Message from the Dean – May 7, 2018

First some good news:

Summer is here. For many faculty this means an opportunity to reflect, invigorate, and re-engage with personal creative interests. We have dozens of examples, like Eric Hoefer who will attend an artist’s residency in New York, and Emily Heugatter who will be directing summer Shakespeare in Virginia. Faculty and students alike will continue to contribute to the dynamism of the arts in the Metro through an astounding array of events, these include, Summerstock, Shakespeare in the Park, performing in local concert venues, playing at the Lyric, exhibiting in art galleries and directing Painted Sky Opera. CFAD is truly a driving force behind the revitalization of the arts in the OKC Metro. I am proud of who we are, and the value we add to life in Oklahoma.

Now a story:

As I reached the end of my college experience, I joined a group of friends writing a chain letter. In the letter, we each described how we would define “success” for ourselves over the course of the years immediately following graduation. Having married my soulmate in my sophomore year, my primary relationship was spectacularly in place, so I focused on career objectives. I wrote that my top priorities were to achieve a full-time university teaching position in the fine arts, and to present a one-person exhibition in a prominent New York gallery. I quickly achieved both goals, winning an instructor position at my Alma Mater, and showing my work at Ivan Karp’s, O.K. Harris gallery in SoHo. Had I known there was “magic” in that letter, I might have delineated a salary goal as well, given my initial remuneration of $19,000 per annum was not exactly awe-inspiring.

There was apparently great motivational power in defining goals and circulating them among a group of friends. Most of the participants in the chain letter achieved the ambitions they inscribed. Both parts of the process were important. Sifting through internal priorities and organizing them into a list was fundamental. At a point in life when my independent, adult self was still forming, I almost accidently fashioned a strategic plan that focused my efforts. To use a rock climbing analogy, if I were standing at the base of a cliff face, keeping my options open, I could imagine many possible ways to reach the top, but I would be no closer to getting there. Once I had committed to a route and was on the rock face, my chances of reaching the summit rose exponentially. Determining the objectives was important, disclosing and distributing that list to a group of close friends was also vital. An internal goal is easy to redefine. A publicly proclaimed goal provides increased impetus.

As I near the end of my first year as Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Design, my priorities are snapping into focus. It is a varied and somewhat daunting list: Become an All-Steinway school. Grow enrollment. Increase first to second-year retention. Expand scholarships. Create a School of Design. Encourage faculty creative and scholarly research. Streamline degree offerings. Inspire collegiality. Build a performing arts center. Generate a sense of shared purpose around student success and tell our story regionally and nationally. In revealing this list to a group of friends, I am hoping to repeat the success of my collegiate chain letter. Having chosen a route, I hope to increase my odds of reaching the summit.

As we each pursue the activities that rejuvenate us during the summer months, I hope that you will thoughtfully develop a list of objectives you hope to achieve in the coming year. I encourage you to write them down and tell a friend.