Dean's Newsletter

Volume 9, Issue 1

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

Volume 9, Issue 1

I would like to start by welcoming back all CLASS faculty and staff for the new academic year. For those of you who are new to CSU, this newsletter, written specifically for faculty and staff, is published about six times a year and is my attempt to keep the CLASS community abreast of important college issues, events, and successes. Comments on the newsletter are always appreciated.

A history of fifty years does not place Cleveland State University among the ivy-covered eminences of American higher education, but it is an indication that we have reached a new stage of solid institutional maturity and significant stature in the community we call home. Celebrating our 50th anniversary as a university makes this academic year a time for reflection, celebration, and charting new directions. A history of ten years is even shorter than a history of fifty, and yet the faculty and staff of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences have good reason to celebrate this milestone as well. Over the past ten years, we have fashioned a cohesive CLASS identity, created new degree tracks and research centers, attracted a multitude of talented new faculty, nearly doubled the number of undergraduates majoring in our academic fields, built lasting ties to both local and international partners, and seen an entirely new fine arts campus rise dramatically before our eyes in Playhouse Square. It is, thus, also appropriate that this year CLASS would not only celebrate its decade of accomplishments but also continue to plan for the future.

Challenges and Goals
We begin, then, a year of celebrations, but it will not be a year without challenges. After several years of robust growth, CLASS enrollments this fall are down significantly. The bright side of this picture is that our graduate enrollments, which had been languishing somewhat in the past, grew a healthy 5.4%. CLASS enrollment trends are part of a university-wide development. This fall, overall enrollments at CSU are down. Some of our overall decline in enrollments is due to a smaller CSU incoming freshman class, but CSU has also welcomed fewer transfer students this fall. Again, there is a bright spot: the number of returning CSU students grew significantly.  And this means that our efforts at fostering student success have begun to pay dividends.

Indeed, given these enrollment realities, fostering student success will continue to be an important priority for the university this academic year. “Student success” does not mean a watering down of academic standards, but it does mean, for example, continuing to improve advising at all levels. In addition, I would urge faculty to detect and interact with struggling students and their advisors early in each semester. The Starfish system is a good way to do so. Moreover, struggling students often have significant fiscal problems, and we must do what we can to help them keep CSU affordable. This means, for example, keeping cost in mind when choosing textbooks for our courses and ordering course materials in a timely manner. These are only a few of the essential strategies we can employ to improve our retention and graduation rates in the years ahead.

Declining enrollments have impact on university budgets, but we don’t know yet what the effect of our recent enrollment decline will mean for the amount of discretionary dollars we will have to spend on CLASS needs this year. Last year, as you recall, was a good year fiscally, in which we received not only our carry-forward monies but also over $500,000 of margin monies. Among other things, these resources allowed us to significantly upgrade broadcast equipment in Communication, replace a large number of faculty, staff, and G.A. computers, buy needed equipment for Anthropology and Music, and fund a lecture series in medical humanities as well as (a part of) the “At Home in Africa” gallery exhibit. Although the final tally of CLASS resources for this academic year is still unclear, it seems unlikely that we will again enjoy the same level of discretionary dollars.

The process of program prioritization, however, which the university began last year and which continues into this year, will help us manage our limited resources wisely. Over the summer, the Provost and her team of advisors have written the first draft of a program prioritization list, indicating programs and departments for investment, for maintenance, and for disinvestment. During the past several weeks, the CSU deans have been meeting with the Provost’s team to discuss individual programmatic proposals. Within the next few weeks, the revised list will be completed and released through the respective deans’ offices to the faculty for comment.

Finally, with the results of program prioritization made public, we will be in a position to complete the strategic planning process that CLASS began last academic year. As you recall, last year, with the help of Linda Francis, Jill Rudd, and Christopher Hendryx (a member of our Visiting Committee), we were able to conduct six focus groups and two strategic planning exercises. The feedback from those events has been redacted and is now ready to use. The next step is to assemble a task force of seven members to write a draft of the new strategic plan, building upon the feedback from the focus groups, the strategic planning exercises, and the program prioritization results. After the draft is written, we will circulate it and call for comments electronically. Ultimately, the strategic plan will be brought before the CLASS faculty for ratification.

New Faculty and Staff
Last year was also a good year for hiring. As a result, this year CLASS will welcome 7 new tenure-track faculty, 3 new lecturers, 4 new visiting faculty, 4 new international scholars, and 4 new staff members. Lists can be tedious to read, but I hope you will bear with me as I introduce all these new colleagues to the college. Here are our new tenured or tenure-track colleagues:

  • Sarah Rutherford, Art (graphic design). Dr. Rutherford comes to us from Kent State University.
  • Kathleen Stansberry, Communication (public relations and mass media). Dr. Stansberry has a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
  • Caryl Pagel, English (Director of the Poetry Center). Ms. Pagel holds one MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers Workshop and another in Creative Writing and Visual Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Michael Baumgartner, Music (musicology). Dr. Baumgartner has held a visiting position at CSU for the past several years. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg.
  • Deborah Layman, Music (music therapy). Ms. Layman holds a Master’s degree in music therapy from Florida State, and she is completing a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at Kent State.
  • Jennifer Miller, Political Science (international relations). Ms. Miller is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona.
  • Cynthia Hovland-Scafe, Social Work. Dr. Hovland-Scafe is a former lecturer in Social Work at CSU. She earned her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We also hired several new lecturers:

  • Patty Burant, Communication. Dr. Burant holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from West Virginia University.
  • Emilie Zickel, English. Ms. Zickel holds an M.A. in English from CSU.
  • Mark Cole, History. Dr. Cole holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Florida.

Moreover, several new visiting faculty will be joining us:

  • Carol Olszewski, Music. Ms. Olszewski holds an M.A. in music therapy from the University of Iowa.
  • David Ericson, Political Science. The former chairperson of the Dept. of Political Science at Wichita State University, Dr. Ericson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
  • Julius Simmons, Social Work Mr. Simmons holds an M.S. in Social Welfare Administration from Case Western Reserve University.
  • Annette Franklin, Social Work. Dr. Franklin holds the Ph.D. in Social Work from the University at Buffalo (SUNY).

We are also delighted that several international scholars will be visiting this year:

  • Rita Gardosi, Fulbright Scholar from Hungary, most recently a faculty member at the Sorbonne, France. Dr. Gardosi will be in residence in the Department of Modern Languages.
  • Ying Tang, Exchange Scholar from Jilin University, China. Dr. Tang will be in residence in the Department of Modern Languages.
  • Yanli Li, Exchange Scholar from Wuhan University of Technology. Dr. Li will be in residence in the Department of Political Science.
  • Tomasz Markiewka, Kosciuszko Foundation Fellow from the University of Bielsko-Biala, Poland (who will arrive for the spring semester 2015). Dr. Markiewka will be teaching courses in the departments of History and English.

Finally, we are pleased to welcome these new staff members:

  • Katrina Moss, Department of Music
  • Ian Hinz, Department of Music (Mr. Hinz actually started last spring)
  • David Rushton, CLASS Advising Center
  • Floyetine Roberts, School of Social Work

In addition to new faculty and staff, the college is fortunate to induct a large new cohort of faculty leadership on the program, department/school, and college levels.  Among these new leaders are:

  • David Larson, Interim Chairperson, Department of English. A former chairperson of English, Dr. Larson has come back out of retirement to lead the department again this year.
  • Leo Jeffres, Interim Chairperson, Department of Music. Dr. Jeffres, former Chairperson of the Department of Communication and former Dean of the Graduate College, has come back out of retirement to lead the Music Department for this academic year.
  • Allyson Robichaud, Chairperson, Department of Philosophy and Comparative Religion. A specialist in bioethics, Dr. Robichaud comes with leadership experience with the Bioethics Network of Ohio.
  • Antonio Medina-Rivera, Chairperson, Department of Modern Languages. Dr. Medina-Rivera formerly headed the graduate program in Spanish and our undergraduate program in Linguistics.
  • Lynn Deering, Interim Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance. Ms. Deering leads the dance program and helped move it into CLASS from the College of Education and Human Services.
  • Cathleen Lewandowski, Director, School of Social Work. Recruited in a national search, Dr. Lewandowski comes with extensive leadership experience at the University of Albany (SUNY), Wichita State University, Southwestern College, and, most recently, George Mason University. She holds the Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Kansas.
  • Thomas Humphrey, Interim Chairperson, Department of History. Dr. Humphrey is a specialist in early American history.
  • Lydia Grebenyova, Interim Director, Linguistics Program. Dr. Grebenyova is only in her second year on campus, but she has already shown excellent leadership potential.
  • Abed Tayyara, Interim Director, Middle East Studies Program. Dr. Tayyara, who is our Associate Professor of Arabic, will look after the Middle East Studies program while Steve Cory is on his Fulbright appointment in Jordan.
  • Eric Ziolek, Associate Dean for the Faculty. Dr. Ziolek comes to the Dean’s Office with extensive administrative experience as Chairperson of the Department of Music. He replaces Bill Morgan, who was recently recruited to be the new Vice Provost for the Faculty.

With this significant change in CLASS leadership, we have indeed lost some institutional memory. Nevertheless, this new cohort of CLASS leaders contains a good balance of seasoned administrators and new talent—the right mix, in my opinion, to help move the college forward briskly. Please congratulate our new leaders when you see them.

Finally, I would also like to congratulate two former CLASS administrators who moved up to important new positions. Peter Meiksins was just appointed permanent Vice Provost for Academic Programs, and Liz Lehfeldt was just named Interim Director of the CSU Honors Program. Both will make significant contributions to the health and welfare of the university as a whole.

Summer Undergraduate Research
Student success arises from constant and engaged interaction between students and faculty mentors. That is why undergraduate summer research grants are so important. CLASS undergraduate researchers and their mentors won nearly $45,000 of support to conduct research during the summer of 2014. The faculty mentors included Cheryl Bracken, Kim Neuendorf, Jill Rudd, Mark Souther, Regennia Williams, Phil Wanyerka, Russ Borski, Terry Pieritz, Lynn Deering, and Shelley Rose. The students conducted research in social media content analysis, film analysis, oral histories, archeology, “Muppet” puppetry, and history pedagogy and technology. The impressive results of their research were on display during a poster session in the Student Center on September 4th.

In conclusion...
With the new semester upon us, it seems time to dig out our party hats but roll up our sleeves. We will have plenty of opportunities this year to celebrate our past achievements and plenty of new challenges to confront.  While the infusion of numerous new colleagues and new leaders will provide us both new energy and ideas, the presence of our returning colleagues will provide a sense of continuing excellence and a stable identity as the center of study of what it means to be human—past, present, and future.

Before I close, I’d ask you to mark your calendars for our 10th Anniversary celebration on September 24th, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Galleries at CSU.  This will be a bigger, more inclusive version of our usual fall reception, with music, prizes, 10th anniversary t-shirts, food and drink... all set within the context of Kathy Curnow’s amazing exhibition, “At Home in Africa.”  Besides faculty and staff, we will be inviting community stakeholders, emeriti faculty, and administrators to help us make this a truly festive occasion. Plan on joining us for this milestone in the history of our college!

And have a truly fulfilling and productive academic year!

Best wishes,

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