Dear Artists and Humanists,
These past few days have given me the opportunity to think about the value of our disciplines, our creative power to express insights and our profound ability to promote meaningful discourse. I believe these gifts offer reasons for hope, along with critical resources for overcoming obstacles and advocating for greater awareness and integrity in our campus community and beyond.
One of the joys of being dean is the people I meet: community members who are invested in the arts, faculty whose great dedication inspires our students and our very special students who day after day inspire me to work for our College.
With conviction regarding our future, I say the following: You artists and humanists motivate me to be better, think more critically, and act with compassion while being decisive in doing what’s right.
Our College has remarkable professors who fully invest in teaching and create amazing works of art and writing, in order to engage ideas that speak to our shared humanity; they are architects of the spirit of community that builds bridges of understanding. Our professors are also agents of change who empower students to become invested in their community — by fully developing their unique talents, along with their capacities for principled civic engagement.
Our students, whose academic achievements and social conscience have both been shaped by the energy and time our faculty have committed to teaching and guiding them, are the reason we are all here. Hundreds of student humanists and artists go forth from our programs with conviction and a willing heart to implement good change in the world.
Guadalupe Remigio comes to mind: She persevered, winning spelling bee contests as a first-grader, though she had no English background whatsoever in kindergarten… Now she’ll start a Ph.D. program in Wisconsin (full scholarship!), with a willingness to return to Fresno to inspire others.
We are inspired by the sheer energy that our theatre performances bring to the stage, captivating the audience and promoting greater insight into aspects of our shared humanity. I think of Thuy Duong, who has been accepted into Juilliard — a Fresno native, she is now about to enroll in the most prestigious performing arts institution in the nation.
Works of visual art move us to think, reflect and aspire to strengthen civic responsibility, empathy, and trust. Jamie Boley comes to mind; she is a Native American student who completed our MA program in art, then graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago with a full ride, and is now working with our youth in Visalia – she’ll soon share with us her students’ videos on constructive ways to speak about race and the meaning of community.
We are hopeful that our informed humanists, with their cultural and linguistic competence, will chart new paths of dialogue: Leslie Hille, with his double major in French and political science, allows us to visualize this possibility.
I admire and appreciate our staff – you have made Arts and Humanities your home and the advancement of our disciplines is more than just a job; it’s an opportunity to work toward building upon our common values that promote a better society.
I am certain that the supporters and ambassadors of our College will work together in ways that demonstrate and affirm the value and integrity of our disciplines.
We all seek meaning in our professional, personal, and civic lives. Tools from our different disciplines and areas of interest allow us to comprehend reality. Yet certain fundamental values are indispensable to the use of those tools to discover and create meaning.
As we each take different avenues in engaging with varied aspects of our humanity, we have in common the pursuit of greater awareness. From this shared foundation, let us be our best selves moving forward: respect, compassion and sensitivity to varied perspectives allow creativity and growth to be realized.
I am honored to be able to imagine: How many more creative, bright students will come? How many more students can we empower to become visionaries in a world riddled with angst and insecurity? How many more will mature with a vision that discards the stereotypes that divide us? Countless will become the best of the best of the Valley, leave, and return to us like the “Hero of a Thousand Faces” — with a renewed vision for how we’ll build the Valley together!
So, in the words of Emeritus US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera — a Valley native from Fowler — “Let us gather in a flourishing way.” Let’s discuss, reflect and do what humanists and artists do best: imagine and build. Let us keep firmly in mind the dual nature of the value of the arts and humanities: artistic and ethical.
Only in an environment of conscientious, respectful engagement can talent, insight and imagination thrive and take effect.