Q&A: Mason talks about arts facilities, night classes

BY ANNA LOTHSON | MAY 14, 2009 7:32 AM

DI: The first question on everyone’s mind right now concerns Hancher and the Arts Campus. What is the next step with those buildings? What does the future look like for art students?

Mason: The next step is site selection. People are hard at work trying to determine where the best possible location is for these new facilities. And I hope by the August Board [of Regents] meeting we will have that well in hand. We can take it to the board and ask for its approval of the site for those new buildings. So it should be an exciting summer. I’m looking forward to it. Much more exciting than last year. Less drama, I hope … The Studio Arts Building, I think, is a good temporary facility for the fine-arts students. For the music students, I hope by fall we will have a number of temporary facilities for them, including a space out of the Old Capital mall. I think that is a good place for many of our music students. They are already in the Art Museum … And there will be some other facilities because we will have to move the mobile units in front of the Theatre Building before very long. So we want to make sure we have good temporary space while they plan new facilities. And the planning process, I hope, will keep everyone energized and excited as we go along.

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DI: The UI is planning to offer more night classes next year. What can you tell me about this change? Is this effort being made to prevent students from going out during the week?

Mason: You know that’s [the students’] faults. Students have said they like these classes. And we’ve got faculty willing to teach them. I think it’s a great opportunity to both meet the student demand and also do something that both faculty and students think is a wise thing to do. I’m pleased that we’re moving in that direction. It will give us more options to continue using our facilities efficiently and as frequently as possible. You really don’t want all these buildings sitting around empty part of the time when you could be using them … When I was a student, I was a night owl. I used to like to stay up late, whether it was to study or to enjoy myself. And I liked to get up late. The later in the afternoon the classes were, the happier I was. And I think students aren’t that different today. I think they really do find that energy starting late morning, into the afternoon, and well into the night. So we’ll teach when they’re at their peak in energy.

DI: There has been a lot of discussion with Iowa City city councilors about controlling the downtown bar atmosphere. How is the UI going to continue to be involved with decisions?

Mason: We’ve been with them all through this. We are partnered with them; we want to be partnered with them. I think the city has shown tremendous energy and creativity. In fact, it was some experts from our College of Public Health and other places around the UI who helped make the case for some of the changes they are now considering. So we are going to be side-by-side with them through all the steps they feel they need to take. They will have our support.

DI: The fiscal budget has to be completed by June. What does the next month of budget planning look like at the UI?

Mason: We are in the troughs of planning, obviously, now that we have a sense of what next year looks like, and what we have to plan for the future beyond that. So it’s going to take a lot of effort on the part of all our administrators, deans, and department heads in particular who manage portions of the budget. They have a lot of work ahead of them. But at least now we have some idea of the dollar targets we are heading towards. We’ll have at least a good plan that we can outline for the Board of Regents in June.

DI: What is your advice to graduating seniors entering this tough job market?

Mason: If you’ve got a job, terrific. Congratulations. Best wishes. Good luck. We wish you all the best. Remember you are Hawkeyes forever. If you don’t have a job, my advice is be persistent. This, too, will pass, and my crystal ball tells me that better times are ahead for all of us. The job market will improve, and you probably will get that dream job you’ve been waiting for. But just hang in there. The good thing about young people who are bright and energetic is that nearly all the time they got the opportunities that will lead to something great. You just have to stick with it. Be persistent.

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