Dean's Message | CoLA Newsletter Spring 2018 | SIU

Southern Illinois University



Dean's Message

June 27, 2018, Andrew Balkansky

Dear Alumni and Friends of the Liberal Arts,

In May, with Spring Commencement, we sent forth the latest crop of happy Salukis from the College of Liberal Arts out into the world—all told, over 500 undergraduates, masters and PhD students. Since I’m an anthropologist by training and an observer of the world around me by inclination, seeing the Commencement as a rite of passage gives the ceremony a special resonance.

Young (and in some cases older) graduates walked across the stage, and it seemed to me right into their futures. It felt good knowing that I was part of a broader community of faculty, staff, fellow students and families all of whom contributed to each student’s success.

In all of that two things stood out to me:

First, our honorary degree recipients, two of whom spoke at Commencement, included a Newberry-winning children’s book author who credited Professor Robert D. Faner from the Department of English as having inspired him to become a writer in the 1940s (yes, he was Faner Hall’s namesake).

The other speaker also cited formative experiences on the SIU campus before her 40-year career in the Foreign Service including postings as a United States Ambassador. Their lives had been changed by their time at SIU.

I like to think (and in fact, I know) that we still turn out incredibly accomplished graduates to this day. The fact that many of our students are first-in-their families to earn a college degree, served in the military, or are returning to school as “non-traditional” students makes it all the more meaningful.

Second, seeing Liberal Arts faculty and staff leaving their assigned seats (some even vaulting barriers) and congratulating students from their home departments or otherwise knew personally as they passed by, diplomas in hand, with hugs and handshakes and selfies tells you a lot about the spirit of the institution and the people in it. And I have to tell you, around here, that’s an everyday kind of thing.

I’m already looking forward to the Fall Commencement.

Andrew Balkansky
Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts