Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 7, Issue 1

Fall 2012: Vol. 7, Issue 1

In preparation for teaching my course this fall on the Father of English Poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer, I had the opportunity to attend several summer workshops—two on Blackboard and one on Writing across the Curriculum. In those workshops, I met numerous colleagues from across the campus, who were spending their summer hours incorporating new elements into their fall courses. These encounters were valuable to me in two ways. First, they gave me a chance to enlarge my understanding of the kinds of impressive pedagogical resources that are available to our faculty and students. Second, these encounters were yet another reminder to me of the commitment of our faculty to providing the very best education possible for our students, whom we very much want to retain and graduate. Yet these chance encounters provided only a brief snapshot of all the intense hours of classroom preparation, all the long hours of research and writing, and all the busy hours of office staffing put in by CLASS faculty and staff over the summer. In welcoming you back to campus, then, I realize that, for many of you, work on our behalf did not cease over the summer and that the beginning of the fall semester merely marks a renewed continuation of your dedicated summer efforts. For this, I thank you. I sincerely hope, however, that over the summer you were able to find at least some time to withdraw from the press of academic business and to rest, relax, and recharge.

For the fall semester does indeed represent a new beginning, and we will certainly have much to do this year. CLASS has many new students, new faculty colleagues, new academic leaders, new initiatives, and new challenges to face over the coming academic year. As of August 30th, CLASS had over 3,800 students enrolled in nearly 59,000 student credit hours, which represents an increase of 2.6% over our enrollments in the fall of 2011. This gives CLASS the second highest percentage increase for any college in the university. These numbers follow upon other good news from the summer, when our enrollments were up 3.8%. I want to thank all the faculty and staff who contributed special efforts to bring both summer and fall enrollments up to these levels.

Besides all the new students, CLASS welcomes sixteen new full-time faculty members to campus.  We have three new tenure-track faculty. Matias Martinez Abeijón joins our Department of Modern Languages. A native of Galicia, Spain, Dr. Abeijón received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University and comes to us from Southern Utah University. Valerie Wright joins our Department of Sociology and Criminology. Dr. Wright also received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University, and she studied under Ruth Peterson, a graduate of CSU, who will receive a Distinguished Alumna Award this October. Finally, George Tsagaris joins the School of Social Work. Dr. Tsagaris received his Ph.D. in Urban Education as well as his B.A. in History from CSU. While he has spent many years as a part-time instructor in our School of Social Work, up to this point his major career focus has been working with the Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

CLASS also welcomes a number of new lecturers this fall. Phillip Wanyerka, who is an alumnus of CSU but received his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, is a new Associate Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. Dr. Wanyerka specializes in Meso-American and North American archaeology. Jeffrey Bolt joins the School of Communication, where, among other things, he will teach the popular “Mass Media and Society” course. Mr. Bolt is currently completing his Ph.D. at Kent State University. Aycan Koksal, who received her Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, specializes in applied microeconomics and is joining our Department of Economics. Victoria Winbush, who holds a Ph.D. from Smith College, is joining our School of Social Work, where she will be teaching courses in clinical social work. The Department of Sociology and Criminology welcomes Michael Skladany. Dr. Skladany holds a Ph.D. from Michigan State University and, among other things, will be teaching the Sociology of the Third World course. In addition, Deborah Layman joins us as our first-ever specialist in music therapy. Ms. Laymen received her M.M. degree from Florida State University and comes with fifteen years of clinical experience at the Cleveland Music School Settlement and at Beech Brook. Finally, the English Department is adding two new lecturers in its First-year Writing Program. Jessica Schantz is a graduate from the Creative Writing M.F.A. program that CSU shares with Kent State, the University of Akron, and Youngstown State University. The second English lecturer is Melanie Gagich, who received her M.A. from Kent State University and who has taught English composition on a number of campuses, including University of Akron and Kent State University.

In addition to our permanent faculty, CLASS also welcomes a number of visiting faculty as well as several international visitors. Frank Giampietro, for example, was hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor in English. He will teach creative writing and also serve as Interim Director of the CSU Poetry Center (replacing Michael Dumanis, who is on leave). Sarah Watts was hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Music, where she will teach courses in music education. The Department of Political Science has also hired two visiting faculty members. Jeneen Hobby, who replaces Justin Vaughn (who took a position at Boise State University) will teach a variety of courses in American politics, especially the courses on the American Presidency. Todd Nelson, who replaces Il Hyun Cho (also on leave), will teach courses on international relations. Finally, Jody Timko, who replaces Ed McKinney, will be a Visiting Instructor in the School of Social Work.

We are also fortunate to have several international scholars in residence this year. For example, our Fulbright Scholar Eva Rus, who hails from Italy but holds a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham in England, will be teaching courses in the Women’s Studies program and in the Department of Art. The Department of Modern Languages will host visiting scholar Ronglan Zhu, who is a professor of English at Jilin University in China and who specializes in contrastive linguistics. In addition, the Department of Political Science welcomes visiting scholar Yuxin Wu of Zhejiang Gongshang University in China.  She will be working with Qingshan Tan on a comparative study of nomination procedures in Chinese and American local elections.

Finally, I hope that you will all have a chance to welcome the new CLASS Development Officer, Mr. Paul Wolansky. Coming to us from his position as Senior Director of Alumni Relations at Colorado State University, Mr. Wolansky brings with him a variety of significant development experiences. I believe that he is just the right person to help us reach our many fund-raising goals, and I look forward to partnering with him in these efforts. He will start on September 10th.

In short, we are fortunate to have a wealth of new talent in our college for the coming year, and you will have a chance to meet all these new colleagues (and to renew old friendships) on Wednesday, September 19th, from 3 to 5 p.m. This is the time of our annual fall welcome back reception. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend!

Beyond the new faculty, CLASS is pleased to welcome new leadership. As I announced last spring, Maggie Jackson has become the Interim Chairperson of Anthropology, and Birch Browning has become the Chairperson of the Department of Music. Over the summer, however, there were two other leadership developments. First, Murali Nair, who served as Director of the School of Social Work for the past two years, decided to retire over the summer.  Dr. Nair had a very productive two years and, as a result, was able to move the School ahead on many different fronts. His retirement is a big loss for us. We are, then, very fortunate that Lonnie Helton has agreed to step forward and serve as the Interim Director of the School for the coming academic year. He took up his responsibilities on August 1st. Over the course of this year, we will follow the standard university procedures to identify and appoint the next permanent director of the School.  Second, I am very pleased to announce that Antonio Medina-Rivera has agreed to replace Paul Aspelin as the next Director of the Linguistics Program.

Summer is a great time for study abroad programs, and last summer the Department of Modern Languages ran two different programs. In the first, 11 CSU students journeyed to Clermont-Ferrand, France, with Annie Jouan-Westlund to study various aspects of French culture, civilization, and language. In the second, 28 CSU students journeyed to Costa Rica. However, the program in Costa Rica had a new twist this summer, for it marked the beginning of a new partnership between the Department of Modern Languages and the Health Sciences Department. Six of the students, who were supervised by Reenie Pruitt, focused on “Spanish and Health Care.” This was an extension of Ms. Pruitt’s on-campus efforts to address the Spanish language needs of practicing health care professionals. The remaining 22 students studied Spanish language and Central American culture with Stephen Gingerich. I have written about international education several times in the past, but let me once again emphasize just how important these international experiences can be for our students. They can be life-changing.

In addition to study abroad, CLASS undergraduate students were conducting summer research projects funded by the Provost’s Office. They worked under the guidance of several dedicated CLASS faculty members, and, in total, CLASS students received over $40,000 in support. We obviously are very grateful to the Provost’s Office for making these opportunities available. Anthropology students, for example, under the supervision of Phil Wanyerka, examined over 2,500 pot sherds to reassemble prehistoric pottery from the Cramer Site in Ross County, Ohio. (In addition to this project, Dr. Wanyerka led an even larger number of students in archeological digs at various prehistoric sites in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.) History students worked with Stephen Cory on a project that researched the journeys of the fourteenth-century world traveler Ibn Battula. They wrote historical blogs for each of thirty locations from Battula’s travels. Students will be able to access these blogs when they engage in Dr. Cory’s mapwalk exercise this academic year. Kim Neuendorf’s Communication students spent the summer empirically analyzing films, and Subhra Saha’s students in Economics researched “The Benefits of and Limits to Public Transit in American Cities.” Finally, Mark Souther’s History students produced short articles on Cleveland’s history for the Cleveland Historical mobile application, published by the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities. To review the impressive work accomplished by these students, I invite you to visit the Undergraduate Work Poster Session, to be held on Thursday, September 6th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Student Center Atrium.

Of course, CLASS faculty and staff also received internal and external grant funding. Several CLASS faculty members wrote successful applications for funding from the CSU Faculty Scholarship initiative. These successful applicants included Greg D’Alessio (Music), Liz Lehfeldt (History), Joel Lieske (Political Science), and Karen Sotiropoulos (History). As to external funding, I am aware that Rob Thurmer (Art Gallery) was recently awarded a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, and Judy Ryder (Cleveland Arts Education Consortium) received several grants from such agencies as the Gund Foundation, the Nord Family Foundation, and the Cyrus Eaton Foundation.

In terms of grant dollars, CLASS still brings in only a relatively modest amount of external money when compared to other CSU colleges that enjoy more and larger sources of external funding. Nevertheless, the levels of CLASS grants-seeking and successful grants-funding have shown significant growth over the past five years. Deans were recently shown figures listing the total amount of annual external awards received by the various colleges at CSU during the period 2007-2012 On this chart, CLASS had the second highest rate of growth in annual dollars received (13.3%) and the highest rate of growth in the number of applications funded (66.7%). What this means is that CLASS faculty and staff are becoming more and more aware of the need to pursue grant-funding, and they are more and more willing to invest the significant time and work necessary to write successful grants. Given current trends in public financing of higher education, this movement is essential to our future well being, and we need to continue efforts to support and encourage this activity. In the meantime, however, I send out my congratulations to each of the 25 CLASS faculty and staff who won external grant awards in fiscal year 2012.

The upcoming academic year looks to be very full for all of us. I will not take too much space to list all the new initiatives on the horizon, but I will mention a few. First, increasing undergraduate retention and graduation rates will again be a top priority this year. As a part of this effort, the administration will promote discussions not only of converting CSU classes from 4 credit hours to 3 credit hours but also of lowering total graduation requirements down to 120 credit hours. These discussions will take place on all levels of shared governance, and, in CLASS, they will begin this fall in our Curriculum Committee. Second, during the fall semester, all departments and programs at CSU will participate in a “program classification” process that the Provost compares to the institution-classification process undertaken by the Carnegie Foundation. Current thinking is that this process will divide all programs into distinct categories. The categories will be chosen by the President after having been advised by a special task force comprised of faculty members and administrators. The resulting information ought to be useful not only for departmental planning purposes but also to university administrators as they plan future allocations of university resources.

Third, we will be promoting a fall arts lineup that has some unusually significant events. We will be marketing these under the title “Fall into the Arts at CSU.” Among the events are 1. The opening of the [Art] Galleries at CSU, 2. The 25th Anniversary of our Kulas Series Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel, 3. The dedication of our continuing faculty concert series on WCLV in honor of past CSU president John Flower, 4. our first CSU production on the Allen Theatre main stage (Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream!), and 5. A fall student film festival.  Finally, I would like to alert you that Regennia Williams and her colleagues have organized a conference entitled “Watching God and Reading Hurston,” which will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The conference will take place at CSU from September 19th through the 22nd. Further details on all these events will be forthcoming, but please do plan to attend at least one.

To return to Geoffrey Chaucer: Everyone knows that Chaucer’s greatest and best-known work is his Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories ostensibly told by medieval pilgrims to each other on their spring pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket in Canterbury, England. Once students get past the strangeness of Chaucer’s Middle English language, they find this collection to be both genuinely edifying and supremely amusing. As Chaucer says, the collection contains “Tales of best sentence [moral significance] and moost solaas [entertainment].”

We academic pilgrims of the twenty-first century begin our metaphorical pilgrimage in the fall, not the spring, and our journey takes us toward Commencement Day in May, when, dressed in colorful medieval garb, we celebrate the successes of our students. As we journey through the school year, we will no doubt tell each other many stories—some edifying, others amusing, still others neither—to help shorten the way. The milestones we will pass along the way include deadlines for such things as student papers and assignments, final grades, new class schedules, tenure and promotion decisions, workload decisions, program classification reports, article manuscripts, grant proposals, concerts, dramatic works, art exhibitions, and hiring requests, just to name the most obvious. By now, most of us know this road very well. So let us once again embark upon this pilgrimage together, have some fun along the way, but, as we travel forward, keep our sights ever more firmly fixed on the final destination.

Best wishes,