members of the college faculty, two post-doctoral fellows in the Center for the Study of Diversity, six preceptors for the ISE Lab and new staff hires and interim appointments in the college. 

Photos by Lane McLaughlin

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