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Welcome Undergraduate Students - UMD CLA

Welcome Undergraduate Students

Greetings and welcome to the College of Liberal Arts!

Our programs provide core Liberal Education offerings for all UMD students, but for nearly 2100 students each year, the College of Liberal Arts represents their academic home. Why do these students choose CLA for their intellectual and career development?

In the College of Liberal Arts, students find dynamic courses of study taught by highly accomplished faculty, who are active, renowned creators of knowledge. CLA offers its students an education that emphasizes shared inquiry, effective and creative communication, strategic analysis, and global awareness. Moreover, CLA students benefit from outstanding mentoring in their programs of study as well as from exciting opportunities for undergraduate research projects, internships, study abroad, and department scholarships. Students discover that they enter a culture of innovation when they enter a CLA degree program.

In the 21st century, as countries and cultures become more interconnected and interdependent, the skills and arts that CLA students gain are crucial for the world. A liberal arts education, in sum, prepares students to negotiate and understand the complexities and commonalities of our selves, our communities, our histories, and our geographies. The intellectual journey that students embark on in CLA will prove valuable for a lifetime.

A careful look at the course catalog reveals a plethora of choices for CLA majors and minors. CLA offers its students in-depth study in disciplines as diverse as American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Communication, Criminology, English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Geography, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Urban and Regional Studies, Women’s Studies, and Writing Studies. B.A. programs in Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Geological Sciences, and Physics are also available. Because interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged in liberal arts programs, CLA offers a number of programs that represent an engaging confluence of academic disciplines, including majors in Environmental Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and International Studies. The new minor in African and African American Studies is a vital addition to our interdisciplinary offerings. CLA thus provides students with a wide-ranging educational experience as well as many clearly defined career paths. CLA majors and minors effectively prepare students for the work they will do in the world, as our alumni can attest.

Many CLA graduates return to the college to pursue graduate work. Master’s level programs in Advocacy and Political Leadership, Criminology, and English await those undergraduates who wish to pursue deeper studies at the graduate level.

Not every new student knows what he or she wants to major in. I encourage undeclared students to meet with CLA advisors and with department heads to discuss their interests and options. CLA staff and faculty are deeply invested in student success and want to see students find majors and minors that best match their interests and talents. We are dedicated to providing attentive, careful advising for our students.

In addition to providing a first-rate education, CLA is committed to being a leader in technology use and instruction. CLA oversees several state-of-the-art technology labs, offers technology training for students, and actively incorporates students on the Technology Advisory Committee.

To add to its diverse academic program, CLA offers a vast array of extracurricular activities, including writing for the Lake Voice, participating in one of a dozen student clubs, attending a lecture organized by the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, the Alworth Institute for International Studies, the Center for Crime and Justice Studies, the Center for Genocide, Holocaust, and Human Rights Studies, or the Center for Advocacy and Political Leadership. Undergraduate students with an interest in working with professors and/or Northeastern Minnesota communities on research can also choose to complete an honors project, an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project (UROP), or a Sustainable Development Research Opportunity Program (SDROP) project. These activities are not only interesting and challenging, but also help students develop leadership skills, gain relevant experience for careers, add to resumes for graduate school, and build networks for mentoring.

Many CLA students enhance their education through study abroad experiences. For me, a junior-year abroad at the University of Nottingham, U.K., was transformative. I encourage all CLA students to investigate the options for study abroad. UMD offers a number of shorter and longer choices for study abroad that help students increase language skills and cultural understanding. The friends, experiences, and wonderful challenges one gains from leaving one world behind to enter a new one are invaluable.

In sum, CLA nurtures the whole person. The education and experience gained in pursuit of a CLA major or minor develop students intellectually, creatively, and socially. In the 21st century it is imperative that all of us become better world citizens. To find solutions to political conflict, environmental sustainability, human suffering, and historical injustice; to inspire others with aesthetic beauty, the joy of creative solutions, the healing of empathy and understanding; to analyze the many facets of cultures and their productions; and to add to the world’s economies and knowledge in ethical, socially responsible ways: this is the work, the essence of a liberal arts education. In joining CLA, students embark on meaningful courses of study that truly matter on this earth.

I wish each and every one of you success as you begin your journey with CLA. Along the way, remember that staff and faculty are here to assist you. Make an effort to know your professors, to join student groups in CLA, to visit and chat with those of us in the Dean’s office, and to investigate all the ways that CLA can help you become the person you want to be.

Best wishes,
Dr. Susan Maher

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