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Dean Barbara O. Korner's College of Arts and Architecture Spring All-College Meeting Presentation, given on April 24, 2008

As we come into the home stretch of this academic year, I want to start by thanking you for the opportunity to serve with you in the College of Arts and Architecture. The quality of the faculty and staff and the leadership within this college and within the University have exceeded the high expectations with which I arrived nearly a year ago.

This has not been an easy year for me personally. In addition to the normal learning curve of a new job, especially in a complex place, there have been unexpected transitions in the college office and two major surgeries for my husband who finally joined me in mid-December. Fortunately, he is now doing well.

As someone called to my attention recently, if you look at the five major stress factors, I’ve experienced about four out of the five in the last year. In spite of all this, when people express concern and support (which I have certainly appreciated), I have been able to say that serving as your dean continues to provide me joy and energy. It is a privilege and honor to be able to lead this college and to represent you in a variety of contexts. I tell nearly everyone I talk to—prospective faculty candidates, alumni, other administrators within the University, colleagues in meetings—that what makes this place so special is there is an unusual breadth of programs in this college and there isn’t a truly weak program in the group. It’s a normal expectation that with so many programs you might have a star or two, or a rather common level of adequate achievement across the board. But here, the programs are strong, enjoy a high level of respect, and are continuing to grow in reputation. While the majority of our programs are not in categories that are ranked nationally and the methodology of most rankings are always suspect, we can take pride in the fact that either by actual ranking or general reputation, our programs are well regarded nationally. You have done an exceptional job of building strong programs that attract high-quality students. We will continue to have challenges in terms of funding for those talented students, ensuring that we don’t lose ground in faculty recruitment and retention, tired facilities with outdated technologies and inadequate HVAC systems, but those are common problems that many of our sister institutions share and we will keep working together to address those.  

In our time together this afternoon, prior to the reception, we’ll share some of the progress we have made this year, plans for the months ahead, and take some time to celebrate individual accomplishments.

First, I’d like to introduce Professor Patricia Amburgy, who is representing our Faculty Senators and will provide us updates on Penn State Faculty Senate discussions.

I have valued the opportunity to become better acquainted with faculty through both formal and informal meetings this year, and by attending classes or other presentations. I appreciate the extra commitment that Bonj Szczygiel and Paul Chidester make to serve on the college’s leadership teams, which meet regularly on Tuesday mornings. Additionally, the Faculty Council has met in different situations, sometimes on short notice, to advise me and others on particular issues that needed prompt attention. I also want to say a special word of thanks to the college’s Promotion and Tenure Committee. They do a tremendous amount of work in reviewing second-, fourth-, and sixth-year dossiers.

The College Staff Council works to serve as a vital voice for staff issues and contributes much to the college over and above their daily tasks. This past year, Staff Council hosted two diversity seminars with Suzanne Adair from Human Resources. In November they collected both money and supplies for orphaned animals and donated it to PAWS on behalf of the College of Arts and Architecture. Each year at our staff retreat they collect food for local food banks. Last year they collected 450 pounds of food. And Staff Council hosted their second annual Spikes game get-together, which more than 50 people attended.

The professional and support staff is vital to the daily operations and the good spirit of this college. Thank you for all you do to create a strong college environment and make all our tasks more manageable. 

My priority this year has been listening—to learn all I can about the University and college culture here at Penn State and to build relationships with you, with other administrative leaders within Penn State, and with alumni and patrons of our programs.

The University is revising its Strategic Plan and expecting each college to revise its own. Experience has taught me that a dynamic planning process with widespread involvement is the key to becoming a truly forward-looking organization that can dream big, while establishing concrete and attainable goals and making some tough decisions. This is even more important in the face of economic cycles that go up and down with more frequency than any of us would like. Planning is not a product; it is a process. Shortly after I arrived last summer, the unit heads and the directors of our various areas met for several hours of retreat in August and again in October. Those meetings resulted in some key themes that will serve us in developing a forward-looking plan with measurable objectives. These themes are all characterized by finding the right balance:

  • balance between professional and general education
  • balance between graduate and undergraduate offerings
  • balance between interdisciplinary collaborative research and creative achievement and individualized specialties
  • and balance between college goals and identity and unit goals and identity.

As we work to shape our plan, we are committed to finding ways, including using the Web, for widespread involvement. I hope you will share your thoughts with us. We are also committed to setting measurable targets that we can review and revise periodically. We must look to the future, but our planning will build on our strong tradition and it has to be done within the University, state and regional context. Yvonne Gaudelius is serving on the University-wide committee and I will be serving on the task force for Achieving Academic Excellence.

Barry Kur has agreed to provide leadership in facilitating our college’s strategic planning efforts and I’d like him to provide an update on our work (Kur’s remarks to come).

During the interview process, I mentioned that as a rule of thumb, deans of programs of this size and complexity spend about 60 percent of their time in raising funds. Initially, that means building relationships with alumni and donors. Let me assure you that we have an enthusiastic group of supporters that really are engaged across the board in this college. I have been encouraged and heartened by the level of energy and excitement in alumni gatherings both on campus and as far away as Los Angeles. This is due, in no small part, to the strong staff that we have in the Alumni and Development area. Joyce Hoffman has built some deep and strong relationships with alumni and that makes a great contribution to the college over the long haul. Dan Isidor, Caran Aikens, Sue Anne Graham, Liz King and Wendy Hill in the development office have personalities and experience well-suited to their fund-raising responsibilities. With the assistance of Flora Marynak and Janeann Lindsay, this group plans and executes events both in town and out with great class. In addition to professional staff in this area, we have had several cases this year of faculty spending increased time with donors and it is clearly paying off!  I learned many years ago that faculty have the relationships with the alumni, and faculty are the most passionate and can best explain the value of their programs to donors.

This has been a great year for us in the development area. Here are some highlights:

  • Received more than 5,700 gifts this year—200 more than last year.
  • Raised $4.6 million—nearly $2 million over our goal and nearly $3 million more than we raised a year ago.
  • As is generally the case, 90 percent of giving comes from 10 percent of the donors, but we are creating a larger pool of supporters, with an increase in the number of alumni, friend and foundation donors.
  • Over $1 million was given to support scholarships, up $700,000 over last year.
  • Four years ago A&A awarded $500,000 in scholarships. The trend is upward each year; this year we awarded $800,000 and I look forward to the day we reach $1 million per year in scholarships.

One area we will focus on is cultivating direct faculty support through endowed professorships. $700,000 has been given so far this year for program support, which indirectly assists faculty and students, but increasing “direct” faculty support is my personal mission during the coming campaign.

We are also focusing on the area of endowed scholarships to recruit talented students and/or those with great need. In this area, we need to increase scholarships that are available for graduate students; enhancing our ability to recruit the appropriate number of talented graduate students is essential to programmatic growth in quality and reputation.

As I have listened and observed this year, I have learned we need to address our college identity and communications, including our Web site, where we soon hope to host video interviews of alumni and other significant moments of College activities that can be downloaded. Amy Milgrub Marshall, who heads up our communications for the college, will provide an update on what we are doing in that realm.

[The communications overview and mock-up of the quarterly newsletter can be found here.]

These reports represent some ways in which the College has made progress this last academic year.  I’d like to share with you my priorities for next year: 

  1. Asking the associate deans and the director of administrative operations, along with faculty and staff councils, to implement some of the recommendations for clarity and revision of some of our procedures within the college.  (Several committees have been making recommendations on how we can improve some of our processes.)
  2. Continuing to cultivate friends and patrons of the college and increase our donor base, especially in the area of program endowments, faculty support and scholarships (including support for graduate students).
  3. Enhancing the image of the college, not only in communicating the strength of our programs to external audiences, but also within the University, helping others here become more aware of the ways we can contribute to major research initiatives.
  4. Enhancing opportunities for transdisciplinary collaboration within the college and without, while finding ways to support individual creative work and research projects.

This fall we are partnering with the University of London to host an international conference on online learning and the arts. During that time we will be hosting a special guest on campus, Dr. Ronald Jones, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr. Jones is an international leader in transdisciplinary collaboration. He formerly served as the co-director of the Interactive Design Lab at Columbia University and has served on the faculty at Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, and The Royal Danish Academy of Art. 

We hope that his visit will be a boost to the goal I have articulated in other settings of establishing “safe places for people to play together” in collaborative research and teaching.

So, now you have a picture of how some of us who work on your behalf in the College offices have been working and will continue working on your behalf.  I turn now to some selected ways that you have been advancing the visibility of the College through your excellent work.  I promised you at the fall college meeting that I would commit myself to telling your story.  You continue to create an exciting story to tell.

It’s impossible to recognize all the wonderful accomplishments, articles and books published, exhibitions and performances, and professional awards, that you have amassed in the last few months, but we do want to celebrate some of the highlights of recognition.   Please understand that with limited time, we could only select a few and I know there are many more we could list if time permitted. 

Several faculty have been elected to prestigious professional boards: 

  • Professor Travis DeCastro was elected national treasurer of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT). We have several faculty and staff members active in USITT and Penn State hosts one of the largest student chapters in the nation.
  • Professor Barry Kur was elected president of the Lessac Training and Research Institute, a highly regarded professional speech training organization.
  • Last weekend at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Dan Carter was inducted into the College of Fellows of the America Theatre.
  • Professor Rob Nairn is serving as president-elect of the International Society of Bassists, which has approximately 4,000 members in more than forty countries. Rob is also the winner of the only performance fellowship in 2008–09 from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation (one of eleven national fellowships).
  • Last November, Sue Haug was elected co-chair of the National Association of Schools of Music Commission on Accreditation.
  • And in October I was elected to the Board of Directors for the International Council of Fine Arts Deans.

These are important ways that we take the name of Penn State Arts and Architecture programs to a broader audience as we serve our professions.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Spanier hosted a University-wide awards luncheon where Arts and Architecture had several winners:

  • Lisa Bontrager, professor of music, received the Faculty Scholar Medal in Arts and Humanities.
  • Lynn Drafall, also from Music, received the Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.
  • Craig Zabel, head of Art History, received the Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award.

We also just recently received the good news that Kim Cook, professor of music in cello, has been named the inaugural 2008–09 Penn State Laureate. We are delighted that one of our own will serve in this important new role at Penn State.

Many of you have garnered international awards and recognition for your work, as is the case with Professor Lanny Sommese from Graphic Design and Professor Maureen Carr from Music, who were selected as Distinguished Professors this year.

  • Maureen Carr recently participated on a BBC radio program to discuss a manuscript for Stravinsky’s Pulcinella.  The broadcast can be heard live this Saturday on the BBC website.
  • Lanny Sommese was one of three winners from 161 entries from 31 countries at the 15th Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition last September. The Colorado Invitational is one of the major international poster competitions and the only one held in the United States.  Professor Fang Chen, also from Graphic Design, was the Honor Laureate and keynote speaker at this same exhibition.
  • Katie Parizek’s photographic work with Elizabeth Walters in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, was widely featured in international journals and was on The Discovery Channel’s Egypt’s Ten Greatest Discoveries that aired this month. Katie is off to Egypt again to do interviews for National Geographic TV.
  • A design team from SITE, the firm of architecture professor James Wines, won first prize, from 471 entries, in an international competition to design the New World Plaza in Beijing, China.
  • Dr. Anthony Cutler, Evan Pugh Professor of Art History, will spend next spring at the Oxford University in England, where he has been elected Senior Research Associate of the Khalili Research Centre.

Closer to home, I want to also mention the following achievements that have come to my attention—just a small sampling of what’s going on—that recognize both teaching and research of our faculty.

  • Many of you have participated in several of the events in the successful Moments of Change initiative, which has been given such tremendous leadership by music faculty member Marica Tacconi, as director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.
  • Representing the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Professor Jawaid Haider along with Professors Peter Aeschbacher and Mallika Bose, received a grant for $235,000 from the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation. Their interdisciplinary research project promises to have a far-reaching impact not only on the future revitalization of the Pottstown Area, but for similar communities throughout Pennsylvania.
  • Professor Jodi LaCoe, Architecture, received a national New Faculty Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Staff at the Center for Performing Arts are celebrating a special recognition this year as well. PreViews, the online multimedia magazine published by the center, earned a silver award in the Going Green category from the University and College Designers Association (UCDA). The panel of judges recognized PreViews for being a communications tool that features excellent design but does not use paper, ink and other resources required by a printed publication.

So many alumni I have met this year are accomplishing great things because they received a strong foundation here. As teachers, little gives us as much satisfaction as seeing alumni achieve creative and professional success. That starts while they are students here and I want to share some of the good news of our current students, whom you have helped shape.

  • The 2007 graphic design graduating class was featured on the cover of Graphis New Talent, a publication of the best graphic design work being produced in design programs internationally.
  • Ian Mears, M.F.A. graduate student in ceramics, has been awarded the Graduate Fellowship from the 2008 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).
  • Hagit Barkai, M.F.A. student in drawing and painting, has been awarded a national College Art Association Professional Development Fellowship ($15,000).
  • Art education doctoral student Lisa LaJevic and art education undergrad Lauren DeMoss were honored with Clyde McGeary Scholarships from the Pennsylvania Art Education Association Fellows during the fall conference in Scranton.
  • Joseph Kauffman is graduating this May with a bachelor of music degree in violin performance. Joe will be continuing his studies with the eminent violinist and pedagogue Eduard Schmieder at Temple University’s Boyer School of Music.
  • Amanda Horn will be graduating with the master of music degree and will continue her studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, pursuing a doctor of musical arts on a fellowship there.
  • Barbara Greene, graduating senior in art history, will be entering the graduate program at Stanford University.

Although we recognize that lines may be drawn between personal and professional lives, as creative artists and scholars engaged in the educational enterprise, we know that we bring our whole self to whatever we do. We all have personal lives and know that it makes a much better working environment when we take time to support one another during difficult times and laugh and share one another’s joys.

Some of you have suffered losses in family and friends this year; others of you have had struggles with illness yourself or with family members. We never want to be intrusive, but please don’t hesitate to let your unit or the college office know when you need some encouragement or extra support. I also want to take the time to share some moments of joy and celebration that members of the A&A family have experienced this year. I may miss some, and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have one you would like me to share in the future: 

  • Last weekend must have been a good one for marriages: Joyce Hoffman married Norm Horn, and Roger Smith (who keeps many of our computers running) married Wen-yi Lee.
  • Last November Velvet Brown and Michael Brungo were married.
  • In June, Professor Elisha Clark (School of Theatre) is getting married to Greg Halpin, who also works at Penn State.
  • Some of you have had additions to your family this year:
  • Professor Matt Toronto from Theatre and his wife, Jordan, welcomed a new daughter, Clementine.
  • From Architecture, Professor Alexandra Staub and her husband, Dmitri Bezinover, welcomed new son, Nico.
  • Sue Haug, director of the School of Music, has recently become a new grandmother.

This is a great place to work, to serve, and to create. I continue to be excited about all that we will accomplish together in the future.  As we adjourn to the reception, I encourage you to lift a glass to one another. You are what makes this a special place both now and in the future.

Spring College Meeting
April 24, 2008
Palmer Museum of Art
Lipcom Auditorium 4:00 pm