Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A CSU Alumna Listens

It’s 9:30 Sunday morning. It’s icy. It's cold. I’m still drained from trying to get in to hear Sen. Hillary Clinton speak at a campaign rally at Brush High…hours of waiting…not finding my son….only to arrive at an overflow site where, eventually, my son appears…and later, the profound surprise that Hillary will add a second talk for those who were relegated to sit here like second class citizens to watch her on TV…still better than those who grew tired of all the confusion and went home.

Back to…the room this Sunday morning that fills gradually with bright-eyed, mainly gray- and white-haired men and woman who greet one another with smiles and gentle jokes that I can’t quite discern because my ears are still blocked from the rally.

A mirror stretches the full length of the extreme left of the room, revealing the room’s “other” function as a dance studio. The arts are alive and well at First Unitarian; my son studies violin there at a branch of CIM. You won't catch me looking in the mirror. The right hand wall has an array of religious symbols; only in a Unitarian Universalist church will these dwell together in silent harmony, and perhaps only in a UU church will a room be packed with people so very early on a weekend and so genuinely eager to hear about the fledgling/mature university down the street.

The featured speaker was distinguished CSU president Michael Schwartz, who took the reins of the college in 2001; as most know, he had served as president of Kent State University and was supposedly in retirement when he joined CSU. 2001. A full eight years after I quit my full-time job in the News Bureau at CSU but during the point when I still had connections there as an occasional teacher through Urban Affairs and Continuing Education Division.

I am a 1981 graduate of CSU and worked in four different jobs there from 1980-1993, loving the campus with a zeal that made leaving to tend to a frail, premature child extremely difficult.. I always maintained the highest idealism about CSU’s potential and a realistic view of its glitches and contradictions. I had been a student. A secretary. A publications editor/writer. A public relations’ liaison. A member of the part-time faculty. There was not a day in my career there when I felt bored or underutilized. I have maintained a concern about CSU, and have been delighted with the reports that internal morale is high, improvements being made, growth happening….though they are tearing down my cherished University Center, spot of dates in the game room, the best donuts, couches on which to collapse from exhaustion after studying all night… When you work the jobs I did, you get to know the rank and file employees, the administrators, the students. To me, it is like a city and--as such--can be as welcoming or frustrating as any city.

Back to topic: Dr. Schwartz has a dry sense of humor coupled with a no-nonsense, no-fluff manner of speaking. The topic was: University of Akron/Cleveland State University Merger? And he answered that simply and directly in the first few sentences: No. It wouldn’t be his preference.

But he took his attentive listeners through sprawling anecdotes about the prospects of greater collaboration among institutions, chiefly Akron, Youngstown, Kent State, Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, and CSU.

He brainstormed a big dream of faculty of information science or technology across institutions collaborating and forming a team if not as good as MIT’s, almost as big.

He tempted us with the thought of a fully refurbished Allen Theater—not only to help the CSU theater department but possibly, some day, kindred programs at the other nearby institutions. Apparently dance thrives at Akron, piano at Youngstown, theater at Kent…and I know from my CSU days, the artists were few in number but powerfully creative. The music building today is filled in every sense with energy and opportunity—for musicians from campus and far beyond.

And Dr. Schwartz stressed a phrase I remember from my old days at CSU “centers of excellence,” acknowledging that universities may wish they could deliver every conceivable program to every students, but the fact is: less can be more.

He said that CSU hopes to add and or further support components of health to almost every college of the university: law and health; urban studies and health; education and health; and so on. A questioner from the audience asked: Wouldn’t that have been a good idea from CSU’s inception, given our local health centers? Dr. Schwartz’s answer was good, but I would have added that many moons ago, there were plans for a college of health sciences at CSU. Roaming archives, as I used to love to do, I saw a report about that. Somewhere along the line, as in a wild and flourishing garden, other enticing varieties of programs developed. But the seeds for a health focus were there, fallow.

A bold thought from Dr. Schwartz came in the form of one central board to oversee the four schools. I can imagine the impossibility of achieving that, but it’s good to dream big. That would allow for a broad focus, “thinking across and out of the box.” I don’t personally know any trustee at any college, but I do know that these are posts served by appointment. Many who might have the savvy to make good contributions may not be anywhere near the list of appointees.

Speaking of contributions, of course a fundraising campaign will soon occupy CSU’s attention. Dr. Schwartz said that the theme will be helping Cleveland…not making the coffers of CSU bulge in pitiful self-interest. In other words, spreading the idea that investing in CSU is directly investing into an organization whose faculty, staff, and students are committed to using their talents and insights to serve and better greater Cleveland.

May it be so.


Blogger Rosa S. Raskin said...

CSU did an incredible job for the debates and the stage looked wonderful. It is unbelievable that they were able to do all in 10-14 days. The University has surely progressed with the help of people like you, Maria, from the days of the Quonset huts in which some of us baby boomers had classes while the current campus was being built.

Thanks for all that you did and still do for Cleveland State University.

March 2, 2008 at 1:34 AM  
Blogger Wordsanctuary said...

Yes, the debate itself was awesome and the coordination at CSU and MSNBC and from others on the outside admirable. President Michael Schwartz was interviewed by Dick Feagler today on a local show (Sunday, 3/2) and described the process of having it all pulled together so fast.

March 2, 2008 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger John Ettorre said...

Great report, Maria. Very interesting.

March 6, 2008 at 10:51 AM  

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