Dean's Newsletter

Volume 9, Issue 2

Volume 9, Issue 2

“Now, what I want, is Facts.  Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts.  Facts alone are wanted in life.  Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.  You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

So begins the first chapter of Charles Dickens’ satire on exclusively fact-based education and 19th-century industrial society, Hard Times.  The speaker is Thomas Gradgrind, politician and father, whose primary mission in life is to root out anything related to fancy, imagination, or creativity from the education of children, his own and those of others.  The novel traces the effects of this kind of narrow education on his eldest daughter, Louisa, who is raised into a gray, emotionless life and given in a loveless marriage to a successful but one-dimensional Josiah Bounderby.  At the novel’s crisis point, Louisa returns to her father and confronts him:

How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from a state of conscious death?  Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart?  What have you done, O father, what have you done?

The effect of this dramatic confrontation causes Mr. Gradgrind to reassess his educational philosophy and to accept not only that there exists a “wisdom of the heart” as well as a “wisdom of the head” but also that a complete education must aim to inculcate both in the characters of young people.

Dickens’ novel resonates especially well in an age where the popular hue and cry is for higher education to focus primarily and maybe even exclusively on job training skills—nothing else will ever be of any service to our students, or so the argument runs.  Yet faculty in the arts, humanities, and social sciences have long championed an education for the whole person, an education that looks beyond practical, job-related training and fosters self-knowledge, critical thinking, and an appreciation for the arts, and I believe that our graduates are richer for the experience.  We need to continue to champion liberal education publicly, and I hope that our new strategic plan will make such an aggressive advocacy campaign an important goal for the future.  We owe it to our society.

Yet we in CLASS should not be too smug, for we have sometimes overlooked other important parts of a well-rounded education. We have not, for example, always provided our students the practical hands-on experiences, like internships, that are so valuable to those entering the job market, and we have not always trained them to articulate the specific transferrable skills that they take from our curriculum into that market. Hence, our recent focus on expanding internship opportunities for our majors.  With the help of a Fenn Grant from the Cleveland Foundation, VP Byron White and his team have opened the door to specialized internship training for select CLASS faculty as well as to 25 new internships for CLASS students.  In the very near future, the CLASS Dean’s Office will be sending out a letter to hundreds of current CLASS students, soliciting applications for these internships, which will be awarded for the spring and summer of 2015.  At the same time, Jennifer Visocky O’Grady, Antonio Medina-Rivera, Mark Souther, Julie Burrell, Adam Sonstegard, Michael Dover, and Rob Kleidman will be participating in a series of four web sessions on the topic of internships for students in the liberal arts.  They will be working with Dr. Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Scholar and Director of Civic Learning and Democracy at the Association of American Colleges and Universities and an expert in this field.  Dr. Musil, by the way, will be presenting a public lecture at CSU on the liberal arts and the marketplace on March 17th, 2015 as a part of CSU’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

The processes for strategic planning and program prioritization are going forward as planned.  With respect to strategic planning, the CLASS Strategic Planning Task Force had its first meeting on October 10th and plans to distribute a draft of the new strategic plan by the beginning of the spring semester.  With respect to program prioritization, the Provost recently distributed a draft of the program prioritization list to all CSU faculty, and she has been meeting with various faculty groups over the past several weeks to make the case for the importance of the process and to answer questions.  Indeed, the Provost and her team will be visiting CLASS faculty on November 17th, during our regularly-scheduled CLASS faculty meeting.  Please note that we are NOT cancelling the faculty meeting.  We will take care of college business from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and then the Provost will begin the program prioritization discussion at 4 p.m.  I hope to see you there!

I would like to mention a few faculty, staff, and students achievements of the past few months.  In my last newsletter, I mentioned that several of our students had won funding from the Provost to conduct summer research projects.  We recently learned that three of those CLASS students, Katie Fry, Rachel Daley, and Kyle Riordan, under the supervision of Phil Wanyerka, won second place in the summer research competition for their poster (and display) entitled “The History and Archaeology of Cleveland’s Historic Central Market District.”  In addition, Adrienne Gosselin and the CLASS Diversity Council, building on last year’s success, won additional funding to conduct another symposium built upon the film “Bringing Henrietta to Life,” which was a collaborative effort by students and faculty members from Theatre and Dance, English, and Communication.

Moreover, I have learned that Rob Thurmer won a $12,500 grant from the Ohio Arts Council to support activities at the Galleries at CSU.  Steve Taysom won an invitation as one of only ten scholars nationally to participate in the Young Scholars in American Religion Program, sponsored, in part, by the Lilly Endowment.  Mark Souther and Meshack Owino (and the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities) recently won a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to curate the African city, Kisumu, Kenya, in the same manner that they curated Cleveland through their app “Cleveland Historical.”  This is a joint project with Maseno University in Kenya.  In addition, Dr. Souther recently received another $10,000 grant from the Cleveland Metroparks for his work in public history.  Finally, Abed Tayyara won a prestigious two-year Title VI grant, worth approximately $180,000, from the Department of Education to help establish a new B.A. program in Arabic at CSU.  Congratulations to all these award winners, who represent only the most current examples of the extraordinary work being carried out daily by CLASS faculty and students.

Indeed, recently three other CLASS faculty members and one of our staff members received special internal awards for their extraordinary work.  The CSU Fall Convocation, on October 2nd, was a great day for CLASS because three of our faculty members were recognized by President Berkman: Samantha Baskind received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Research; Jill Rudd received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching; and Mike Geither received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Service.  I’d also like to congratulate Michelle Knapik, who was awarded our annual Engaged Service Award for Staff at our annual Welcome Back reception on September 24th. Ms. Knapik has done an extraordinary job in building our CLASS Advising Center into a well-run and effective unit.  I could not be prouder of these four outstanding colleagues.

Finally, thanks again to all those who helped to make our Welcome Back reception at the Galleries on September 24th the success that it was, including all those who took the time to attend.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the college’s 10th anniversary, and, as I gazed around the packed rooms filled with friends, colleagues, and well-wishers, I could not help but think that, despite the challenges we face, our next ten years will be even better! And that belief is based on some pretty reliable facts.

Best wishes,

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