Though this fall marks its 30th anniversary, the College of Communication and Fine Arts at the University of Memphis is still thriving under its founding dean, Richard Ranta. The Flyer recently spoke with Ranta about his long history at the U of M and how the school has changed. Says Ranta: "I'm the only dean the college has ever had, so I can't blame mistakes on anyone else."
— By Rachel Stinson
Flyer: How has the college changed over the past 30 years?
Ranta: You're sitting in one of them. One of my first tasks was to have a specialized building created. The area of Egyptology didn't exist; we created it in 1980. Dance is now a minor, and students can major in dance education. The School of Music has achieved an endowed status. We began a bachelor of archaeology degree. We've hired some very good faculty who have achieved the highest honors in their fields.
Have teaching methods evolved?
The massive influence of technology has changed everything. It used to be that we'd get new art easels and paints for the art department, and we wouldn't have to worry about supplies for a couple of decades. Now, we have $10,000 work stations, plus software and computers. Nothing is worth anything after five years. It's worse than owning a sailboat.
Who should be credited with the school's success?
The reason the college has done so well is that we attract and hold very talented faculty members. The faculty are well-known throughout the nation. Having these colleagues is so important in sustaining the quality of the college and for the college to make a [name] for itself. We also attract very talented students and, in others, bring out talents they didn't know they had.
What has kept you at the college for 30 years?
This college has been a place where you can do things. The university has grown into a fine institution. I enjoy the people and the friendships. It doesn't seem like 30 years. I have to be reminded that it's been that long.