January 17, 2023

For decades, the colleges of Liberal Arts, Science and Geosciences at Texas A&M University operated independently with their own unique leadership structures, former student networks and academic cultures. That is, they did until late 2021 when it was announced that the three colleges would soon merge into a cohesive College of Arts and Sciences. Very soon, in fact: They would fuse less than a year later for the fall 2022 semester.  

The scope and quick turnaround of this union—along with its announcement coinciding with numerous other structural changes across the university—took many faculty, staff, and current and former students by surprise. But Interim Dean José Luis Bermúdez clarified that the monumental move was long in the making. “One of the first things I noticed when I became dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 2010 was how weakened we were by having separate colleges where other universities have a single college of arts and sciences,” he said.  

Before Bermúdez arrived in Aggieland, the merger was suggested as early as 1999 during meetings for Vision 2020, Texas A&M’s 20-year institutional plan formed under former university president Dr. Ray Bowen ’58 ’61. As the new institution wrapped up its first semester, Bermúdez laid out the greatest opportunities afforded by unifying the colleges as well as the obstacles to overcome along the way. 

The new College of Arts and Sciences will… 

…establish a shared identity.

Photo provided by the College of Arts and Sciences

“It’s understandable to focus on what we’re giving up. Before, each college had its own identity. But they also were held back by a lack of scale. There are so many great programs and departments in each college, and now they will act together in a much larger organization central to Texas A&M.”

…create knowledge.

Photo provided by the College of Arts and Sciences

“Having a College of Arts and Sciences unites many of the disciplines involved in the basic creation of knowledge across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Now, we own a lot of the core curriculum as well as a large portion of the fundamental research on campus.”

…foster collaboration.

Photo provided by the College of Arts and Sciences

“The previous structure was a barrier to collaboration. It kept individual disciplines and departments apart instead of having seats at a shared table. This merger removes those barriers, allowing us to create new programs, strengthen existing ones, and enables students and faculty to conduct more interdisciplinary research.”

…integrate the humanities and social sciences.

“Across academia, the humanities are becoming increasingly integrated with the rest of the university enterprise. For example, you can’t have a major research proposal with the National Science Foundation that doesn’t have a societal impact component, which might involve ethical, economic or policy issues. If it has a human dimension, then the humanities and social sciences have something to say about it. That integration will, in turn, allow our humanities and social science departments to grow and develop in their traditional areas of strength.”

…strengthen the sciences.

Photo provided by Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

“We have many top-notch programs in organic chemistry, applied mathematics, nuclear physics, atmospheric sciences, statistics and elsewhere. In the new College of Arts and Sciences, these and other programs will have a bigger seat at the table, greater resources and expanded capacity for strategic investment across the board. All of this will open up new pathways for collaboration and application across Texas A&M and more broadly." 

…focus on faculty.

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“We want to bring in more talented faculty members and retain the excellent faculty we’ve already recruited. From a developmental standpoint, the best tools for recruiting and retaining top-tier researchers and educators are faculty fellowships, professorships and endowed chairs. These will provide strategic and impactful opportunities for donors to help position the college as one of the top academic programs in the world.” 

…serve undergraduate students.

“Providing the right programming and scholarship support for our expanding student body is a real priority for me, especially considering our huge first-generation student population. More than 4,000 of our undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college, and we need to ensure they—and the rest of our community—have the resources to flourish.”

...support graduate students

“Graduate education is at the heart of any research university, and combining the three colleges will allow us to start thinking creatively about how to make sure our graduate students are best supported. We have already put measures in place to address inequities in stipends and are working to establish best practices that will help our students obtain the outcomes they seek in academia, industry, the public sector or wherever they choose to develop their careers. We will be the highly regarded contender for the best and brightest students."

…expand outward.

Photo provided by the College of Arts and Sciences

“Arts and Sciences has absorbed a few existing programs, including the undergraduate biomedical sciences program, the university’s pre-professional advising, and the academic transition programs that help struggling students. We are also developing new programs, including interdisciplinary degree programs that will replace our previous university studies concentrations. These expansive programs provide incredible opportunities for faculty and student support.”

…go globetrotting.

Photo provided by the College of Arts and Sciences

“Our college leadership aims to significantly increase the number of students with a credit-bearing study abroad experience. I’ve heard from many former students who can attest to just how transformational their study abroad experience was. It’s important for students to broaden their perspectives and frame their lives, studies and careers in a global context.”

…hit the ground running.

“The biggest challenge now is developing a set of guidelines, policies and practices that works for everyone and communicating how this merger takes the best parts of these three colleges and makes them better—all while running a college with 19,000 students and 900 faculty. But we’re making it work. The arts and sciences make up one of the foundational pillars of this university, and it’s our responsibility to use our massive, combined resources to provide transformative education and research for future generations.”

Learn how you can support students and faculty in the new College of Arts and Sciences by contacting Debbie Hesse ’85 below.