Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 5, Issue 6

May 2011: Vol. 5, Issue 6

Inner weather matched outer weather in the Dean’s Office this spring. Externally, it’s been a cloudy, rainy, and often stormy spring, with a few nice sunny days sprinkled in from time to time, just to remind us that summer is not far off. Internally, we’ve been preoccupied with fiscal storms and whirlwinds of university activity. Budget-cutting clouds often blocked the sun. Nevertheless, we’ve had a few calm, sunny moments to remind us that this dark period, too, shall pass.

I have written several times now about the budget cuts, but I’ve avoided writing or speaking about the most painful aspect of the budget cuts—laying off college personnel. Cutting non-salary lines is difficult, giving up vacant faculty lines is tough, and reducing summer loads for full-time faculty is painful, but they don’t compare to laying off active employees. Nevertheless, in just a few weeks, we will give notices to a not insignificant number of valued CLASS staff employees, and we shall do so because we have no choice. We have to reduce our budget by $1.8 million, and 95% of the college budget is in personnel. We will be diminished by these losses, and there is nothing I can say to our colleagues to reduce their feelings of loss and dislocation. We are caught up in economic forces that are much greater than this college or even this university, and budget numbers are hard task masters. I can only say that these lay offs are extremely painful to me personally and that the college is certainly grateful for the good service of these employees. We will follow HR guidelines exactly as we work through this difficult process, and I will personally meet with each affected individual.

In spite of these difficult budgetary times, we do have some good things to celebrate, a few rays of sun. We can celebrate, for example, the outstanding careers of those faculty colleagues who retired this year—Beth Cagan (SWK), Gene Hare (THED), and Ken Nevadomi (ART). Our senior colleagues have inspired us with their dedication and impressive records of achievement in teaching, scholarship, and service. We wish them well in retirement.

We can also celebrate the many important contributions of several department chairpersons or school directors who are completing their terms of service this spring. These include Rick Perloff, Director of the School of Communication; George Mauersberger, Chairperson of the Department of Art; and Diane Steinberg, Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy. The work of chairpersons is not always recognized as well as it should be, but there is no more important role in the university. These three colleagues have served with distinction, each for two (not necessarily continuous) terms in office. I congratulate them on their achievements and wish them well as they turn their full attention back to teaching and research or creative activity.

In addition, we can celebrate the promotions of several of our colleagues. We had, for example, a large class of newly tenured and promoted Associate Professors. These include Marian Bleeke (ART), Michael Dumanis (ENG), Stephanie Kent (SOC), Meshack Owino (HIS), Paul Skalski (COM), José Solá (HIS), Adam Sonstegard (ENG), and Neda Zawahri (PSC). In addition, two of our senior colleagues, Lonnie Helton (SWK) and Barbara Hoffman (ANT), were both promoted to the rank of Professor. A careful review of the promotion dossiers demonstrated that all these colleagues are truly gifted and fully-contributing members of our faculty, richly deserving the promotions they received. I congratulate all of them, and wish them many years of fruitful and continuing service.

I would also like to celebrate the teaching record of Annie Jouan-Westlund, the winner of our 2011 CLASS Excellence in Teaching Award. Dr. Jouan-Westlund has been a highly successful teacher in the Department of Modern Languages, and she has contributed a good number of new courses, including courses in French film, to her department’s curriculum. In addition, she regularly teaches a popular study-abroad course in Claremont-Ferrand, France, where her students are immersed not only in French language but also in French culture.

I should also note that many of our colleagues have had recent successes in seeking grants. For example, Subhra Saha was awarded $96,594 from the National Science Foundation through Ohio State University to fund a research project entitled "The Economic Spillovers from Science." Also, of the eleven CSU Scholarship Initiative Awards given this spring ($5000 each), five were awarded to CLASS faculty members!  These included Barbara Hoffman, Samantha Baskind, Michael Geither, Justin Vaughn, and Andrew Rindfleisch. In addition, Mark Tebeau and Mark Souther together won an FRD grant of $19,968.00 for their project entitled “From Cleveland Historical to Mobile Historical.” Moreover, two of our colleagues, Philip Wanyerka and Justin Vaughn, have won undergraduate research awards from the Provost’s Office for summer 2011. In addition, Stephen Cory, Bill Kosteas, and Wendy Regoeczi each won an internal CLASS grant-writing award for summer 2011.

Finally, I would like to note a few external faculty awards received by our colleagues. Bob Abelman won several awards from Ohio Professional Writers, Inc. He won first prize for his reviews of the Cleveland Play House’s production of This Wonderful Life and for the Dobama Theater’s production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone. He also won a prize for an article analyzing arts journalism in America. Professor Emeritus Jae-won Lee won a Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Cleveland Chapter. Among his many achievements, Dr. Lee published 55 research articles and book chapters, and he has written or edited four books. He received four different Fulbright awards and was a Fellow at the Poynter Institute of Media Studies. In 1995, he founded the first-ever global Olympic Media Awards. Both of these colleagues are members of our School of Communication.

Turning to students, I would like to celebrate the achievements of the many spring CLASS graduates. There are potentially 456 CLASS graduates who will walk across the stage on May 14th. Of these, 32 will be CLASS scholars, those CLASS graduates who have maintained a 3.8 cumulative GPA. We celebrated their achievements with a festive banquet in Fenn Tower on the evening of May 3rd. Faculty mentors and family members joined the CLASS scholars at this joyful occasion. At that time, we also celebrated the achievements of the CLASS Valedictorian. This year our CLASS Valedictorian is Mohammad D. Abukhalil, who will graduate with a double major in International Relations and Religious Studies, and who has already been accepted into our M.A. program in Global Interactions. Mr. Abukhalil is a non-traditional student, a husband and father of four children, and a full-time employee of Church Square Pharmacy. He has been regularly involved with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and hopes one day to be able to contribute to the peaceful solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His is just one of the many impressive success stories written by our current class of college graduates. Congratulations to all our graduates!

Also worthy of note is Michael Oatman’s winning of an Emerging Artist Award from the Cleveland Arts Prize. The Award comes with a $5000 honorarium. Mr. Oatman was the first playwriting graduate of our joint Northeast Ohio MFA program, and he is currently playwright-in-residence at the Karamu Theatre.

Over the past two years, I have been highlighting the research and creative achievements of our faculty. I hope that you have enjoyed learning just how talented and productive our CLASS colleagues are. I would like to close the cycle by noting a few creative achievements of the faculty members of our newest department, the Department of Theatre and Dance. These colleagues regularly make important creative contributions to CLASS theatre and dance productions. This year, for example, CLASS had two major dance concerts, which were planned and executed by Lynn Deering. We also enjoyed several important dramatic productions. These included productions of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (directed by Holly Holsinger) and the 15th-Century morality play Everyman (directed by Michael Mauldin). Both were spectacularly successful productions, and their amazing sets (including a pool for Metamorphoses!) were designed by Russ Borski. Going beyond the student productions, I note that Dr. Mauldin has a one-man Mark Twain show, which he recently performed at the Tinnin Fine Arts Center at Three Rivers College in Missouri. In addition, Holly Holsinger’s devised theatre piece called Insomnia: The Waking of Herselves is currently being performed at Cleveland Public Theatre. The Department of Theatre and Dance is a small department, but the number of its majors has grown impressively over the past several years. It is clear that the department is poised for great things as it moves next year onto the new CSU Fine Arts campus.

A year passes quickly, and it never returns. In a season dominated by talk of budget cuts, some may be very glad to see a quick end to this academic year. In some ways, I am among them. Nevertheless, I hope never to lose memories of all the good things that happened this year: exquisite CSU concerts, memorable dramatic productions, the People’s Art Show, Octavofest, and interesting lectures by our colleagues Qian Li and Mark Souther (“Ways of Knowing in CLASS”) and Nirmal Selvamony, our Visiting India Scholar. We also heard from such national and international figures as James Carroll, Susan Jacoby, and Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria. I will also want to remember the First Annual Cuyahoga County Conference on Social Welfare, a partnership inaugurated with the University of Warsaw, the glittering Tribute to Reuben and Dorothy Silver, and an election season rally with Barack Obama. I hope you hold your good memories, too. And I wish you a summer filled with rest and quiet achievement.

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