Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1

How well universities are preparing their students for careers in the current economy is a hot topic of discussion not only at CSU but across the nation. As the costs of a college education rise, so too do the demands for an adequate “return on investment,” which, in the current context, usually means a post-graduation job. As the parent of two young men, one recently graduated and the other still in college, I can fully sympathize with these concerns even though I believe that a college education offers so much more than just job preparation. Of course, we in CLASS are proud of our professionally-oriented programs, programs from graphic design to social work that prepare our students for specific careers. But all of our majors, even those traditional academic disciplines, teach important job-related skills, and these skills are recognized by highly successful people.

Morton Mandel, for example, is a notably successful Cleveland entrepreneur, a billionaire in fact, who recently wrote a book about his career in business and philanthropy as well as his philosophy of management.  Mr. Mandel recently spoke to a meeting of CSU administrators about his book and his ideas. At that meeting, when I asked him what advice he would give to a grandchild who decided to major in the humanities, Mr. Mandel, who believes that hiring the right people is the single most important step in creating a successful enterprise, made it very clear that he highly respected the skills of humanities majors.  In fact, he stated that he would have no hesitation in hiring a philosophy major for his business over other applicants with more professionally-oriented degrees!

Those of us who teach in more purely academic disciplines sometimes assume that our students fully appreciate the importance of the critical skills (beyond specific subject matter) that we teach, but this is not always the case. Not all of our students will go on to graduate school in our disciplines, and eventually they will need to find their places in the economy. As we start yet another fall semester, we need to be much more explicit in our classes about what our students will be able to bring to the table in job searches—written and oral communications skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, the ability to be creative and to innovate, the work ethic and discipline to complete hard tasks and to meet deadlines. All these skills are crucial to career success, and, what’s even better, they are transferable from one job or career to another. And when we have told them explicitly about all the important skills they will learn for the job market, let us also remind them of the other, life-enhancing benefits of a college education, like, if appropriate, learning how to orient oneself within a cacophony of loud voices speaking on contemporary ethical or political issues, or learning to enjoy a lifetime filled with literature, art, drama, film, and music.

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I would like to welcome all our faculty and staff back to campus for the new academic year. Published several times a semester, this newsletter for faculty and staff is my attempt to keep the CLASS community abreast of important issues, events and college successes and, thus, help build a sense of community across our three divisions of arts, humanities, and social sciences. Comments on the newsletter are always appreciated. Other sources of information about the college are our newsletter for external audiences, The Innerlink, and, of course, our college web pages.

The summer has been a busy time in CLASS. Some of our colleagues, for example, have been working diligently to move the 4 to 3 credit hour conversion process forward. As a result, our college has very nearly completed its work on course conversion. Of course, this fall we will be working on revising our majors to reflect the new standard course format.  Again, Joyce Mastboom will be the college’s point person for the revision process.

Many faculty members engaged in their own research and creative activity. Others taught regular or web-based summer courses. Our enrollments were again down somewhat this past summer, but a significant increase in fall enrollments has more than made up for the summer shortfall. (As a college, this fall our total student credit hours are up 2.8%, but our undergraduate enrollments are up a healthy 4.1%.)

Some faculty members guided special summer experiences for their students. CSU students, for example, had international study experiences in Spain, China, and France. Stephen Gingerich and Elia Iafelice took a group of students to study at the University of Salamanca in Spain, one of the oldest universities in Europe. Besides formal study, they took side trips to Madrid, Segovia, Santiago de Compostela, and Toledo.  Our Chinese language instructor, Qizhi Zhang, took another group of students to Capital University in Beijing. They also took side trips, but their travels took them to Shanghai and Xi’ian. Finally, Tama Engelking took a group of students to study in Cleveland’s sister-city, Rouen, France. Students stayed with host families and took excursions centered around the themes of water, gastronomy, and Impressionism.

Still other faculty supervised summer undergraduate research projects. Stephen Cory, Barbara Hoffman, Holly Holsinger, Aycan Koksal, Kim Neuendorf, Mark Souther, and Phil Wanyerka won over $40,000 of funding from the Provost’s Office and provided guidance for 18 CLASS undergraduate researchers. Some of these enterprising students conducted important research in history, cultural anthropology, archaeology, economics, or film studies. Others created an exciting devised theatre production called “Ancestra.” You can learn more about these summer research projects at the poster session, which will take place on Thursday, September 5th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Yet another group of faculty was awarded external or internal grants for their own research. Last spring I acknowledged our colleagues who won 2013 Faculty Scholarship Initiative grants, but I did not mention that Rongjun Sun won an FRD award ($5,380) for his work on social engagement and aging. In addition, Linda Francis won an additional award of $66,740 from the National Institute of Health for her work on caregiving during the late stages of cancer treatment. Neda Zawahri won a grant of $9,941 from the University of Iowa for her continuing work on international water treaty issues. And Mark Souther, who last summer was appointed the new Director of our Center for Public History and Digital Humanities, was awarded a grant of $9,600 from Cuyahoga Community College for his work on their digital archives. Finally, although this is not a grant, I have learned that Wendy Regoeczi has been named Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of West Florida. Dr. Regoeczi’s visit to USF will be short, but it is none-the-less a significant honor. Congratulations to all these award winners!

Finally, over the summer two smaller CLASS departments merged to create one new larger department, the new Department of Philosophy and Comparative Religion. This new department will be home to 8.5 permanent full-time faculty members and one visiting professor. The academic programs will remain the same: B.A. programs in Philosophy & Religious Studies and an M.A. program in philosophy. Mary Ellen Waithe will serve as Interim Chair for AY 2013-14, and the department offices are now located on the 13th floor of Rhodes Tower. We are pleased with and proud of this new CLASS department, and we look forward to great things in the years ahead.

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The college welcomes a number of new faculty members this fall. We will have four new tenure-track faculty. Julie Burrell, who specializes in African-American literature and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will be joining the Department of English. The Department of Economics welcomes Phuong Viet Ngo, who specializes in macroeconomics and who completed his Ph.D. at Boston University. Heather Russell specializes in music education, and she completed her Ph.D. at Temple University. She will, of course, be joining the Department of Music. Finally, Joshua Kirven will join the School of Social Work. Dr. Kirven completed his Ph.D. at the Ohio State University but comes to us with significant teaching experience from the University of Central Florida.

We will also welcome two new lecturers. Lydia Grebenyova comes to us with extensive teaching experience from Baylor University. She completed her Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Maryland, College Park. At CSU, she will have a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of English. Cynthia Hovland-Scafe, who completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will join the School of Social Work.

CLASS will also have several visiting faculty members. Michael Langlois, a specialist in international political economy who has a Ph.D. from Wayne State University, will be joining the Department of Political Science. Michael Sohn, who specializes in religious ethics and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, will be joining the new Department of Philosophy and Comparative Religion. Finally, the School of Communication will host three visiting faculty this year. Craig Sanders, a former term Assistant Professor, will be returning to the School and holds a Ph.D. in mass communications from Indiana University. Nokon Heo, who comes to us with extensive teaching experience at the University of Central Arkansas, holds a Ph.D. from Penn State University. James Denny, who is one of our own M.A. graduates, will rejoin the School of Communication as a visiting Instructor for the coming year.

Finally, B.M. Jain will be our visiting India Scholar this year. Dr. Jain, a distinguished scholar in Political Science, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, India. He also served as a tenured professor at that university. An impressively productive scholar who has produced over 12 books, he has held visiting scholar positions in the U.S., Canada, Korea, Spain, and Hong Kong. We are pleased to welcome him to CSU for the coming academic year.

CLASS will also enjoy new leadership on the school and department level, and I am pleased with the quality of new chairpersons and directors we have been able to recruit. Emeritus professor Steve Slane, a former chairperson and associate dean in the College of Sciences and Health Professions, is now the Interim Director of the School of Social Work. Emeritus professor John Gerlach, a former chairperson of the Department of English, has returned to his home department to become Interim Chairperson. David Elkins, a former chairperson of the Department of Political Science, has returned to become Interim Chairperson of his home department for the fall semester—while Chuck Hersch, who was recently named permanent Chairperson, is on professional leave. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, Mary Ellen Waithe, who was chair of the Philosophy Department, has returned this year as Interim Chairperson of the new Department of Philosophy and Comparative Religion.

We also welcome two new permanent staff members. Stephanie Nunley is the new secretary in the Department of English, and Renee Maddox is the new secretary in the Dean’s Office. We wish them both success as they become a part of the CLASS family.

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Best wishes,

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