Message from the Dean – March 18, 2019

First some good news:

CFAD graduates continue to take the skills and passions learned at UCO and put them to work. Art Alum Erica Bonavida began working this month as the first “Artist in Residence” for the City of Oklahoma City. Congratulations Erica!

More good news:

UCO Interior Design major Alyssa Holcomb claimed top honors in the 2019 FORM Student Innovation Competition with her design titled “Shrug Chair.” The international competition, hosted by Formica Corporation, encouraged students to showcase their creativity by designing furniture that blurred the lines between commercial and residential applications. Check out the awesome design!

Now a story:

I attended the first year-and-a-half of high school at the same preparatory school my parents, maternal grandfather and seven aunts and uncles matriculated through. Erected between 1903 and 1917, the symmetrical, red brick edifice majestically topped a hill overlooking Hutchinson, Minnesota. Lining the halls were the framed photographs of every Maplewood Academy graduating class from 1909 to the present. I loved glancing upward as I sauntered between lectures, enjoying the youthful likenesses of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gazing back in hopeful anticipation.  In these pictures, my progenitors lingered forever as ingénues balanced on the cusp of adulthood. Grandpa Lyman Roberts, not easily given to mirth, looked down earnestly from the class of 1927. Mom, with a beautiful, slightly shy smile appeared with the class of 1960. Dad, handsome and confident of his future, gazed into the distance along with the class of 1959. My parents fell in love in that building and were married in a church 200 yards away. Seeing those portraits each day emotionally grounded me during the first awkward year of high school. I understood that if they survived the travails of impending adulthood, so could I.

Lacking the necessary philanthropy and institutional will for renovation, the grand old building was razed in 1980. The graduate’s photos found homes in the library and stairwells of a new classroom building, but the potency of institutional memory toppled to the bulldozers. The newly constructed walls failed to ring with the memory of alumni voices, and the vintage photographs appeared silent and anachronistic. When I revisit the campus, I am reminded of the Gertrude Stein quote, “There is no there there.”

As I sit in my office, gazing out the window at the “Erected A.D. 1893” lintel on Old North, I am thankful that UCO successfully engaged their alumni and philanthropic partners to save this cathedral of higher education on the plains. Our identity, rooted in student-centric, transformative learning is embodied by that Normal School façade. The disparate people of the Oklahoma Territory understood that their hopes for statehood, and the ultimate success of that unrealized dream, depended on providing citizens with quality public education. Each morning as I drive to work on Campbell Ave., facing the sun as it rises behind Old North, the echo of student voices, spanning 126 years is nearly audible. The institutional will to remain relevant and engage in a systematic program of continuous improvement is rooted in the red dirt those pre-statehood pioneers packed into the bricks of our school. We honor our heritage through farsightedness. We exist to educate, inform and train the citizens that will lead Oklahoma into the next century. The mission and message are clear. Existential crises cannot reach us. We are blessed with the absolute surety that our work will create lasting, positive outcomes for generations. Like a stone thrown into a still pond, the good work accomplished in our classrooms will ripple out in waves of positivity through time and space. Regardless of our geographical origins, when we arrive at UCO, there is a here, here.