Monday, October 12, 2009

Mixing it Up

Now that the school year has begun, it’s time for mixers. Not the kind that some use to make cheap margaritas, but mixers that bring together people, ideas, exchanges of information, and in the case of our college mixers, iced or hot tea. Despite our budget woes, there is much to celebrate this year, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of some of the social events of the past ten days.

First there was a reception on October 6 to honor the recipients of the Outstanding Professor Awards. This year’s President's Distinguished Professor, Dr. Roberto Cantú, is joint faculty shared by the Department of English and the Chicano Studies Department. Both are proud to share in Professor Cantú's accolade. Arts and Letters is also proud of the Department of Art’s, Dr. Manuel Aguilar Moreno, who received an Outstanding Professor Award. Last year’s President’s professor, Dr. Domnita Dumitrescu, was our host for the afternoon.

On October 8 we really mixed it up. At noon there was a gathering of international students as well as staff from the Office of International Programs, Cross Cultural Center, Associated Students and others who support international programs. I chatted with Professor Sachiko Matsunaga, Chair of Modern Languages and Literatures, who enjoys recruiting students for language classes and cultural events. Later that afternoon we had a welcome event for our first year freshmen in the courtyard of the Music Building. Professor Rebecca Davis, who teaches Fashion in the Department of Art as well as one of our sections of Arts & Letters 101, was there to greet some of her students. Our Associate Dean, Dr. Bryant Alexander and I were pleased to see so many freshmen turn out for pizza and conversation on a beautiful afternoon. I was a bit chagrined to learn that some of our first time freshmen still don’t enroll in a course related to their chosen major during their first quarter and I hope we can correct that in the near future.

On a different note, the LA Philharmonic had quite a mixed plate on Saturday night, the opening of my season ticket. The debut piece featuring Chinese mouth organ was challenging for the harmonically inclined but I could imagine a striking modern dance set to the varying music of composer Unsuk Chin. Two things about the evening were exceptionally fun. First, I enjoyed watching Dudamel bounce and fly during his extra-energetic performance. Frankly, I worry about whiplash, although I’d encourage him to cash through selling workout tapes, “Batonicize with Dudamel!” Second, I talked to a couple of ushers when I overheard that one was a Cal State LA student and the other, a Los Angeles Community College student, was considering transferring to us. During intermission I conducted an impromptu counseling session with the potential transfer student.

Many of the new tenure-track faculty in Arts and Letters came to mix chez moi this past Sunday on a beautiful afternoon in Pasadena. Several came with spouses or partners and one even brought three delightful children. On fall faculty day it was striking to hear how many faculty had overlapping interdisciplinary interests and, as I had hoped, it appeared that some of our new faculty members were forming intellectual and social alliances that might last for some time.

Today, October 12th-- Another mixer! Our very engaged and competent Associated Students representatives Kristine and Ana organized and hosted an open forum for students at the Music Building patio, our College back yard. Dr. Suzanne Regan and Dr. Matsunaga (who also attended the freshmen mixer) got to meet students studying in their departments. While it was grey and gloomy, the much expected rain had not yet hit and we had a good turnout of students, including a small contingent of new MA students in Theatre.

This week will end with one more mixer, a small party to welcome our first exchange students from Korea University. I’m very excited to meet our three KU students, coming in exchange for the students we are sending to Korea University each summer as part of our Strategic Language Initiative in Korean. Also, we’ll be welcoming the U.S. President of the Korean University Alumni Association.

More mixers are in your future. Come. See. And be stirred by another Arts and Letters mixer.

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