LAS News

CCAP, Teaching Artist Journal, and Institute Join LAS

The college’s yearlong self-evaluation during 2011-12 has yielded three significant additions to the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences: The Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP), the Teaching Artist Journal, and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media. Each of these additions to the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences presents new opportunities for students and faculty members across Columbia College Chicago.

“We are very excited to welcome to the LAS family our colleagues from CCAP, the Teaching Artist Journal, and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute,” said Deborah H. Holdstein, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Conversations between and among existing academic departments in LAS and our new colleagues have been productive over the last academic year. We very much look forward to further discussions and collaborations that will create new learning and research opportunities for students and faculty members, with strong and renewed connections between LAS and our colleagues.”


Since 1998, the Center for Community Arts Partnerships has been an integral part of the Columbia College Chicago community and Chicago Public Schools.

Founded with a mission of civic engagement to connect academic departments at Columbia College Chicago with diverse communities throughout the city and beyond, CCAP brings the concepts of community-based learning, arts-integrated curricula, and reciprocal partnerships to thousands of people each year. The center unites artists, educators, students, corporations, schools, and community-based organizations to form meaningful, sustainable, and transformative partnerships in the arts.

“CCAP has appreciated the warm welcome shown to us by our colleagues within LAS,” said David Flatley, Executive Director of CCAP. “We have always been layered into student learning and engagement at Columbia across the institution, but to have a new home in Academic Affairs that connects to all students across the college offers us new opportunities to explore and develop synergies.”

At present, CCAP administers thirteen innovative programs and initiatives, including BIGArt, which provides students who are in their first year at Columbia with the opportunity to work with children attending a Chicago Public School through activities and art making. Since 1998, CCAP has been awarded millions of dollars in funding, including a grant during the summer of 2013 for $125,000, which will expand the BIGArt initiative during the 2013-14 academic year.


Launched in 2003, the Teaching Artist Journal is a peer-reviewed quarterly that serves as the premier journal for the field of teaching artistry. Available to readers both digitally and in print, the journal is devoted to documenting and highlighting the work and thought of not only teaching artists, but also all who work at the intersection of arts and learning.

“It makes perfect sense that the Teaching Artist Journal makes its home in LAS, and this closer alignment will allow the journal to more easily draw on the tremendous work and thought of the LAS faculty and staff and more directly contribute to the life and mission of the college,” said nick Jaffe, Chief Editor of the journal. In June of 2013, the university of Chicago Press distributed the Teaching Artist Handbook (Volume I), a book of essays that were adapted from content originally published in the Teaching Artist Journal.

The Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media was established at Columbia College Chicago in the spring of 2005 as a research unit dedicated to the creation of new works, scholarship, education, and programing about women and gender in the arts and media. It is the first of its kind in the united States.

Since its formation, the Institute has created and cosponsored more than one hundred sixty programs and initiatives; produced and supported fifteen original works in film, documentary, theatre, photography, research, and publications; and established an award-winning fellowship program that has supported the work and scholarship of nearly forty scholars and artists.

Student learning is at the center of the Institute’s mission and work, illustrated through its more than seventy-five programs and curricular opportunities, collaborations across the college's three schools, and more than sixty college partnerships. Joining the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences provides the Institute with new opportunities to continue its work connecting students to programmatic and curricular initiatives.

“Since 2005, as one of the research centers at the college, the Institute has worked with almost every department and program of the college to support and expand the educational opportunities and experiences for our students, faculty, and staff,” said Jane M. Saks, Executive Director of the Institute. “However, as part of LAS, the Institute’s work and value to the college community can be expanded through deeper curricular collaborations and partnerships. It is a pleasure to begin working with such smart, creative, and welcoming colleagues as those in LAS.”

Dr. Doug Reichert Powell Named Acting Director of First-Year Seminar

In 2005, when the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences began piloting an important and new course for first-year students as an introduction to academic life at Columbia College Chicago, Dr. Doug Reichert Powell was there in the classroom, teaching it. When committees were formed to search for the instructors who would become full-time lecturers in the program, he was there helping select them.

And for the past several years, as faculty members from across the college have joined the First-Year Seminar teaching Academy, Dr. Reichert Powell has been there, too, familiarizing the participants with what the First-Year Seminar is, what it is not, and how it is taught.
Perhaps no one across the college, then, is more prepared and better suited than Dr. Reichert Powell to lead the program during this important time of transition—which is why Dean Deborah H. Holdstein has appointed Dr. Reichert Powell to be Acting Director of the First-Year Seminar program beginning this fall.

“Dr. Kim, our college’s new President, maintains there is more to an arts education than just the practice of the craft you study,” said Dr. Reichert Powell, who is Associate Professor in the Department of English. “Creating culture requires a broader set of competencies than any one discipline is going to provide. That’s why, in the evolution of the First-Year Seminar, we have come to focus more clearly on a set of dispositions that not only apply to any major at Columbia, but also provide perspectives on how to use your training in all kinds of different contexts.”

The First-Year Seminar is required for all undergraduate students at the college. As the foundational course for the LAS Core Curriculum, it familiarizes students with four activities that are at the heart of a liberal arts education, providing them with the framework to learn how to question, explore, communicate, and evaluate. Dr. Reichert Powell puts it another way: “It isn’t necessarily a ‘how-to;’ it’s more of a ‘why-to.’ It's not about making things so much as making decisions.”

Dr. Reichert Powell joined the faculty in the Department of English in 2004. From the fall of 2007 until the fall of 2013, he was the Director of the Professional Writing program in the Department of English. He holds a PhD from northeastern university, and, in addition to First-Year Seminar, he regularly teaches “Writing and Rhetoric I,” “Writing and Rhetoric II,” and “Reviewing the Arts,” as well as topical courses in American Literature. He also teaches classes in the Honors Program. 

Biology Minor Created in the Department of Science and Mathematics

Undergraduate students at Columbia College Chicago looking to pursue their love of science have a new opportunity to do so. Beginning this fall, the Department of Science and Mathematics is offering a minor in Biology.
The new minor, the department’s third, further distinguishes Columbia from many of its peers, including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Savannah College of Art and Design.
Columbia’s new minor in Biology enhances the college’s mission by providing students with the opportunity to gain a deeper learning experience in their liberal arts and sciences courses. The role that biological sciences play in everyday life continues to evolve and increase, which means that the knowledge and skills available to students in this new minor are useful in many fields, including  advertising art direction, computer animation, filmmaking, and graphic design, among others. The minor will also satisfy some requirements necessary to enroll in graduate studies in Biology.
“Students in any major at Columbia can enroll in this new minor,” said Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Berg, Associate Professor of Biology and one of the four faculty members in the department who wrote the proposal for the new minor. “For students who choose to declare and complete the minor, I think it will help them in their future careers, especially if they want to work in a job that requires a basic understanding of science.”
The three other faculty members in the Department of Science and Mathematics who helped created the new minor were Dr. Julie Minbiole, Assistant Professor of Biology; Dr. Heather Minges Wols, Associate Professor of Biology; and Dr. Michelle Rafacz, Assistant Professor of Biology. A total of thirteen minors are now offered in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
To finish the minor, students must complete a minimum of twenty credits, including two core courses (“Biology: The Living World” and either “Liberal Arts Chemistry” or “General Chemistry”) and four electives. Some of the elective courses include “Marine Biology,” “Biology of AIDS: Life of a Virus,” and “Botany: Plants and Society.”

Scientists For Tomorrow Instructor Receives Mayor’s Award For Civic Engagement

Just weeks before walking across the Commencement stage to pick up her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration, Elizabeth Moss (BFA ’13) walked into Chicago City Hall to receive the Mayor’s Award for Civic Engagement for her work as an instructor in the Scientists for tomorrow program. The award, which is administered by Columbia College Chicago and includes a check for $500, honors a graduating senior who reaches beyond Columbia's campus to make positive contributions to the welfare, culture, and vibrancy of Chicago and its people.
Scientists for tomorrow is an after school science program created, taught, and administered by the Department of Science and Mathematics’ Science Institute. Offered to young people in Chicago between the ages of ten and fourteen, the program cultivates positive attitudes and develops skills related to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Scientists for tomorrow partners with select community organizations, the Education Department at Columbia College Chicago, and Chicago-based museums.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented Moss with the award at a ceremony at City Hall on April 24, with Dr. Louise Love, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Interim Provost at Columbia College Chicago, and Marcelo Caplan, Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Mathematics, in attendance. “Elizabeth embodies all the characteristics a community leader needs to have: passion, compassion, and a high interest in promoting youth,” Caplan said. “She is a great example of what one's college experience needs to be—not only a path to obtain a degree, but also myriad routes to explore new potential careers.”

Dominic Pacyga, Stephen Asma Receive Fulbright Awards

Last spring, two professors in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences received awards through the Fulbright Scholar program.
Dr. Dominic Pacyga, Professor of History, was selected to teach during the 2013-14 academic year in Krakow, Poland, at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at Jagiellonian university. Dr. Stephen Asma, Professor of Philosophy, will teach at Beijing Foreign Studies university in Beijing, China, during the spring semester.
While in Krakow, Dr. Pacyga will be a guest faculty member in the Institute, where he will teach “History of Chicago,” “The History of the American City,” and “The History of the 1960s” to both graduate and undergraduate students. Although he speaks Polish fluently, Dr. Pacyga will teach his classes in English.
“I see this as an opportunity to get further insight into these topics, especially from a different cultural point of view,” Dr. Pacyga said. “Professors learn from their students, and my Polish students will give me a better understanding of these topics.” The professor said he is finishing a book manuscript and hopes to return to Chicago with ideas for another book. He also noted that he plans to propose a course on European cities for the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences when he returns. “My time in Poland will help with research to develop that class,” he said.
Dr. Asma has both professional and personal interests in China, which magnifies the importance of his Fulbright award. “Professionally, I write a lot on Buddhism and Confucianism, and I have taught on the two subjects at Columbia,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to an “in-the-trenches” look at the philosophical ideas that he’s interested in. “And my son is half Chinese.” Dr. Asma’s son will be accompanying him to Beijing. “We’re living in an interesting historical moment,” he said. “The idea that my son will live in a world where he is comfortable and familiar with the two most powerful countries is important to me as a parent.”
The Fulbright awards for Dr. Pacyga and Dr. Asma represent the third and fourth over the last two years for professors in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I think it really shows the quality of the teachers and the scholars in LAS,” Dr. Asma said. “I’m proud to be among that group. I think it indicates the seriousness of LAS education at Columbia College Chicago. It’s good for me, but it’s also good for the college—and it’ll be great for the students when I come back.”

Honors Program Sees Steady Growth in 2012-2013

Since its launch in the spring of 2010, the Honors program has grown each year in scope and size, serving more students through more courses and an expanding Honors community outside the classroom. Last year was no exception.
Twenty-two students graduated from the program last spring, a near three-fold increase from the 2011-12 academic year. The second cohort of Honors Program graduates, who were honored at a reception on campus in early May where they received their Honors stoles, represents a wide range of areas of study, from Creative Writing - nonfiction to Theatre. As part of an ongoing implementation of co-curricular initiatives, an Honors-only floor was created in the 777 S. State student housing building (formerly 2 E. 8th) for new and continuing Honors students.
Additionally, over the last academic year, the LAS Dean's Office launched a bi-annual Honors lecture series titled “What's the Big Idea?” for Honors students and those interested in the program. The two talks featured Dr. Brendan Riley, Associate Professor in the Department of English, and Len Strazewski, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism.
In his presentation last fall, Dr. Riley discussed how tales of the dead can provide insight to the living, while Strazewski held an open discussion in the spring with Honors students to share his thoughts on the intricacies of collaborative storytelling, as well as how commercial constraints can affect the creative process.
“All of the growth we’ve seen in the Honors Program over the past two academic years shows us that there was indeed a real need for an Honors Program at Columbia when we launched it in Spring of 2010,” said Dr. Neil Pagano, Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Director of the Honors Program. “But we anticipate the growth of the program to eventually plateau. Some time soon a consistent number of Honors sections will be offered each semester, and we will begin to see similar figures each year with the number of students who graduate from the program. This, of course, is a good thing.”
Growth of the program has extended into the classroom, too, as the Honors Program added six new courses, bringing the total number of Honors courses in the college’s official catalog to forty-three. The new courses, made available to Honors students this fall, are “Irrational Economics: Why we Make Bad Decisions”; “Religion and Secularism in U.S. Law and Politics”; “Religion and Its Critics: From the Classics to the new Atheists”; “Einstein: His Science and His Humanity”; “Creativity and Eminent People: towards an Anthology”; and “Writing about Media and Culture.”

Peter S. Cook Packs Music Center Concert Hall

Attendance at the Fall 2012 LAS Dean’s Lecture, which featured Associate professor and Deaf performing artist peter S. Cook of Columbia’s Department of ASL-English Interpretation, filled the Music Center Concert Hall beyond capacity, causing some one-hundred additional attendees to watch the lecture from a monitor on the first floor of 1014 S. Michigan. Although the LAS Dean’s Lecture events frequently fill the one hundred and fifty seat auditorium, Cook’s was the most well-attended event
in the history of the lecture series.
The professor’s lecture, “Performance narrative in Storytelling,” examined how nonverbal methods of storytelling speak equally to both Deaf and hearing audiences. Whether a story is told orally or through sign language, Cook noted that leaving out nonverbal forms of communication diminishes the humanity of storytelling.
The professor and Deaf Studies scholar also made a case for redefining traditionally held notions of literature. “Western literature tends to value the written and the published, [while] other forms of communication are devalued,” Cook said. “Western literature often takes the perspective that the oral tradition isn’t written,
and the sign language storytelling isn’t written, but we really want to challenge that notion and change that idea of what literature actually is.” He continued: “That means we need to take paternalism out of the picture and bring in a new schema: The visual, special, kinetic lens.”
As part of his presentation, Cook performed one of his stories, “The Dance”—a hilarious, touching, and true story about Cook’s experience learning how to dance as a boy, meeting a girl at a high school dance, and her ending the relationship shortly after because of communication hurdles. “It doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, or whether you sign or speak, or whether you speak French or German,” Cook lamented at the end of his story. “If one person won’t communicate, it will never work. It takes two to tango.”

Composer Talks 'Defying Boundaries' In Spring LAS Dean’s Lecture

What role should the liberal arts play in an artist’s life?
In light of the significant changes to media brought about by the digital revolution, why is it important for today’s artists creating with modern technology to remain mindful of our analog past? How should today’s artists engage with the world around them?
These were some of the questions raised during the Spring 2013 LAS Dean’s lecture, “Defying Boundaries: Being/Becoming a 21st Century Artist,” which featured Dr. Laura Karpman, a four-time Emmy award-winning multimedia composer and educator who has scored music for films, television, and video games, among other media.
Dr. Karpman devoted much of her lecture to presenting some of her most well-known work, while explaining how history, literature, drama, as well as her education, background, and research interests, inform the music she creates.
Using the example of her composition for the video game “untold Legends,” Dr. Karpman said that upon her commission, she began researching literature that “mirrored the script of the game”—a conceptual approach to her work instilled in her by Milton Babbitt, an American composer, educator, music theorist, and mentor of hers. Dr. Karpman’s research for the game led her to Blind Harry’s Wallace, a twelve-book, 11,877-stanza poem from the fifteenth century. From this text she was able to extrapolate creative and conceptual inspiration to compose “In Strowbill Wer 2” (In Painful War), a dark, dense, and complex composition.
“I’m drawn to drama. Every piece is rooted in history and conceptual thought. I draw from poetry, art, other pieces of concert music, jazz, hip-hop, performance art—anything that piques my interest,” Dr. Karpman said. “You can’t be a film composer if you don’t understand drama. You can’t talk to a director if you don’t understand the basics of the way that great American playwrights, Shakespeare, and everybody thinks and talks.”
Dr. Karpman’s long career as a composer includes scoring music for “taken,” Steven Spielberg’s twenty-hour TV miniseries; composing “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,” a ninety-minute multimedia composition inspired by Langston’s Hughes epic poem of the same name, on which she collaborated with soprano Jessye Norman, The Roots, and others; and composing “One ten,” an opera about the I-110 Freeway in California.

CCAP Awarded $3 Million For 'Convergence Academies' Project

The Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP), part of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, received a grant from the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3 Fund) of the U.S. Department of Education. Only twenty grantees were chosen from more than seven hundred applications for this highly competitive grant.
CCAP will receive $3 million over the course of three years to conduct “Convergence Academies,” a project in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district. Drawing on the resources and expertise at Columbia, CCAP is creating a new learning model that embeds digital media and technology into curriculum and instruction in CPS classrooms.
The model will include the creation of a K-16 continuum in digital media learning aligned to Common Core state standards; curriculum that integrates digital media with core academic content; intensive professional development for CPS teachers; opportunities for students to explore digital media outside of classroom time; and college readiness programming. The goals of the project are to raise student achievement, increase technology and media skills for students and teachers, and build competencies and college and career readiness skills—including media literacy, critical thinking, and collaboration.
“This project will transform teaching and learning to make schools relevant in the twenty-first century,” said David Flatley, Executive Director of CCAP. “CPS students will be able to critically consume, create, and connect through meaningful digital media curricula, and Columbia College students and faculty will enhance their own understanding and pedagogy of digital media and twenty-first century learning.”

Sociolinguist Presents Groundbreaking Study

Renowned sociolinguist and Professor of Linguistics at Gallaudet university, Dr. Ceil Lucas, was on campus in the spring to discuss the findings of the Black ASL Project, a four-year study she and a team of colleagues completed in 2011. Funded by national Science Foundation, the study examined the characteristics of signing systems used by black American Sign Language signers in the southern united States, and it ultimately led to an important discovery for sociolinguists: Black American Sign Language, or Black ASL, is a distinct variation of American Sign Language.
Dr. Lucas co-directed the groundbreaking project. She delivered her lecture, “The Hidden treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure,” at Film Row Cinema at an event sponsored by the Department of ASL-English Interpretation.
The Black ASL Project, published as a book/DVD in 2011, was the first empirical study to examine and define Black ASL. to conduct the study, Dr. Lucas and her team of fellow researchers and professors gathered and examined data from filmed conversations and interviews with ninety-six subjects living in six different states.
“Dr. Lucas's choice to come to Columbia College Chicago validates the importance of the college, its work on teaching interpreting, and the community as a whole to the field of sign language linguistics,” said Diana Gorman Jamrozik, who chairs the department.