Dean's Newsletter

Volume 10, Issue 4

A Newsletter for Faculty & Staff in the
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Volume 10, Issue 4

As often happens, the semester passed quickly, and, having stopped briefly to celebrate Thanksgiving, many of us now find ourselves frantically correcting exams and papers. My impression is that the semester we are leaving has been both productive and reasonably calm. Yes, we have been busy planning for the moves of the Poetry Center, Anthropology, Social Work, and the CLASS Advising Center. Yes, we have been conducting seventeen different faculty searches. Yes, the CLASS PRC has been busy reviewing lots of dossiers of those who would be promoted or have their contracts renewed. And, yes, we are dealing with significant enrollment challenges. But CLASS faculty and staff have been quietly and effectively working on the primary missions of the college: student success, community engagement, and faculty research and creative activity. 

As to student success: On December 13th, approximately 200 CLASS graduates walked the Commencement Stage, and many of us were present to celebrate their accomplishments. Of the graduates, 15 were designated CLASS scholars, having earned at least a 3.8 cumulative GPA. We honored these scholars at our annual CLASS Scholars’ Dinner on December 2nd. Our CLASS Valedictorian for the fall semester is Nicholas Boros, a triple major in Linguistics, Comparative Religion, and Mathematics. Mr. Boros is a transfer student, who is locally engaged with the Hungarian Heritage Museum, the Carpatho-Rusyn Museum, Bocskai Radio, and St. Elizabeth’s parish on Buckeye Rd. He is fluent in both Hungarian and English and is also proficient in German and Latin. In addition, he received a scholarship to study Spanish in Mexico at the University of Guadalajara. An avid student of languages, Mr. Boros took a leadership role in founding the CSU Student Linguistic Association, and he served as the organization’s President during 2015. Mr. Boros and the other CLASS scholars deserve most of the credit for their impressive records of achievement.  However, as I mentioned at the dinner, some of the credit must also be shared with friends and family, who supported the scholars on their way, as well as to the talented CLASS faculty, who inspired and guided them.

Here is another student success story, but it will make sense only to those who, like me, are fans of Game of Thrones. Tyler Robertson, Rachel Gerard, and Christine Borne, CSU linguistics students, have conducted research on the Dothraki language, a language spoken in the HBO series by the indigenous inhabitants from around the Dothraki Sea. The language was invented by linguist David J. Peterson, following clues embedded in George R.R. Martin’s original novel, A Song of Ice and Fire. After attending a workshop with Mr. Peterson and additional correspondence, the three student researchers were able to write first-rate papers (in the opinion of Lydia Grebenyova, Director of Linguistics). Mr. Robertson’s paper was on the syllable structure and the phonological rules of Dothraki, something that had not been done previously by any linguist. I’m told that Mr. Peterson was very impressed by the group’s work and with the quality of the CSU Linguistics program.

As to community engagement: Luka Zibelnik, our Slovenian lecturer and Director of the Center for Slovenian Studies, has been active organizing exhibitions at the local Slovenian Museum and Archives. In September, he organized an exhibition on Jewish soldiers in World War I on the Slovenian front, an exhibition which was viewed by the Slovenian Ambassador from Washington D.C. In December, Mr. Zibelnik brought three prominent Slovenian poets for a poetry reading at the Museum and Archives. There was also an exhibition of artifacts crafted by Barbara Jurkovšek. In addition, I was pleased to attend a community lecture, given by Matt Jackson-McCabe, on the early Jewish-Christian community and its evolution from being a sect of Judaism to an independent religion. Dr. Jackson-McCabe gave his lecture to an impressively large and appreciative audience of members of the Community of St. Peter’s.

The community surely includes our colleagues in other colleges and departments. Terry Pieritz, who, as you recall, runs the Costume Shop in the Department of Theatre and Dance and won our Engaged Service Award this year, was recently involved in an inter-disciplinary effort with the School of Health Sciences. She helped by designing FUNctional Fashion for a “GoBabyGo” Workshop at the new Center for Innovation in the Medical Professions. FUNctional Fashion describes clothing specifically designed for children with special needs. The “GoBabyGo” project is meant to research and develop low-cost, high-impact technologies for children and adults with different kinds of mobility issues.

In the area of faculty research and creative activity, Irina Koukhanova was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship ($15,000) from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. In addition, as an artist represented by Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh, Professor Koukhanova was invited to exhibit her work at the Fridge Art Fair in Miami during December. Faculty in the new Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology also received a grant. Wendy Regoeczi and Dana Hubbard recently won a grant of $12,500 from Cuyahoga County. The grant will fund an evaluation of the Children Who Witness Violence Program.

Finally, among the notable events happening in the college during the second part of the fall semester, I would like to highlight three. First, Antonio Medina-Rivera brought the Sixth Crossing Over Symposium to CSU in October. This conference, founded at CSU in 2005, is now well established and has become an important venue for border studies research. Seventy-four scholars from the United States, Canada, and Australia presented papers at this truly international forum, which took place over two days. Luis Alberto Urrea, who spoke about life on the Mexican-American border as well as about his own history and development as a writer, gave the keynote speech to an audience of about 200 people.

Second, I was very impressed with the work of Qian Li, who, assisted by Professor Zhijian Qian of New York City College of Technology, curated an exhibition of twenty-first century Chinese art, which just closed on December 5th. This fascinating exhibition included works of traditional-style Chinese paintings, photography, digital animations, and site-specific installations. It offered an impressive and panoramic view of the contemporary art scene in a rapidly evolving China. 

Third, this is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Strayhorn, one of the great American-born composers and jazz pianists of the 20th century. Strayhorn, who was born in Dayton, Ohio, played with Duke Ellington’s band and composed many of the band’s best-known works. Among these were “Take the A Train” and “Satin Doll.” But many of his other works are less well known. To observe Strayhorn’s 100th birthday, Michael Baumgartner and Regennia Williams are organizing a series of special activities, the first of which took place on November 19th. At this concert, Phillip K. Jones, II, an alumnus of Oberlin College Conservatory and, on the graduate level, of the CSU Department of Music, played a generous selection of Strayhorn’s music to the delight of the audience.

While sending you off to enjoy your holidays with friends and family, I will leave you with a quotation from G.K. Chesterton, the writer and Catholic apologist. When reflecting on the nature of our common enterprise, Chesterton wrote, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”  I like the quotation because it puts our work in a broader context than the one we have become used to, a context far removed from the usual discourse these days about “workforce development” and “return on investment.” It describes our mission as a part of something larger and nobler than the day-to-day concerns of getting and spending. Moreover, it situates our work clearly as collective effort, a “public good,” a movement through history toward greater social well-being. Chesterton’s statement is indeed something worth pondering as we collectively move forward into the next year. 

Now, how would you say it in Dothrakian?

Happy Holidays!

Best wishes,

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