Dr. Carolyn Bruder is Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Louisiana, an English professor, and an avid Cajuns sports fan. She talks about her work at UL, and why she loves Lafayette and the Univeristy so much.

University of Louisiana, Carolyn Bruder, Academic AffairsTell us about yourself.

I was born in Ohio, moved to Louisiana when I was seven, so I'm a native. I came to UL in 1970 and have never left, because I love it here.

Talk about that.

First, I feel very fortunate to have landed in Lafayette and Acadiana. I could not have picked a better place to live and raise a family. When I look at other places as retirement possibilities, I always come back to Lafayette.

It's also been very rewarding to be a apart of UL, and the gradual evolution of the University. I think we have one of the best-kept secrets in higher education. The quality of the undergraduate experience is very, very good. When you factor in tution costs, UL is a very special place.

Part of the magic of UL is the people who work there. They are, by and large, dedicated to students and extremely involved in their students' lives, their students' success.

And it's a very collegial place. People really do like each other! You make think that's ordinary, but it's not, it's extraordinary. It doesn't happen at most colleges. People do like each other here.

We had a consultant come in a few weeks ago, from California. She has visited 100 schools in the past year, and she found it remarkable how well we all work together and support each other.

Why do you think that is?

I do think that historically the camaraderie here has come out of all of us living in the same work environment of limited resources. When you never have enough resources, you learn to work around that problem as a team.

Talk about what you do.

I am the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, which means I work with Steve Landry, UL's Provost.

We have a laundry list of assigned tasks that include producing the undergraduate and graduate bulletins-- the catalogs-- and the faculty & staff handbooks. We oversee the awarding of professorships and chairs. The annual Distinguished Professor and teaching awards, sabbatical awards, research awards, and accreditations for our programs, and the University as a whole, we're responsible for that.

Of course, that's not what I really do. I put out fires all day long, managing crises for students and faculty, dealing with special projects, managing a lot of committee work, special task forces, and on and on.

What changes have you seen in your time at UL?

Wow. I guess the most amazing change has been in the students. And it's not just that they're more tech savvy, it's that they have a much larger world-view. They are much more understanding of the importance of the rest of the world's cultures, of the larger world outside of Acadiana.

There's a question on our self-assessment asking our graduating seniors whether they have had regular serious conversations with a person of a different race.  Our seniors say "Yes" over 90% of the time. When I look at other institutions in the state with the same questions, the best I saw was 64%. Eliminating the provincialism in their world view is extremely important to me.

They're also much better-prepared students, so we have much better success rates. But I'm most pleased with the calibre of students we're graduating now.

What about the academic and research side?

Obviously, one sign of our stature in research is in having $50M in external grants and contracts this year. But even in my home Department of English, where you don't get that sort of thing, our faculty published five books last year. That's a mark of a very high level of scholarship.

To me, the most important thing that's happened academically, is a sort of a merger of those two, what has happened with both the students and the faculty. They're both more sophisticated. But the faculty have never really lost that culture of being there to help the students.

You are an English scholar.

Not any more.