One of my favorite activities as dean is greeting new faculty as they join the University of St. Thomas and the College of Arts and Sciences. This fall I was pleased to welcome 26 new faculty members to campus, fully 10 percent of the full-time faculty in CAS. This likely is a record number of new hires for us, brought about by a large number of retirements and by the addition of new positions in the sciences to meet our burgeoning enrollments there.

Hiring new faculty is one of the most important things that we do at St. Thomas, and at times last year it felt like the only thing we were doing. Literally thousands of qualified applicants from across the country and around the world applied for these open positions. We interviewed hundreds of semifinalist candidates at national meetings or remotely via telephone and Skype. We brought close to 100 finalists to campus for two-day interviews before making our final selections. All of this effort was well worth it to successfully hire our wonderful new colleagues.

However, our work is not done. Now that the new hires have arrived we must devote time and energy to orienting them to their new home. The University of St. Thomas is a special place, unlike anywhere they have worked or studied before. The same is true of the College of Arts and Sciences, and we want our new faculty to understand us and to become  part of us. But first we need to understand ourselves. What makes us special? This is an answer I know well, although I have a difficult time expressing it in 25 words or less. (I am told I need an “elevator speech” designed to impart this information quickly, before my audience gets off at the next floor.)

Structurally, the College of Arts and Sciences is 22 academic departments and 14 interdisciplinary programs. Functionally, the College is the liberal arts heart of the  university. All new undergraduate students at UST matriculate to the College of Arts and Sciences. They receive from us instruction in the core curriculum required of every St. Thomas student. Some “leave” us at the end of their sophomore year when they declare majors in engineering or social work or teacher education or business, but many choose to “stay” when they declare one or more of the dozens of majors we offer in the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, the natural sciences or in one of our more professionally focused programs.

But what makes us special cannot be found in this short description of our structure and function. I believe that it can be found in the stories that we share with you in the pages of this magazine. In this issue are more examples of the people and the activities that distinguish us. I hope you enjoy learning more about them and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Read more from CAS Spotlight.