After a tough year of budget and program cuts, Western Illinois University has reversed course in one area by creating a new department.
The Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences officially began operation on July 1. The department combines African American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Religious Studies. Dr. Alphonso Simpson Jr. is the chair of this new department. He said he is ready to take on the role and is confident the department will be successful.
“We are as good as we think we are and we think we are pretty good," he said.
In 2009 Simpson was the interim Director of African American Studies at Western. He said that position helped prepare him for this new role. Simpson hopes the department will become a staple at Western and students will want to attend the school to major in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“I want this department to be one that the students can find refuge in educationally, academically. Not that they are coming here because it’s going to be easy street, but I want them to be able to come and say, ‘In the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences is where I found my creative self,’” Simpson said.
Last year, due to budget cuts, African American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Religious Studies were dropped as majors at Western.
The new department will allow students to combine any two of those or any other minor from the College of Arts and Sciences to create a major.
“There were three programs that were actually reconstructed and turned into minors. So we were reconfigured, we were not taken away, and we still offer many of the same courses," Simpson said.
“I have faith in the things to come and it can only get better from here. I have a passion for teaching, I have a passion for education and these students mean everything to me. I do believe in them and there are things that this department is going to deliver to the students and to the community that budget issues can’t take away.”
Classes at Western begin August 21. Simpson said he is hopeful and looking forward to a great semester and an amazing experience.