The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) was founded in 1995 with a strong liberal arts perspective. Faculty were hired who embraced a vision of quality educational programs and emphasized the integration of knowledge across disciplines. Programs were developed to offer students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for success in their professional careers along with the philosophical, scientific, and artistic habits of mind indispensable for a democratic society and a rewarding personal life.
Founding faculty included six professors in English, mathematics, history and psychology from the University of South Florida-Fort Myers campus and five professors hired to develop the new curriculum for the college in biology, social science, environmental science, and computer science. An additional 27 inaugural faculty were recruited and hired for the opening of the main campus in August 1997. Upon opening, CAS offered 12 academic programs including: Art, Biology, Computer Science, Earth Systems Science, English, Environmental Science, History, Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Mathematics, Psychology, Spanish, and Theatre.
Since 1997, CAS has grown to 210 faculty, with 30 new faculty hired in fall 2011, with another 45 projected to be hired in fall 2012. CAS faculty members continue to teach a majority of the General Education Program serving first and second year students. In any given semester, over 60% of the students at FGCU are enrolled in CAS courses. With 21 academic programs at the undergraduate level, CAS has expanded to meet the needs of the growing student population. In keeping with the FGCU mission, CAS has also inaugurated 5 graduate programs. A Masters of Science degree in Environmental Science was the first graduate program developed in the college, with first students admitted in fall 2002. Graduate programs have since expanded with an M.A. in English, an M.A. in History, an M.S. in Mathematics and an M.A. in Environmental Studies.
Along with academic program expansion, the scholarly activity of the faculty has grown over time. In 2010-2011 academic year CAS faculty published 7 books, 118 scholarly and creative publications and presented scholarly papers at 169 conferences. External funding for research and sponsored programs in the College has grown $4 million in 2011. Scientific research strengths are in marine and environmental sciences and in biotechnology. Faculty also translate research experience directly to students through undergraduate research and internship experiences, which are included in all science program requirements. CAS has offsite research facilities at the Vester Marine Field Station and at the Kapnick Center at the Naples Botanical Garden. We also partner with the Bangor University in Wales, and the Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest, France.
Civic Engagement remains a strong endeavor with faculty serving the university and southwest Florida communities through outreach and service on community boards at the state, national, international levels. CAS students are required to enroll in a core course, Foundations of Civic Engagement, which includes a required community service project. Major projects that serve the southwest Florida Community include: Oyster Reef Restoration, Bower School of Music performances, Art Gallery Shows, Theatre performances, Dominican Republic & Guatemala Service Learning Project and Egan Observatory astronomical events.
On the horizon, CAS will continue to develop new programs, including at the bachelor’s level: Interdisciplinary Humanities, and Media Graphics and at the master’s level: Biological Sciences, Communication, and Psychology. On the five year horizon, CAS will also be exploring the launch of its first doctoral program in environmental science.