LAS Strategic Plan 2021-2025
A Message from Interim Dean Robinson
When we began work on this strategic plan in May 2019, we could not have imagined what would transpire in the ensuing months: pandemic, economic disaster, a reckoning of race and social justice in America, a highly unconventional election, and a hybrid teaching model on our campus.
Our college, like the rest of campus, has been focused on making the constant adjustments needed to carry on our work while ensuring the safety of our community. In fact, our great faculty, staff, and students were at, and continue to be at, the forefront of many of these efforts.
Despite this, we never stopped planning. We couldn’t; the liberal arts and sciences are too important. Our college plays a fundamental role in the success of our campus. Nearly every undergraduate student takes one of our courses. Our faculty and graduate students drive research in labs and libraries across campus. Our alumni go into the world and make a difference that is simply immeasurable. We believe an ambitious plan for the future and a strategy for implementing it are more important now than ever. While we’re facing unprecedented changes that this plan cannot fully anticipate, we believe it can help us maintain our focus as we navigate our way forward. With this strategic plan, we set a course for the college for the next five years.
The liberal arts and sciences are the foundation for developing well-rounded individuals who contribute to society in meaningful ways. We are known for the intellectual breadth and depth we offer students in our college and students from all corners of campus. In LAS, our students learn cultural competence, teamwork and leadership, and habits of mind that allow for continuous learning and success across a lifetime. For over 100 years, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has been the heart of our university. Our college must continue to lead the way.
Work on this plan began under the direction of former Dean Feng Sheng Hu, was nurtured and shaped by our college leadership team, and was brought to life by ideas from administrative leaders, faculty, staff, and students from all areas of LAS. I am pleased to present this plan on behalf of the college.
I am confident that this plan will lead us forward as a college. We are facing many challenges created by the pandemic. This plan will guide us as we meet those challenges and push into new and important areas of research, teaching, and outreach. By identifying clear goals and objectives, this plan will guide us as we adapt to what lies ahead and enable us to shape the future of our campus. We likely cannot imagine all that the next five years will bring, but we will make sure the liberal arts and sciences continue to contribute to our society in life-changing ways.
With great optimism for the future,
Gene E. Robinson
Swanlund Chair in Entomology
Learn about the strategic plan
For more than 100 years, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has been the heart of the University of Illinois, offering a comprehensive education and research portfolio founded in the longstanding principles of the liberal arts.
LAS recognizes local and global realities facing our students in the 21st century, including issues of equity in education and social mobility, and the representative needs of an increasingly multicultural society. More than ever, students from all backgrounds and experiences desire and deserve a comprehensive education in order to succeed and thrive in a competitive global marketplace. As a center for discovery and knowledge across the breadth of human experience and the natural world, LAS recognizes the definition of a 21st century liberal education by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as encompassing a “broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest” while helping students to “develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings." Promoting and enacting these core goals of liberal education is what defines our strength and excellence as a college.
We in LAS augment this education through our commitment to multidisciplinary research taking place in, and between, our college's centers, departments, and schools, and in cross-campus research and inquiry. We also celebrate the many undergraduate and graduate student contributions to our faculty laboratories, field sites, and other venues supporting our vital research enterprise. As the intellectual and pedagogical heart of the Urbana campus, LAS is an academically diverse stronghold for study in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. The broad range of disciplines that comprise our college have supported and anchored our larger campus mission of excellence and inclusion and augmented the goals of other colleges at the University of Illinois since its inception.
It is also an essential role of the modern university to grapple with the most challenging issues facing society as a whole. LAS is particularly well equipped for such an effort. Many of the units in our college, for example, have a crucial role to play in understanding historical and ongoing struggles with racism, sexism, ableism, and anti-immigration. Many of the people who make up the fabric of our college are national and international leaders in problem-solving, discovery, and innovation in addressing societal grand challenges. Social and political upheavals of the last few years, both in the U.S. and abroad, have demonstrated the fundamental importance of wrestling with these issues that can exist on the apparent margins of scholarship, both in research and in the classroom, and bringing them to the center of ongoing conversations. The university and LAS have an essential role to play as a location for these conversations and the scholarship that emerges from them.
Over the next five years, our mission will remain central to that of the campus. Working together, LAS will make the University of Illinois stronger and more significant in improving and supporting the lives and livelihoods of our students, faculty, and staff. The more successful we are at that, the better we will serve our state, nation, and world.
We began our strategic planning process in May 2019, with the Office of the Dean reviewing our college's mission, values, and priorities, and subsequently identifying four goals that would form the basis of the new strategic plan. In June and July 2019, the Office of the Dean collectively authored four white papers, each keyed to one of the four goals in the plan, with the intention of setting a broad direction and framework for the overall planning process. These white papers were provided to four strategic planning working groups made up of 10-12 faculty, staff, and students, who were charged in August 2019 to create a report outlining key actions and issues focusing on how to best achieve each goal in the plan. Between late August and mid-October 2019, these working groups drafted their reports, using the white papers as a starting point. They also consulted other data, including: the campus strategic plan; community feedback collected on our LAS website; existing documents, reports, and past surveys relevant to each goal; and peer institution college and campus strategic plans. The working groups also facilitated two lunchtime roundtables in October 2019, which were attended by more than 160 faculty, staff, and students, in order to gather more focused feedback from these constituencies.
In November 2019, the four working group chairs presented their reports to LAS faculty in the all-college Fall Faculty Meeting. Thereafter, the working group reports and the white papers that informed them were made available to the full LAS community on the LAS website. The Office of the Dean also met during November and December 2019 with other key college groups. Further meetings were held between the three area associate deans for life and natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities and interdisciplinary programs and the respective executive officers in these areas to gather additional focused feedback. A meeting was also held with LAS undergraduate and graduate students in a roundtable session during December 2019, for additional feedback on issues in the plan most relevant to students.
This aggregated input became the basis for a draft plan collectively composed by the Office of the Dean during a day-long retreat in March 2020. Over the summer months of 2020, this draft plan was refined. It was then shared with the LAS Executive Committee in late September 2020, and with LAS faculty and staff during two open webinar-style town hall meetings in early October 2020. Further feedback from those conversations resulted in the shape and content of the final plan, released in November 2020.
University mission and vision
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is charged by our state to enhance the lives of citizens in Illinois, across the nation and around the world through our leadership in learning, discovery, engagement and economic development.
We will be the pre-eminent public research university with a land-grant mission and global impact.
College mission, vision, and values
As the heart of the university, our various disciplines engage with fundamental questions and societal grand challenges. We prepare individuals for a productive lifetime of inquiry, leadership, and service in a diverse global community. Our college creates the vital interdisciplinary and intercultural connections that empower people to change the world.
We will be the model for a 21st century college of liberal arts and sciences at a public research university defined by inclusive and diverse communities, dynamic external partnerships, innovation and discovery, and transformative practices in learning and teaching.
Our college’s pursuit of its mission is motivated and animated by shared values. We in LAS work to embody ambitious curiosity, imagination, and creativity devoted to discovering and engaging with new and long-standing fields of inquiry to create new knowledge. We act with courage and from a collective responsibility to confront societal grand challenges and promote social and racial justice; and we see diversity, equality, and inclusivity as transformative, multidirectional sources of understanding and productive change. Thus, we rely on an openness, tolerance, and empathy toward different ideas, perspectives, and people. We value collaboration in our work with one another and with the broader public.
College strategic goals
The following goals will structure our long-term activities and guide daily decision-making to meet the mission and vision of a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college.