Dean of Fine and Performing Arts steps down; interim dean appointed

NEW PALTZ – Mary Hafeli, who has served as dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts at the State University of New York at New Paltz since July 2009, has accepted a senior faculty position in the Art and Art Education Program at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. She will leave her position at New Paltz on July 5. Paul Kassel, an associate professor and associate dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, has been selected to serve as the interim dean, effective on July 8.

During Hafeli’s tenure at New Paltz, she served as the academic leader of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, which includes the departments of Art, Art History, Music, and Theatre Arts, and was also in charge of the three related units of the school: the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, PianoSummer Institute and Festival, and the Premiere Performance Series. Under her leadership, New Paltz’s Master of Fine Arts program was ranked in the top 100 Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report, which also ranked the Metal/Jewelry program No. 1 in the nation.

As dean, she formed the Fine & Performing Arts Advisory Board, established the Community Arts School at SUNY New Paltz, including the Saturday Arts Lab, slated to begin this fall, and the Summer Pre-College Program, and collaborated with the School of Science and Engineering to create the new 3-D printing certificate program. She served in 2010-11 on the Presidential Search Committee and this past year on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Under her leadership, a renovation of the McKenna Theatre Lobby transformed this oft-used public space into an inviting venue. She dealt effectively and positively with students and demonstrated good faculty hiring and personnel development. In addition to her administrative contributions, she remained engaged as an art educator and scholar.

“Mary Hafeli has been an exceptional leader of the School’s academic programs and community engagement, and has left a clear mark of progress on SUNY New Paltz,” said President Donald Christian. “We will miss her many contributions.”

Commenting on her departure, Hafeli stated, “I am honored to have served as dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts for the past four years and am proud of our collective accomplishments during that time. One of the most rewarding aspects of my tenure as dean is the people with whom I have had the pleasure of working and the support I have been fortunate to receive. None of my work and accomplishments as dean would have been possible without this kind of support, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Kassel has been appointed as interim dean for a term of two years. A national search for a new dean will take place during the second year. Kassel currently heads the Theatre Department’s Performance area, teaching all levels of acting and play analysis. He also directs plays in the Mainstage season. A professional actor, director, and writer, Kassel has worked off, and off-off Broadway, in regional theaters, and in a number of films, several television shows, and industrials.

“Dean Hafeli’s superb leadership will be a hard act to follow. However, I am buoyed by her support of me during this transition, as well as by her excellent mentorship during my time as Associate Dean. I look forward to building upon the foundation Dean Hafeli so thoughtfully and skillfully created, in collaboration with my highly capable peers in the faculty, the dedicated staff, and the talented students in our School,” Kassel stated.

Kassel’s scholarly works include the book, “Acting: An Introduction to the Art and Craft of Playing,” which was published by Allyn & Bacon in April 2006, several articles, and many conference presentations on acting and performance theory. He has written four original plays and several adaptations, and is currently the Managing Editor for The Players’ Journal. Kassel received his M.F.A. in Performance from the Florida State/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors’ Guild.

“Paul Kassel has a proven track record of leadership as Associate Dean in the School of Fine and Performing Arts as well as on our campus more broadly. I am confident that he will continue to advance the innovative and high quality work that our F&PA faculty and students are known for,” said Philip Mauceri, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Kassel will be naming soon an interim associate dean for the School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The School of Fine & Performing Arts at New Paltz offers nationally accredited programs in art education, art history, art studio, music, and theatre arts. The School is committed to providing a range of opportunities to research, study, create, produce, perform, and present ideas and issues of the arts, so that students can explore how aesthetic experiences offer particular insights and ways of communicating in and about the world. The graduate studies program prepares students for college and university teaching and other professional careers in the arts.