Tracey the college. As Academic Dean at PNCA I

Tracey
Cockrell

December
2017

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Dear
Search Committee members,

 

It is with excitement that I write
to you in application to the open rank Professor of Art in Sculpture position. I
am currently a full professor at Pacific Northwest College of Art, having
rejoined the faculty after serving as Academic Dean during a period of great transition
for the college. As Academic Dean at PNCA I partnered with faculty, staff,
students, alumni, board members and senior team colleagues to position this
college in new buildings with world-class facilities, revitalized for growth under
the leadership of a new President. I have also served as Foundation Chair,
Associate Academic Dean, Interim Academic Dean, and Founding Chair of the
Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies. In support of our new President I have
stepped down from the Dean position as he works to reorganize PNCAs
administrative and governance structures to move the college forward into its
next phase. This transition provides a welcome opportunity to return to the
classroom and coincides with my family plans to move back east to help care for
aging parents.

 

During
the past twenty-five years, I have taught extensively across the Arts in higher
education. I have fourteen years of administrative experience in building
programs, resources and initiatives in service to students and specifically the
kind of experiential learning that is at the core of creative practice.

Throughout these years of administrative leadership, I have been bringing
people together to support and increase the sophistication of our practices
while also continuing to teach and maintain my own studio practice. As a
multidisciplinary artist, an educator, and an administrator, I believe that
vital communities are activated by experimentation, conversation and
camaraderie.  

 

I
strongly believe that the world we are growing into will need more creativity,
imagination and critical thinking to address very real local, national and
international issues. Creative practices in higher education represent a
critical focal point for responding to the quest for meaning in our
contemporary society. In the increasingly expansive and overlapping fields of
contemporary creative practices I advocate for an approach to teaching that
supports intellectual curiosity, finding and following parallel lines of
thought in contemporary culture, the mastery of technical skills, and the
ambition to rise above one’s own self-interest. In doing so we do a better job
of preparing students for the world they will be graduating into. As artists
and designers, the way we teach problem-identification, iterative process, the
culture of critique and self-empowerment is much needed in our contemporary
culture and forms the basis of a pedagogical approach sought after in many
disciplines outside of the arts. This experiential learning inspires cultural
producers and provocateurs with broad capacity equipped to work well in all
areas of life. The ability to translate and transfer across boundaries is inherent
to all creative practices. Teaching creativity is a nexus for intellectual and
cultural advancement in higher education.

 

As
Dean at PNCA I worked in tandem with President Tom Manley, the senior leader
team and faculty leadership to oversee daily operations of the college and
develop our strategic plan. Working closely with faculty, staff and students I
led efforts to implement our strategic plan, build out resources and cultivate
external partnerships. As a faculty leader, I built programs and new curriculum
and worked to refine our shared governance structure, including our peer review
system for faculty evaluation. Significant initiatives that we developed into
fully operating resources include Make+Think+Code (PNCAs makerspace), the Art +
Science Initiative, partnership with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry,
and an internal professional development resource for faculty – the Center for Pedagogy.

 

My
experience as the Founding Chair of the MFA in Visual Studies Low Residency has
made me an excellent recruiter and persuasive advocate, attracting support for
a new graduate program. In launching this program, I developed the curriculum
with faculty, managed the budget and grew the identity of the program by
establishing a diverse summer visiting artist program which brought high
caliber artists to the campus. In addition to being a spokesperson for the
program and lead mentor to the students, I taught the Graduate Critique Seminar
course. PNCA first hired me as Chairperson of PNCAs Foundation Department to
reconfigure the troubled Foundation Curriculum. I worked collaboratively with
the entire faculty to define criteria, outcomes and expectations for the
foundation curriculum that connected to both the fine arts and the design areas.

I brought the faculty together to stabilize and forward a Foundation structure
and over all experience to better prepare and help retain students for advanced
study in all areas.

 

From
1996 to 2005 I taught at the Maine College of Art. In addition to teaching both
graduate and undergraduate students, I served as Chairperson of the Sculpture
Department for three years, assisted in launching a New Media Department, and
in developing interdisciplinary curriculum. At MECA I became deeply involved in
collaborative teaching efforts, co-teaching with fellow faculty members and
implementing a student-centered approach to teaching that engaged students in a
participatory group authorship of the learning experience. My teaching at the
Maine College of Art spanned three distinct departments: Sculpture, Foundation,
and New Media. The Sculpture Seminar for majors and Senior Sculpture Studio
were my main teaching focus. In these courses sculpture is approached as the
sensual and philosophical exploration of form and our interactions with it. Contemporary
sculpture is defined as a continually expanding field inclusive of
installation, performance, sound, video and digital technologies. The seminar
provides an in-depth study of the historical and cultural contexts in which
contemporary sculpture is being made and is grounded in seeing and discussing
the work of others. The studio course emphasizes independent and significant
investigation of personal artistic interests, sensibilities, and material
processes. The freshman 3D Design course which I taught forms the basis for
developing an ability to see the structure of a visual vocabulary in
combination with exploring the malleable physical properties of traditional and
nontraditional media. Growing to see and articulate relationships between form
and content begins in these foundation courses and requires the development of
both the intuitive and analytic aspects of art making simultaneously. 

 

Specifically
for MECA’s curriculum, I designed a group of Sophomore interdisciplinary focus
electives to engage students in the further development of these aspects of the
practice of art while also providing a bridge toward the self-generated
structure of a studio major. These courses investigate the permeability of disciplinary
boundaries and focus on joining materials of differing physical properties. Examples
include Kinetic Art, Temporal Structures, Collaboration and Participation, Site
of Sound, and Advanced Sound Art. I have taught a variety of courses, ranging
in subject matter and level, and I have continually restructured each of the
courses I teach, allowing an evolution in content and method that responds to
the growth that I see in students. 

 

In
2005 I took a leave of absence from MECA and returned to California. I worked
in the Education Department of the University of California Botanical Garden as
Manager of the “Crops of the World” garden and part of the Growing Learning
Communities team, a professional development program for K-6 teachers wanting
to integrate school gardens into their curriculum. As a result of this work I
was invited to join a small leadership team to launch an outreach program in
the heart of the most diverse neighborhood in Oakland. Responding to
neighborhood input, the historical importance of the site, and research into
models of community building we developed a living history program bringing
together culture, history, the arts, and community. As Program Director at Peralta
Hacienda Historic Park, I researched and wrote a strategic plan for
programming, coordinated the implementation of new programs, including building
a staff. I organized and led multiple large-scale community art projects and
contributed to successful grant writing efforts.

 

In
these roles, I have spent a significant amount of time dealing with highs and
lows of faculty and student emotions – often counseling distraught or angry
individuals, mediating conflict. Through these experiences, I have honed my
abilities to help negotiate resolution. I have also come to understand that
within the constraints of limited resources the most productive approach to
getting things done is to encourage and support innovative ways of getting our
work done together. I like to consult and then carry the work forward in partnership.

In this way, I have collaborated with faculty and students and staff to
determine what’s the work that needs to be done, what’s the best way to address
that work, who is capable of doing it, and what’s it worth to the organization.

I have also done a lot of listening, to my colleagues and to students alike,
fielding concerns, vetting solutions, bringing the necessary constituents into
conversation with one another, and synthesizing problem sets into larger
institutional actions.

 

I
see the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of your
makerspace, teach sculpture at the undergraduate level, and mentor students who
are broadly diverse as one in which I can contribute a great deal, integrating what
I have learned from private Art and Design education into a rich liberal arts
environment that values scholarly and creative research and excellence in
teaching. Having transitioned between being a faculty member and an
administrator I look for ways in which I can translate some of my skills as a
sculptor, building programs, building advocacy, and building community, through
my work as an administrator. To put to work the kinds of things I’ve learned
about building these resources feels to me akin to what it is to be an artist
but in a different kind of role.  

 

Thank
you for this opportunity to introduce myself to colleagues at Mount Holyoke
College. Included with this letter you will find my current C.V., my Teaching
Philosophy, my Mentoring Diverse Student Body Statement, my Artist Statement, and
a list of my references. My work can be viewed online at www.traceycockrell.com and www.poemophone.com. Thank you for your time in
consideration of these materials. 

 

Best
wishes in your search proceedings,

Tracey
Cockrell

Professor

Pacific
Northwest College of Art

 

Cell:
510.691.4675

Email:
[email protected]

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