College of H.F.A. Welcomes a New Dean, New Building and New Future!

"Spring Awakening" CastNew College of Humanities & Fine Arts Dean Robert Knight speaks with students near the Kendall Hall Administration Building on the CSU, Chico campus.

Last semester, Chico State’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA) welcomed a new dean, Dr. Robert Knight. Previously the associate vice chancellor for Undergraduate Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Knight came to Chico State with a new perspective on faculty relations, innovative ideas about curriculum and big dreams for the new Arts and Humanities Building.

As dean, Knight is charged with administrative oversight of one of Chico State’s largest colleges, comprising seven academic departments: Art and Art History; Comparative Religion and Humanities; English; History; International Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Music and Theatre; and Philosophy.  The college also includes the School of the Arts, the North State Symphony, the Janet Turner Print Museum, the University Art Gallery, and the Humanities Center.    

 “I’m excited to lead the college at Chico that contains the heart of the liberal arts tradition,” said Knight, who holds a doctoral degree in voice performance from Northwestern University.

He also noted that HFA’s School of the Arts, with its musical, theatrical and artistic offerings, is often the part of Chico State community members know best. Just this spring, he pointed out, School of the Arts events include student plays, the big musical “Spamalot,” the New Music Symposium, the Chico Bach Festival as well as a variety of choral, jazz, piano, guitar and band concerts. In addition, the Janet Turner Print Museum and the University Art Gallery are co-hosting the 10th National Print Competition and Exhibition, a rare chance for North State residents to experience cutting-edge printmaking.    

But Knight has new ideas for HFA, too. Highlighting the importance of global issues, Knight is introducing an international fellows program this year that will send Chico students overseas for short-term, faculty-led study abroad experiences. 

 “Potentially, if each one of those faculty members takes 15 students, we would double the number of students at CSU, Chico that go abroad,” said Knight.

Knight’s plans for the future extend beyond HFA. He intends to work with other colleges and departments on campus to create more robust interdisciplinary connections. To begin this process, three “collaboration lounges” are planned for February, March and April. Faculty from each college will meet with colleagues from across campus to discuss their ideas about working together on common projects and enhancing students’ educational experiences.

 “No curricular change is going to happen because somebody says, ‘This is what is going to happen and it’s going to happen now,’” said Knight. “The change has to be led from the faculty.”

Knight and HFA staff are currently focused on the new Arts and Humanities Building. Projected to be completed in the next two to three years, the building will house a recital hall, rehearsal space, classrooms, ceramics and glassblowing spaces, three art galleries, offices, art studios and collaborative learning spaces all under one roof. The building’s location on the edge of campus makes it the perfect gateway to Chico State for the community, said Knight.

 “It really is one of a kind,” said Knight. “I keep trying to think, ‘Is there a place I’ve seen like this?’ And there really isn’t.”

But Knight has even more in mind for the building. He envisions meeting rooms where students can work together on projects and even foresees a collaborative learning space with interactive, touch-sensitive walls that would encourage innovative thinking.

 “There are a variety of ways that I can see the building being used and appreciated by diverse audiences, both on and off campus,” said Knight.

Knight has proposed a “Year of Creativity” throughout the College of Humanities and Fine Arts for the building’s opening year. School of the Arts events, lectures, art exhibitions, and concerts will all be included in this yearlong event, along with community activities.

 “It will be important to engage community members and allow them to appreciate and understand the ways they can interact with and use this new center for creativity,” said Knight.

As plans develop to build private support for this unique project, Knight and University Advancement staff envision a campaign focused on the creativity that soon will be housed there. He noted that there will be opportunities to name prestigious areas throughout the building and many other ways individuals can participate in the project. He is grateful to all who came before him to bring the Arts and Humanities Building to fruition and is excited about joining in this next phase of construction.

While the new building is under construction, Dean Knight invites members of the public to continue to enjoy the ongoing lectures, plays, concerts, and exhibitions in the Performing Arts Center building and across campus.

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Story by Anne Stanley, School of the Arts Publicity Assistant
Photo by Sean Chen