Texas Tech University

Chatting with Charney

Mark Charney

December 5, 2019

Mark Charney


What a semester we've had, from the early ribbon cutting celebrating our new space to our joining the International Theatre Institute, exemplified by five of our students along with Assistant Professor Mallory Prucha performing in the ruins of Ephesus....we have so much to be thankful for that writing this end-of-the-year column is in danger of being unbelievably sappy.Ephesus

Knowing that, I will do my best to avoid thanking everyone, from our brilliant Dean to our generous donors to our tireless President, all of whom know just how important owning a dedicated space has been to facilitating superior theatre and dance education.

EphesusInstead, then, allow me to wax nostalgic for a few paragraphs, all to remind those of you who read these newsletters just what it means to be student centric, for that, above everything else, has guided our success these past eight years. If you've heard some of this before, I apologize, but it bears repeating.

When I arrived here in the summer of 2012, the graduate students at the time handed me a list of 42 items they felt needed to be changed. Those of you still here remember that this guided our urgent push towards evolving, and with the help of the faculty, staff, and student representatives, we took their advice and found solutions that pleased most of the students while helping us to introduce best practices in and out of the classroom. Thus began our push towards experiential education, as exemplified by the Tennessee Williams Institute, WildWind Performance Lab, the Theatre and Dance in the community course, our work with the Burkhart Center, and, eventually, the Marfa Intensive.

These programs, along with others already in place (like the excellent Arts in Prague class) began a journey towards privileging faculty, staff, and student travel. These programs brought the professional world to TTU, and, at the same time, encouraged our folks to share their excellent research, both creative and scholarly, with the world at festivals and conferences. Our students and faculty distinguished ourselves everywhere from the Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival to the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference, where we have had more students present workshops than any other university in the nation.

This meant a restructuring of the budget, revisiting the mission and vision statements, and making certain that Lubbock became our campus. I'm especially proud of producing an entire season off campus, of our new musical theatre concentration, and of our contributing to the college's arts and medicine initiative, but more than anything else, I'm proud of our students, who work enthusiastically not only to embrace and fine tune their talents, but who also recognize the importance of community activism and service learning to affect and better the world around them.

KNUAIn a recent trip to the Korea National University of Arts, I was in awe of students there, who believe that they have four years to develop their talents, and who push their personal lives aside to concentrate only on bettering themselves in their college years. That intensity does not exactly mirror the American system of education, but our partnerships with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Bilkent University, have taught us much in terms of dedication, training, and gaining experience. As our international partnerships grow, so does our understanding of cultures other than our own, so necessary for cultural education and diversity.

We are embracing the world.

So as we say goodbye to 2019, we are still listening to our students, who beautifully articulate their needs and are continuing the learn the value of marrying creative work to scholarship, who are prepared both to practice their craft while critiquing themselves both in and out of the classroom.

Critiquing means self-evaluation, and self-evaluation means growth.

We in the School of Theatre and Dance never forget that we exist to serve students, and as we look ahead to 2020 and all that phase two of the Maedgen will bring, we do it with hope and joy, anticipating that boundaries exist to be broken and that art continues to be a force that can indeed affect change. Our students prove this to be true every day.