CSU East Bay faculty member Buddy James was named founding director of the School of Arts and Media last July, which is scheduled to begin operations sometime next January.
CSUEB’s liberal arts department, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, is currently comprised of 18 different departments. The School of Arts and Media will only include five of these departments: theatre and dance, art, communications and the multimedia graduate program. President Leroy M. Morishita approved the proposal for the school in March 2012, a year after all participating departments in 2011 endorsed it.
The five departments contain similar disciplines and by grouping them together into one school, new opportunities for greater collaboration, curricular development, enhanced marketing and recruitment and artistic production will take place, Dean Kathleen Rountree of CLASS said on the CSUEB website.
Faculty members believe that each of the programs in these departments will start to become smaller and less robust if they continue to act individually.
“An organized structure which brings the faculty, staff and chairs together for planning, decision-making and leadership has the potential to create a shared identity, louder voice of advocacy, a common strategic plan and a collaborative program of publicity and outreach that will be an enormous asset in recruitment, publicity and fundraising initiatives,” CSUEB faculty members said in their Request for Change of Status of an Academic Unit.
James hopes that the collaboration of these five departments will make things more manageable and allow the departments to work at a more intimate level.
“The idea of forming the school is that we might be able to overcome some challenges that we might not be able to under the umbrella of the college, which is very large and has departments that are unrelated to our discipline,” James said. “We’re hoping to expand creative and collaborative opportunities by forming this school.”
Within a larger college, there are fewer opportunities for faculty and department chairs to communicate with each other, he said.
James met with other faculty members and department chairs to get to know more about their interests and how they can collaborate together, since landing the role as director. Overall he believes that the department merge will affect faculty and students in a positive way.
“I think the communication of the faculty between different departments will certainly improve by a great amount, because they’ll have a chance to dialogue more with people in other departments,” he said.
“The communications building is over in Meiklejohn and it’s exactly half of a mile from here, so the chances of me rubbing shoulders with the communications faculty have always been pretty small. But ever since I’ve been in this position I’ve been over there quite a bit.”
Within the next year students will see a couple of changes within their departments, James said.
One change students will see is a greater turnout of people at events in their departments. This will be made possible because departments will be able to share marketing materials and recruit for the events collaboratively. The second change is that there may be different course offerings, which will allow students the opportunity to study outside of their department.
The School of Arts and Media may also develop a creative arts major, which will be composed of selected courses from each of the five departments.
“The school is still in its beginning stages,” James said. “We’re really building everything from scratch. Since this is the first school of its kind on our campus we’re not on any timeline.
Eric Kupers, associate professor for the theatre and dance department, said that so far his department has not been affected.
“We’re hoping there will be some collaborative classes that will be developed but at this point nothing has been set up,” Kupers said. “We’re all just kind of standing by to see how it gets worked out.”
The School of Arts and Media will be holding a kickoff event in October 2014 to announce its opening in January.
James has been a member of the CSUEB Faculty since 2006. Prior to his position as the founding director of the School of Arts and Media, he was the associate professor of music, director of choral and vocal activities and the coordinator of music education. Before coming to the university, James taught at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and Whittier College.