Message from the Dean – September 9, 2019

First some good news:

Recent UCO Vanderford Engagement Award recipient and Music Professor Tess Remy-Schumacher had a productive summer that included travel to Germany to perform a 25thanniversary tour as a duo with internationally-renowned guitarist, composer and director Stefan Grasse. Dr. Remy-Schumacher also performed at the Oberlin Baroque Festival in Ohio along with Dr. Ralph Morris, director of the UCO Symphony Orchestra and Dr. Doris Morris, adjunct instructor of violin. Dr. Remy-Schumacher’s latest music CD, To Awaken the Sun is a collaboration across multiple areas in the School of Music and CFAD and is on sale now. Part of the proceeds from CD sales go to support scholarships.

Now a story:

At the age of 7, my daughter Taryn informed us she desired no additional birthdays. After pondering the data during her seventh summer, she determined that the daily fun-to-responsibility ratio was pretty much perfect in the status quo. No need to add years that might increase obligations. That same year, while returning from church, her grandmother asked her if she wanted to go to heaven. Tilting her head full of blonde curls slightly, Taryn considered the options before replying, “no grandma, it’s too far”. If living in heaven meant leaving her family, she preferred to stay home. While the answer surprised her grandmother, as a parent, my heart filled with delight, secure in the knowledge that Taryn loved her life in her present time and place. There was joy in her 7-year old journey.

Last Thursday, I attended David Webber’s Experimental Animation course, and I learned a new word. The lecture described the “interpolation” abilities available in Premier Pro. Interpolation is the capacity of an animation program to fill in the gaps between key images or keyframes. These interpolation programs are capable of connecting disparate images in time and space by creating the pictures that should appear between the keyframes. The cartoons of my childhood were created by lead animators, who drew the crucial scenes and actions, then handed the drawings off to line animators who filled in the blanks, painstakingly drawing the many frames required in-between. Powerful animation programs now use algorithms and artificial intelligence to seamlessly morph between keyframes, making it unnecessary for humans to create the images that propel an animation from action to action. The focus of the animator today is on the beginning and end, but they can ignore the middle.

In my career as a professor and academic, it is easy to slip into a mode similar to automated interpolation. Semesters, and sometimes years are defined by keyframes bookended by the jitter-filled first day of classes, and the euphoric diploma-walk of graduation. The months in the middle frequently appear as a blur of routine motions. It is worth remembering that those predictable days, unremarkable to us, may exist as keyframes for our students. If we operate by rote as we present a lecture for the fifth, or fiftieth time, we might miss the “ah-ha” moments, or overlook the opportunity to provide life-changing mentorship. Maintaining emotional and mental presence requires determined effort. I hope you will join me in the goal to live every frame of life with gratitude, like line animators, consciously and conscientiously rendering the days between the keyframe highlights. Some routine days will still blur past, but I intend to appreciate the journey with the innocent enthusiasm of a 7-year old child, combined with purposeful thankfulness.