Dean's Messages

Spring 2024: Cultivating Curiosity

January 22, 2024

As we enter a new year and a new semester, we look forward to another exciting period of intellectual discovery, creativity, and the robust exchange of ideas. The first words of the college’s mission statement are to “cultivate curiosity.” This is a vital feature of our college community because kindling curiosity is a vital spark that fuels new questions, inspires novel ideas and connections, and nourishes intellectual and personal growth.

There are numerous ways for all of us—students, faculty, and staff—to excite the curiosity that drives discovery and innovation, from the CAS Inquire lecture series, to upcoming symposia and invited guest speakers, to our colleagues’ research presentations.

Curiosity is also essential for shared governance. Curiosity and thoughtful, critical thinking helps organizations innovate, flourish, and grow. The College of Arts and Sciences is made better through diverse perspectives focused on advancing our mission for the good of students and to increase the impact of our research on the world. With a wide range of challenges and opportunities facing UNL and higher education more broadly, I hope you will lend your curiosity, insights, and creative energies to helping the college and UNL continue to excel in the years ahead.

2024 will be a year of consequence for UNL, the NU system, the United States, and indeed the world. My hope and challenge for you is that you will take proactive steps to unite your personal curiosity with the noble purpose of making a new and lasting difference in the lives of others in the year ahead.

Fall 2023: Branch Out and Explore Difference

August 14, 2023

Welcome to the class of 2027! And to all of our returning students, we are so glad to see you back on campus. There is no place like Nebraska, especially at the start of a new academic year.

We expect the new academic year will be full of exciting intellectual challenges and wonderful community-building opportunities for everyone on campus.  We hope you will make the most of the fall semester, whether exploring new academic programs and courses, joining a Recognized Student Organization, cheering on Husker athletics, or experiencing some of the arts and culture in Lincoln.

When asked recently for what advice I would give for incoming freshman at UNL, my answer was the following (and it applies to all students): Branch out and explore difference. I encourage every student to embrace this time in their life as a unique opportunity to embrace the exploration of human diversity in all of its forms and varieties. Join an RSO, take a course out of pure curiosity, visit a museum, reach out and learn from everyone who crosses your path while you are here. 

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to committed, kind, and caring faculty and staff who are here to help support your journey in higher education. We are fond of saying, “Let curiosity move you to do big things.” This is another way of saying that we encourage you to cultivate and sustain a growth mindset (See C. Dweck, 2006). This is a mindset that that sees challenges as opportunities for growth and new discoveries; a mindset that embraces the value of continuous learning from a diverse array of sources and people.  When we embrace this mindset as a caring and supportive community of learners, we are capable of truly remarkable things.

The College of Arts and Sciences is a special place because of the incredible people who constitute this community.  Be sure to regularly check here on our website for inspiring stories about our faculty, staff, and student achievements throughout the year.

Have a great fall semester and never hesitate to reach out for any assistance you may need along the way.  A few key college and campus resources include:

Spring 2023: Our Mission and Strategy Update

January 23, 2023

Welcome to the start of the spring semester and the new year. I hope you have had a wonderful and restorative holiday break and that 2023 is off to a promising start.  

After many months of thoughtful discussion and helpful input from faculty, staff, and students from across the college, the faculty approved an updated mission statement for the college during our fall 2022 meeting. I am pleased to share this with you.

The mission of the College of Arts and Sciences is to:

  • Cultivate curiosity and critical thinking, facilitate student growth and success, and support life-long learning through all branches of the liberal arts and sciences.
  • Improve lives and broaden horizons of understanding and empathy through research, creative activity, and outreach.
  • Serve the people of Nebraska and the wider common good through the bold pursuit of knowledge and the free expression of ideas and diverse perspectives.
  • Promote a diverse, inclusive, and equitable institutional culture that nourishes mutual respect and inspires conscientious community engagement.

The full statement, with a brief description about the college that now incorporates a land acknowledgement statement, is available in our College Handbook.

After the first full year of coordinated activity across every unit in the college dedicated to the implementation our five-year strategic plan, we have much to be proud of, and even more to look forward to. In particular, we are excited to build on the strong record of success that we have achieved so far. Please take a moment to review this report—a new annual feature for CAS—that highlights some key achievements in the execution of our strategic plan. I want to thank Terri Pieper and our Marketing and Communication team for their excellent work in generating this report.

As a reminder, we are now in years 2 and 3 of our strategic plan. The updated plan with key goals and action items is here. As you will see, academic and career success for every student; research excellence and creative activity with impact; leadership in inclusive excellence; and expanding partnerships and broadening community engagement are the animating core of our mission and our strategic plan.

We began this academic year with a renewed dedication to building and sustaining Community, Connection, and Belonging. I have greatly enjoyed visiting classes, meeting with units, attending lectures, and seeing many of you at special college events, workshops, symposia, and roundtables throughout the fall semester.

I wish you all an outstanding spring semester. Thank you for all that you are doing as you focus on the success of every student and help move the college forward.

Fall 2022: Community, Connection, and Belonging for All

August 18, 2022

To all new students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS): Welcome! We are so glad you have joined our caring Husker community. And to all our returning students, faculty, and staff: Welcome back! We cannot wait to reconnect with you this year. 

We are excited to begin what we expect will be a return to “normal” operations on campus. In particular, we look forward to making connections with you in person, learning about your dreams and aspirations for the future, and working with you to turn these dreams into reality. This is why Community, Connection, and Belonging for All was chosen as the organizing theme for all leaders and units throughout the college this year. 

Amid the numerous challenges that we faced and have overcome throughout the winding course of the pandemic, we have never wavered on our abiding commitment to student academic and career success.

In this context, some big things are happening in CAS. 

Our Challenge for Achieving Success in Undergraduate Programs (or CAS UP!) continues to deliver results for student success. It is a data-informed approach of implementing unit- and course-specific strategies aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates and reducing equity gaps. We are partnering with our units to attract and launch students for early career success. Three new career coaches and two academic navigators have been added to the team to bolster these efforts. Our CAS CARES program will continue to provide emergency financial assistance for students in need of additional support to stay on track for degree completion.  

We are also coming off a stellar year in research and creative activity: an all-time high in externally funded research with over $47M in awards—nearly $3M from private foundations. To maintain this exciting momentum, we are developing several new initiatives. For example, our Research Fellows Program will provide faculty and graduate students time to collaborate on some of today’s most complex challenges—moving across disciplinary boundaries and engaging with community partners. Fundraising for this innovative program has already begun. 

Our graduate students are critical to advancing our research, teaching, and outreach mission, and recruiting, training, and graduating the next generation of researchers, scholars, and writers is key. We are launching a new Graduate Program Enhancement Review process to make them more competitive nationally. 

In keeping with our theme of Community, Connection, and Belonging for All, I encourage you to take part in events and programs that will help to facilitate new connections with fellow students, faculty, and staff. Forging social bonds is a key element for happiness, well-being, and overall success—in college and in life. 

Put otherwise: Once a Husker, Always a Husker.  

Have a great semester and Go Big Red! 

Spring 2022: Ensuring A Successful Future

January 24, 2022

Welcome back Huskers! We wish you an invigorating, challenging, and productive spring semester. We know that you will continue do your part to keep yourself and everyone in our community safe and healthy. 

The College of Arts and Sciences continues to make great strides in the promotion of student academic and career success.

Expanding access to internships and experiential learning opportunities for all students

  • The faculty of the college recently approved the requirement that all newly-admitted undergraduate students in CAS take an Experiential Learning designated course prior to graduation.  This may include 0 credit courses designed to document co-curricular activities recognized as Experiential Learning.
  • Generous financial support from alumni and friends of the college will help ensure that internships, research opportunities, and study abroad experiences are more widely available to all students.
  • With financial support from the college’s Alumni Advisory Council, CAS students will have access to a global network of career mentors through Husker Connect this fall. 

Supporting retention and degree completion for all students

  • A new permanent endowed fund created by alumni and friends of the college will ensure that the CAS Cares Fund—to help students through short-term financial challengeswill remain a central focus for the college in perpetuity.   

Advancing Anti-Racism and Equity

  • The college has instituted new administrative practices to support our commitment to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff.
  • Work is underway to create an Asian American Studies program within the Institute for Ethnic Studies.

Leading in Research and Teaching Excellence

  • One of the largest grants in UNL history was recently awarded to researchers in CAS: a $51 million NSF grant to advance subatomic physics research at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, led by Professor Ken Bloom and colleagues Dan Claes, Frank Golf, and Ilya Kravechenko.
  • CAS Inquire lecture series, co-led by CAS undergraduate students, continues this semester with multidisciplinary public presentations on the theme “Pleasure and Pain.” 

We have a busy spring on tap, so stay connected through our news, events, and social media.

Fall 2021: We Welcome All To Campus

August 20, 2021

To everyone in our College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) community—welcome to the start of a new and exciting academic year.

This year, perhaps more than ever before, we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to return to the unique learning and social environment that comes with in-person, residential education. Since we know that Huskers help Huskers, we are counting on all of our students, faculty, and staff to continue doing their part to help keep our campus fully open by protecting the safety and health of everyone in our extended and interconnected community.

This begins by taking part in the voluntary COVID-19 vaccine registry, completing all COVID-19 testing as required by the university, treating our colleagues who are serving as Wellness Attendants with the respect and gratitude they deserve, and masking-up as requested or required within the academic spaces of our campus. Taking these small but necessary steps will help us sustain access to the rigorous in-person education in the liberal arts that has defined the essential mission of the College of Arts and Sciences for 152 years.

Our vision is that through imagination, innovation, and collaboration, we will transform lives and improve our world. To achieve this vision, we know that we must fearlessly seek truth, advance new ways of knowing, perceiving, and understanding our world, and continually deepen our understanding of humanity in all of its rich and complex diversity.

Student academic and career success is at the heart of the college’s new five-year strategic plan. We are actively taking steps now to make sure that every student has at least one robust experiential learning opportunity during their time at UNL. We are committed to promoting, innovating, and ensuring widespread access to the transformative value of a comprehensive liberal arts education. We know how impactful this education is for our students and their families and we know that employers are looking for the critical thinking and communication skills that our graduates possess.

Starting this year, we have also made a commitment to invest college resources to advance research and creative activities that address some of the grand challenges of our time, including systemic racism and inequity, global climate change, and new quantum materials and technologies. To fulfill these aims in a lasting and impactful way, we must also be a leader in inclusive excellence through the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse faculty, staff, and students.

I invite you to explore our ambitious roadmap for the future and ask that you help us chart the course for the next five years.

Spring 2021: Now More Than Ever

January 25, 2021

As we ready ourselves to start a new semester, I’d like to welcome everyone back!

After an extended winter break, the sights and sounds of students walking across campus, preparing for classes, and assembling on Zoom is an inspiring reminder that—despite all of the adjustments we must continue to make—our shared commitment to education and to the betterment of ourselves and our world remains as strong as ever.

To our students: thank you for making your Cornhusker Commitment, downloading the Safer Community app, participating in the saliva testing program, and doing your part to protect your health and the health of our university community.

To the faculty and staff of the college who continue to advance our educational, research, and outreach missions under personally and professionally trying circumstances: thank you! You set a powerful example every day of dedicated, talented, and caring professionals who are committed to extending the reach and impact of the transformative power of higher education.

When we asked for four volunteers to help the university expand its capacity for contact tracing, nine people quickly stepped up to offer their help. This is just one example—of many that I see every day—of people throughout the college who embody the principle and spirit of service to others.

The great response that we witnessed from across the college to our first CAS Day of Service—focused on addressing food insecurity in our community—is another example of what I cherish about the people in this college.

As we begin our spring semester in 2021 amid the ongoing challenges brought upon by the pandemic, I have been reflecting upon the origins and founding mission of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the context of the unique times in which we live.

Now more than ever, our society needs people who appreciate, champion, and perpetuate the life-saving importance of deep and thorough learning, critical and imaginative thinking in pursuit of truth, and the free exchange of ideas anchored by respect for the dignity of all people and cultures. These are the qualities of mind and character that we have turned to, and must rely upon, when confronted with new and unprecedented challenges. These traits do not guarantee or even lead to agreement, but without these qualities, we lack a common basis with which to navigate or reap the blessings of our interconnected lives.

As we prepare for the distribution of vaccines, take action to reverse global climate change, combat the persistence of racial inequalities and ethnic and gender disparities throughout our society, and assume responsibility for the health of our democracy—higher education and every field of inquiry within the liberal arts will play a critical role.

For these reasons, among many others, I believe the College of Arts and Sciences is as vital to the future of the state of Nebraska and to our shared world as it was when it first opened its doors as the founding college here in 1871.

To help us chart the course for the next five years, the college will complete its comprehensive strategic plan this spring. I invite you to participate in this important process and help us realize our ambitious vision to be a leading liberal arts college dedicated to transforming lives and improving our world.

I look forward to continuing our work together and seeing what the ingenuity and creativity of the people of CAS will make possible in 2021 and beyond.

Fall 2020 Welcome Back to Campus:
Where We Are Now and Where We're Going

August 18, 2020

Welcome to the start of the fall 2020 academic semester. To all of our new and returning students: we are so excited that you are members of our CAS community. 

The dedicated faculty and staff of the college have been busy over the summer preparing for your arrival on campus – taking new and unprecedented steps to help keep you safe and healthy while advancing our college’s core commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education across all of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. As members of our Husker community, I hope you will join me in making the Cornhusker Commitment to take the necessary steps to stay well and protect each other.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created some disruptions to the ways in which we must conduct our day-to-day operations this fall, our passion for scientific discovery and creative activity remains undiminished. Through imagination, innovation, and collaboration we will transform lives and improve our world – that is the guiding vision of “CAS 2025 and Beyond.” Through your intellectual curiosity, creative imagination, and dedication to improving the conditions of our shared natural and social world, you can help us realize this vision during your time on our campus.  

Students in the College and Arts and Sciences are prepared to be life-long learners, leaders, and innovators through their active participation in a comprehensive liberal arts education with a focus on experiential learning. With a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences our graduates have the knowledge, skills, and cultural awareness necessary to flourish in a rapidly changing global economy because they are prepared to think critically, communicate clearly, live ethically, and work effectively with diverse groups of people to address complex real-world problems.

In this historic moment of national reckoning about systemic racism and racial injustice, CAS is committed to cultivating the necessary institutional and cultural conditions for racial justice and equity on our campus and beyond. CAS will be a leader in expanding opportunities and reducing barriers to higher education, advancing diversity, and promoting inclusion because we know that these actions are integral to achieving excellence in education, research, and public engagement. Starting this academic year, we have taken several additional steps to advance inclusive excellence on our campus and promote racial and ethnic justice in our world, including:

  • Welcoming one of our most diverse undergraduate student cohorts in CAS history
  • Implementing a new college distribution requirement: Human Diversity in U.S. Communities
  • Launching the CAS Cares fund to support college degree completion for students at risk of leaving college without a degree
  • Establishing CAS Connects to ensure that, within the college, every new student has access to upper-level students to start building connections

We know that we have more work to do to ensure that we are creating a climate at UNL that emphasizes, prioritizes, and expands inclusive excellence and diversity. The college invites your ideas and active participation in this vital work.

Across the college and the entire university, faculty, staff, and students have stepped up in extraordinary ways to help us respond to the manifold challenges of this moment. If we maintain our focus on the core missions of the college and continue to exercise empathy and compassion with each other, I am confident that we will come out of this period proud of what we have achieved together and equally proud of the manner in which we have conducted ourselves in the face of these challenges. Now more than ever, we must show through our daily actions that “every person and every interaction matters.”

Commitment to Inclusion and Anti-Racist Action

June 5, 2020

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody, I know that many of our Black students and students of color are hurting. On behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences, we share your grief and anger.

The College of Arts and Sciences is committed to an interdisciplinary, liberal arts approach in promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and throughout our society. We condemn racism, bigotry, and injustice and stand in solidarity with all those using nonviolent means to demand justice and dignity for all people. The discrimination and fear that Blacks and other minorities experience today remains a barrier to equal justice and human dignity.

I believe as scholars, teachers, and engaged citizens, we have a shared responsibility to identify and uproot systemic racism within our primary institutions and advance social justice and equality. The College of Arts and Sciences is committed to the land grant mission of UNL and as the dean of the college, I am prepared to support our state leaders in their efforts to reform the criminal justice system and ensure justice and equal freedom for all people.

I expect our college to continue to listen to, respect, and offer support to our Black and underrepresented students, staff, and faculty as we strive to create and maintain a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for everyone.

Inspiring Scientific and Cultural Discovery
to Improve the Human Condition.

August, 2019

Welcome to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the academic heart of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this college you will find a rich diversity of immensely talented faculty, staff, and students who are dedicated to pursuing excellence in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. CAS embodies the foundational charter of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by "affording all the inhabitants of the state the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of literature, science, and the arts."

We are a large, diverse, and collaborative community of scholars who are united in advancing our knowledge of the human, social, and physical worlds and exploring the complex interactions between these domains of inquiry. CAS faculty are also united by our shared sense of responsibility to contribute through our scholarship, teaching, and service to the good of the people of Nebraska, the country, and the world. In doing so, we are committed to valuing multiple perspectives, embracing excellence through diversity of all kinds, and honoring and defending academic freedom and the spirit of open and endless critical inquiry.

The College of Arts and Sciences at Nebraska offers opportunities to let your curiosity and passion find new realms of exploration and discovery. As dean of the college, my aspiration for every student in CAS is that you will have at least one transformative learning experience during your time on our campus – whether that is in the lab, in the field, through an internship, or a study-abroad opportunity.

A degree in any one of the college's 33 majors (along with 57 minors) is a life-long investment in the endless cultivation of one's mind, scientific awareness, and cultural and ethical sensibilities. A degree from CAS will also prepare you for success in the world because today's employers are looking for individuals who can think critically, communicate clearly, and work effectively with diverse groups of people to address complex real-world problems.

CAS is dedicated to providing a rigorous liberal arts education that will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective, responsible, and ethical citizens of the world. At home and throughout our interconnected world, we face a wide range of significant environmental, social, and moral challenges. The College of Arts and Sciences is where tomorrow's leaders can begin their own journey toward making a positive difference in the world today.

I encourage you to explore the college's website and reach out and connect with our dedicated faculty, staff, and students about how you can begin to co-create your own educational experience at Nebraska. I am confident that you will find that CAS personifies the motto of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

Literis dedicata et omnibus artibus – "Dedicated to letters and all the arts."

Mark E. Button

Mark E. Button
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor, Department of Political Science

Anti-Racism Commitment

July 28 Board of Regents Letter

August 13 Statement to Board of Regents