Shelly Hinck, the interim dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, has great faith in the future of the college. A member of the Central Michigan University faculty since 1988, Hinck said she believes the college is on the right track by communicating with faculty, staff and students.
Hinck sat down with Central Michigan Life for an entrance interview, sharing a little about who she is, what she does and what she wants to do as the interim dean of CCFA.
Central Michigan Life: Tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been here?
Shelly Hinck: I have been here a long time. Both Ed (Hinck) and I were hired I think it’s 1988. We came to CMU as tenure track faculty members. We were so excited because as a dual-career couple, both of us in the same field, the fact that we were able to find two tenure track jobs within the same department just seemed like a real blessing. Ed was the debate and forensics coach. I came as a generalist. My area of expertise is interpersonal communication. So, I’ve been here teaching since 1988. Study I guess, other areas of expertise, I spent some time serving as the service learning coordinator for the university, and so I enjoy and teach in a very experiential manner, so service learning coordinator fit into what I do. What I study is interpersonal, I study service learning as a pedagogy, and also study political debate. So, I guess if I had to put an umbrella over interests, research and teaching, it would be civic engagement.
CML: How did you get the associate deal position?
SH: I moved into this position in, gosh, four years ago, starting my fifth year. Not necessarily looking to get out of teaching because I love teaching. Love teaching, love research, love my colleagues in communication and dramatic arts area. But our youngest child was graduating from high school, and I thought that I might be looking at a new challenge because we’d be empty nesters. Had met Salma and decided that, when she was looking for an associate dean, that I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new. I enjoyed the way in which she talked about administration. Thought I could learn a lot from her and interviewed and got the job and have enjoyed working with her for the past four years. I will really, really miss her, not just as a colleague, but as a friend.
CML: Where is CCFA today? I know that enrollment is down, you’ve got debt and the art department shakeups happening. What is Fall 2014 going to look like?
SH: You know, I’m really optimistic. I’m positive about where we’re headed. We are close to meeting our enrollment projections. I think that we’re about 98 percent of that. I’m optimistic because we’ve balanced our budget. We have a balanced budget which we did this summer. I think our enrollment looks stronger than what we had anticipated. I think all of this is due to the fact that we have faculty, when they recognized last year that enrollment numbers were dipping, that they decided that they would do something about that. In all of the departments in the schools within our college, and the interdisciplinary programs as well, I’m thinking about the musical theater program in particular, everyone really addressed recruitment. I think that we’re seeing some of the fruits of those actions. I think that’s really positive. I think it speaks well of the problem solving and ability of our faculty. Now, I don’t want to take any thunder away from Steven Johnson and his group at all. I think admissions did a really good job of addressing enrollment, looking at past practices, but I would certainly say our faculty did a nice job going out and actively engaged in recruiting efforts. We’ve done a good job in the past, but we’ve stepped it up. I’m optimistic. I think that this is going to be a good year.
CML: That’s good to hear.
SH: It’s going to be a good year. It’s going to be a year of transition, you know, obviously since Salma won’t be here. But she was a good dean who established strong relationships with all of the department chairs and the faculty. I hope to continue that and build on that as well. I think one of the things she did too was she created a climate that encouraged collaboration, that encouraged creativity. And again, when I’m looking at what we’ve created over the past four years, and where we can go the next couple of years, I know it’s because she’s established that kind of a culture where people feel comfortable taking risks, that they enjoy collaboration. She had an open door policy for the dean’s office where you would have faculty and department chairs that would come in and talk not just about problems and issues, but about new ideas and things they wanted to try. I think that we have seen some of those activities come into play and I think we’re going to see more of those as well.
CML: What do you think is Salma’s greatest contribution to CCFA?
SH: Here’s what I want to offer: I think that I would really claim that it’s her leadership style that energized the entire college. Her willingness to engage in a conversation. Her willingness to go to departments and talk about the direction that the college was going, answer questions that the department had. And sometimes those can be some pretty pointed and difficult conversations, but she always went to the departments and talked to them and addressed whatever they wanted to address. She gives reasons. She offers arguments for particular decisions. I think that’s her biggest contribution. I think that, again, we’re looking at where we are today, we are an energized college. There will probably be some difficult decisions that have to be made and have been made last year, but if you’ve got someone who you feel as if you can talk to, you trust, that they are paying attention to all of the information, I think that makes weathering any of those bumps easier.
CML: If you could change two things about CCFA right now what would they be and how would they change the college for the better?
SH: You know, I don’t know what I would change right now. I’m not dodging the question. Ask me that question again in August. Let me see what I think. Right at this moment, what I want to do is continue those collaborative interactions. I believe we have great faculty in place. Providing them with resources that enable them to continue to do, to engage, to produce, that’s going to be a goal that I have. But I don’t think I want to change anything right now. Let me do some thinking on that one. But I’m more prepared to say I want to continue on this point the kind of positive practices that have been put into place with Salma and myself.
CML: Are there any changes coming in the fall that you know of?
SH: Not that I know of right now. In terms of personnel changes and things like that, I don’t know of any big changes that we have in store. Again, I think the fact that we were able to balance the budget gives me the chance to breathe a little bit, gives me an opportunity to sit down with the new interim associate dean, to sit down with Sandy Wilson, sit down with the department chairs and start to think about what we need to do to maintain the balanced budget. But I think it’s just creating opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. That’s what really is at the heart of who I am as an interim dean. Because I think we learn so much if we feel we can tackle projects together.
CML: Is there anything you’d like to say about the college?
SH: It’s not as if I’m a new person. Faculty know me. I’ll be new in that particular role and it’s certainly hard following someone that the faculty have enjoyed working with, but that’s OK. I’d much rather follow someone that faculty have enjoyed working with, because I think that we have then established those positive relationships. I’ve been here over 25 years, but just in different capacities, doing different things, but always as a faculty member. I think my heart is as a faculty member. I’m excited about this new opportunity.