CLAS Acts January 2014

Gretchen Galbraith

Karen Libman

January 2014  Vol. 7, issue 6

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

 "We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

~Nelson Mandela  

Here in Michigan when we make a new start in a new year the metaphor of our progress can be almost literal.  If you get up early enough on a snowy day, yours can be the first footprints other than those of wild creatures.  Over your shoulder you can see where you have been and if that path was straight or wavered.  Ahead of you is unbordered possibility. We ended 2013 well.  It was great to see many of you at the holiday open house, the last of the fall concerts, the exhibits of the work of our art and photography students, this year's Opera Theatre production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and the open meetings to hear our Associate Dean candidates.  I hope you felt as proud of your colleagues as I did.  It is no small thing to stand up and perform before discerning audiences.  It is no small thing to put your name forward for such thorough consideration, and it has been no small thing for all of the candidates in this search to become leaders in such a company (in the Shakespearian, not the corporate, sense) as our faculty now is. Our students, too, have distinguished themselves in many ways. Three of GVSU's five Gilman Scholars are students in CLAS: Michael Dykstra (PHY), Anna Harris (BIO), and Mary Hoejke (MLL, Spanish).  This prestigious award will enable them to have rich international experiences.  The graduate awards have also been announced and these fine students in CLAS were among them.
Academic Excellence in the Major
• Jared J. Homola, biology  • Shawna M. Tanner, biostatistics  • Marian J. Testori, cell and molecular biology  • Skyler S. Latshaw, English     Outstanding Master's Thesis 
• Jared J. Homola, biology  • Marian J. Testori, cell and molecular biology Outstanding Master's Final Project 
• Angela K. Peavey, communications Excellence in Service to the Community or Profession
• Stephanie L. Celano, cell and molecular biology Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Thesis Nominee for Outstanding Thesis 2013
• April D. Best, Master of Arts in English (graduated April 2013)  

On the more operational side of things, at the end of the year we accomplished some of the steps toward our goals.  For instance, CLAS established the Principles of Equity in Allocation Taskforce (PEAT) that will help us to improve the way we distribute our resources.  This group of faculty and staff (chosen for their wide experience of the many kinds of entities that make up CLAS) will help us to affirm the principles and data upon which we make our distribution of funding and other resources.  Also, the vast majority of grades were in on time which lessened the burden on support staff in the closing days of the term-but we can't call this our 'best ever' effort and can do better in the future in support of our students who have much riding on their grades, from secondary admissions to the continuation of scholarships to academic standing. In January we have some engaging events for you to check out: January 23  CLAS Research Colloquium January 27   Creating a Labor Movement in China: From Peasant to Precariat? January 28  Faculty reading by Professors Amorak Huey and Caitlin Horrocks January 28  My Year in Vietnam: With the Cav Please do add to your list of resolutions to support events which your colleagues work so hard to bring to our campus. I wish you a happy, healthy and productive New Year.  Remember Mandela's injunction, which MLK phrased this way: "The time is always right to do the right thing."  Let's make our mark on 2014, and leave a better University than the one with which we start-and as you make your mark on 2014 I recommend to you some words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, "Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."  

 Selection of New Associate Dean--Message from Dean Antczak 

It's my pleasure to announce to you the selection of the new CLAS Associate Dean for Faculty Resources and Scheduling, Gretchen Galbraith.   Many of you know Gretchen from her roles as Chair of the Department of History from 2007 to 2011 and Interim Director of the Honors College (August 2005 to December 2006) or from her packed session at the 2013 FTLC conference or her participation as a table speaker at the CLAS Teaching Roundtables ("Game-playing across the Disciplines: how roles and victory objectives can deepen students' ability to explore complexity"). Some of you will know of her commitment to equity that is finding expression on the Faculty Salary and Budget Committee, as Co-Chair of the Ombuds Taskforce, and on the Ad Hoc Committee on Family & Maternity Policy. Her work has been recognized in many ways including the Barbara Jordan Award (2011). In her scholarly interest areas of European, British, Gender and Family History, Comparative Women's and Social History, she is the author of many articles, encyclopedia entries, presentations, reviews, and the book Reading Lives: Reconstructing British Childhoods, 1860 -1914 (St. Martin's Press, 1997). Gretchen is a member of Allies & Advocates and is an Inclusion Champion. I understand that she is currently helping to raise a puppy, so she is very likely exactly the glutton for punishment we are seeking. As you know, the position announcement called for a convergence of important traits: The ideal candidate will demonstrate a deep respect for the work of faculty and staff; a track record of tact, integrity and transparency; personal qualities of optimism, persistence, innovation and communication; familiarity with the Faculty Handbook; and abilities to apply and explicate it; skills/experience relevant to personnel processes and course scheduling to foster an environment for student success. This role is both a great support to the CLAS faculty at times of great opportunity and of personal tragedy, and is also instrumental in making sure we use our precious human capacity to the best of our abilities and in the interest of our students. I'm deeply grateful to an extraordinarily thoughtful and committed search committee who recruited a pool of wonderful applicants, made some very difficult choices to bring us three extremely well qualified and distinguished candidates, communicated with all of the faculty and staff of CLAS about their opportunities to hear from and comment on talks by these candidates, and provided their views of to me for my clearly difficult decision. Because of their excellent work, I was never in danger of going wrong with such talented leaders as my choices. My thanks to Chuck and Ed for giving us their time and impressing upon us the enviable depth of our bench. We put the three candidates through a very thorough process and emerged even more deeply impressed by the leaders among us. Thanks again to all who applied, and to the many people who participated in the events of the search. Thanks to Gary Stark who for ten years has kept his sense of humor, been an acknowledged key resource person for faculty, and made a hard job remain attractive to our emerging leaders. As he moves out of the position in May, we are all grateful that he will be around half-time while Gretchen works to gain encyclopedic knowledge of the Faculty Handbook, addresses whatever challenges that scheduling produces, learns the dean's office quirks, and adjusts to the scale of our enterprise. She will have the support of our office, and I know that all of you will join us in supporting her success. Please join me in providing her with a warm welcome now and a booster shot in May when the actual transition will take place. ~Fred [N.B. This announcement was made by e-mail to CLAS faculty and staff on December 18, 2013 and reprinted here for your convenience]       


Note: In the April 2009 issue of CLAS Acts, I wrote about a collaboration between Diane Rayor (CLA) and Karen Libman (COM) to produce Diane's translation of Antigone as part of her process to create a supremely playable translation for publication by Cambridge University Press. The book appeared in April 2011 and has had several productions. What follows is the continuing tale of the additional benefits of that collaboration. ~Monica Johnstone

The Sacred Stage-International Flowering and Fruition

Intrepid traveller Karen Libman, while attending a conference in Orissa, India two years ago, met a theatre director.  She made him a gift of the newly published Antigone translated by her colleague Diane Rayor and described how it had come about and how she had become involved in writing some of the ancillary material published in that volume. A seed had been planted.  This year Niranjan Bhuyan (Director of the theatre company Asom Ranga Katha) invited Karen to attend a conference in the state of Asom (AKA Assam, which is nestled in the northeastern part of India near Bangladesh and Bhutan).  So Karen made a whirlwind trip to India and Bangladesh over a slightly extended Thanksgiving break to be an international guest speaker (alongside another from Australia) at the Asia Regional Theatre Network Conference 2013. "In one of the newspapers," Karen says, "they referred to me in a way I really liked-as a 'theatre worker'."  She was able to see several visually stunning theatre productions in several languages and participated in a theatre education roundtable discussion.  She visited colleges and scouted out locations that would be excellent candidates for trips by our peripatetic Shakespeare troupe, Bard to Go.  The very full program proved quite rewarding and the cherry-on-top was the announcement that Bhuyan had decided to produce Antigone, using Diane's English translation as the basis for his own translation into Assamese.  Theatre in his region has a tradition to addressing social issues which makes the themes of Antigone quite relevant for them, too. Karen loves that this production will be treated to the highly developed local sense of occasion.  "They start the process of their production with the ritual breaking of a coconut from which everyone in the production partakes," Karen explains.  "I want to bring that sense of occasion to productions here at GVSU and have started to introduce adaptations of that practice into productions I'm involved in." Karen was also able to squeeze in some travel in Bangladesh.  The experience has opened Karen to possibilities for additional international collaboration.  She is considering a Fulbright application to fund an opportunity to direct in Bangladesh.  She'd like to see this become a true exchange with theatre professionals coming from India and Bangladesh to GVSU -something that has already started with a visit to our Shakespeare Festival this fall by Prof. Mohammad Israfil Shaheen from the Theatre Department at the University of Dhaka. Inspired by the extremely high level of hospitality she experienced that ranged from being decked in the vibrantly colored local dress to being served wonderful food, Karen returned more excited than exhausted to her own work.  She sees that her own work on productions such as Kindertransport has already been infused by a stronger sense of the sacred. "There the stage is a sacred place," Karen explains.  "You take your shoes off; you kiss the stage before a performance.  The theatre space is in a sense 'consecrated'.  We sometimes forget that aspect here.  It doesn't surprise me that Peter Brook [English theatre and film director and theorist] and others ran off to India.  Art matters, it's essential.  We need to remind ourselves of that." Another benefit of this international experience was several opportunities to talk about culture.  She was asked about her religion, how she goes about doing what she does, and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to compare and contrast with colleagues whose love of theatre is very like her own. "So many future projects!"  Karen muses.