September 25, 2012

Dean of College of Architecture, Art and Planning Outlines Vision for Second Term

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As Kent Kleinman, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, looks forward to beginning his second term in 2013, he said he will continue guiding AAP students in addressing pertinent challenges related to the fields of urbanization and technology.

“I think we just happen to be situated at a place that is very important for the immediate future. I like the fact that we can play a formative role in some of these urgent questions, like global climate change, rapid urbanization and the revolution in digital technology,” Kleinman said. “It is exciting, and it is a very good time to ask some tough questions about these challenging conditions.”

The Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee approved Kleinman’s reappointment earlier this month. His second term will begin on July 1, 2013.

Since Kleinman started serving as dean in 2008, he has been credited with overseeing the completion of a new building for the college and guiding it through the economic recession.

In August 2011, Kleinman helped oversee the completion of Milstein Hall, a 47,000 square-foot building that dramatically expanded the college’s space and upgraded its facilities. According to Kleinman, completing Milstein was a “pressing” issue and “a priority” during his first term.

“The accreditation of our architecture program was in the balance,” Kleinman said. “We had been dinged for a number of years about the state of our facilities and it just wasn’t good enough for such a highly-ranked architecture program at such a highly-ranked college.”

After Milstein Hall was completed, Kleinman was responsible for deciding how the AAP college would be organized to fit into the space. In deciding how to lay out the space, Kleinman  aimed to allow a variety of students to interact with each other, he said.

“Because we had this new building, we could move bits and pieces around and configure our facilities so that they could better serve the programs,” Kleinman said. “This is not as visible to the naked eye as Milstein Hall, but in terms of the pedagogy and the opportunity for students of different disciplines to mingle, it is very important.”

Bridging the gap between his first and second terms, Kleinman is currently working on moving AAP’s Fine Arts Library from its current space in Sibley Hall to a two-floor space in Rand Hall. According to Kleinman, the previous site was “just the wrong place environmentally, structurally and functionally.”

While Kleinman said that he is only halfway through the project, he maintained that it is a priority because of how important the library is to AAP students and faculty.

“We love books. We really use books in a very hands-on, day-to-day, intense way. Books are part of the way we teach and the way we learn, so for us, having books on site is very important,” he said. “The Fine Arts Library is a really important project to me.”

According to Kleinman, the opening of Milstein Hall allowed AAP to convert the entire first floor of Rand Hall into 8,000 square feet of student and faculty workshops. Before the expansion, there had only been a few hundred square feet of workable space in the building.

The reconfiguring of the college’s buildings has not only increased work space but also allowed cutting-edge technology — including welding gears and 3-D printers — to be installed in the workshops and studios, according to Kleinman.

While Kleinman said that technology is playing a greater role in AAP, he added that he wants students to have access to both traditional and digital media during his tenure.

“Our students will communicate digitally, but also visually, by making something out of basswood or paint. I always want to have both [types of media],” Kleinman said. “As important as the digital revolution is, in our disciplines, we cannot afford to give up the hand.”

During Kleinman’s term, AAP’s Bachelor of Architecture degree received re-accreditation, while a new graduate degree within the Department of Architecture was accredited for the first time. In 2011, Kleinman was also recognized by the American Institute of Architects, which awarded him the New York State Educator Honor Award.

Despite these accomplishments, Kleinman said that his first term was also defined by the effects of the national recession. Looking back on the past five years, Kleinman said that he is particularly proud of how he navigated the economic decline on the University level.

“I’m proud of the way this University has responded to national problems. I don’t think it was easy, and I think some really tough decisions were made,” Kleinman said.

Still, he said, he believes “that Cornell did an exemplary job streamlining the administrative side while minimizing the effects of the financial downturn on academics.”

“I think we’re in a stronger place because of it, because certain values were upheld,” Kleinman added.

Facing his upcoming second term as dean, Kleinman said he hopes that his focus will transition from finances back to the well-being of students and faculty members.

“Looking ahead, if we were focusing on facilities before, we’re focusing on people now, through faculty hires and student support,” Kleinman said. “We’re looking to bring the very best students to Cornell and support them so that they can do their best work here. It’s not that we didn’t pay attention to that in the past … but that is going to be the big focus in the future.”

According to Kleinman, a major goal for his second term is getting AAP involved in the development of the new Tech Campus in New York City. The project, he says, presents “one of the big challenges, but very exciting opportunities” for AAP students and faculty.

“Our students could acquire technical skills in the environmental area that we can’t provide here in Ithaca,” he said. “We could attract a different kind of faculty member and different kind of student at the graduate level, and that would be wonderful for the college and not bad for Cornell.”

Kleinman hopes to provide students in Ithaca with real-world experience and research opportunities by working more closely with other disciplines in his next term.

“I want to work with others to elevate the arts to be a more complete partner at this research University, so that people who work by making or performing are seen as full scholars,” he said. “I like the notion that the Johnson Museum, AAP, the music department, media arts, and partners in CALS and Human Ecology could come together to advance the arts at Cornell.”

Original Author: Lauren Avery