Message from Dean Vazsonyi — November 2020

November 11, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,

Last month, I had just begun my tour of the departments in the College, with Architecture and Art. The tour continued in October with week-long visits with City Planning and Real Estate Development (CPRED), the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management (NfCSM), the Department of English, and the Department of History and Geography.

Dean Nicholas Vaszonyi chats with Greenville Mayor Knox White

Chatting with Greenville Mayor Knox White (back to camera) during my visit to the City Planning and Real Estate Development Department in downtown Greenville. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

A full description of each visit would explode the limits of this column, but I did want to share a few highlights. The week with CPRED culminated in a day at their location in Greenville in the spectacular Greenville ONE building right in the middle of downtown. I visited an in-person class taught by Dr. Stephen Buckman and was given a tour of downtown Greenville by Dr. Barry Nocks, who recently came out of retirement to direct the program at short notice. After the tour, I met with Greenville Mayor Knox White, the guest speaker at a Real Estate class taught by Dr. Robert Benedict. The story of downtown Greenville is a testament to what City Planning and Real Estate developers can accomplish through public-private partnerships by remembering what makes a city truly livable: a commitment to human values — beauty, practicality, convenience, and sustainability. The CPRED students are fortunate to be studying in and involved with a living laboratory testing how we best organize our cities as breathing responsive environments for the people who live, work, and play there.

The high points of the visit with NfCSM were the time at the brand new Experiential Learning Construction Yard, dubbed “XL Yard,” where students get hands-on experience learning the art of construction (see attached video), and the one-day symposium organized by Department Chair Mike Jackson on “Disruptors In The Construction Industry.”

The idea of “disruption,” on its face a negative and potentially destructive force, is that it can pave the way for and propel innovation and progress. It has been a driving principle in the arts, sciences, and the humanities for the last two centuries and is why the world is and looks the way it does today.

The German author Goethe phrased it succinctly in the late 18th century, when he had Mephistopheles describe himself as “Part of that force that always wills evil and yet always produces good,” because he is “the spirit that always negates, and rightly so, because everything that arises is worthy of destruction.”

It should come as no surprise that the concept of the Faustian drive has been borrowed and repurposed by the worlds of business and construction, but it was still an eye-opening experience for me to witness the conversation. To see how saturated our College is with the humanities, from City Planning to Construction Management. Who would have thought it?

The humanities are not an optional extra, a required set of gen ed courses to put behind one as quickly as possible. They are integral to our existence on this planet. They inform how we think and why we think it.

Without the humanities, there is nothing at all but bare existence and survival of the species.

So, for this month at least, please allow me to say:

“Go Humanities!”

Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities