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EDITORIAL: CMU moves towards a future in STEM while staying true to the liberal arts

President George Ross delivers the State of the University Address on Sept. 13 in Plachta Auditorium.

At his State of the University address Sept. 13, President George Ross presented a look into the future of Central Michigan University. 

The evolution of CMU is underway. The university is adapting to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world students will be entering post-college.

This evolution focuses on expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), health care and business programs. CMU is “already a recognized leader in STEM, health care and business," Ross said, and CMU will "continue to expand its leadership in these areas.” 

He then emphasized this doesn't mean CMU is abandoning the liberal arts tenets this university was founded on more than 100 years ago. But he acknowledged CMU isn't classified as a "true liberal arts college." 

And he's right. 

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education describes CMU as a doctoral university with commitment to higher research activity. We're now on track to expedite production within the STEM fields, as well as health care and business.

"Yes, some balk at this evolution, arguing that we are a liberal arts university, concerned that we don’t support the liberal arts," Ross said. "We absolutely do." 

We believe these concerns aren't unfounded. The move towards expanding the STEM fields has dramatically shifted the focus of tuition dollar spending — shifting our school's priorities.

Our reputation for being a teaching and liberal arts school has gradually declined because of the changing economy and nation. The emphasis on athletics spending and the STEM colleges, while down-sizing the liberal arts colleges, has people nervous about the future.

We agree CMU has to change and evolve overtime, but we can do that while staying true to our legacy of liberal arts.

There were two major initiatives Ross unveiled that can help move us into the future and if done right, keep CMU true to its history.

In his speech, Ross unveiled the newly renamed Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute and its new mission at CMU. The institute will create programs for all students — emphasizing leadership through volunteering and developing a sense of purpose.

This reflects our history as a teaching college. 

Being a teacher is having confidence, patience and being a leader — qualities the Leadership Institute instills in students who go through its programs. New programming and possibly making leadership classes part of all students’ curriculum is a good thing. 

CMU may not produce as many teachers as it once did, but it will continue to mold the leaders of tomorrow. 

Ross also unveiled new partnerships with Quicken Loans and Ford Motor Co. Ross was quick to clarify these relationships would do more than just benefit business or engineering students: they could benefit all students.

Quicken Loans and Ford need employees proficient in English and writing to help with internal and external company work. They need advertising and designing students to help with marketing. They need individuals who are experts in programming and coding to help with their businesses or production lines.

These partnerships are more than meets the eye. These partnerships are a modern-day conglomeration of what the university was founded on in 1892.

Our university was originally the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute. It prepared students to be teachers and leaders in business. 

Both companies listed CMU on their lists of top recruiting schools. These partnerships involve corporate leaders coming to campus and access to internships and scholarships.

It’s easy to see this as something only benefiting the College of Business Administration, but these partnerships can be made to benefit all students. Ford and Quicken Loans will certainly need public relations students, graphic designers, students with writing proficiency, foreign language experts and human resources skills — skills and professions taught in our liberal arts colleges.

These new programs, subject emphasis and corporate partnerships should be a positive for all students, while keeping CMU a well-rounded university.

We understand and recognize the changing world around us.

CMU is moving towards a future in STEM, health care and business that will make us a university even more competitive on a global scale than it already is. 

We applaud the changes and commitment to leadership we see. 

While we are shifting gears to prioritize STEM and business, please keep in mind the liberal arts and do not forget to nurture those departments as well —they are the backbone that prepares students to be the well-rounded individuals our founders sought us to be.