Former CCFA dean Sue Ann Martin finds being an instructor tiring, but rewarding

Sue Ann Martin was the dean of the College of Communications and Fine Arts from 1997 to Dec. 2008, and stepped down in order to teach theater courses at Central Michigan University. (Jake May/Staff Photographer)

Sue Ann Martin’s transition from running the College of Communications and Fine Arts to teaching as a faculty member has been difficult.

But it also has been worthwhile.

Martin began working at Central Michigan University in 1997 and served as dean of the college until December 2008, when she decided to step down. She was the college’s founding dean.

“I think about my decision all the time, but I know I made the right decision. There is this totally different energy I get as a teacher compared to being a senior officer,” she said. “I can’t believe I’ve been a dean for 18 years straight.”

Before Martin came to CMU, she was elected dean at the University of Windsor in 1991. As director of the school of dramatic art, Martin developed a music theatre degree, a system of guest artist residences and published many articles on the childhood roots of adult performing artists.

“I was so nervous for the first week of classes. I kept getting phone calls between every class from colleagues asking if I was okay, telling me I’d be fine. My husband has helped me a lot, too. He’s my rock in all of this,” she said.

In order to prepare for her three courses this fall, Martin said she started working on the syllabi back in March, something she is still making changes to. Unlike other professors and instructors, she had to start from scratch.

New perspective

For Martin, 69, the switch from dean to faculty has meant a pay decrease, but has also given her a new perspective on life.

“I knew I’d receive a paycut, but that didn’t matter. Getting back into the classroom has meant a different routine. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect. But it has allowed students to share part of their world with me. It’s what makes the job so rewarding,” she said.

The students are willing to learn and work with Martin, she said. They are eager for collaboration and do not mind if she shifts course plans.

However, Martin’s transition has not been completely smooth. Being out of the classroom for so long meant she was not up-to-date with students’ popular culture.

“I had to make a real effort to understand what is going on,” she said. “I started getting on the Web more, looking at Facebook and YouTube and going to more films. I needed to learn their vocab.”

Although Martin no longer runs the CCFA, her work has made a mark at CMU.

Journalism professor Jiafei Yin said Martin’s dedication to international education has not gone unnoticed.

“Dr. Martin supported former president Michael Rao’s push for international education. She never doubted the importance and value of international exchange programs to our students and provided help for such programs,” Yin said.

Altogether, Martin said her new job is exhausting, but rewarding. She teaches three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — leaving Tuesday and Thursday to prepare.

“I like my one-hour breaks in between classes — they help me re-center myself,” she said.