Dean's Newsletter

Volume 11, Issue 6

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

Volume 11, Issue 6

          ...It’s certain there is no fine thing
          Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.

          -W.B. Yeats

This time last year, CLASS Directions announced the $7.5 million allocation from the state of Ohio to create a stand-alone School of Film, Television, and Interactive Media. But the state’s allocation, generous as it was, was only the first step in a long process. And, thus, over the course of the current academic year, colleagues from across the university have labored to make the stand-alone program a reality. I can point to several major accomplishments over the past year:

  • We have moved a proposal for the stand-alone school through the required 10-step program alteration process and, as a result, the School of Film, Television, and Interactive Media will become a reality on July 1st, 2017.
  • We have conducted a nationwide search for the new Director of the School of FTIM, and we now have a verbal commitment from an outstanding candidate. While I cannot release the name publicly until the Letter of Intent is signed, I can tell you that the candidate will bring stellar credentials in both film and film school administration to our campus. He has the leadership experience to guide the School toward our goal of national prominence and will begin this work on July 1st, 2017.
  • We have vetted several different locations for the new School and have decided to build out an attractive space on the sixth floor of the Idea Center in Playhouse Square. In their March meeting, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a 20-year lease on this space, and we are now in the process of vetting the credentials of several potential architectural firms to design the space. Currently, however, the best estimate calls for 18 months of planning and construction before the move-in. During this transition period, the School will have offices on the ground floor of the Music and Communication Building.
  • We have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a professional partnership between the School of FTIM and ideastream, giving our students access to hands-on production experiences as well as mentors from this professional broadcast company.

We are, thus, right on schedule with our plans, and I want to recognize in particular the efforts of our School Director Search Committee, under the leadership of Jeff Karem, that conducted the successful search for the new Director. I also want to recognize the leadership of Evan Lieberman, who, as Interim Director of the FTIM program, has helped move the program forward over the course of the current academic year and get it ready for its stand-alone status.

Last year at this time, I also announced plans for a new CSU arts and humanities festival to begin in summer of 2017. Over the course of this year, Katie Shames, with the assistance of Gayle Kish, has busily planned a remarkable three-day celebration, incorporating a number of high-profile speakers and performances with a one-day Euclid Ave. book fair. CSU is very grateful for a significant gift from Myra and Darwin Smith, which will effectively underwrite the festival, which will occur from June 7th through June 9th. Among the headliners will be Yvette Nicole Brown (actress and comedienne), Jon Meacham (Pulitzer-prize-winning author), Isabelle Wilkerson (author), Jonathan Safran Foer (author), Karina Smirnoff (dancer), Delia Ephron (author), and Lucianne Walkowitz (astronomer and author). Among the highlights of the festival with be the annual Arts Education Day Luncheon, the annual CSU Summer Dance Workshop, a CSU Student Art Exhibit, a dance concert by the Cuban dance troupe Malpaso, and a TEDx salon entitled “Astral Stories.” For more details, please see this website:

Many of you are aware that the university is going through a period of budget cuts, to deal with a substantial budget shortfall predicted for FY 2018. Each unit in the university is being asked to cut a certain percentage of its permanent budget. As a rule, academic units (like colleges) are cutting on average 3.4%, and non-academic units are cutting 5%, for a grand total of about $7.6 million in savings. CLASS has been asked to cut 3.4% of its FY 2018 permanent budget, which amounts to a cut of about $748,000. Approximately 95% of our permanent budget covers personnel costs—faculty and staff salaries and fringes mostly—while only about 5% is non-salary operating monies, which pay for things like copying, telephones, (some) travel, and other miscellaneous expenses. To meet its target, the Dean’s Office has proposed, and the Provost has accepted, cuts of $91,000 in non-salary lines and $657,000 in personnel lines, representing six faculty positions. Fortunately, none of these lines was projected to be occupied in FY 2018, so there will be no lay-offs in CLASS. In addition, although all schools and departments will see a slight decrease in their non-salary lines, we have been able to protect funds that support scholarships and make many of our important programs and curricular enhancements possible. But these cuts are not painless: they will have a direct impact on the departments or schools that have either experienced faculty retirements or resignations this past academic year or were denied a hire that was previously authorized. Obviously, addressing these losses will be a high priority as we go into future—hopefully better-funded—fiscal years.

This year, under the able leadership of Donna Whyte, a Hiring Committee conducted a nation-wide search for the next Director of Black Studies. As of this writing, we have identified our top candidate and have made a verbal offer. We are waiting for a reply. Our top candidate is a widely respected scholar with important administrative experience, and we look forward to closing this search as soon as we possibly can. While I am on the topic of Black Studies, I want to thank Dr. Whyte for her steady leadership of the program. We are very fortunate that she was available to steer the program through this transition year. I also want to recognize the good work of Prester Pickett and Jason Moore, who helped Dr. Whyte keep the Black Studies programs moving forward after the loss of Michael Williams. Mr. Moore, by the way, is leaving the Black Studies Office and moving to the Office of the President, where he will assist with the administrative work of that office. We wish him well in the next phase of his career.

While we did not have any retirements last year, this year we have had a few notable ones. Both Bob Abelman and Eileen Berlin Ray retired this year from the School of Communication. Sheldon Stein, from the Department of Economics, also stepped down. Finally, Delia Galvan, from the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, decided to retire. All these colleagues served honorably and well, and they deserve our gratitude for their many contributions over the years. May they enjoy long and active retirements for many years to come! I should also note that two of our younger colleagues, Jonathan Ring (Political Science) and Patricia Burant (Communication) resigned and will be heading to other jobs and challenges, and, of course, we wish them well.

This year we celebrated several promotions and faculty awards. Michael Baumgartner (Music) and Shelley Rose (History) were granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor. Brooke Conti (English), who was hired at the rank of Associate Professor, was also granted tenure.  Guowei Jian (Communication) was promoted to Full Professor, and Marnie Rodriguez (Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology) was promoted to Senior Lecturer. Finally, Brian Bailey (Music) completed a successful sixth-year review and was promoted to Associate College Lecturer. (By the way, Dr. Bailey’s CSU Chorus and Chorale gave an amazing concert—a real tour de force––on May 1st.  They sang masterfully in a large variety of different musical forms and in about five or six different languages, from Swahili to Old Church Slavonic, from Early Modern English to French and German!)

As for awards, I want to congratulate Neda Zawahri (Political Science), who was awarded the 2017 CLASS Award for Outstanding Research, and Tama Engelking (World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures), who won the 2017 CLASS Award for Outstanding Teaching. They are both admirable representatives of the high-quality of CLASS faculty. Moreover, they are not alone. We received a number of very strong applications for both awards this year, and I want to encourage those of you who did not win this year to keep on applying. I also wanted to mention that our newly-tenured colleague Brooke Conti has received several awards this spring. She won both a Research Fellowship for the Huntington Library and a Research Fellowship for the Folger Library. One of her recent articles was also recognized as the best article in its field by the John Donne Society.

On the evening of May 3rd, we celebrated our annual spring CLASS Scholars Dinner. About 24 CLASS Scholars and their families attended as well as an almost equal amount of CLASS faculty. CLASS Scholars are those students who have maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.8, and this year’s group was impressive. At the dinner, we also recognized our CLASS Valedictorian, Patricia Concepcion. A first-generation student, Ms. Concepcion completed her B.A. in English Integrated Language Arts with an almost perfect 3.98 cumulative GPA. Along the way, she was awarded both a Nordson Fellowship from the College of Education and an Exemplary Student of the Year Award from the TRIO program. She also spent time as a Success Coach for the TASC program, an ESL tutor, a Camp Vike Counsellor, and a CSU tour guide for the Admissions Office. Beyond campus, she taught flute for the Joyful Noise Neighborhood Music School, ushered at the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, and helped out at the Cleveland Night Market.  Congratulations to all our CLASS Scholars and to our Valedictorian on their many impressive successes.

CSU spring 2017 Commencement Ceremonies will take place on Saturday, May 13th. CLASS graduates will walk the stage during the afternoon ceremony. This year we have a special reason to attend the ceremony. Dr. Piotr Wilczek, a good friend of CSU who is currently the Ambassador from the Republic of Poland to the United States, will receive an honorary degree and give the commencement address. Back in the winter of 2012, Dr. Wilczek, who is also a Professor of Polish Literature at the University of Warsaw, accepted a Visiting Professor appointment at Cleveland State. The visiting appointment was funded by the local Polish-American community. During his time here, he taught two courses, gave numerous interviews on the radio, and delivered three different public lectures, better connecting CSU to the local Polish-American community. Thus began his close relationship with CSU and with our college in particular. Since then he has helped us recruit two different Kosciuszko Scholars to come to CSU and teach Polish Studies and has sent a promising film student to CSU to study film. Honoring him with a degree this spring is a good way not only to celebrate his many achievements but also to thank him for his incredible help and support.

“It’s certain that there is no fine thing / Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring,” wrote the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. Indeed, the chronicle of this college’s history, as presented, for example, in these newsletters, consistently highlights the incredible work and dedication that have gone into our collective successes and innovations. Moreover, I know that, for many faculty and staff, the end of the academic year does not necessarily mean an end to their labors. Most faculty will continue teaching or conducting research or creative activity; staff will continue to man the offices. I do hope, however, that each of you will find some extra time over the summer for contemplation and relaxation—experiencing healing re-creation after yet another hard-charging, toil-filled academic year.


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