Although I am pushing fifty, I identify more with the graduate and undergraduate students I encounter than I do with many of my colleagues. Like most people, I experienced and witnessed injustices when I was a student, and much of my teaching, mentoring, and advising students at CSUN rectifies these deficiencies through advocacy, compassion, and generosity. No matter the activity or service, I always know that my primary function at CSUN is to educate, guide, and support students. I have had the good fortune to serve as Associate Chair in the Department of Art from Fall 2012 through Spring 2015. The position nurtured my desire to become more involved with the Department’s daily operations, including the coordination of class scheduling and part-time appointments, as well as meeting with students who have a variety of concerns. Along the way, I discovered my affinity for this role; active listening, easy availability, and timely responsiveness comprise my personal and professional philosophy, and these attributes have become both a gift and a curse.
Students, staff, and faculty, as well as certain members of the administration know my work ethic and regularly seek me out for advice, answers, and help; although the classes I teach meet only twice a week, I am on campus three or more days each week to make myself available for consultation with students. When scheduled office hours don’t coincide with student availability, I make arrangements for meetings on non-teaching days. Sometimes this accessibility becomes onerous when colleagues assume I will take on tasks only because I am within reach.
I enjoy time spent with students within and beyond the classroom environment. As the faculty advisor to the CSUN Photo Club since 2001, I have had the pleasure of supervising student-directed exhibitions and workshops, as well as coordinating visiting artist lectures and individual student critiques with professionals from the local photography community. In conjunction with and reaction to the CSUN Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition, I implemented, coordinated, and hosted the “Salon de Refusés,” for ten years. Close to my heart and steeped in the history of art, this opportunity allows students to exhibit work that was rejected by jurors. These experiences foster a sense of community, diligence, humility, and personal responsibility among the students, and I model these same attributes every day. The acceptance of students with whom I have worked closely into prestigious M.F.A. degree programs, including the Art Institute of Boston, CSU Long Beach, the School of Visual Arts, and Yale, delights me and affirms that my commitment to students in the classroom and beyond matters.
Not only do I share my successes, however small, with students, but also I candidly describe my flaws and missteps in order to demonstrate working through failure with grace, humor, and perseverance. I embrace these unfortunate events, because they help me maintain a sort of “hysterical empathy” that provides vicarious emotional access to others’ ordeals. Not only do I expect Visual Arts students to make artwork, but also I expect them to write about it, an integral task that encourages students to consider the work more objectively and take responsibility for every aspect of the process.
In Fall 2014, I had the pleasure of showing my work alongside that of two former students in Mental Landscapes, an exhibition at the Annenberg Beach House and sponsored by the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Department. We wrote the proposal to complement and unify our distinct aesthetic inquiries. Awarded an exhibition slot during the 2014-15 season, we also coordinated and participated in a panel discussion moderated by another CSUN Professor of Art. On more than one occasion, some of my colleagues have accused me of being “too nice” to students. Hardly innocuous, “nice” is an insidious word that acknowledges surface behavior; anyone can behave “nicely” for a spell. If my colleagues misspoke and meant to say that I indulge my students, I would agree; my behavior toward and treatment of all students employ honesty, patience, and respect: inalienable indulgences. My experience has taught me that CSUN students seek constancy, guidance, and information, and I deliver them with a consistently nurturing sensibility.