Winter 2012: Vol. 7, Issue 2
Thanksgiving Day falls into the long tradition of harvest celebrations, and I’ve always considered it one of my favorite holidays of the year. Here’s why: We in higher education are a goal-oriented lot. Never content with the status-quo, we train our sights continuously on the next big accomplishment—the next publication, the next grant, the next new course, the next new program, or the next new building. Our discontent is the driving force that keeps us moving forward, and this is as it should be. But the Thanksgiving holiday is our annual reminder that every once in a while, we need to stop, take stock of the harvests we have gleaned, and give thanks for our many successes, successes that are often overshadowed by the seemingly endless challenges that drop daily onto our desks like so many autumnal leaves.
So today I put down the rake, and consider at least some of the reasons why I’m grateful to be associated with CLASS and CSU. First, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the many dedicated faculty and staff members, who make this college the truly exceptional educational organization it is. Like our colleagues in other CSU colleges, we are dedicated to a distinct vision and a mission: to create new knowledge and to educate the mostly non-traditional, first-generation college students who will become the backbone of the future Cleveland economy. Almost every day I am impressed by some new story of exceptional dedication or outstanding accomplishment by one of our faculty and staff. Chris Mallett in our School of Social Work is a good recent example. At the Fall Convocation, President Berkman awarded Dr. Mallett not only one of this year’s Distinguished Faculty Research Awards but also the Jennie S. Hwang Award for Faculty Excellence. These awards recognize Dr. Mallett’s superb record of research and publication as well as his remarkable record of service to the students and faculty in the School of Social Work. We should all be proud of his achievements.
I’m also grateful for our students. In my Chaucer class this semester, I’m learning again not only how full their lives can be but also how much they are willing to work for the chance at a CSU degree. And they are also a gifted lot. An example is anthropology student Dick Powis. I met Dick early in the fall when he presented a poster on his summer undergraduate research, which he conducted—in French—in Senegal. I was so impressed by his research, that we featured him in our fall issue of The Innerlink. Now I learn that Dick has been named “Emerging Leader in Medical Anthropology” by the National Association of Student Anthropologists and the Society for Medical Anthropology. This national award comes with a $500 stipend and a funded visit to the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco. We are obviously very proud of Dick and wish him continuing success in his studies.
Third, I’m grateful for the vision and support of our university leaders and community partners that enabled us to create a truly exceptional fine arts campus. Recently I gave a presentation on our fine arts campus to the International Conference of Fine Arts Deans in Minneapolis. At this conference, I came to learn that there are very few other university campuses nationwide that can boast not only of the cutting-edge facilities now found on our campus but also the community/university partnerships that made them possible. We are well on our way to becoming a national model, and I have already been approached by several other fine arts deans from across the country, who wish to learn from what we have accomplished.
Fourth, I’m grateful for our community partners. As states continue to cut back on their financial support of higher education, we will become more and more dependent on these external sources of support. A good example relates to the proposed facility in the Idea Center for our Film and Digital Media program. If this center is to be built, we will have to raise the funds through gifts to the university. I’m delighted that over a year ago we received a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation to be used for the center’s digital equipment. Since then we have received matching grants (in smaller amounts) from American Greetings and from The William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation. With the help of Paul Wolansky and the Office of the Vice President for University Advancement, we will continue to make progress toward the $500,000 match and, one hopes, toward a successful move in the not too distant future. And we depend not only on this kind of financial assistance but also on the advice and enthusiasm of other enduring friends in the greater community, such as the dedicated members of the CLASS Visiting Committee. All these kinds of contributions help make CLASS a healthier, more vibrant learning community.
Of challenges we have enough, and soon I’ll start “raking leaves” again. But for now, I’d like to take time to thank you for your many contributions and to wish you a very pleasant Thanksgiving holiday.
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