Current VPA News
Dean Ann Clarke

Kathleen Haley

As the school year wraps up, College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Dean Ann Clarke is concluding her time leading the college.

But her impact as a leader will long remain, and her presence will continue in the classrooms, studios and hallways of VPA, sharing her knowledge and insights with new classes of students.

Clarke, who announced in September that she was stepping down at the end of the academic year, has served as the VPA dean since 2008. She is taking a one-year research leave before returning to the faculty in fall 2017.

Looking back over her time as dean, Clarke sees how the shared commitment among VPA’s leadership, faculty and staff led to great things.

“I’m proud that it isn't about ‘I.’ No matter what the projects have been, they have been a partnership. For example, working with Senior Associate Dean Arthur Jensen on successful faculty hires—that was embedded team play,” Clarke says. “I’m proud that we worked that way and proud that we’ve been successful that way.”

During Clarke’s tenure, the college has been strengthened through the creation of key leadership positions, improved internal processes, increased support for faculty and graduate student research and expansion of the college’s international reach, among other endeavors. The efforts have resulted in impressive national rankings for the college’s schools, departments and programs.

“Ann has been an outstanding steward of VPA,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “She has kept the best interests of students and faculty front and center of everything she did. And she has done it in a way that has allowed creativity and scholarly excellence to flourish across the college’s diverse departments and programs.”

Clarke says she is “proud of the team of chairs and directors from each school and department in the college, who work together and respect one another. When I came on board, the goal was to work with the academic areas and develop a strong leadership team, and we achieved that. Finally, I’m very proud of the accomplishments of our students and recent graduates.”

VPA flourishes

During her time as dean, Clarke oversaw the creation of key associate dean positions and significant progress on assessment of student learning and the creation of a framework for preparing for accreditation and self-study reviews. With strong academic leadership in the college’s six schools and departments and the efforts of staff and faculty, the college is thriving and earning widespread recognition.

“Many things come to mind regarding Ann’s impact on the college, including that she raised the leadership profile and created stability across our academic units, whether that meant conducting external searches for department chairs and directors or promoting faculty from within the units,” says Arthur Jensen, senior associate dean and professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies.

Before Clarke’s tenure as dean, there were only two associate deans. “She created additional associate dean positions for global initiatives (including in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.) research and graduate studies, and assessment and accreditation, each of which has resulted in significant and timely progress on initiatives important to the college and the University,” Jensen says.

Strengthening the college

Jensen also pointed to Clarke’s work with faculty leadership to locate and hire new faculty that has strengthened the college.

“Her mantra regarding faculty searches has been that ‘we should hire better than we are, and then support them to tenure,’” Jensen says. “I am convinced that she was a major reason that we closed the deal with so many of our top search candidates.”

The results have shown in numerous VPA schools, departments and programs, which have achieved national rankings since 2008. These include graduate programs in ceramics, printmaking, sculpture and transmedia (U.S. News & World Report’s “Top 20 Best Graduate Schools in Fine Arts”); programs in environmental and interior design and industrial and interaction design (DesignIntelligence’s “America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools”); the film program (the Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 25 American Film Schools”); the Department of Drama (the Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 25 Drama Schools”); and the Bandier Program and Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music (the Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 25 Music Schools”). In addition, the graduate program in communication and rhetorical studies has risen to become one of the top master’s programs in the country.

“Dean Clarke had a tremendously positive impact on the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She helped us to establish clear goals for excellence in each school and department and then provide the faculty and students a real opportunity to reach these goals,” says Kendall R. Phillips, associate dean of global academic programs and initiatives and professor of communication and rhetorical studies. “The number of VPA programs that have risen in the ranks is astonishing and a clear testament to her leadership.”

Increased global presence

The college’s global presence has grown with new or expanded programs in New York City; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Brazil; the Czech Republic; England; France; Germany; and Italy. The college has also signed memorandums of understanding for partnerships with Rose Bruford College in London, York St. John University in England, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Massey University in New Zealand.

Clarke and the college have also overseen numerous renovations to the college’s buildings and spaces on campus, including:

  • a complete renovation to the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies’ classrooms and offices in Sims Hall;
  • the relocation of the School of Design to the Nancy Cantor Warehouse in downtown Syracuse, allowing for increased community partnerships;
  • the creation of 914Works, a space for VPA students and faculty to present individual or group exhibitions, readings and small-scale performances;
  • renovations to the School of Art’s ceramics studios and equipment in the Comstock Art Facility; and
  • the renovation underway of Smith Hall as a nexus for VPA interdisciplinary programs and research.

“She leaves VPA in a very good place in terms of the stable leadership team that will make the next dean’s job much easier,” Jensen says. “She’s clearly leaving VPA stronger and more resilient than when she first took office.”

Clarke will continue to see the college’s progress as she returns full time to teaching.

“I feel incredibly privileged and appreciate the opportunity to be a tenured faculty member at Syracuse University and to recommit to my research and self-learning,” Clarke says. “I firmly believe that education is a lifetime endeavor, and staying current and relevant with technology for the benefit of the students is a serious responsibility and privilege.”