Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dancing into the Sunset—Oh, Wait... Towards the Sunrise!

I’ve been a bit tardy in blogging recently but I hope that’s understandable. Last month I made the announcement that after 30 years in public higher education in California, I’m retiring from the CSU to take the position of Provost at Governors State University in Illinois. I couldn’t be more excited about this new leadership opportunity to continue to grow another wonderful state university that serves diverse communities. At the same time I’ll certainly miss the students, faculty, and staff at Cal State LA who never fail to brighten my days, no matter the weather or budget.

January also was jam-packed with activities, but I only could be present for the first part of the month. Our ASI Representative Kristine Dickson hosted a “Meet the Deans” reception on January 11 at the Fine Arts Gallery that was well attended by students and faculty. I also met again with the leadership of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach on a plan to work together to develop more opportunities in arts education for students and the communities we serve.

On January 14, I flew off to Melbourne, Australia, to catch up with research partner, Caroline Symons of Victoria University. The flight over was quite an adventure; we ran out of fuel and the pilots deemed it safer to divert the plane to Brisbane rather than wait to land at Sydney. None of us sensed anything amiss and the landing went smoothly, only we were stuck at the Brisbane airport without a plane. We were just a short ten hours late to Melbourne.

While at the Brisbane Airport I ran into sportscaster Mary Carillo, a regular at our annual Billie Jean King fundraiser Airport—she was on the same flight from LAX but had started her journey in Florida. Ms. Carillo and I actually shared another destination; we were both headed to the Australian Open tennis tournament. I’ve been a great fan of tennis since the Billie Jean King/Bjorn Borg era and the Australian Open is now the third leg of my Grand Slam. I had been to the US Open and French Open, so now just have Wimbledon remaining. Aside from a stirring second round match between Justine Henin and Elena Dementieva (who could ask for a better early match?), I was able to see eventual champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams as well as Nadal, Murray, Clijsters, and of course Australians Hewitt and Stosur. One evening a great applause broke out between games as Prince William, second in line to the British throne, came in with his entourage. About an hour later someone called out “Give us a wave, William” and the prince obliged.

Between tennis and working away with my research partner I didn’t have much time to explore Australia on this second visit. I was able to see a bit of Phillip Island, south of Melbourne, including watching the fairy penguins come to shore one evening. The world’s smallest penguins are quite wary of predators so they gather in small or large groups, test waddling forwards and often rush back into the waves before finally hopping up the beach towards their hillside nests. Another evening we spotted 15 wallabies and stood on the dunes as “mutton birds” crash landed then scurried to their nests. On Australia Day, we headed in another direction, west of Melbourne, to the 12 Apostles, a set of deteriorating limestone cliffs.

Who knew that in one month I would be in the presence of Prince William and moon-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin? Mr. Aldrin was one of the guests at the California Music Project’s (CMP) celebration of a Wells Fargo gift to expand the successful program from San Jose and San Diego to Los Angeles. The event was hosted by the California Music Project Director, Barbara George, and among other luminaries her husband, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Ron George, attended. The College of Arts and Letters is excited to be working with the Project to support music education fellows and their teacher-mentors and look forward to a long-lasting relationship with CMP.

This week a whole group of our students, faculty, and staff will be at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, at the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Last weekend, newly retired Professor Pam Dunne directed a revival of Velina Hasu Houston’s five-woman play, Tea, which the festival selected as a whole production, in anticipation of its re-staging in Utah. A good number of our student actors are participating in the Irene Ryan Awards and one student was nominated for her lighting design for Tea. We’d say “Break a Leg” but since rain and maybe even snow showers are predicted mid-week, let’s not chance it.

And speaking of the end of winter quarter, mid-terms are already upon us as is registration for Spring Quarter. In one day we moved from 48% to 70% of our enrollment target for spring, so students please sign up early to get classes! We’re trying to accommodate every student we can fit (reasonably) into classes, so we hope that you enroll, do well, and move in good speed towards graduation.

I hope to see many of you at some of our upcoming events. Our Jean Burden Poetry Series is proud to feature Wendy Cope (Feb 25, 6:30pm at the Golden Eagle Ballroom). The event is free and open to everyone! That same week, the Winter Dance Concert runs for three nights at the King Hall Studio One Theatre (Feb 25-27). As always, you can keep yourself informed about all Arts and Letters events by visiting our homepage (www.calstatela.edu/academic/al), where you can also subscribe to Expressions, our monthly newsletter, or purchase tickets for upcoming (ticketed) events.

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