OSWEGO — Professor Cynthia Clabough, chair of the SUNY Oswego art department, has earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, a system-wide honor recognizing her 24 years of working toward positive change on and off campus.
“Year after year, Professor Clabough continues to go above and beyond her professional obligation as a chair and faculty member in terms of her service to her department, this institution, and to the broader community,” said the college committee charged with forwarding nominees worthy of SUNY awards to Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson.
“One of my themes for SUNY is individualized education, meaning the work we do to help our students navigate the opportunities within our 64 campuses,” Chancellor Johnson noted. “Our faculty and staff educate, inspire and support our students to pursue their passions; they are the driving force on campus.”
Clabough’s numerous supporters for the award noted her students-first passion. She always involves students — some facing significant life challenges — in the many academic and service projects she and the department have undertaken, they said.
“Cynthia emphasizes social justice in her teaching, scholarship and service through the projects she designs, the individuals she mentors and supports, and the scholarship she produces,” wrote Barbara Beyerbach, a professor in the School of Education, in a letter supporting Clabough’s nomination. “I have seen her spend tireless hours mentoring students who had experienced serious trauma, and over the years watched these individuals go on to become successful artists and professors in the field.”
Among Clabough’s service achievements: reshaping and strengthening the college’s art curriculum through new degree programs and minors, rolling up her sleeves to ensure Tyler Hall’s renovation would serve students and the public for generations to come, providing leadership among her fellow art chairs SUNY-wide, establishing programs to encourage school-age artists around the greater Oswego community, earning the credentials to perform accreditation reviews for the art programs of institutions around the country, and more.
After earning her master of fine arts degree at Southern Illinois University, then working in medical illustration, in commercial graphic arts, as a freelance consultant and trainer for MacIntosh computer systems, as a community college lecturer and a graphic designer for event promotion, Clabough started at SUNY Oswego in 1994.
She has been chair since 2007.
Her wide-ranging background has come into play throughout her career on the faculty:
Clabough’s community contributions have been designed to boost young artists, provide work experience for college students and to celebrate all that the college and city of Oswego has to offer.
She worked with the Oswego City School District to found the At the Art Studio series of workshops, and with teachers, city and business organizations, and others to roll out the My Hometown Banner Project, displaying the work of schoolchildren in locations around Oswego.
Writing and winning grants to fund those and many more projects. For example, a SUNY Networks of Excellence grant for a multi-college interdisciplinary project titled “Creatively Exploring Place, Self and Collective Identity,” and Shineman Foundation awards for My Hometown Banner and, along with several other grantors, At the Art Studio.
Every two or three years, leading a new campaign — including production of a new round of graphically inviting promotional materials — to keep the art department’s student recruitment efforts fresh, including international initiatives.
Designing full sets of floor plans to ensure that each stage of the Tyler Hall renovation for the School of Communication, Media and the Arts has resulted in successful faculty, staff and student moves out of and, in stages, back into the college’s center for the fine and performing arts. Clabough has spent weeks over the last four summers not just supervising, but also digging in and assisting these migrations.
Envisioning and bringing to completion two branches of Tyler Art Gallery, at Oswego State Downtown and the college’s campus in Syracuse, making the work of student, local and regional artists accessible to a wide audience.
Leading the effort to keep the art department’s technology needs on the cutting edge; for her first 10 years, Clabough was charged with maintenance of all digital equipment and now works closely with Campus Technology Services.
Serving since 2013 as president of the Council for Art Department Chairs (CADC) to raise awareness of the visual arts across SUNY and help pave the way for seamless transfer among SUNY institutions.
Liz Brownell, a former student of Clabough and now professor and coordinator of graphic design at Finger Lakes Community College and a colleague on the CADC, summed it up: “She changed the face of that organization and has led it to a place of respect, inspiration, collaboration and positive forward motion. Cynthia does not operate with a personal agenda … Cynthia always puts the needs of her students and her community above all else.”
For more information on SUNY Oswego’s National Association of Schools of Art and Design-accredited art programs, visit oswego.edu/art.