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Bonnie Thornton Dill, Dean

September 14, 2017, 3:30 PM
Gildenhorn Recital Hall, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center


4:20  PM


THE DEAN: Good Afternoon.Thank you for joining us today; a special thanks to The Clarice’s Artist Partner Program, the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies and the School of Music for helping plan the performances for this program; and as always to my staff (Chanel, Nicky and Dina) for planning this year’s convocation.


Each fall we come together to celebrate the start of a new academic year, and I’m thrilled to see both the new and familiar faces in the audience. 

Welcome to our new students and colleagues and welcome back to those of you who are returning. I welcome you to a school year, that like most, is filled with both challenge and hope. The arts and humanities are well equipped to help us address these challenges and to find hope in the process.

Today we face an alarming increase in assertions of white supremacy; acts of racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia; xenophobia and anti-immigrant policies; homophobia; religious intolerance; bias and hatred. These are global, national and local phenomenon— Charlottesville is only one recent nearby example.

Thus, this school year unlike many others opens with a sense of urgency. In our very first week of classes, and in solidarity with Bowie State University, we observed a moment of silence and reflection [SLIDE 2] to honor the life of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, III, who was fatally stabbed on our campus last spring. This senseless tragedy has profoundly changed our community and calls for moral leadership. We have a shared responsibility to respond to these attacks, and promote better understanding.

As a young woman during the U.S. civil rights movement, I participated in several marches for equality and justice, and was at times greeted by screaming mobs and threats of violence. Those moments taught me that standing together in solidarity against bigotry and intolerance gives one strength and deepens conviction. I believed then, and still believe, that change and social justice are achievable and each of us has a role to play. The first-year book “March” [SLIDE 3] offers our community the opportunity to learn more about the battles of the 1960’s that led to the passing of the voting rights act. It conveys important lessons that can inform this current period of struggle to sustain the promises of a pluralistic and inclusive nation.

While participating in a National Academy of Sciences Committee on the integration of the arts and humanities and STEM, I was introduced to something called the DIKW hierarchy. Developed in the field of management and information science, it suggests a structural relationship between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. It adapted a few lines from the T.S. Eliot poem [SLIDE 4] “Choruses from the Rock,” which ask:

"Where is the Life we have lost in living? 
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

As a humanist, I find it ironic that such deeply challenging questions were reduced to a set of simplistic relationships. That happens too often in  this technologically driven information era. However, the arts and humanities provide the tools to help us address these questions more deeply. While collecting data and using an algorithmic analysis may help us gain important information about large datasets, knowledge results from an exchange of ideas. It’s social. It’s influenced by culture, driven by human curiosity and draws on multiple ways of knowing. Wisdom occurs through the discovery, accumulation and sharing of knowledge—the core mission of a university and the reason that centering the liberal arts has been key to the preeminence of U.S. higher education.

The arts and humanities are powerful. They promote understanding and empathy for others, helping us gain insight into the emotional, cultural and political factors that influence people’s thoughts and behaviors. They give us historical and cultural context that exposes the roots of current events, and offer insights that have the ability to help us find productive ways forward. And, most important, they have the capacity to touch hearts and minds, helping us feel, experience and understand people in new and deeper ways.

The work of the arts and humanities is hard work. It’s sobering, difficult and confusing at the same time that it’s exhilarating and inspirational. Your work, as faculty, staff and students epitomizes a deep commitment to the mission of creating, analyzing and disseminating knowledge. It’s with great pride that we share your accomplishments widely. I’m pleased to announce that today we are releasing our 2016-17 Year In Review, which provides a sample of the many ways you fulfill this mission.


Earlier, I said that these times call us to moral leadership. This year, the Dean’s Lecture Series, under the direction of our new Associate Dean, Linda Aldoory, is designed to bring us together to address rhetoric and actions that sew bigotry and malice. Organized around the theme “Courageous Conversations: ARHU Resists Racism, Hatred and Bias,” the college will host a series of speakers who will provide insights into the artistic and personal; historical and cultural; political and policy dimensions of our current national disputes. The series will launch in November with Theo Wilson, a slam poet who went undercover online as a white supremacist. As a young African American man, his experiences and resulting understandings are enlightening. In February, in collaboration with the Department of History’s Miller Center, we will host Bobby Seale, who as co-founder and chair of the Black Panther Party was an important leader of the Black Power movement that began in the 1960’s. Last, Mara Liasson,  national political correspondent for NPR will join us in April to address the political landscape and how to deal with hate and bias in Washington, D.C. The series will be part of a number of college and campus-wide efforts to promote listening, dialogue and action. Please check ARHU’s online calendar for the most up-to-date listing of these and other events.


Last year many of you participated in a college-wide strategic planning process. The results of that process are a revised mission statement and three specific goals to guide our college going forward. I will use the the remainder of my time today to outline the strategic plan that has emerged.

The plan identifies three goals. The first is the largest and speaks to our core mission of teaching, research and service; the second calls on us to illustrate the importance of the arts and humanities and the third focuses on collaboration through virtual and physical spaces.

The first goal:  To enhance ARHU’s robust arts and humanities curriculum through innovative research, scholarly and learning opportunities attractive to diverse students and world-class faculty, and to produce graduates whose knowledge and skills prepare them to lead their field and equip them for local and global citizenship.

There are four key strategies to accomplish this goal:

1. The first is to increase curricular innovation at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Current examples are: 

     a. the launch of the first two humanities-focused FIRE streams (FIRE refers to the First-year Innovation and Research Experience courses). The African American History, Culture and Digital Humanities project, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, will offer two streams that teach undergraduates how to utilize digital skills in research on African American Culture—one on digital storytelling and one on building digital archives of resistance and freedom.

     b. At the graduate level, the department of linguistics, through it’s National Research Traineeship grant, is a national leaders in developing new approaches to graduate education. Their program demonstrates the ways interdisciplinary intellectual communities enhance graduate teaching and learning. 

2. The second strategy focuses on support for research and teaching.

     a.We will continue to build research capacity and promote a climate that encourages, supports and facilitates faculty and graduate student efforts to attain external grants, national awards, fellowships and other competitive recognitions and resources.

     b. We will implement the full inclusion of professional track faculty in departmental and college governance and complete a plan for improved compensation of lecturers. A subcommittee of the PTK Task Force has recommended the establishment of minimum pay scales across the college. Funding such an increase will be challenging and it will require the support of individual departments, the college and the university. Although It will likely take several years to fully accomplish this goal, Maryland has an opportunity to be a leader in addressing this issue and implement policies  that will help our graduates in professional track faculty positions live comfortably while developing a successful professional career.  

3. The third strategy in goal one focuses on continuing to support initiatives that diversify faculty, staff, students and curriculum of the college, and utilize our knowledge and skills to provide campus leadership on diversity, inclusion and equity. Strategies to accomplish these goal include:

     a. examining and growing our diversity curricular offerings to ensure that they address the broad needs of our changing campus and society.

     b. and participating in and incorporating best practices from campus initiatives like the ADVANCE inclusive hiring pilot program, the Provost’s underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellowship and the senior targeted hiring initiative.

4. The fourth strategy focuses on career readiness: In addition to proposing more capstone courses in our majors, we will continue and expand our efforts to provide opportunities for students to marry theory to practice and help them better articulate the skills and knowledge that have prepared them to be competitive in their future. Recent examples include:

     a. the Visual Arts Hiring Fair, a reverse career fair connecting nearly 30 students skilled
in graphic design, video production and animation with employers looking to hire.

     b. a professional pathways series for graduate students that examines opportunities both inside and outside the academy. 

The second goal is to articulate and demonstrate how the arts and humanities are critical to a knowledgeable democratic citizenry and to problem solving in a diverse society.

There are three key strategies to accomplish this goal:

1. Continued emphasis on marketing and communications that begins with a web transformation project. This project is intended to the enhance user experience and quickly communicate educational resources and career pathways. Phase one of the project will be the launch of a new college site in Spring 2018. Phase two will revise department sites and phase three, research centers.

2. Strengthening notable areas of research excellence and interdisciplinary collaborations that address pressing human concerns. Examples include:

     a. collaborations with STEM, as exemplified in digital humanities and language science;

     b. initiatives that promote social justice and cultural diplomacy like African American history and culture and global migration studies;

     c. programs and scholarship that have achieved national and/or international recognition for leadership in their field; have won significant grants or awards; and have continued promise for future intellectual leadership.

3. Expand partnerships with community organizations, government agencies and cultural institutions as well as business and private industry regionally, nationally and globally.

The third goal is to expand and enhance both physical and virtual spaces to promote robust and collaborative intellectual communities, and facilitate increased interaction between ARHU faculty, students and staff across the campus and beyond.

There are three key strategies to accomplish this goal:

1. Continued advocacy for improvements and renovations of physical facilities.

2. Expanding learning opportunities beyond the walls of our classrooms. 

a gift from the Smith family will fund the conversion of three TDPS classrooms into global classrooms. Outfitted with state-of-the-art cameras, monitors, speakers and high-speed connectivity, these rooms in The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, will enable faculty and students to develop and collaborate with worldwide partners.

3. Virtual collaboration within and beyond the college

the new website will provide a people directory that will enable students and scholars to identify potential collaborators based on research areas. 


No state of the college address would be complete without talking about resources; and they too are characterized by challenges and hope. The challenge is that In a time of reduced state and federal support for higher education nationwide and in Maryland, we must find new resources to help us achieve our goals. Cuts in the state budget and reduction of fund balances make this even more difficult. Yet, as we have seen today, we continue to hire brilliant new faculty and support them in ways that facilitate their successful tenure and promotion. We have a number of wonderful intellectual and artistic communities in ARHU. Having clear goals and priorities will help us continue this good work. We must also increase our efforts to identify new sources of financial support. Growth in external grants and partnerships, along with increased engagement in development and fundraising, are key financial strategies. 


As some of you may know, the campus is in the silent phase of its Fearless Ideas capital campaign expected to launch spring of 2018. The college is well positioned for success in this campaign. Last year we raised over $13 million, our best fundraising year to date. We’ve now reached 50% of our $70 million dollar campaign goal to support scholarships and fellowships, endowed professorships and programs. I have been particularly gratified to witness the ways you, our own faculty and staff, are stepping up to support students and programs in the college. Faculty and staff giving is on the rise, and reflects your investment in our shared community. Thank you!


The strategic planning process has allowed us as a college to think about where we are and where we want to go. Our skills, talents and knowledge prepare us well to address the challenges of the upcoming year and give us hope for continued success. Our collective project is two-fold: first to become even more ardent in advocating and demonstrating our abilities to provide knowledge and wisdom about people and culture to a world that needs us desperately  and second to use that deep understanding to help shape strategies for social change and justice in all its dimensions—scientific, economic and technological as well as artistic and humanistic.

And with that call to action, it’s now time to leave this room and plan our next steps—but first, let’s party