Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 5, Issue 1

September 2010: Vol. 5, Issue 1

Welcome back to campus!  As an opening meditation for the new semester, I invite you to consider the short “Statement on Liberal Education” of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, a nationwide organization of Arts and Sciences deans. Click here to view link. There is nothing strikingly new there, but I believe that the statement succinctly presents the essence of what we are about as a college, and, as we head into a new academic year, it is more than appropriate for us to recall our basic commitment to fostering, among other things, critical thinking, love of reading, sensitivity to social and cultural contexts, and effective communication skills. These foundational skills not only prepare our students well for jobs in a new and ever-changing economy, but also make them ready to be solid citizens of our democracy and sophisticated patrons of the fine arts. In my opinion, there is no more important work.

I have come to value our commitment to liberal education even more after having read Susan Jacoby’s new book, The Age of American Unreason, over the summer.  The book is a strong indictment of aspects of American culture that reject logic and evidence-based inquiry for pseudo-intellectual or even anti-intellectual approaches.  Targets of her attack include religious fundamentalism, pop culture, America’s taste for infotainment and continuous electronic distraction, poor public education, and an increasingly credulous American public. While one may not agree with every aspect of Jacoby’s argument, overall it presents a disturbing picture of the environment in which we academics currently practice our profession.  At the same time, however, it underscores the importance of our college’s mission and presents the university’s efforts to improve retention and graduation rates in a striking new context: graduating more of our students in the liberal arts is not only good for the university’s bottom line; it is also an urgent necessity for the future well-being of our society.

CLASS faculty will again have more students with whom to work this year.  As of the first day of fall classes, CLASS undergraduate SCH production was up 3.4% while our graduate SCH production was slightly down.  Overall, the college is up 2.9%.  In addition, we are substantially up in headcount.  There are now nearly 3,700 students associated with CLASS, up 7.3% over last fall at this time. (Incidentally, CSU reached a milestone this fall: 17,000 students were enrolled as of the first day of classes.) The latest CLASS increases come on the heels of a very healthy summer enrollment.  Summer 2010 SCH production in CLASS was up 17% over last summer’s enrollments.

This year we have only two new tenure-track faculty to introduce.  The Department of English hired a new fiction writer, Emily Mitchell, who received her MFA from Brooklyn College and who comes to us from an appointment at West Virginia University.  Our new Department of Theatre and Dance also welcomes a new tenure-track Assistant Professor in technical theater.  Russ Borski, who has an MFA from Northwestern University, comes to us from Case Western Reserve University, where he held a tech. theater position for 17 years.  There is one more “new” CLASS faculty member to introduce although she has been on campus for many years.  As a result of the creation of the new Department of Theatre and Dance, Lynn Deering has transferred to our college from the College of Education and Human Services.  I hope that you will join me in welcoming all three to our college.

CLASS leadership remains essentially the same this year.  The only exception is Murali Nair, who became Director of the School of Social Work on July 1.  Dr. Nair follows Maggie Jackson, who held the position for a record number of 18 years!  We are grateful for Dr. Jackson’s steady leadership, and we look forward to new and exciting developments in Social Work under Dr. Nair.

This summer has again been busy for CLASS faculty members.  For example, Imad Rahman has again conducted his annual Imagination Workshop for aspiring creative writers, and Andrew Rindfleisch has again welcomed aspiring composers to campus for his Cleveland Composers’ Recording Institute.  Annie Jouan-Westlund took a group of 9 students over to Clermont-Ferrand in France for intense study in French language and literature.  In addition, 14 MLA students studied Spanish in Costa Rica, and 17 students went with CSU Chinese instructor Qizhi Zhang to study in China.  These students received funding from the CSU Confucius Institute.   Murali Nair spent the part of summer in Sri Lanka helping to set up an undergraduate degree program in Social Work at the University of Peradeniya.  He also spent some time in India doing field research on Indian centenarians.  Matthew Henry won a Summer Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study “Teaching the History of Political Economy” at Duke University with Dr. Bruce Caldwell.  Finally, Michael Mauldin’s Summer Stages had another successful run, and the audiences just keep growing. 

CLASS students were busy as well and were supported by grants and scholarships.  Dr. Mauldin’s Summer Stages apprentices were funded through the Provost’s Undergraduate Research funds.  The summer research of other CLASS students was also funded by the Provost.  Anthropology students analyzed archaeological remains at the Gateway construction site in Cleveland under the guidance of Phil Wanyerka.  Kim Neuendorf and Evan Lieberman supervised the study of film by various Communication students.  English students under the supervision of Adrienne Gosselin studied language arts and prevention assessment for at-risk school-age youth.  Two of our graphic art students, Jason Goupil and Karl Hein, were paid for their summer work by NASA.  They designed promotional materials to introduce the space agency to students in middle school and high school.  This work grew out of a design challenge assignment created by Jennifer Visocky-O’Grady.  Finally, one of our students, Suzy Scullin, won a scholarship to spend several weeks in Rouen, France, where she studied French language as well as the Impressionists.  If you are interested in her experiences, you can access her blog on the MLA Department website.  Summer study in French at the Université de Rouen will continue to be a possibility for anyone who wants to improve his or her French and spend time in Cleveland’s French sister city.

I have received word of several new faculty grants and/or awards.  George Ray’s new book, Language and Interracial Communication in the United States, was named the outstanding book of 2010 by the International and Intercultural Communication Division of the National Communication Association.  Wendy Regoeczi, who heads up our new Criminology Research Center, won an additional $60,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.  In addition, Dr. Regoeczi has also been named the new editor of Homicide Studies, a leading criminology scholarly journal.  Wenqing Kang and Gary Dyer both won $5000 awards from last spring’s CSU Scholarship Initiative.  Dr. Kang will be studying homosexuality in the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to the present.  Dr. Dyer’s project is a scholarly edition of Thomas Love Peacock’s Melincourt.  Moreover, in recognition of his distinguished record of accomplishment in directing, Allan Byrne, who introduced me to Jacoby’s book, was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.  This past summer he used the money to further his training at several international workshops.  Finally, I would like to note that two of our colleagues will be honored at the annual CSU fall convocation on October 5th.  Maggie Jackson will be honored with the 2010 Distinguished Faculty Award for Service, and John Greppin, who retired this past summer, will be awarded the 2010 Distinguished Faculty Award for Research.  I invite you to make a special effort to come to the convocation and honor these two outstanding senior colleagues.

I also note that our Poetry Center, under the leadership of Michael Dumanis, continues to run its national poetry contest and to publish the winning book manuscripts.  They are garnering national and even international attention.  The Center was featured on the front page of the Huffington Post as one of the top 15 most exciting independent presses in the country.  In addition, one of the Center’s published authors, Elyse Fenton, was recently chosen as a finalist for the Welsh Dylan Thomas Poetry Prize.

As we look ahead to a new academic year, we will continue to work through our strategic plan (which, by the way, is posted on our web site).  At the fall reception, for example, we will award our first ever Engaged Service Award to one of the many hard-working staff employees of the college.  There are 51 full-time and 9 part-time staff employees of the college, and their quiet contributions often go unnoticed even though we could not possibly do our work without them.  The Engaged Service Award will help address this shortcoming.  In addition, we will initiate electronic FAAR reports for faculty members and post on line a convenient new CLASS Policies and Procedures Manual.  As a way to increase retention and graduation rates, we will also begin an exciting new peer-to-peer mentoring program for incoming at-risk students in CLASS.  This pilot program was originally the idea of Visiting Committee member Marty Plax, and the Director of our Advising Office, Michelle Knapik, is working to implement it.  We will also be making sure our junior faculty members receive the mentoring necessary for future success, and, to increase the number of active grants in CLASS, we will create new summer stipends for faculty who need time to write large and significant proposals. Finally, we will be exploring models for CLASS lecture series, and we will continue—as always—to strengthen the college’s international outreach.  If you look through the Strategic Plan, you will be surprised with how far we have come in the past few years.

I end this newsletter as I always do, with a feeling that I have overlooked much more than I have included.  The good news is that I will have four or five additional opportunities this academic year to correct any oversights and to report news from this dynamic and growing college.  For now, let me simply conclude by inviting you to our annual fall reception.  The reception will take place between 3:30 and 5:30 on Thursday, September 16, in the Waetjen lobby in the Music/Communication Building.  It will be a festive kick-off to the semester, with music, good food, prizes, and collegial conviviality.  Come and meet your friends and co-workers.  I hope to see you there!