Coltrane: Priorities include space, academic excellence

Coltrane has addressed growth, academic excellence (credit: Studio McDermott)
Coltrane has addressed growth, academic excellence (credit: Studio McDermott)

Assessing his first five years as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Scott Coltrane told an audience from the college recently that he has focused in part on addressing enrollment growth, space needs and faculty/student excellence.

The university’s largest generator of college degrees is not unlike Apple in its commitment to combining technology and the liberal arts, Coltrane said, adding, “We have to focus on the habits of the mind that will enable students to be successful.”

Coltrane’s presentation in Allen Hall, which was part of his administrative review, included a retrospective and a look ahead to the challenges, initiatives and accomplishments he envisions.

The dean hopes soon to be splitting his time equally among four areas: college meetings, including regular sit-downs with department heads; public outreach, including visits to donors; internal duties, including communications; and campus meetings with groups such as the Executive Leadership Team.

As it is today, Coltrane said, he spends much of his time visiting donors throughout the region, toward raising the private funding necessary to meet the demand for additional buildings, endowed chairs, fellowships and other concerns. That's prompted Coltrane to reorganize some administrative duties so that associate deans have more day-to-day authority over departments in their areas.

Coltrane’s arrival in 2008 has coincided with enrollment growth of 1,000 new students annually. The college has handled a “tidal wave” of growth largely with the help of part-time and adjunct faculty, Coltrane said, but that’s not the balance the college seeks and an area of top concern is hiring enough tenured faculty to preserve quality in education, research and training.

Citing psychologist Michael Posner and chemist Geraldine “Geri” Richmond as examples, Coltrane said he is “phenomenally impressed” with the quality of faculty in the college and is committed to retaining it through compensation and recognition. Similarly, students such as 2011 Marshall Scholar Josh Lupton underscore the need to quickly identify the “best and the brightest” in the college and help them win top national scholarships, Coltrane said.

In comparison with other universities in the Association of American Universities, the college is lean in staff and compensates by being nimble, Coltrane said. New hires have been in the areas that need it most, he added, citing the bolstering of the college’s information technology and development departments.

Coltrane has also worked to raise the profile of the college through branding efforts, a revamped website and an increased public presence. “It’s a way to show we are, in fact, the heart of the university,” he told the audience.

Looking ahead, the dean cited a clear need for more space. The relocation of philosophy, religious, Judaic and other studies to Susan Campbell Hall has helped and the college has long-range plans for a new global studies office building between Chapman Hall and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Coltrane said, but those plans are preliminary.

Responding to a question from the audience after his presentation, Coltrane also noted a pressing need for new laboratories and equipment to support research efforts.

“A lot of this is about private giving,” he said.

-- by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications