As a two-time alumnus of the College of Arts and Architecture, I have long had a sense of connection to the studios, sidewalks, classrooms, and performance spaces within the Arts District, long before our part of campus was referred to by that name. Nine years ago I returned to campus to join the faculty. It was significant because I was returning to a place that played an influential role in my career and professional development. I believe now, as I did then, that my return to Penn State was imbued with pride, expectation, and a nearly visceral sense of responsibility. I also felt as if I were part of a history of arts and design education that was building on its past toward a new future. Now, as the dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, I am positioned in a new role and a new relationship with this influential place I have known as student, professor, and alumnus.
We recently held a “Meet the Dean” open house as an informal way for me to meet with staff and faculty. It was a direct way for me to connect with the college beyond my administrative role in relationship to myriad units, departments, schools, and offices. For me, open house gatherings like this exemplify the essence of what it means to be together. I appreciated seeing familiar faces with whom sharing laughs and stories has a long history. I also appreciated meeting many new faces and learning a bit about who they are and what they do.
Five weeks earlier, at our college’s annual all-college meeting and holiday celebration, I closed my remarks by suggesting the next steps for the college would be moving forward, together. We have since entered a new decade and a new semester. Although these markers of time indicate a point at which to begin again and to begin anew, we are faced with several existing priorities, plans, and expectations. Some current priorities include the development of a new strategic plan, the construction of the new art museum, and the forthcoming new website for the college. Even with the official start of spring several months away, the air is ripe with possibilities. I have met with students, staff, and faculty members and have listened to their stories about what they do and the possibilities and opportunities they see in the present and near future of the college, and beyond. In the coming months, I look forward to hearing from alumni and friends as well.
There are bound to be more priorities and opportunities lurking beneath the surface. Yet with this abundance of opportunities, I am keen on advancing the idea of moving forward, together. In fact, in this age of instantaneous communication via social media, we might imagine such a statement as a hashtag: #MovingForwardTogether.
Moving forward together will enable conditions to cultivate innovations and possibilities, not merely adherence to status quo actions and outcomes. Such innovations and possibilities, when acted on together, will complement the reputation of the college and enable the collective forward momentum we share.
As we do so, we will work toward dispelling pejorative and outdated myths about what we do while also promoting our ways of knowing, questioning, and imagining the world in ways other modes of inquiry, scholarship, and creative activity do not. Through a collective investment in imaginative ways of learning and inquiring we can begin to see the benefits of#MovingForwardTogether.