Archive of previous messages from the Dean

Fall 2018

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Through the pursuit of art and the exploration of ideas, we artists and humanists fuel our instinct to positively impact our world with our creative processes.  “Know Thyself,” the famous aphorism inscribed at Delphi that was later made famous by Socrates, reflects the artist’s and humanist’s desire to paint, sculpt, film, photograph, act, dance, compose… ideas become shapes, feelings turn into melodies, concepts inspire reflection.  A camera angle explores emotions and builds suspense; a reporter speaks truth and forges community ties; a speechwriter finds the right words to convey the significance of democracy, justice, and dignity; an educator leads her students in understanding the value of centuries-old questions that still illuminate our quest to form a more perfect society.

In our creative engagement with ideas, we artists and humanists always have in mind sharing the thoughts that have taken flight, for the sake of strengthening our bonds with others, forming bridges of understanding, and providing insights that will promote the common good.

Once in the workforce, our contributions are immense:  Our gifts of communication, understanding of art and artistry, and critical reflection provide us with the tools necessary to find creative solutions and promote a sense of unity in diverse environments.

At its core, our academic mission reflects a foundational desire to train the next generation of artists and humanists who will continue on our quest to change the world.  Every semester, as I think about our recent accomplishments, I’m truly impressed by the breadth of creativity that comes from the synergy of faculty and student minds engaged in creative processes.  Because we earnestly believe in the power of our disciplines, we will continue to develop our skills, pursue our endeavors, and educate our students with integrity, even when faced with adverse circumstances.

Day of Giving proved to be successful beyond our expectations; donations to Dean’s Council reflect and promote the value of our disciplines.  During D.o.G., we celebrated ourselves, our sense of belonging, and our ever-present creative spirit, as we felt immensely thankful to College faculty and staff, and supporters from the greater University community, the Central Valley, and beyond.

The support of Dean’s Council bears bountiful fruit: Five of our MCJ students went to Ghana for 16 days, where they collaborated with students from four colleges at Fresno State (Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Health and Human Services, Science and Mathematics, and Social Sciences) to document a Ghanaian community’s effort to become fair trade certified.  Their videos are a testament to the power of storytelling: Our students from across the University came together to learn about life, and in so doing, they broke with pre-conceived notions about happiness, the value of manual work, and the meaning of life. Indeed, it’s a trip that allowed our students to value the humanity and joy in others while becoming conscious and thankful for what they have in Fresno.  This experience, like so many others, brings home the reason I donate to Dean’s Council: We give our students the opportunity to create value in their own lives, so that they may, in turn, strengthen the value of respect in our communities.

I’ve used the term of art in all of its inclusive forms:  writing, visual, plastic, performative, etc., because I believe in the inherent unity of the arts and humanities.  For this reason, Nora and I have focused our energy on making the Performing Arts Center a reality. We are glad to report that, with President Castro’s support, the second phase is progressing smoothly.  Imagine how wonderful it’ll be to have a space that forges a bridge of enjoyment, admiration, and respect amongst all demographics of our community. Our rich cultural heritage, showcased on stage, will bring us together in celebration of our unique backgrounds.  Please stay tuned as we continue to work hard to realize this dream.

I conclude the CAH Fall 2018 newsletter with this thought:  I am proud and humbled to find, semester after semester, extraordinary examples of our creative efforts.  We harness the power of our disciplines to help bring about the personal transformation reflected in the centuries-old aphorism, “γνῶθι σεαυτόν” –know thyself.  I take joy in the fact that our faculty and staff –proud champions of artistry and thought—are hard at work empowering the next generation of artists and humanists to continue with this noble mission.

Fall 2017

The arts and humanities create a special place, an intimate space that abounds with thoughts that manifest our desire to know, understand, and interpret. Such thoughts reflect myriad concrete ways artists and humanists transform the world: The graceful artistry of dance that affirms the beauty of the human body; the ability to translate culture and words through effective, intentional language; the enchanting power of music to inspire and unite us; the masterful encapsulation of an idea on a canvas, piece of metal, or clay that speaks directly to our shared humanity; the genius manifestation of a thought on stage that moves one to self-reflection; and the quest to preserve a people’s endangered language as a treasured window into their perspective on the world.

All of these creative endeavors are at the heart of our human existence, and all of them begin with an idea that’s forged in a space uniquely embodied by the arts and humanities.

From left, Dean Saúl Jimenez-Sandoval and Juan Felipe Herrera

~ Photo above by University Photographer Cary Edmondson: From left, Dean Saúl Jiménez Sandoval and Juan Felipe Herrera.

This semester, we saw how poetic vision changes thought into action: Juan Felipe Herrera inspired thousands as the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States. Under the Center for Creativity and the Arts’ theme “Voice and Silence,” and with the keen direction of Dr. Cindy Urrutia, the exhibition “Magnifying the People’s Voice” showcased a journey of discovery and becoming: poetry and thought, action and words were at play in the journey that Juan Felipe took crisscrossing our country.

Through Juan Felipe’s photographs, we experienced how children and adults – from all backgrounds — were both united by the intensity of poetry and empowered to come together and celebrate the ability to convey an inner thought brimming with a desire for good and justice.

The exhibition was a clear example of a journey, one that is fluid and exemplifies the ebbs and flows of life, and one that matures into a vision of a self that shares the soulful dignity of honoring the land, fellow humans and one’s own lineage.

Currently, the President’s Commission for the Future of Arts and Humanities is exploring the possibility of a performing and visual arts center, as well as ideas and strategies that will “create awareness of the value of arts and humanities and their capacity to transform individuals and enhance the community.”

The possibility of this space, physical in its grandeur, would enable that semantic space of creativity that’s at the core and being of our College.

We are grateful that President Castro has supported our disciplines with his visionary leadership. It is exciting to see how the collective ideas of invested individuals who have been transformed by our disciplines are giving light to dialogue – one through which action will be inspired by the thought and artistry of our College.

The arts and humanities provide us a voice that changes the world, a voice through which original thought is transformed by the wit, patience, and imagination of artists and humanists into distinct manifestations of creative perspectives on the value of life.

Spring 2017

Chamber Singers in Washington DC
Chamber Singers in Washington, D.C.

We are creators and thinkers; crafters of language, clay, canvas and metal. We invent new perspectives and reimagine our world for the common good. Our artistry and humanistic thinking are the basis for all of human communication, productivity and creativity.

As the foundational cornerstone of the University, the Arts and Humanities are at the heart and soul of a journey of learning and discovery that flows like a river, unfettered, on a daily basis.

We envision the future of our College, Fresno State, and our Valley as one that is intrinsically interwoven with the values and gifts our disciplines espouse, because it is through the Arts and Humanities that a fulfilling and productive life is possible.

With the creation of the President’s Commission on the Future of Arts and Humanities, we look forward to the near future when we can start to seek community support for the building of the Center for Arts and Humanities –- a space where we can showcase our world-class performances and renowned artistic exhibitions, and engage our community with public forums that promote a literary and philosophical exploration of the rich and diverse fabric of our Valley.

We are the fortunate university that houses the Philip Levine Reading Room – a beautiful space in the Henry Madden Library that keeps the poet’s personal library and serves as a creative space for the MFA Program. Provost Lynnette Zelezny, Vice President for Administration Debbie Astone, and Dean Peter McDonald helped our College secure this privilege. Associate Dean Honora Chapman and Lori Pardi took the lead in making sure all the details were worthy of such a special space. With the Philip Levine Reading Room now we celebrate, more than ever, the creative principle of immanence that poetry represents to Fresno.

With the financial support of President Castro and Provost Lynnette Zelezny, our Chamber Singers helped the U.S. Library of Congress honor Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Together with Provost Zelezny and Associate Dean Chapman, I witnessed history in the making: Herrera, a son of our Valley, created a poetic imaginary that soared through the air fused with wondrous musical notes; it was a celebration of the playful fusion of our Valley languages and cultures, and a reinvention of the meaning of existence, that left us exploring the world with eyes of optimism.

I am forever grateful to Provost Zelezny for joining us, and for her unwavering support. Our amazing Chamber singers, who come from different majors on campus, showcased the limitless talent our Valley has to offer. And our music professors Benjamin Boone and Kenneth Froelich created magic that day, setting poetic imagery to music in five newly commissioned compositions — directed magnificently by professor Cari Earnhart.

We are also deeply grateful to Provost Zelezny for the creation of the Laureate Lab-Visual Wordist Studio, a space in the Henry Madden Library that serves as a forge for performance, poetry, visual arts, song and movement. It is here where Juan Felipe Herrera will continue to create, innovate, and collaborate with our community in the creation of a poetic universe that celebrates the rich tapestry of our region.

As a College, we artists and Humanists have much to celebrate. We are pioneers in Armenian Studies, a program that celebrated 40 years of excellence and international recognition, and is the leader in community involvement and student participation.

We also have much to celebrate in regards to the excellent faculty we have hired recently -– by next Fall, we will have 42 new faculty in a matter of just 18 months! With more hires coming next year, we are a vital community of scholars and artists that strives for student success, academic excellence, and artistic exploration.

It is rewarding to see how each one of our disciplines — from MCLL to English, MCJ to Communication, Music, Theatre Arts, Art and Design, Linguistics and Philosophy — is thriving in productive creativity.

We artists and humanists hold this kernel of wisdom close to our hearts: Our lives and our potential are not limited by a static identity, by a form that must be followed, nor by a history that must be repeated, but rather by our ability to act, to move, to create, and to reinvent ourselves into beings who read the world and reimagine it in a better way. It is this legacy, one championed by our alumni, such as Robert Hirth, and professors, such as Bradley Huft, that provides the impetus for our sense of community.

Thank you for joining us on this journey of celebration, creation and thought, dear alumni and friends, and for contributing with your support and contribution to the path of excellence we have charted together.

Fall 2016

From left, President Joseph I. Castro, Thomas Loewenheim and Provost Lynnette Zelezny.

Dear Fellow Artists, Humanists, Colleagues, and Friends,

Every facet of our lives is permeated by the transformative power of the arts and the humanities – songs we hum, logos that catch our eye, paintings that draw us in, books that provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world.

Given the fundamental impact our disciplines have on the development of thought and inquiry, artists and humanists enhance and sharpen the critical thinking skills and creative processes of every individual on our planet, regardless their field of study or profession.

In the Central Valley, Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities is unique in its high quality of artistic and humanistic production, as well as its profound impact on the community.  Through this biannual e-magazine, my hope is to share a fraction of the myriad activities that characterize the singular vitality of our College.

Our feature story incorporates alumni success stories that manifest the importance of our disciplines in the workplace.  The power of expression and communication, a fundamental element in every human endeavor, is at the root of these alumni stories.  In the top stories from this semester, moreover, I’m excited to report that each department has provided enriching experiences for our students and community.

Our future looks bright and full of hope:  Summer Arts is returning to our College in Summer 2017, bringing exciting, world-class performances that unify our community in the joy of art.  Our 14 new professors hired this year are artists and scholars from top universities, and their expertise will enhance our teaching and direct our College to new and exciting avenues of learning and research.

As we continue our direct and engaged way of communicating with our students, I’m confident that we’ll maintain our momentum of student success: our graduation rates are among the highest at the University.  Also, our first Arts and Humanities Student Convocation gave Associate Dean Chapman and me the opportunity to meet students from every major in our College; our convocation was so successful that we recruited our first group of Arts and Humanities Student Ambassadors, bright and talented students who represent the College at various functions of the University.

Our alumni and friends have always been instrumental to the success of our students and programs, as it is through your support that we’re emboldened to create art and envision a prosperous society guided by the virtues of justice and honesty.  Indeed, the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board has been integral to our success, and now more than ever its active members are focused on raising the profile of our College in the community.

Likewise, the support from President Joseph I. Castro and Provost Lynnette Zelezny has been unparalleled – their vision sustains our combined efforts that elevate the quality of life in our Valley with the exceptional benefits that our disciplines promote.  Imagine how wonderful it will be when we have a performing arts center that will showcase the full creative spectrum of our artistic productions!

Join me in celebrating our creative gifts by supporting our disciplines.