Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Midterms Come and Gone

October has flown, midterms have come and gone, and I’ve hardly had a chance to sit down and share. Now it’s November and ninety degrees (again); time to report the not so latest in Arts and Letters.

Our welcome party for the first exchange students from Korea University was a smash. Several officers of the Korea University Alumni Association, including the President of the chapter for the Americas, honored us with their presence. Faculty from several colleges, administrators from International Programs, and Cal State LA students who have studied in Korea came to welcome our three KU undergraduates. We wish them luck in their studies and hope to bid them farewell at the end of their stay.

On October 17, I attended the 12th annual Billie Jean King dinner, a fundraiser for Cal State LA Athletics. As usual, student athletes from Arts and Letters were among those honored at the dinner. This year Dora Kiss of Theatre Arts and Dance not only won a scholarship, but a walk-on during Saving Grace, Holly Hunter’s award winning television series. Another student athlete in Arts and Letters, Vivien Wadeck (Communication Studies ) was honored along with Gabriela Bulawczyk (Business and Economics) and Chris Matzner (Charter College of Education). Ms. Hunter served as a guest MC (matching the absent Patricia Cornwell’s $20,000 bid for the final live auction item), briefly taking over from regular MC, Mary Carillo. I last saw Ms. Hunter live in 1982 in Crimes of the Heart during my first trip to New York City — seven plays in two weeks.

Last year Billie Jean was ill and couldn’t attend. This year, she seemed in particularly good spirits—perhaps because in her 12-year legacy she has raised $2 million for Cal State LA Athletics. A good friend, Chris Freeman, attended, found a new tennis partner and walked away (after a suitable donation) with the table centerpiece.

Last weekend was packed with activities. Friday night the 23rd, the Department of Music, along with Cal State LA and its Luckman Performing Arts Complex, hosted “The President’s Own” US Marine Corps Band. It was great to see the Luckman packed for this free concert and a wonderfully diverse audience from our surrounding communities with many excited elementary students admiring the band from the front rows. Professors Belan, De Castro, and Ford joined Chair DeGraffenreid in trying to interest the young musicians present in coming, one day, to Cal State LA’s music programs.

The next evening, Saturday the 24th, I attended a production of Tea produced by our Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. We were lucky to have playwright Velina Hasu Houston attend. After the performance, Dr. Houston, a Professor and Associate Dean at USC, stayed to take questions from actors and the audience with Dr. Pamela Dunne (Director) and I joining her to converse with the audience. Every now and then I meet a truly lovely person with a wonderful, genuine and generous presence; Ms. Houston is one of those individuals. During the Q&A she briefly praised the set design (Dr. James Hatfield) and our actors’ performances as they played the characters, their husbands, and their daughters. The playwright described other productions of Tea that had involved non-traditional casting citing the benefits for the actors and the audience as well as the reasons why university theatres may want to or need to cast actors across gender, ethnicity, or “race.” We heard that she writes several plays at once and now and then takes out an older piece to see if she can rework it for new purposes.

This past week the schedule didn’t let down. Humanities and Social Sciences Deans of the CSU met at Cal State Fullerton to commiserate on the budget, explore ways to collaborate across our campus boundaries, and to learn how CSU students can get involved in the 2048 Project ( towards full enforcement of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I topped this past week by wishing farewell to Ben Phan of Extended Studies, then attending our Charter College of Education’s Outstanding Educator of the Year Awards. Somewhere in between these activities, I completed my WASC white paper on the Introduction to Higher Education course, met with Department Chairs to do more painful budget planning, and met with our ASI representatives to begin to plan next quarter’s events.

Spring forward, fall back; I was glad to have an extra hour to recuperate this weekend. More fantastic events await!

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