A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
December 9, 2004 Volume 35/Number 4

Page One Stories

Susan Place


So Many Countries, So Little Time

Susan Place is the well-traveled new interim dean of the reconfigured School of Graduate and International Programs, incorporating interdisciplinary programs formerly administered by the dean of Undergraduate Education.

Place has traveled in Mexico, Central and South America, Thailand, India, China, Japan, Europe, and southern Africa. She lived in Costa Rica for two years, one while doing research for her dissertation on the impact of the export beef boom and another on a faculty Fulbright to research the relationship between local people and a national park.

Place became the interim dean of Graduate School, International, and Sponsored Programs in August. Her predecessor, Bob Jackson, who held the position since 1996, returned to his home department, Political Science.

Place received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Spanish and Latin American studies, respectively, at University of California, Los Angeles, as well as her doctorate in geography, with an emphasis on biogeography. In 1988, she came to CSU, Chico to take a position as an assistant professor of geography and planning. Her interests range from ecotourism to the role of women in development to international environmental issues, from a political ecology perspective. Her area of specialty is Central America. Place served as associate dean of the School of Graduate, International, and Sponsored Programs for three years prior to becoming interim dean this summer.

“One reason I’m doing international programs is that I am a firm and enthusiastic believer that Americans really need to get out of the U.S. and find out what the rest of the world is about,” says Place. “If more Americans could see the U.S. from different perspectives, we would probably have a very different foreign policy.”

The importance of understanding those perspectives was underscored for Place on Sept. 11, 2001. “When I heard people talking about the attacks, it seemed as if there was not a very good understanding of context, which is not to say that we should be making an apology for the attacks, but I felt we should be trying to understand why they happened,” she explains.

Place’s conviction led to “Understanding the Roots of Terrorism,” a series of forums held that fall. “We have a lot of expertise on campus, so the idea was to utilize it to increase understanding of why this happened and how to respond to it in ways that will be useful as opposed to counterproductive,” she explains. The forums were attended by members of the North State community as well as Chico State students, faculty, and staff. A number of people indicated that the series helped them make some sense of the events of Sept. 11 and come to terms with the emotional impact of the attacks.

Programs Consolidated
Along with the Graduate School, and International Studies, Place oversees the General Studies Thematic and Leadership Studies programs formerly under the purview of the dean for Undergraduate Education. Place is also the director of Multi-cultural and Gender Studies (MCGS). Sponsored Programs is now under the administration of the new vice provost for research, Katie Milo.

Of these substantial responsibilities, Place says her biggest challenge is MCGS. “Carol Burr did a wonderful job of creating that center, really engaging people from across the campus,” says Place. “My challenge is to keep that momentum going. I want to be sure MCGS is one of the principal players in the conversation about diversity on campus, and, hopefully, the policy that gets made about diversity.”

Bill LokerPlace says that Bill Loker (left), her replacement as interim associate dean, “brings a lot of talent and expertise to the school. And he, too, has extensive experience in Latin America.” Place continues to work closely with Tasha Dev, Study Abroad coordinator. “She’s done a great job—we’ve doubled our numbers in the past three years,” says Place. “One area we are branching out into is more faculty-led programs, like the one at Chukyo University in Japan. That was an initiative Bob Jackson spearheaded.” During the May–June intersession, business professor Mark Levine taught an international business course that started in Chico and concluded at Chukyo University. Seventeen students participated.

Place is looking forward to her first “real vacation” in years. A pleasure trip next summer will take her and her husband to Alaska. Her husband, Kirk Yarnell, is a retired wildlife photographer who knows Alaska well.

—Lisa Kirk



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