Current Dean Returns To English Department

Photo by Robin Weinstein

Dr. James Schiffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LA&S), will be stepping down from his position on June 30 to return to the Department of English as a faculty member.

“Dean Schiffer has decided his real love is teaching in scholarship,” President Donald Chrsitian said. “He has decided that is the way he would like to end his career – by returning to those academic roots as a faculty member.”

Prior to 2000, Schiffer was a department chair and program director for 10 years at a small liberal arts college in Virginia.  After his time there, he served as head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University for eight years before arriving at New Paltz, where he has been dean for the past five years.

Schiffer said he has appreciated the components of his administrative duties and is proud of what he’s achieved, but ultimately misses teaching.

“I have enjoyed the challenges of these administrative positions and take pride in a number of things that have been accomplished during my administrative tenure at both institutions,” Schiffer said.  “At the same time, I have missed the life of a teacher [and] scholar, and look forward to a return to immersion in literary texts, to interaction with students who are deeply engaged in learning, to engaging in scholarship on Shakespeare, and to writing of various kinds, both scholarly and creative.”

During the course of his time as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Schiffer has built the LA&S advisory board over the last three years, formed the LA&S Student Advisory Group in fall 2012 and created the LA&S Summer Internship Scholarship Program. He has also established the Center for Middle Eastern Dialogue and its spring events, developed the LA&S Alumni Speakers series and created The Lens, an electronic newsletter.

According to Schiffer, the ability to teach great works of literature every day is “an honor and a pleasure.”  He said there is a mutual benefit to teaching not only in watching students grow intellectually and learning from their interaction with texts and each other, but also learning from his students and their often original insights as well.

Schiffer himself is a Shakespeare scholar and has a particular interest in helping students understand and even experience the translation of a play’s text into a stage production. Years ago, he directed a stage show based on Shakespearean sonnets, which included a cast comprised of faculty and students that performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“This creative endeavor with students and faculty was perhaps the highpoint of my teaching career,” Schiffer said.  “I look forward to similar projects at SUNY New Paltz. Professor Frank Trezza of our Theater Arts Department and I are already talking about collaborating on an acting project related to the sonnets during the fall 2013 semester.”

In his new position, Schiffer will bring with him the experience and insight he has gained while serving as dean, which requires an understanding of the entire university.

“I think that having this broad view, this understanding of a university as a highly complex institution with many essential units and constituencies, will make me less quick to judge others in administrative positions and more appreciative of the problems and pressures they face on a daily basis,” Schiffer said.  “I wish my successor every success.”