Dean's Newsletter

Volume 13, Issue 1

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

Volume 13, Issue 1

To everything Turn! Turn! Turn!
There is a season Turn! Turn! Turn!
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
-Book of Ecclesiastes via Pete Seeger

Welcome to the 2018-19 academic year! For those of you who are new to the college, this newsletter, written specifically for CLASS faculty and staff, is published about six times a year. It is my attempt to keep the CLASS community abreast of important college issues, events, and successes. Your comments are always appreciated.

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The turning of the leaves and the re-turning of our faculty and students are complementary movements that mark the autumn season. After a summer in which many of us focused on our research and creative activity, travel, or just spending more time with our families, we now turn our attention back to CLASS students. One of the hallmarks of President Harlan Sands’ tenure so far has been an enhanced institutional attention to student success and retention. We are welcoming approximately 2000 new freshmen, but, if current rates persist, we will retain only about 70% for the second year. That’s a loss of 600 students! If we could raise that percentage only a few points, it would make a big difference not only for the lives of the returning students but also for the fiscal health of the university. The university’s stated goal is to reach 75% retention by 2020. This explains the President’s recent hiring of five “success coaches” and his focus on “gateway courses,” which are high enrollment/high DFW courses. They are also courses that have an unusually high impact on graduation rates. The point is not to encourage faculty to inflate grades in these courses; the point is to use the tools at hand to make a bigger impact on “at-risk” students so that they succeed in greater numbers. This is, then, the season to turn our attention to student success.

Retention has become more crucial because recruitment has become ever more competitive. The number of potential first-year students is dwindling in Northeast Ohio, and, in the current national climate, the number of new international students has gone down as well. However, CSU as a whole is actually in a good position, starting the year just 1% behind last year in headcount (as of August 26th) but even with last year in total student credit hours. The story for CLASS is mixed. The good news is that our summer enrollments were very strong, up about 3% in both headcount and student credit hours over summer 2017. For fall, however, we are down about 2.6% in headcount (to 2875 students) and down about 1% in student credit hours. (Of those students, eight are international students, who come to us from eight different countries—Ethiopia, Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria, Nepal, Russia, Italy, and Germany.) To boost enrollments, we continue to add new programs or new delivery methods. This fall, for example, the new BFA in Film & Media Arts becomes available. In addition, the School of Communication is making its BA in Communication Studies available online. But just increasing programs is not enough to insure success; we need better retention as well.

Despite the drop in enrollments, we are starting the year in better fiscal shape than last year. Recall that last year at this time, the university required all of its various units to make a 1.75% cut to their temporary budgets. That came on top of a cut of 3.4% to their permanent budgets in the spring of 2017. This year there is no talk of budget cuts, and CLASS departments and schools will see those temporary cuts restored to their budgets. By the way, our school directors and department chairpersons deserve a lot of credit for their steady handling of those two budget cuts. No CLASS department overspent its budget in FY 2018!

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More good news: We start the year with new colleagues. Despite the fiscal challenges of last year, CLASS was still able to hire several new faculty members. Here is a list of the names of our new colleagues:

Department of Theatre and Dance

  • Bryant Henderson, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance

School of Film & Media Arts

  • Maria Gigante, Assistant Professor of Practice

Department of Music

  • Robert Roche, Assistant College Lecturer

School of Social Work

  • M. Zane Jennings, Assistant College Lecturer

School of Communication

  • Corey Pavlich, Visiting Assistant Professor
  • Elizabeth Thomas, Assistant College Lecturer

In addition to these faculty hires, the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures will be hosting another Fulbright Scholar from Hungary. This year our guest is Enikő Bús from the University of Szeged. We are also welcoming several new staff members. Noelle Williams is not new, but she recently moved from a part-time position in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures to a full-time position in the Black Studies Program. In addition, the School of Film & Media Arts has hired a new equipment coordinator, Katie Martin, who started work here on September 4. I would like to wish all these new colleagues great success in their first year and welcome them to our CLASS family.

We are also starting the year with new CLASS leadership. As you may recall, this summer Myong Chang became the new Associate Dean for the Curriculum, replacing Joyce Mastboom. In addition, Irina Koukhanova has been appointed the new Chairperson of the Department of Art and Design, and Patty Stoddard Dare has become Director of the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies. I know that all of these colleagues will provide the strong leadership we need to increase student success and help our programs to grow.

We will have a chance to meet our new colleagues and to renew old friendships on Wednesday, October 3,  from 3 to 5 p.m. in Waetjen Lobby. That is when we will hold our annual CLASS Welcome Back reception. At the reception we will have good food, drinks, music, and a chance to win great prizes. We will also announce the winner of the 2018 CLASS Engaged Service Award for an outstanding staff member. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend!

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CSU’s Second Annual AHA! Festival, which included 17 different events as well as a book fair, took place in partnership with Playhouse Square on June 7, 8, and 9. Among the events were talks by Hill Harper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Maureen Dowd.  Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz performed a reader’s theater version of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. There was also a performance by Cleveland’s ChamberFest, and Hershey Felder played Irving Berlin in a one-person Cleveland Play House production. The festival also included gallery talks in the Galleries at CSU and also the CSU Summer Dance Workshop, featuring guest artists Doug Gillespie and Banning Bouldin. By any measure, then, the festival was another great success. Attendance grew from 3000 in the first year to 5000 in the second year, and ticket revenue almost tripled. Congratulations to our own Katie Shames for bringing together all the exciting pieces into this very complex tapestry of events. I also want to thank all those CLASS faculty and staff members—particularly Jeff Karem, Lynn Deering, John Perrine, Russ Borski, Robert Thurmer, Judy Terrigno, Mike Solema, David Yost, and Steve Kabat—who got involved and helped ensure the success of this year’s festival. I also want to highlight the critical contributions of Gayle Kish, a former CLASS staff member who now works in the CSU Special Events Office and Liz Lehfeldt, the Dean of the Honors College. Finally, I want to recognize our generous donors, Myra and Darwin Smith, who provided a major gift to fund the festival.

Up until this year, the AHA! Festival has been directed centrally from the CSU President’s Office. Starting this year, however, President Sands has decided that the responsibility for the festival will be moved to CLASS. I will be working closely with Katie Shames, Connie Kopec, and Berinthia LeVine to make sure that we continue to raise the funding we need to make this project successful, and I will also be working with the fine arts chairpersons and directors to make sure that CSU faculty and students are involved to the extent possible.

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Two other items of special interest are the opening of the new space for Film & Media Arts in the Idea Center, and the kick-off of our new CLASS ad campaign called “The Story of Us.” At the beginning of the fall semester, classes for Film & Media Arts moved into the 6th floor of the Idea Center. As you recall, the state of Ohio provided a $7.5 million allocation to build out this space and furnish it with equipment. The space is spectacular, and many thanks go to Frederic Lahey and Dwayne Wilson, who worked intensively with the various architects, planners, and construction crews to make sure the project came out just right. On my tour the first day of classes, I saw many, many smiling faces on the students, faculty and staff who are now working there.

As I mentioned last spring, the CLASS ad campaign will take place during the fall semester. You may recall that one of the major points of our current Strategic Plan was to increase CLASS visibility. One step in this effort was the creation of the CLASS Edge Lounge in Berkman Hall. Another is this ad campaign. One of the members of the CLASS Visiting Committee, Mark Lantz (who runs his own advertising agency in Detroit) stepped forward to donate his time and talent to craft a brilliant campaign to raise the profile of CLASS among opinion leaders in Northeast Ohio. The “Story of Us” campaign will involve a webpage with custom-made short videos, email blasts, social media links, posters, and radio ads on WCPN (over the weekends). You will be receiving some of these emails and ads on your social media accounts. When you do, please help us by sharing these items with your connections!

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CLASS faculty, staff, and students continue to see important successes. For example, several of our faculty members have been featured in articles in the popular press recently. Hilary Plum, her husband Zach Savich, and their poetry were recently highlighted in an ideastream publication. Kim Neuendorf was featured in Crain’s Cleveland Business for her work as an expert witness on content analysis. Samantha Baskind presented her research on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943) recently in an article in Time Magazine. And, finally, Patty Stoddard Dare’s work on the importance of paid sick leave was highlighted in a recent article in U.S. News and World Report. Of course, publishing peer-reviewed scholarly articles is still the gold standard of faculty research productivity, but recognition of one’s work in the popular press indicates that one’s professional contributions have a broad impact not confined to academic circles.

I also want to mention that Holly Holsinger traveled to London this summer to perform her one-woman play, Frankenstein’s Wake. She traveled with the play’s director, Raymond Bobgan, who is the Executive Artistic Director of Cleveland Public Theatre. But that was not the only international CLASS success. Tama Engelking directed a four-week study abroad program in France this summer, taking a group of nine students to Normandy, where they stayed with host families in Cleveland's sister city of Rouen, followed by a week in Paris. The program included excursions to Claude Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, a tour of the D-Day landing beaches and the American Military Cemetery, and a day-long trip to Mont Saint-Michel. The Deputy Mayor of Rouen also welcomed the CSU group to our sister city with a reception held at City Hall.

At the same time, CLASS archeology students were busy on their annual summer dig, which took place at the Fort Hill Earthwork Complex, located in the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. Under the direction of Phil Wanyerka, they conducted archaeological investigations aimed at exploring how the earthwork was constructed. They first completed a geophysical survey using their fluxgate gradiometer to uncover new magnetic anomalies. This provided evidence of prehistory occupation. Specifically, they uncovered evidence of prehistoric posts that were driven into the ground and likely used as beams to support a house structure or some sort of wooden pole. To date, Dr. Wanyerka and his students have revealed that the earthwork was initially constructed approximately around 360 BC, making this an Early Woodland Period, Adena culture construction. No one has ever dated this earthwork so precisely before!

In addition, Qian Li took her animation students to the 2018 Guiyang International Comic and Animation Festival in China to participate in international short film and animation competitions. First, her students Austin Dilorenzo and Brock Fahringer won an award at the festival for their animation, which they produced at CSU last spring, intended to raise awareness about autism. In addition, at the festival, they participated in a competition in which they had to produce a short animation on Chinese village life within 48 (sleepless!) hours. Austin Dilorenzo’s team won an award for best original screenplay, and Brock Fahringer’s team received the best documentary award.

Finally, I want to mention some recent grants. Antonio Medina-Rivera was awarded a $5000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation to create a Latino Arts Festival to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this coming October. The festival will take place on October 6 in Berkman Hall. Second, Linda Francis won a $149,913 grant from the National Alzheimer’s Association. The grant is entitled “A Virtual Interaction Training Guide as a Quality of Life Intervention.”

Congratulations to all these CLASS professors and students! These are great accomplishments, but they represent just a small part of all the great teaching and learning that took place last summer in CLASS.

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In closing, I want to share with you that, at the end of this year, I myself will be turning into a new season in life. If you haven’t already heard, I have notified the Provost that I will be stepping down from the deanship on June 30, 2019. Leading this college for the past 13 years has been both a great pleasure and the greatest honor of my life, but I feel that it is now time to pass the baton to a new generation. We have come a long way in the past 13 years, and I want to make sure that we have the right leadership in place for the next 13! In the meantime, I look forward to a very busy, fun, and productive final year with you as we continue to move CLASS forward together!

Best wishes,