CLAS Strategic Plan 2016-2020

Executive summary

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) presents its strategic plan, which aligns with the university's approved plan and details how we will implement these complementary approaches.


Our mission is to offer a diverse student body a broad and rigorous education in the liberal arts and sciences. We prepare students for many types of occupations and for further study in graduate and professional school. Our graduates benefit from attending a public, urban, research-intensive university, a mission CLAS contributes to greatly.


Our vision for CLAS in 2020 is of an even more research-intensive and student-centered college with greater enrollment and a more diverse faculty. We envision CLAS students taking fewer general education courses and more middle- and upper-division courses taught by tenure-track faculty. Students will be enriched by new opportunities for internships, research, and community engagement, which will make them more attractive to employers and graduate programs.

CLAS at a glance

CLAS is the core, hub, and economic engine of Wayne State University. Almost all undergraduate students take CLAS courses, either as majors or through general education. We have deep research and instructional relationships with every school and college in the university. In the fiscal year 2015, revenue in CLAS (total tuition, research revenue, and philanthropy) exceeded our general fund budget by about $18 million.

CLAS is a research-intensive college in which every department plays a role. CLAS researchers garnered about $21 million in extramural funding in FY 2015. The college also has a strong reputation for scholarship, as evidenced by the many prestigious fellowships and awards earned by CLAS faculty.

As of fall 2015, CLAS enrolled about 39% of all students at Wayne State. We produced about 48% of the credits overall and about 62% of undergraduate credits. In 2015, CLAS awarded about 41% of all baccalaureate degrees, 12% of all master's degrees, and 38% of all Ph.D.s at Wayne State.

The contribution of CLAS to the university has never been greater. The college is well-positioned to adapt to changes in higher education and the demographics of our region by reaffirming the value of a university education.

Goals, metrics, and policies

Goal 1: Increase enrollment in the college

Michigan was the only state to lose population in the 2010 census, and the population of college-age or college-interested students in the state is declining even faster than the general population. Fifteen four-year public institutions chase a dwindling pool of students. With present revenue streams, CLAS will struggle to achieve its goals without significant increases in enrollment.


We will increase the number of undergraduates enrolled in CLAS from 9,500 in fall 2015 to 12,000 by 2020, and the number of graduate students from about 1300 to 1700.


We will improve retention, invest in staff, and leverage our alumni to recruit students both in and out-of-state and to both in-person and online programs. We will increase our out-of-state recruitment by participating in college fairs and, with the assistance of alumni, developing relationships with out-of-state high schools and community colleges.

We will partner with other schools and colleges to build a recruitment pipeline to larger feeder high schools and community colleges. We will work with departments and their students who are graduates of targeted schools to recruit new students and make increased use of ongoing social media outreach. We will take advantage of CLAS facilities on campus for recruitment, such as the planetarium and the geology and anthropology museums, as well as our excellent research facilities.

We can achieve our graduate enrollment goal if each department were to recruit 20 additional M.S or M.A. students. To help realize this goal, we will develop more online and hybrid professional master's programs.

These enrollment goals may seem ambitious, but they are not that much greater than CLAS enrollment in 2010. (We do not count computer science, which was in CLAS until 2011, in this comparison.)

Goal 2: Increase retention and graduation rates

To grow enrollment and improve our six-year graduation rate, we must increase first-year retention and ensure that students carry a sufficient number of credits. We embrace the range of backgrounds and preparation of our students and recognize that many work and face challenges while enrolled at Wayne State. Not all students can graduate in six years. Nevertheless, our six-year graduation rate should be at least 50%.


For the fall 2015 cohort, at least 25% of students should graduate in four years, at least 40% in five years, and at least 50% in six years. Increase retention of first-year students to 85%. Increase the average number of credits that first-year students complete to at least 25.


Beginning in fall 2016, institute mandatory advising for all first-year students in CLAS. At a minimum, require three required appointments: one at orientation, one in fall, and one in winter. Enforce this policy with registration holds if necessary.

Use admissions data to identify incoming students in need of extra support, and make better use of university-wide efforts such as early academic assessment. Use this data to provide targeted interventions within the first few weeks of the semester.

Goal 3: Make more efficient use of the faculty's instructional efforts

CLAS teaches most of the university's general education curriculum. Given their importance, CLAS courses fulfilling general education requirements and college group requirements should be taught as much as possible by full-time faculty, who were hired for their disciplinary expertise and teaching skills, or by GTAs, who are teaching as part of their graduate training.


By the end of AY 2020, full-time faculty and GTAs should account for at least 75% of course credits offered by CLAS (including general education and college group requirements). Tenure-track or tenured faculty should teach at least 50% of general education and college group requirement credits.


Establish a baseline by measuring the percentage of such credits taught by full-time faculty, tenure-track faculty, and tenured faculty in AY 2016. Use these data to determine the required annual rate of increase to achieve the stated goal.

Make strategic improvements in departmental course scheduling, staffing, and teaching assignments to enable more full-time faculty to teach general education courses. Streamline curricula to maximize teaching efficiencies and improve student retention. Work with the Office of the Provost, AAUP and Academic Senate to establish a protocol for a career track for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. Consolidate part-time faculty positions as much as possible into full-time positions.

Goal 4: Maximize faculty research potential

According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Wayne State is a university with very high research activity. Our faculty produces outstanding scholarship in the form of articles, books, patents, invited presentations, and community engagement. We value extramural support for research for the validation it confers and for the resources it brings to the university. With about $21 million in funding in FY 2015, CLAS makes a significant contribution to the university's extramural research support. In recent years, CLAS has worked with other units in the university to procure training and infrastructure grants such as WIDER, BEST, BUILD, and IUSE.


The average extramural funding per tenure-track or tenured faculty member in CLAS is approximately $60,000 in FY 2015. We will increase this to an average of $90,000 per tenure-track or tenured faculty member by 2020, for a $30 million total (assuming the same faculty size). As part of this goal, we will increase foundation, private, and corporate funding for research by 100%.


To sustain research excellence, we must provide an efficient research infrastructure. In partnership with research support in the university, we will optimize: quality research space, facilities and utilities; support for proposals and fellowship applications; and post-award support such as budget management, closeouts, and compliance with policies and requirements.

We will work closely with development to educate and support faculty in obtaining foundation, corporate, and private funding for research and community engagement. We will engage more with departments that have high research potential but that may need help in developing a culture of seeking external research support. In particular, there is great potential for growth in the humanities and social sciences. We will maximize scholarship and research by hiring faculty who enhance our research efforts synergistically, such as with the IBio initiative.

We will build upon the recent success and procure more training grants with student and postdoctoral support such as NIH T32 and NSF grants, NRT (Research Traineeship Program), REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), and SSTEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics). We will continue to integrate research, teaching, and learning by supporting undergraduate research, internships, service learning, and student engagement with research faculty. CLAS is at the heart of developing this "uniquely Wayne" approach to making our world-class research an integral part of the education of all our students.

Goal 5: Enhance diversity and inclusivity

While CLAS has made great strides towards embracing and enhancing diversity by being broadly inclusive, faculty diversity still demands greater attention. Our efforts should be guided by a clear understanding of our current faculty profile as well as CLAS needs and goals.

Metric 1

Establish a CLAS Diversity and Inclusion Council that will make annual recommendations to the dean concerning these issues.


Appoint representatives from key areas of CLAS to this council, so that it can act as an advisory body to the dean on issues of faculty diversity and inclusivity.

Metric 2

By fall 2016, collect and analyze data concerning CLAS faculty to identify key areas of improvement. In AY 2016-17, implement new strategies for improvement in those areas.


Use university and CLAS data to assess the composition of the CLAS faculty in terms of its diversity and inclusivity. Survey departments on current diversity concerns, and on faculty recruitment and retention practices. Implement the WSU "Guide for Successful Searches" from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Work with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion to develop additional guidelines for inclusive recruitment, hiring and retention in CLAS. Measure progress towards enhancing faculty diversity and inclusion each academic year.

Metric 3

Increase attention to issues of climate and social support for a diverse and broadly inclusive range of faculty.


Develop initiatives to improve climate and social support. Work with the CLAS Diversity and Inclusion Council to research successful practices at other institutions and to gather useful resources. Assess current mentoring practices for diverse faculty groups. Establish a college-level structure for mentoring individuals with leadership interests and potential, with particular attention to underrepresented groups.

Goal 6: Reform college group requirements and general education courses

Although the general education curriculum provides the basic academic skills and the foundation of a liberal arts and sciences education, many students take these courses at other institutions. The special quality and value of general education courses taught at a research-intensive institution like Wayne State could attract more students to fulfill their general education requirements at Wayne State.


Decrease the number of college group requirements, and increase the number and level of electives students take, and the number of students taking minors.


More courses in general education should be taken at a higher level, taught by tenure-track and tenured faculty. Students should have more room for electives to fulfill these requirements and in general.

Goal 7: Enhance graduate program development and student training

With 42 masters' and 16 doctoral programs, CLAS is home to almost one-third of all WSU graduate programs. While recognized for its traditional graduate offerings in social science, humanities, and basic science, CLAS also houses several interdisciplinary and professional graduate programs. CLAS departments spearhead many new interdisciplinary graduate training initiatives, but there is still room for program growth and innovation, particularly at the master's level.

Metric 1

Increase the productivity of CLAS graduate programs.


Collect data to assess graduate-level recruitment, retention, and graduation across departments and programs. Increase the percentage of students completing graduate degrees and reduce time to degree. Expand, streamline, and assess AGRADE programs, and create other accelerated or 3+2 programs that allow students to maximize their undergraduate and graduate years. Improve job placement by assessing current employment trends and making master's level training parallel.

Improve recruitment of new students at the Master's level, and raise the proportion of master's students in CLAS. Recruit nationally and internationally and create 3-2 programs with foreign universities, as well as new undergraduate-graduate pipelines in the local area.

Metric 2

Boost the competitiveness of CLAS graduate programs.


Enhance the competitiveness of doctoral programs through deeper and broader graduate curricula; explore mechanisms for sharing/developing advanced courses with other units and universities; identify niche fields (e.g., cluster enhancements that align with university research initiatives such as urban health) and share resources; promote interdisciplinary graduate programs both within CLAS and across colleges.

Improve funding for doctoral-level students (through faculty research and training grants, more Ph.D. fellowships, and donor-funded scholarships); support a steady stream of scholarships for incoming and continuing master's students, and develop new CLAS-based scholarships for master's students. Create more interdisciplinary/dual-degree tracks at both the Master's and doctoral level to cross-train students in multiple areas (e.g. IMH-DT programs, SWAN program, environmental science program, neuroscience program, professional master's programs).

Evaluate online master's programs. Improve professional development and placement of master's recipients (internships, cross-disciplinary career workshops, alumni networking).

Metric 3

Facilitate graduate student success within CLAS.


Enhance student diversity; create new teaching pedagogies/improved infrastructure to support a diverse population; support international and minority students. Increase interactions between students and faculty to improve the mentoring and guidance that students receive during their professional training. Provide more professional development opportunities for both masters and doctoral students in CLAS.

Provide additional training (internships, workshops, professional development seminars) for multiple post-degree career pathways, for both Master's and doctoral students; enhance graduate student engagement across disciplines (brown bag circles, symposia, etc.). Showcase graduate student successes on college-wide and departmental websites, and provide in-person, college-level forums for graduate students to present their research or professional work.

Goal 8: Increase internal and external collaboration

CLAS should continue to promote joint degree programs, joint faculty appointments, and research interactions among faculty from different schools and colleges. It is increasingly difficult for one school or college to have the resources to achieve its aims in instruction and especially research, and more can be accomplished by working collaboratively. CLAS should engage more deeply with the community, alumni, friends, and donors.


We will assess current collaborations and seek to increase significant interactions with other schools and colleges by 50% in the next five years.


We will engage the Office of the Provost and the leadership of other schools and colleges to improve policies and practices to better enable cooperation in research, teaching, and learning. We will seek strategic partnerships aimed at increasing enrollment, research, and scholarship across the university. This may include joint programs and joint faculty positions. We will also develop ways to facilitate research interactions between faculty with the goal of developing research groups that can compete for training and center grants.

Goal 9: Increase private funding and broaden our donor base

CLAS has about 65,000 living alumni, 60% of whom reside in Michigan. Many are scattered around the country and the world. Although some have had little contact with the university since graduating, they tend to be generous when engaged.

Metric 1

At present, CLAS raises an average of about $5-6 million per year. With appropriate resources, we are capable of raising $10-15 million per year.


Work with our development staff, faculty, department chairs, and associate deans to meet with as many alumni and prospective donors as possible.

Metric 2

Secure a naming gift for CLAS for about $50 million.


CLAS has at least three donors with this capacity. A naming gift could be used to endow faculty positions at various levels and create more graduate fellowships. This would allow CLAS to increase the size of its faculty and graduate student body.

Download the Executive Summary (PDF)