We conducted a short Q&A with Dr. Jeffery Braden, the new dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, to learn about his plans and priorities as he takes the helm of the college.
What do the current budget problems mean for CHASS?
As is true for all colleges, reductions in state allocations mean cuts to teaching, research, and engagement. We are trying to achieve savings through voluntary departures (e.g., retirements), reallocations, or reductions in costs through increased efficiency, but we just can’t meet our mandated targets without reducing people or programs, increasing class sizes, and otherwise making sacrifices.
Tough times produce opportunities as well as challenges. What sort of opportunities are out there for CHASS?
Our biggest opportunity lies in planning for the years ahead when the economy rebounds. I am being very careful not to promise that we will restore what we cut; doing so would be using new funds to restore the way we were. Instead, we will use new funds to invest in what we want to become. As the economy rebounds, CHASS will truly will have the opportunity to invent itself – and that’s an exciting challenge.
Why are humanities and social sciences important in the 21st Century?
The problems of the 21st century cannot be solved without understanding and changing the way people think and the way people act. The way people think about and understand the world and their place within it is the focus of the humanities; likewise, the way people interact within their social and physical contexts is the focus of the social sciences. Therefore, the humanities and social sciences have never been more important to solving problems, whether they be economic, social, environmental, military, or international. CHASS is not just relevant, CHASS is essential for solving the problems of the 21st century.
What do you hope to accomplish as dean of CHASS, both short-term and long-term?
In the short term, we will have two very different tasks: responding to limited and perhaps declining resources, and planning for the future. My goal is to manage the fiscal challenges by actively consulting and communicating with our stakeholders so everybody has the opportunity to be heard, and to understand what we’ll be doing and why we’ll be doing it. Meanwhile, I want to look beyond our immediate challenges to develop long-term goals. That way, as we begin to recover resources, we can invest them wisely to sustain and build nationally and internationally recognized academic, research, and engagement activities consistent with system, university, and college goals.