New College of Arts And Sciences Reaffirms UB's Commitment to Undergraduate Education

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: July 20, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kerry S. Grant has been named dean of the new College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, a move that reaffirms the university's commitment to undergraduate education.

The new college serves the 11,000 undergraduates who are take arts and sciences courses at UB. Faculty affiliated with the college provide 83 percent of all the instruction at the university in the freshman and sophomore years, to both arts and sciences students and to students in all fields taking general-education courses, such as mathematics and English.

The creation of the college and the appointment of Grant, formerly dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at UB, both effective July 1, sets into motion a key element of Provost Thomas E. Headrick's report on academic planning at UB. The planning document, envisioned as a strategy to help UB achieve its goal of becoming the premier public research university in the Northeast, recommended the merging of the three separate units that served primarily undergraduates -- the faculties of Arts and Letters, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences and Mathematics -- into a College of Arts and Sciences in order to improve undergraduate education.

"The arts and sciences are central to the present and future strengths, quality and reputation of this university; UB has outstanding quality in many areas of the arts and sciences, and some rebuilding and development ahead in others," said Headrick. "The establishment of the college should create an environment in which progress will come more easily than in the past."

Headrick noted that Grant affirmed his qualifications for the new post in a "highly competitive" search that drew "several outstanding candidates."

"Through seven years of academic leadership, Kerry has earned the respect of his faculty and administrative colleagues. He fully understands the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead," he continued.

"Both the president and I have the greatest confidence that he will most capably lead the college in meeting these challenges and seizing the opportunities, particularly because he brings an innovative vision, sound academic values and a no-nonsense management style to the deanship."

Grant said that the formation of the college "unifies and focuses the efforts of faculty who are establishing the direction for the future of the university after more than two years of analysis, challenge and planning led by Provost Tom Headrick. We have been through an intensive period of self-examination and external review, and we can now engage in what, to a considerable degree, amounts to a recreation of UB.

"Our research mission in science and technology, our emphasis on scholarship, our service to our community, regions and disciplines, and, most visibly, the undergraduate experience we provide are all being tailored in response to dramatic changes in the funding, social and political environment of higher education," he said.

Research universities must do a better job "of infusing undergraduate education with the unique experience that only the comprehensive research university can provide," Grant said, noting that a research university is quite different from a liberal arts college.

Students choose to attend UB because the university is among the "major leagues of higher education" due to its size, range of programs and national standing, he said.

Grant added that public and political support for higher education "is tied heavily to the undergraduate experience," pointing out that often public and political leaders "are relatively unaware of, and can be underappreciative of, the critical role of the research and service missions of the university" -- not only in New York State, but nationally as well.

"The undergraduate experience is crucial to the health of universities," Grant stressed.

• It removes "structural impediments" -- namely three separate faculties focused on the arts and humanities, social sciences and sciences -- that prevented undergraduates from exploring their interests across the arts-and-sciences disciplines, Grant said. With the new college, "we move into an environment where students come into what amounts to an open college where they can move easily across the various disciplines," he said.

• It will provide a "sense of community" for first- and second-year students who are not in specialized programs like engineering or health related professions. Arts-and-sciences students are not admitted to a specific major until the third year. Until that time, they have received advising and counseling services from central administration "but not all students took advantage of them, despite an evident need," Grant said. The new college, he said, will "take responsibility" for all students not formally in a specialized program. "These are our students and our responsibility; there will be no orphans, no lost souls, at the University at Buffalo."

He added that a Student Services Center, patterned after centers established first by the Faculty of Arts and Letters and later by the Faculty of Social Sciences, will be set up in Park Hall to provide a "one-stop center" for arts-and-sciences students seeking information.

The center also will provide peer advisors to guide students through the curriculum and faculty mentors to offer insight into the various fields of study.

The initial short-term goal for the college, which Grant believes can be achieved as early as this Fall, is "to support a stronger sense of center, a sense of affinity for students and faculty that develops a stronger sense of community, attachment and responsibility.

"We are a large institution that has sometimes appeared segmented and somewhat diffuse, although students were well-served in their individual areas of study," he said. "But you had to be in those areas to experience the sense of affiliation. The undecided students and students in transition between fields of study require a focused sense of support as well. The new college accepts that responsibility," he said.

"Given that study in the arts and sciences accounts for more than 80 percent of the student experience at UB in the first two years of study, you will not have to be a student majoring in a liberal-arts field to experience the renewed commitment of the university to our undergraduates. It will be apparent to anyone in the undergraduate program at UB," he said.

A music historian, Grant came to UB in 1991 as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. He had served as director of the School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The author or editor of three books and a frequent speaker and presenter at national meetings of higher-education associations, he holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of California at Irvine and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.

Among his accomplishments as dean of arts and letters were increases in research support; the expansion of language offerings, including the development of an Asian-language program; support for an international center for Polish studies, and the development and expansion of Korean studies. He also made significant advances in diversifying the faculty, bringing 13 outstanding minority scholars to the faculty in two years.

He participated in a comprehensive program review and reconfiguration study for the delivery of undergraduate education in the arts and sciences, which included the implementation of a new general-education program featuring new courses in world civilization, American pluralism and a foreign-language requirement.

In addition to service on numerous university and professional boards, he has served as a member and chair of the Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board, a member of the Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County Board of Directors and a member of Cultural Leadership Group and Leadership Buffalo.

Grant lives in Williamsville.

Kerry S. Grant has been named dean of the new College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, a move that reaffirms the university's commitment to undergraduate education.