Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 6, Issue 6

Spring 2012: Vol. 6, Issue 6

It is often said that a university is more than just bricks and mortar.  And it is true that the essence of the university is the people who serve there, the professionals who run our offices, the administrators who chart direction and take care of our paperwork, and particularly the faculty and students, who fill our classrooms and carry on the most essential work of the institution.  These colleagues and students often make extraordinary contributions to our community, but sometimes it takes a departure to make us stop and realize just how important they really were to us.  Sometime the leave-taking is a joyous occasion, as when we gather each fall and spring to congratulate our graduates and send them off into the world. (We will do so again on May 12th!)  Sometimes the leave-taking is incredibly sad, as when we lose a colleague to layoffs or death.  And sometimes the leave-taking is a bit of both, as when valued colleagues retire or a well-liked Provost is named President of another university.  No matter what the occasion, however, these transitional moments offer an opportunity to stop and reflect upon what those colleagues have meant to us over the years.

CLASS lost several key colleagues this year to death, retirement, and resignation.  Several promising junior faculty members resigned before they could make a mark on the institution, but four senior colleagues left the university after having served with distinction for decades.  These included Leo Jeffres, Derwood Smith, Ed McKinney, and Paul Aspelin.  They were notable scholars and beloved classroom teachers, who mentored their students with care and compassion.  Moreover, each served as chairperson of his respective department.  Those of us who know them well understand that each was a model citizen-scholar, and each left an indelible mark on the college as well as on his department.  Each is—to use a line from Chaucer—“a man of greet auctoritee.” We are truly grateful for the examples they set, and we wish them well in their retirements.
Tragically, death took one of our colleagues in her prime this spring. Rita Klinger was the Coordinator of our Music Education program, and she had a national reputation as a music education scholar. Her specialties included multicultural issues in music education and world music, and she authored a music education textbook series for Scott Foresman/Silver Burdett.  She was also a national authority on the Kodály approach to music education.  The Music Department, her students, and, indeed, the whole college will miss her contributions greatly.

Speaking of transitions, I note that two department chairpersons are stepping down this spring after many years of distinguished service.  Eric Ziolek served three terms as Music Department chairperson.  Dr. Ziolek was a ubiquitous presence in the department.  In fact, there was hardly ever a department concert without Dr. Ziolek’s being present to support his faculty and students.  The department was fortunate to have his steady leadership for so many years.  Paul Aspelin, who will retire this May, chaired the Department of Anthropology for six years.  Under his leadership, both the Anthropology program and the Linguistics program grew dramatically, and we are all grateful for his efforts.

 We are also fortunate to have good replacements.  Birch Browning will become chairperson of Music on July 1st, and Maggie Jackson will become Interim Chairperson of the Department of Anthropology in May when Dr. Aspelin retires.  I know that both have the talents and the experience to continue the momentum built by their predecessors.

As we do every year at this time, we celebrate the recent promotions of some of our high-achieving faculty colleagues. I am pleased to note that Sonya Charles (Philosophy), Imad Rahman (English), Mark Slankard (Art), Patricia Stoddard Dare (Social Work), and Rob Whitbred (Communication) all earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor.  In addition, Samantha Baskind (Art), Jennifer Viscocky O’Grady (Art), Gary Dyer (English), and Jeff Karem (English) were all promoted to Full Professor.  Congratulations to all these colleagues for their admirable records of accomplishment.
As is true every spring, the college has been notably busy.  Beyond the regular lectures given, the essays written, and the tests taken, CLASS faculty and students have been engaged in a large number of truly interesting activities.  I will name a few here, with apologies to the faculty and students participating in others that I might be overlooking.

With respect to the arts, we had our first dance concert on the Allen Theatre’s second stage.  Lynn Deering and her colleagues put on a first-class performance on the evening of March 24th.  In addition, at the same time many of our colleagues were heavily involved with the Cleveland International Film Festival.  On March 22nd, I had the privilege of welcoming the festival staff and sponsors to campus when CSU hosted the Gala Opening of the Festival right in the Student Center.  Then, on March 31st and April 1st, our School of Communication sponsored a series of successful panel discussions on films and film-making.  In addition, CSU Communication alumnus Bill Guentzler, the Festival’s artistic director, is at the center of the Festival’s success. This year the Festival drew 85,000 eager film enthusiasts to Cleveland, and I am proud that our faculty, students, and alumni have such important roles in this major Cleveland arts event.

Speaking of major Cleveland arts events, we had another gala opening on April 17th, when CSU and its partners in the Power of Three celebrated the opening of the Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre in the Allen Theatre complex.  The major contributors, Peter B. and Toby Lewis, joined leaders from CSU, PlayhouseSquare, the Cleveland Play House, and Case Western Reserve University to officially dedicate this magnificent new performance space.  Our theatre students as well as graduate students from Case Western Reserve’s MFA program performed short scenes as a way of inaugurating the space.  That space was then used by our Theatre and Dance Department for its spring production of two one-act plays of Edward Albee: “The American Dream” and “The Death of Bessie Smith.”  Both were directed by Russ Borski.  I saw the productions on Saturday, April 28th, and the quality of the productions—sets, lights, and acting—was very high.

The Music Department continued to offer its usual and plentiful schedule of first-rate concerts, including several live faculty concerts on WCLV, and, on March 16-17, the Black Studies Program hosted the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Essentially Ellington” high school jazz festival.  CSU was one of only four sites nationally for this festival, and we were in good company.  The other sites were Michigan State University, University of Northern Colorado, and the University of California at Berkeley. The highlight of the evening was a spectacular concert, featuring several high school bands as well as the Jazz Heritage Orchestra. The Main Classroom Auditorium was packed for the event. 

The Art Department had it 41st Student Art Show.  Given that the old Art Building no longer exists and the new Art Gallery is not ready for occupancy, both the Student Art Show and the Merit Scholar Exhibition took place in the Wooltex Gallery of the Tower Press Building on Superior Ave. Starting next fall, however, we will be viewing CSU art exhibitions in our new location in the Cowell and Hubbard Building.
On April 23rd, the School of Social Work and its partners sponsored the Second Annual Social Welfare Conference at CSU.  The event drew 450 participants, who came to meet and discuss the latest developments in “Human Services and Economic Development.” At the conference several NASW Social Work awards were given.  CSU student Bruce Jones won the BSW Student of the Year Award, and our own Michael Dover won the Social Worker of the Year Award.   Running concurrently with the conference was the 16th Annual Social Work Fair, where young social workers could meet and interact with potential regional employers.  All in all, it was a very impressive gathering.

On March 31st, our Department of Philosophy hosted the annual meeting of the Ohio Philosophical Association.  The meeting had 76 participants from around the state, and it convened in Mather Mansion.  The keynote lecture was given by Dr. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Sayre-McCord spoke on the topic “What would it mean to say that non-human animals appeal to abstract moral principles as a guide to or justification of their actions?”  As a result of this gathering, our Department of Philosophy and its well-respected program in bioethics received fitting recognition and state-wide attention.

On April 26th, two more important lectures were given at the CLASS “Ways of Knowing” gathering.  As you recall, each year CLASS sponsors the “Ways of Knowing” lectures as a way for select colleagues returning from professional leave to “report back” on their leave activities.  This year Jeffrey Lewis and Rachel Carnell represented the group, and they gave absolutely compelling presentations on decision-making in the European Union and on 18th-century literature.  The audience for these two lectures was the largest yet in the series, and I am grateful for everyone who helped make this such a memorable event.

I also wanted to mention some recent successes of our faculty and students.  First, I would like to congratulate Evan Lieberman, who won the college’s annual grant-writing summer fellowship.  Dr. Lieberman will be writing a proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts in which he seeks funding for his collaborative project entitled “The Dance of the Abandonero.”  The project aims to produce a Lieberman-directed film celebrating a Columbian song cycle written by CSU adjunct Music instructor Roberto McCausland-Dieppa.  Might we perhaps expect to see this film at a future Cleveland International Film Festival?

I would also like to report several other major external awards. First, Wenqing Kang (History) won a year-long fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to continue his research on homosexuality in China.  This work is related to the topic of his recently-published book: Obsession: Male Same-Sex Relations in China, 1900-1950 (Hong Kong University Press).  Second, Samantha Baskind has been given two awards.  First, she received a fellowship to conduct research at the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.  Second, she has been awarded a fellowship for the 17th Annual Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization at Northwestern University.  Dr. Baskind will be doing research on the Warsaw Uprising in American art and culture.  Congratulations to these two CLASS scholars for these prestigious awards!

And from the Department of Modern Languages, I learned that six of our elementary Chinese students won awards at the Chinese Bridge Competition Preliminary at St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania.  Of the six, Huyen Truong and Zachary Lynn won second prize, and are now qualified to compete on the national level.  The national winners will automatically receive a Confucius Institute Scholarship to study in China.
Finally, on May 1st, we held our regular banquet for graduating CLASS Scholars and their families.  To be a CLASS Scholar, you must earn a 3.8 cumulative GPA and offer evidence of substantial student engagement.  This year we hosted 16 scholars in the Fenn Tower Ballroom.  The highlight of the evening, however, was when we honored our Spring 2012 CLASS Valedictorian, Brittany La’Niece Hogan.  Brittany is an Honors Student in Anthropology, who was inducted into the Alpha Lambda Anthropology Honors Association.  She has a keen interest in Asian Studies and has studied both Chinese and Japanese.  Brittany has also been actively engaged with the National Urban League of Greater Cleveland and with another program called Young Adults.  She also won a summer internship to work at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  After graduation, she would like to participate in the graduate program in medical anthropology at Case Western Reserve University.  In short, we can all take pride in the outstanding achievements of this spring’s CLASS Valedictorian.  Going forward, she and the other CLASS Scholars will represent our college very well.

Writing these newsletters gives me great pleasure because I have a chance regularly to review some of the wonderful accomplishments of my colleagues and their students.  Just this very select review of accomplishments demonstrates that it has been another productive year in CLASS, and I think we can be proud of how well we accomplished the college’s basic mission, which is, as you recall, “to encourage the development of human and humane knowledge in the arts, sciences, humanities and professions through scholarship, creative activity and research while providing an accessible and contemporary education to all individuals. … [in addition,] to serve and engage the public and prepare our students to lead productive, responsible and satisfying lives in the region and global society.”

I wish you all an enjoyable summer as you take a well-deserved break from the high intensity activities of the academic year.

Best wishes,