Arizona State University administrators hope the university soon will be ranked among the best in the nation in three subjects — anthropology, English and economics.
The school is already wellregarded in the fields, but ASU President Michael Crow has pledged resources to hire new faculty, beef up graduate student assistant stipends and build up the programs so they consistently rank in the top 20 in the nation.
"We’re investing in these programs that have a shot of becoming the best in the country," he said. "That helps us to evolve the rest of the university."
The English department has begun work on its creative writing program, debuting an annual writers conference and a prominent lecture series featuring such authors as Joyce Carol Oates and U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins.
The creative writing program is already ranked among the top 20 in the nation, so the school hopes to be in the top five in a few years, said Jewell Parker Rhodes, the director of strategic projects in humanities.
By the end of the year, the school will invest about $500,000 in the program, including $70,000 to increase graduate student assistant stipends, said David Young, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The school gave an equal amount to increase stipends for graduate anthropology students, Young said. That department launched a search this year for a new dean and finally selected Sander van der Leeuw, who will start in a few months after a stint in Europe, said Charles Redman, director of the Center for Environmental Studies. He ran the committee to find a new chairman.
"He’s going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of connections," Redman said.
One key is to apply the studies to today’s real-world situations. Discoveries in environmental challenges, social breakdowns and religion can all apply to today’s world, Redman said.
The economics department, part of the W. P. Carey School of Business, will focus more on interdisciplinary research and curriculum, said department chairman Arthur Blakemore. The department used to sport 15 or so faculty members, but the school hopes to have about 38. Its doctorate program will grow from about 22 to about 65 students, he said.
The school is wedged in a group consistently ranked between 25th and 50th in the nation, Blakemore said.
"They’re all but indistinguishable in a lot of ways," he said. "And we want to break out of that. We want to break into the next group where you really become solidly in the top 20."