One of the reasons why the University took Hartford College as a partner was its sense of openness to the needs of the Hartford region. In recent years the University has expanded its lecture series for the local community, maintained a wide range of artistic and cultural programming, and launched a program known as the President's College for community members eager to maintain or strengthen their links with the intellectual life of the University. An outgrowth of President Tonkin's course in the plays of Shakespeare, the President's College now offers noncredit courses in everything from the literature of food to Aristotle's Ethics, and from trips to the opera in Budapest and Vienna to visits to Istanbul or to Elizabethan houses in England. Hundreds of local people participate in these programs. They also attend the extensive public programs of the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and the regular concert series of the Emerson Quartet, the University's quartet-in-residence and one of the world's leading string quartets. Members of the quartet serve as faculty members at The Hartt School when they are not traveling the globe and carrying the message of the University of Hartford in the process.
The Hartford Art School under its current dean, Stuart Schar, has chosen to maintain the openness to practicing artists that it established all those years ago at the Wadsworth Atheneum, enhanced in recent history by the establishment in 1989 of the Richard Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Visual Arts. Artists such as Jim Dine, Helen Frankenthaler, and James Rosenquist have produced work for a print workshop funded by an endowment provided by the Aeroflex Foundation, and such noted artists as George McNeil and Jules Olitsky have worked and taught for extended periods at the school. Two major symposia organized by the Art School galvanized the campus in 1994 and 1995, the second crowned by a visit from Christo and Jeanne-Claude and by a multiple descent on the University from a dozen British, American and Canadian artists.
If the University's financial situation has stabilized, it has been in no small part because of the special effort made by faculty and staff to increase the competitiveness of the University and the effectiveness of its programs. From the time of his arrival at the University, President Tonkin stressed his desire to build on the responsiveness of the University to the needs of its students, a quality already demonstrated in such programs as the College of Basic Studies (now Hillyer College) and by the quite extraordinary fact that in an eight-year period four of the eight Connecticut Professors of the Year have been members of the University of Hartford faculty. Today, the University is characterized by an exceptional emphasis on student-centered education and needs. The All-University Curriculum seeks to provide a cross-disciplinary foundation for the academic work of all students, and numerous programs for students with special needs offer support where it may be particularly important. A so-called invisible support program in the student residences helps identify students in difficulties early on, and provides succor and assistance. Three residential colleges primarily designed for first- and second-year students occupy three of the six first-year student residences, with resident faculty members and special facilities for their residents. The University is also making rapid strides in incorporating new technology into its educational programs, and faculty interest is high. Across the institution, faculty members understand the importance not only of maintaining academic quality and standards, but of providing students with the educational wherewithal to meet them.
Their work has been made easier by the establishment of a number of new boards of visitors, intended to bring advice to the University from scholars across the country and the world, and also to assist the institution with new and influential contacts in the intellectual community. Newly established boards of visitors or boards of advisors now serve Hillyer College (the former College of Basic Studies), the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions, the University's international programs, and the Barney School.
Academic programs have changed too, led by former academic vice president Jonathan Lawson and now by Provost Elizabeth Ivey. Since President Tonkin's arrival, master's programs have been launched in engineering, doctoral programs have begun in educational leadership and in music education, and new programs in the health professions, particularly occupational therapy and physical therapy, have attracted large and talented enrollments. The architectural engineering program in Ward, begun in 1991 under the leadership of dean Alan Hadad, is now one of the largest majors in the University. The Hartt School, teaming up with the School of the Hartford Ballet, has launched a major in dance, and in 1996 accepted the first students into a new BFA program in theater, the brainchild of its energetic dean, Larry Alan Smith. The College of Arts and Sciences, led since 1995 by chemistry professor Edward Gray, has reorganized its departmental structure to increase the cross-fertilization of the disciplines, and its program in Rhetoric, Language and Culture has attracted national attention. This department teaches reading, research, and writing across the curriculum. A program in International Languages and Cultures, designed to teach second languages not in a vacuum, but within the social, political, and cultural contexts of the countries within which they are used, is also rising to prominence. Within the College, the former Department of Communication has been given quasi-collegiate standing, with its own director and its large student enrollment. At the other end of the scale, small programs have been phased out as economic necessities have forced a focusing of attention on key priorities.
With a new strategic plan in place, the University is focusing its attention particularly on five academic priorities: communication and education, the health-related fields and the helping professions, technology, the arts, and the rebuilding of the basic liberal arts fields. These areas are receiving special attention in a fundraising campaign recently announced by President Tonkin, and in faculty recruitment. Attention will also be given to student-centered programs and to the international dimension of education.
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