Honoring a Leader of the School of Arts and Sciences
Michael Beals played central role in the history of the School
Dozens of times each year Vice Dean of Undergraduate Education Michael Beals takes the stage to welcome prospective and new students to the School of Arts and Sciences. He is often the first faculty face our undergraduates see. He begins his talks by tracing the history of the School of Arts and Sciences back to 1766 and Queens College, saying Arts and Sciences is both the oldest and newest part of Rutgers.
What Mike doesn’t talk about is the central role he has played in that history.
When Mike first joined the Dean’s Office in 1996, we were still just the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and our students were enrolled in four separate and independent multi-purpose colleges, each with their own set of general education and degree requirements and academic policies.
Mike quietly set about slowly, and through consensus, bringing about greater consistency in academic policies across schools so that students sharing the same classes and same majors, but enrolled in different colleges, would be governed by the same academic policies. This laid the foundation for the compromises that were necessary for the ultimate creation of the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS).
At the same time, Mike worked hard to ensure that commitment to the educational mission of Arts and Sciences complimented our commitment to research excellence, stressing the importance of both as FAS grew.
Along the way, Mike supported and built programs that expand access to Arts and Sciences and provide support to those students who need it most. Thanks to Mike, we have a range of support programs, summer bridge programs, special courses for our international ESL students, and an innovative and very successful program for providing college level instruction, and credit, in the humanities to students in high schools in underserved districts.
All along Mike maintained an active teaching schedule. In particular, he pioneered special math courses for Rutgers students who intend to pursue teaching careers. These are exciting and successful courses that train students to understand—and articulate themselves—why the fundamental algorithms of arithmetic work. They focus on understanding multiple paths to the right answer and where and why kids (and adults) go wrong.
It was with great delight that Mike learned from a colleague in the Graduate School of Education last week that teachers educated at Rutgers—teachers that have taken his courses—score 50% higher in Math on the “Praxis” exam they take to be certified to teach than those educated elsewhere.
Mike played a leading role in the birth of the School of Arts and Sciences. Mike was a leader on the Transformation of Undergraduate Education Task Force and chaired the “Structure” subcommittee along with Linda Stamato. He shepherded the restructuring of the colleges and their administrative staffs to create the student-facing side of SAS today while protecting the faculty’s control of curriculum. With his deep knowledge of the intricacies of how Rutgers works, his careful diplomacy balanced by his firm and unwavering commitment to principles of educational excellence for our students, and his tireless efforts, students and faculty were once again joined together in the School of Arts and Sciences.
During the 20 years Mike served as dean for undergraduate education, SAS (and its Arts and Sciences predecessors) graduated 89,000 undergraduates–plus the 4500 standing for graduation this May. Rutgers New Brunswick presented diplomas to 160,000 undergraduates, plus the nearly 7,000 marching this May.
Mike Beals' leadership and unwavering dedication has made Rutgers a better place for each and every one of them. Throughout his twenty years in the dean’s office, Mike has achieved excellence, created opportunity, and built leadership.