Texas Tech University

Chatting With Charney

Mark Charney

November 5, 2019

mark charney

As you may have heard, the School of Theatre and Dance was just unanimously approved to join the International Theatre Institute (ITI)/UNESCO Network for Higher Education in the Performing Arts, the second university in the nation to achieve such an honor. Created on the initiative of the first UNESCO Director General, Sir Julian Huxley, and the playwright and novelist, JB Priestly in 1948, the mission of the founders of ITI is

to build an organization that was aligned with UNESCO's goals on culture, education, and the arts, and which would focus its endeavors on improving the status of all members of the performing arts professions. They envisaged an organization that created platforms for international exchange and for engagement in the education of the performing arts...and using the performing arts for mutual understanding and peace.

Ever since the arrival of Dean Noel Zahler, the College has explored the idea of international partnerships, and our School has embraced this challenge partnering with Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey (where we recently took an original play as part of an international festival; from where we bring students to join our Marfa Intensive; and where we are sending five students and Professor Mallory Prucha to a mask workshop) and the Academy of Performing Arts (from where we bring two professionals and ten students each summer to join WildWind Performance Lab).


Over the past two years, we have found these exchanges to be hugely valuable, especially because the students joining us from Hong Kong and Turkey bring with them a different level of training and experiences that enrich the lives of the students who work beside them. To become part of ITI, Company Manager and Director of Marketing, Cory Norman and I interviewed with ITI Director General Tobias Biancone in Sibiu, Romania, and then put together an application discussing both our experiments in experiential education and our desire for international education.

In it, we explained that

Texas Tech University is an institution dedicated to exploring voices to complement our own. Unlike many American universities, we understand that true learning evolves from experience derived from international cultures. As you will read in this document, students we invite from Hong Kong to spend June with us at the WildWind Performance Lab, teach our students more than many of the professionals, not only because of their varied and exciting training, but also from the stories of their country, as evidenced this past summer, when they were experiencing political turmoil. In their first year with us, for example, even after a 17-hour plane ride from their home, they were the first warming up in the rehearsal room the next morning. Our students here at Texas Tech learn from their training and discipline.

We assured them that we were more than willing to join and contribute to established international projects, as well as create our own partnerships, not only to better ourselves, but also to contribute to other cultures as appropriate and that if accepted, we would attempt to contribute as much to the Institute as we take from it. Fortunately for us, the Board of ITI unanimously agreed that we would be a good fit, and along with several other incredible universities from around the world, are dedicated to using the arts for cultural exploration and peace. Please check out their website for more information:


As you read this, Cory and I are traveling to Shanghai, Beijing, and Korea, not only to accept the certificate admitting us to ITI, but also to continue to establish partnerships that will benefit our students, faculty, and staff. If all goes well, we will also be partnering with Lucian Blaga University in Romania, a strong doctoral program, to join the Erasmus + program, which will pay for students to study abroad in 36 European programs.

As you can imagine, we are thrilled that ITI found TTU worthy of acceptance to such an esteemed program, and will continue to pursue all avenues that will give our students in theatre and dance the best possible education, both nationally and abroad.