Dean Joan Wick-Pelletier's Remarks
"CELEBRATING THE ARTS AND SCIENCES"
Friday, 10/25/2002 – 11:00 AM - In Front of the Arts and Sciences Building
Thank you, President Hitchcock, for those very generous and kind remarks. But my thanks extend to more than simply your remarks: I want to thank you for coming up with the idea of a day in celebration of the Arts and Sciences. I also want to thank Provost Santiago for sharing this enthusiasm and lending his support to the day. The Special Events staff, especially Linda Wheeler, did much of the planning for this day in conjunction with members of the Dean’s Office, especially Assistant Deans Greg Stevens and Dona Parker, who are responsible for organizing the academic part of the day, in particular the panel. I want to thank them to them all for their hard work. Finally, I want to thank all of the participants in what is to come – speakers, musicians, and thespians - for agreeing to share their talents, knowledge, and perspectives with us. I do hope everyone will be able to enjoy the whole afternoon with us.
I am delighted to be at the University at Albany as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. This University feels like a good fit to me. While I have been living north of the border for a good many years, having lived the first 21 years of my life in Western Massachusetts, I assert that part of me never left this area, and that is why it feels so comfortable to be back.
I believe I have arrived in Albany at an exciting time. The campus is truly bustling with activity. I spoke of the construction activity a few moments ago at the opening of the newly renovated Arts & Sciences Bldg. But the real activity that I am speaking of extends far beyond construction. I speak of the intellectual and artistic activity – the activity on the podium, activity on all our three campuses, and that which extends to the community at large. Look for example at the Albany heritage events taking place now. I have never seen such a wonderful collaboration of town and gown (and I might add a great way for a new dean to learn about the history and culture of her new city). I am very proud that the idea for the Albany heritage semester came from two of the Colleges’ most renowned professors – John Pipkin, who will addressing us soon, and Warren Roberts - and that many other faculty members from the College are taking part. And this very day there are two other conferences and symposia taking place in the College. Also the theme semester for the spring on the humanities and technology, which will involve many College people as organizers and participants, is exciting to anticipate.
There are two major things that attracted me to the University at Albany and to the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. One was the trajectory the University was taking toward becoming a nationally recognized research-intensive university. The other was that it had the sense to put the arts and the sciences together so that I would not have to choose where to belong. The last remark is semi-facetious, but the combination of arts and sciences is not. There is a vision implied here - that the University understands the complementary nature of the disciplines, that the University has an ideal of the well-educated, well-rounded person that I share, and that the University appreciates that the boundaries of knowledge and expression are not neatly compartmentalized. Examples of new inter-relations among the arts and sciences abound in the past 20-30 years: the utilization of mathematics and statistics into virtually every social science; the important insertion of social and ethical debate into the arena of science and medicine; the role of art, photography, and the media in understanding history, the revolution into every walk of life created by computer sciences.
People are asking me what my goals are for the College of Arts and Sciences – it’s a fair question, but one to which the answer cannot but be an answer-in-progress, to be modified with every new opportunity that comes our way and with each revelation about the human potential residing here. My goals are to press forward with the enhancement of the reputation of the University and the College in particular, to further its research development and the research, scholarly, and artistic aspirations of its faculty members and students, and to exploit fully the possibilities of interdisciplinary study and research in an attempt to attract the best and brightest students.
First, we have a Life Sciences Building in the College that is poised to become an outstanding addition and boon to the research already going on here. It will have new equipment and, with some successful recruiting that I hope to oversee, a full complement of scientists on the cutting edge. When the pieces of the puzzle come together – the Life Sciences Building, the research on the East campus, at CESTM and also at the centers connected with the School of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology - this University will truly be among the most highly ranked in scientific research.
Apart from the sciences, there are many other exciting themes in the College that interest me. One of these broadly speaking has to do with communication – we have historians on our public radios and involved with multimedia, experts teaching others how to communicate about health issues, we have writers, we have journalists, we have experts on film. We need to harness our strengths in these related areas and to get out our message about this theme and other such themes that run through our curricula. We need to get the message out about our excellent and progressive fine arts faculty and how they interact with departments such as history, classics, anthropology, English, and the languages and culture departments.
Our fine arts faculty and students are terrific and strong and this area promises to become one of the main attractions of the College. We also need to make the public aware that in addition to delivering a fine scientific and liberal arts education, many of our programs have a professional component – the "planning" in Geography and Planning, forensics training skills in Chemistry and Biology, translation skills, among many others. I believe in strengthening this professional component of the education we provide. Part of my job will be to improve our visibility so that potential students see all we have to offer.
Our next strategic plan will weave together these threads and these strengths. I hope our plan will also identify a way for us to attract the top students to the College, to build on programs the University already has, namely Project Renaissance and the Presidential Scholars Program. I hope we can create a program within the College especially for them.
These and other things will keep me more than busy in the time to come, but I know I will have the help of many in trying to succeed and I do appreciate that. When I was leaving York University to join you here, a friend sent me a card with the message," doing a job you love is like having an extra day of the week." I hope that proves true – so far it has.
Thank you all for coming today and for the warm welcome you have given me.