College explores possibilities from revitalization

As part of the college’s academic revitalization process, the School of Performing Arts has progressed to the “division of” phase, which requires both University and Board of Regents to approve. When approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents, the school will combine the music department with the theatre and dance programs.

The process of receiving approval for the School of Performing Arts has three phases: the “faculty of” phase, the “division of” phase that requires university approval and the “school of” phase that requires Board of Regents approval.

Revitalizing and combining these programs is directly aligned with South Dakota State University’s IMPACT 2018 Strategic Plan.

“We think this academic revitalization will create much greater synergy between our performing arts faculty,” said Dennis Papini, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It will provide students with a richer experience-based education. And it will allow us to use the expanding facility as a teaching tool.”

If approved, the School of Performing Arts will be launched about the same time Phase II of the Performing Arts Center expansion is completed.

Faculty members from each of the three units support the School of Performing Arts development because it goes hand-in-hand with the Performing Arts Center expansion.

“Our faculty are spread out in three different buildings as far away from each other as you can possibly be,” David Reynolds, head of the music department said. “So, if we have all of these wonderfully creative people under the same roof, there’s no telling what they’re going to come up with.”

Reynolds said the creation of a School of Performing Arts would turn “collaboration” into more than just a buzzword.

The departments will look at ways to combine freshmen seminar classes from the three units into one course. The units will also combine into one senior capstone course. In doing so, the units will discover ways for the three to support each other.

“This turns collaboration into a lifestyle for us,” Reynolds said. “The performing arts graduate will be more marketable. And this opens the door for some very creative minors to be offered.”

Other benefits of forming a school include the ability to achieve initial or continued accreditation in music, theatre and dance and to allow students more opportunities for crossplatform work within the three disciplines.

This will ultimately benefit the students, whether they are majors in these programs or just taking a class or two, according to J.D. Ackman, professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre and director of Prairie Repertory Theatre.

“It’s true at any level, the more familiar you are with one another, the more these interdisciplinary projects are going to happen,” Ackman said. “It will give us a chance to … rather than focus on minor differences, look forward to opportunities to celebrate the ways we are the same.”

The School of Performing Arts would also provide numerous benefits for those minoring in dance or taking dance classes. Melissa Hauschild-Mork, assistant professor and dance coordinator, said this development makes sense and will improve the space dancers can use to develop their skills.

“The expansion will provide a state-of-the-art dance studio which will be amazing for the dance program as our current space is a shared rehearsal and classroom space,” Hauschild-Mork said. “The School of Performing Arts will benefit all programs, students, faculty and community as the opportunities to increase the depth and breadth of programming will certainly be enhanced.”

Ackman said he is most looking forward to recognizing the similarities between the disciplines, each of which celebrates human expression. “We know it’s going to be positive,” Ackman said. “There will be outcomes we can’t even begin to imagine.”

Like the recently developed School of Design, Papini said he thinks this will continue to happen at SDSU and at other universities.

“I think that higher education is changing,” Papini said. “I believe that the future of higher education is going to be more interdisciplinary and less siloed disciplines.”

He said without the proper resources, a school can’t reach its full potential, but the investment of resources and willingness of the institution to invest in new approaches makes it successful.

“It really is to their credit that they’re willing to take a risk for something greater than what they have,” Papini said. “That speaks volumes about their commitment to our students and to their professions.”

Hannah Koeller

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