Texas Tech University

Our Excellent Faculty

Mark Charney

December 7, 2023

Mark Charney

Writing the final column for our newsletter each December is always a challenge, not only because we both lament and celebrate the passage of yet another year, but primarily because (as you know if you read this column regularly) our School has so much for which to be grateful. This year, my twelfth chairing this School, has been one of our best, and that's due to the fact that we never stop growing; in fact, one of the reasons I love my position at TTU is that I am fortunate enough to lead the best theatre and dance faculty imaginable.

That's a big claim, I know, but it's true. Our faculty exemplifies excellence.

Allow me to explain.

The status quo never satisfies us; in other words, we are at our best when we embrace change, transparency, and flexibility—always privileging the education of our student body—knowing that success in the classroom means that we must constantly evolve. And to evolve, we dedicate ourselves to examining the world around us, establishing a shared context, an umbrella—if you will—under which we work to build structures that allow us to share governance, to listen to and learn from one another, and always (and maybe most importantly), to respect each other.

Does that mean we always agree?

Heck no, but even disagreements can translate into healthy discussions, fueled by admiration we have for each other, that ultimately initiates change. These last three years, we've shifted the myriad ways in which each area communicates with one another, finding the best means to collaborate and remain contemporary. We now have three associate directors, one heading production (Jared Roberts), another fueling curriculum (Mallory Prucha), and a third advancing student affairs (Kyla Olson), all of whom help us to stay in touch with best practices, informed by listening carefully to our students and their needs.

Each area (acting/directing, arts administration, playwriting, history/theory/criticism, design/technology/ management) meets regularly, and we always dedicate ourselves to how effectively we can celebrate dance as a program, looking for the most effective way to accelerate the & between Theatre & Dance. In fact, this fall we welcomed members of the National Association of Dance (NASD) who did a deep dive into our existing dance program and offered good advice on how to grow stronger (and if you were fortunate enough to see the Fall Dance Festival, you witnessed the immense talents of our BFA and BA choreographers). Members of the National Association of Schools of Theatre will visit in the spring to assess the strength of our theatre area, as well. We take their advice seriously.

Our School continues to grow its numbers, not only of our student body, but also our faculty and staff. We were fortunate, as we opened phase two of our Maedgen Theatre & Dance complex, to hire a facilities manager (the astounding Natalie Mayo), but this year alone we brought in Dr. Chris Staley, Assistant Professor of Movement; Lydia Wagner, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre & Performance; Dr. Divya Janardhan, taking over for Linda Donahue as Head of our Arts Administration area; Aaron Spivey, Assistant Professor of Lighting and Projection Design; and, along with the School of Music, Jose Holland-Garcia, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre and Commercial Music. I know we've introduced you to each of them in prior newsletters, but their knowledge and expertise have already bettered our program. While I know many new faculty and staff at other schools remain silent their first few years, we encourage active participation, understanding implicitly that the voices of our newest faculty and staff often guide our future.

As most of you know, a School is only as good as those who run the College of which it's a part, and Dean Martin Camacho has already improved our program not only with his generosity experience, but also through the Values Summit which led us to contribute to core values which “define who we are, how we live our lives, and how we treat ourselves, others, and the people we serve.” This, in turn, will feed the strategic plan that will inform the entirety of our College, and with the Dean's office just upstairs, we finally have a corridor of the arts right here on 18th Street. And we were proud this year to celebrate the centennial of Texas Tech, ably led by President Schovanec, Chancellor Mitchell, and Provost Ron Hendricks.

I would love to list the accomplishments of our faculty and staff, but that would take the entire newsletter and more, but suffice it to say, I am fortunate enough to work with, learn from, and share time with the best people I know. For that, and for you—our audiences, patrons, and friends—I am eternally grateful.

Happy holidays, everyone!