Carnegie Mellon University

Letter from Dean Mary Ellen Poole

Dear friends,

This first-ever online-only issue of the CFA Magazine leans hard into the future, a favorite direction here at Carnegie Mellon University. It’s important to give equal weight, however, to the other two states of being — to be fully present in the present, so that we’ll know where and who we are and what we need to do; and to learn from the past with humility and candor.

This fall, we celebrate a return to community. We are spending more time in each other’s physical presence; sometimes we remove our masks and quietly marvel at the expressiveness of an entire face. Other times we demonstrate our care for each other by continuing to mask. We are alert to and respectful of the virus, but it is not dominating our lives. This August, we welcomed first-year undergraduate and graduate students, who have spent much of the last two years of their prior educational life staring at a screen. Their joy and relief at learning and working together as they practice their art is an inspiration to us all.

Faculty and staff experienced a version of this in mid-August, when we gathered in person for a set of workshops designed by Assistant Dean Valeria Martinez to spark a shared understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We have come to realize that this work is foundational if we are to construct a healthy ecosystem for learning, creation, performance and research. Colleagues from across the schools and units expressed their gratitude for this opportunity to learn from and about each other.

As you’ve probably heard, the Schools of Drama and Music welcomed new heads on August 1. Robert Ramirez and Jonathan Bailey Holland have hit the ground running, to say the least. New leadership is always an opportunity for a fresh pair of eyes to reexamine practices we’ve taken for granted, to reignite important and sometimes challenging conversations with students, faculty, staff, the community and the profession. Robert and Jonathan are without a doubt up to the task, and we are so delighted that they have joined us.

In the life cycle of an organization, it’s sometimes necessary to say goodbye. The college is currently mourning the loss of our longtime associate dean for Finance and Operations, Patti Pavlus, who left us on August 19, 2022. Patti was all CFA, all the time, for almost 40 years. She loved her work and did it brilliantly, and she loved her colleagues, who benefited every single day from her immense institutional knowledge and problem-solving skills. We miss her terribly and will do our best to live up to her standards.

I hope you enjoy the stories in this magazine, that they’ll amaze and inspire you. It’s a thrilling time for CFA. I hope even more fervently to see you in person this year, at a lecture or show or concert or opening. The arts bring people together, we are better together, and that’s our value proposition.

Until then,

Mary Ellen Poole

Stanley and Marcia Gumberg Dean
College of Fine Arts