Dean's Newsletter

Volume 8, Issue 6

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

Volume 8, Issue 6

Weeks, months, seasons pass along.  They seem little more than a summer day or winter evening.  Now, the Commons where I walk with Dora is all in bloom, a field of bright gold; and now the unseen heather lies in mounds and bunches underneath a covering of snow.  In a breath, the river that flows through our Sunday walks is sparkling in the summer sun, is ruffled by the winter wind, or thickened with drifting heaps of ice.

—David Copperfield

It occurred to me recently that, when you write a newsletter six times in an academic year, more often than not you are commemorating a new beginning or an end—of a semester, a calendar year, or an academic year—a marker of time’s passing.  Great authors, like Dickens, often express the passing of time memorably, conveying at once important inner and outer realities: the actual length of a long year as compared to the psychological impression that the year has passed quickly. So I borrowed Dickens’ passage, given above, to help me convey my sense that our academic year has passed quickly—despite (or because of) all the things that have kept us so very busy.

Our major task this year was the four- to three-credit hour course transition.  All indications to this point suggest that the process has gone smoothly, and I am proud of how well this college handled this major challenge.  With Joyce Mastboom and Marian Bleeke, we had great leadership at the college level, but we should also recognize the leadership of so many of our other colleagues, who were tasked with the responsibility of moving the process along at the departmental level.

Strategic planning was another major challenge for the year.  Although we are not quite as far along in this process as I had hoped to be, we built a solid foundation for quick progress in the fall.  With the help of our consultants Jill Rudd, Linda Francis, and Chris Hendryx, we conducted both focus groups and strategic planning exercises.  The data we gleaned from these sessions will be reduced to usable form and, together with the results of program prioritization, will form the essential foundation for a newly drafted plan next academic year.

We have received the first official communication from the Provost on program prioritization.  We did not receive, as I had expected, a list of our programs and departments that was neatly categorized into the three basic divisions—programs for increased investment, programs to be maintained, and programs for disinvestment.  Instead, we received a list of recommendations for implementation over the course of the next academic year.  The intent of these recommendations is to further increase the university’s efficiency in the context of a potential budget shortfall in the next fiscal year. I have shared these recommendations with your department chairs and directors.  They include:

  • A review of all gen. ed. courses (university-wide) to eliminate duplication and competition between departments.
  • Reviewing workloads to make sure that existing faculty are fully employed in teaching if not research active.
  • Reevaluating release time for various administrative/service positions in departments.
  • Exploring departmental mergers for any departments with fewer than 10 faculty.
  • Creating a new School of Fine Arts.
  • Suspending the weak interdisciplinary programs identified in my December prioritization list.
  • Re-evaluating weak graduate programs, particularly those that are overly reliant on dual-enrollment courses.

The Dean’s Office will be in correspondence with department chairs and directors over the summer to discuss these recommendations.  When the faculty return from summer break, we will certainly hold public meetings on this process. The consideration of and implementation strategies for these recommendations will also be folded into our on-going work with strategic planning.

As reported in the latest issue of The Innerlink, this has been a notably successful year for CLASS fundraising, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our Advancement Director, Paul Wolansky.   At the time The Innerlink was published, he had secured six new scholarships in addition to the two scholarships he secured last summer.  Since then, two new scholarships have been added, making a total of ten new scholarships for the year.  They are:

  • The Judith Eckelmeyer Endowed Graduate Scholarship in Music
  • The Janice Holkenborg Endowed Scholarship in Music
  • The Julia Ella Rene Kunes Endowed Scholarship in Sociology and Criminology
  • The William Martin Memorial Scholarship in Voice
  • The Raab-Brennan Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing
  • The Marjorie Shorrock Endowed Graduate Fellowship in History
  • The Michael Agnich Endowed Scholarship in Anthropology
  • The W. Benoy Joseph Endowed Scholarship in Music and Theatre
  • The Jean Smith Conrad Scholarship in Theatre (by Robert Conrad)
  • The Richard A. and Jayne Z. Janus Endowed Scholarship

As a result, ten deserving CLASS students in music, sociology and criminology, creative writing, history, anthropology, economics, and theatre will receive the additional financial help they need to move their studies forward. In addition to these scholarships, I am delighted to report that the Honorable Diane Karpinski has just established the Karpinski Family Fund to support the college’s Polish Studies Initiative. I again want to thank all our generous donors and to recognize Paul for his dedicated work.

In addition, we have advanced our international agenda vigorously this year.  We secured a visiting Hungarian Fulbright Scholar for next year, and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fulbright Hungary to keep sending us scholars for the following three years.  We have not only agreed to receive funded Chinese scholars in the Departments of Political Science and Modern Languages for academic year 2014-15 but we are also in negotiations with Jilin University in Changchun, China, to receive a large cohort of Chinese undergraduates in English for the spring of 2015.  We have also won the services of a visiting Polish scholar, who will spend a semester on our campus next year and who will be funded by the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York.  Finally, we learned that our own Stephen Cory was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to spend the next academic year in Jordan, where he will advance our ties to that region of the world.  As usual, of course, the Department of Modern Languages will offer their summer study abroad programs in France and Costa Rica.

Faculty have enjoyed many successes this year, as have students.  On April 29th, CLASS administrators and faculty met and dined with 26 CLASS scholars and one CLASS Valedictorian.  We celebrated the achievements of these outstanding graduating students, each of whom had earned a cumulative GPA of at least 3.8.  Our CLASS Valedictorian, who was also named university co-Valedictorian, was Anna Meyer, a student in the Department of Political Science.  Like all our CLASS Valedictorians, Anna is not only an outstanding scholar, but she is also a thoroughly engaged student.  After graduating from high school, Anna spent a year in Italy teaching English.  Upon return, she volunteered to teach English to refugees who found themselves in Cleveland.  In addition, she spent a year traveling the globe (to places such as Tanzania, India, New Zealand, Mexico, and Guatemala) as a member of the International Honors Program. She also was awarded a CSU Summer in the City internship, where she worked to help improve the Campus District with community leaders in the non-profit, community development, and public sectors.  Anna is another great example of a committed and inspired CLASS leader, who, like the other CLASS Scholars in attendance, will go on to represent our college well in the future.

As to the faculty, I am pleased to report that five of our colleagues were awarded Faculty Scholarship Initiative Awards from the University Research Council.  These include Ron Reminick (for his work on shamans in Hawai’i), Mary Ellen Waithe (for her work on the history of women philosophers), Adam Sonstegard (for his study of graphic illustrations in the works of Charles Chesnutt), Angelin Chang (for her work on digital media synchronization and classical music performance), and Annie Jouan-Westlund (for her study of the writings of Pierre Jourde).  In addition, John Brentar became the first CLASS Lecturer to receive the CLASS Excellence in Teaching Award, and Michael Geither and Imad Rahman won 2014 Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council.  Congratulations to all these award winners!

In addition, various colleagues in the college have been promoted and tenured.  These colleagues include Russell Borski and Holly Holsinger (Theatre and Dance), Anup Kumar (Communication), Mamadou Seck (Social Work), Stephen Taysom (Philosophy and Comparative Religion), and Abed El-Rahman Tayyara (Modern Languages).   Finally, Annie Jouan-Westlund (Modern Languages) and Christopher Mallet (Social Work) were promoted to Full Professor.  Congratulations to all these colleagues on their promotions!

As always, there are transitions to report at this time of year.  Three outstanding colleagues are retiring: Lee Wilberschied, Bob Mensforth, and Howard Meeker.  We will miss them, but we wish them well in retirement.  In addition, five chairpersons or interim chairpersons are stepping down.  Tama Engelking has served as Chairperson of Modern Languages for seven years and will now return to the faculty.  Mary Ellen Waithe, who served first as Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy and then as Interim Chairperson of the new Department of Philosophy and Comparative Religion, will return to the faculty although she will continue to serve as Director of the Women’s Studies Program.  Michael Mauldin, who has served seven years as either Director of the Drama Program (within the School of Communication) or Chairperson of the Department of Theatre and Dance, will also be returning to the faculty.  Finally, two Emeritus faculty members, who came out of retirement this past year to lead large units in the college, will be returning to retirement.  John Gerlach returned to campus to serve as Interim Chairperson of English for the past year, and Steve Slane returned to campus to serve as Interim Director of the School of Social Work.  Serving as a chairperson or director even in tranquil times is a challenge, but serving in these positions during times of major change (such as the 4- to 3-credit hour conversion) is particularly daunting.  All these five colleagues more than fulfilled the requirements of their positions.  Some even led their units through complete transformations over the course of the years.  In all cases, the college and the individual departments owe these individuals a large measure of gratitude.  We wish Drs. Maudlin, Waithe, and Engelking a happy return to the faculty.  We wish Drs. Slane and Gerlach happy returns to the joys of retirement … joys that will taste even sweeter after this hectic year!

Sitting in my office, I mark the seasons not, like David Copperfield, by reference to “fields of bright gold” or rivers filled with “drifting heaps of ice,” but by the moods and seasons of that great lake that fills the horizon to the North.   Not many weeks ago I looked out over a great, forbidding, frozen wasteland; today I look out over a smiling blue lake, sparkling in the mild spring sunshine.  It is time, the lake seems to suggest, to lay down the labors of the academic year and recharge our reserves for the next.  I wish you a gentle summer hiatus.

Best wishes,

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