Western Washington University Professor of Music Christopher Bianco has accepted an invitation from Provost Brent Carbajal to serve a fixed-term appointment as the new dean of WWU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, effective Nov. 5; he will serve as dean until the national search for the permanent position is completed next year.
Bianco takes over for Kit Spicer, who is retiring from the university.
“I'm pleased that Christopher will be serving the College and University in this role. His vision and commitment to student success situate him to collaborate with colleagues to advance CFPA strategic goals on levels internal and external to Western, and his leadership experience prepares him very well to serve the CFPA during this interim period,” said Western Provost Brent Carbajal. “I look forward to Christopher's participation in and contribution to senior leadership on campus.”
Bianco, who also serves as director of Bands at Western, has taught at the university since 2006; he came to Bellingham from a faculty position at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and earned his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.
Western Today sat down with Bianco to talk about why he was interested in the dean’s job, what he hopes to accomplish during his tenure, how he wants to focus his efforts, and more.
WESTERN TODAY: Congratulations on your appointment! What was it about the opportunity to run CFPA that piqued your interest?
CB: “I got my first trumpet in the 3rd grade. For the last 40 years I have been laser-focused on living and working as a musician. As dean I will have the unique opportunity to stretch my 'headspace' into the other creative and research disciplines. Last night I attended a lecture at the Western Gallery. I was enthralled by the words of the artist and with what I saw with my eyes. I walked out of there a different person than I was before. Having experiences like that, as part of my job, is very, very exciting.”
WT: Will you still be able to serve as director of Bands while you are dean?
CB: “I won’t. I know I will miss my students and the beauty that we create in rehearsal and performance. But CFPA has a very demanding and talented student cohort that deserves a full-time dean.”
WT: Taking on the task of running a whole college, with its many disparate parts, would seem to be a daunting task. What do you think will be your biggest initial challenges?
CB: “I think we are facing the same challenges as other colleges. We understand that there are tremendous inequities and exclusionary practices within the structure of Arts Education from K-12 all the way into Higher Ed. The students, faculty, and staff of CFPA are committed to the work of identifying and removing them.”
WT: What will your first message be to your colleagues?
CB: “I already sent it out! The e-mail subject was: 'Dean’s Door is Open.' I capitalized the word 'open' so the subject would look like the title of a creative work or composition. Outlook wouldn’t let me use italics.”
WT: When you later look back on the next year or so of your academic career, what will need to happen between now and then for you to view it as a success?
CB: “Not sure I can answer that. I consider it an honor to serve and I know that I will give the job everything I have. But success must be viewed through the lens of the future. For me, the question is … 10 years from now … did our work during this time maintain the high standards CFPA already had, and did it prepare us for what came next?”