Welcome to the new year

Dear UNCSA Community,

Welcome to the 2021-22 school year! It’s hard to believe that our high school students had their first day of classes last Monday and our college students have their first day of classes today. It is so inspiring to see the campus buzzing again.

We have planned for and hope to have a more typical, normal academic year; however, we will continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and update our safety protocols as needed. As reported earlier, based on the most recent data about the delta variant, UNCSA has updated our mask guidance. Thank you for doing your part to protect our community by following our Community Health Standards to limit the spread of COVID-19 so we may remain on campus, in-person all year long. We know the vaccine is the single most effective tool at slowing the spread and preventing serious illness or death.

We are thrilled to welcome back our loyal audiences for in-person performances this coming season. There is no replacement for the energy of live audiences and the community engagement that results from being together in a room experiencing transformative art. Details of our performance season will be announced soon.

I am pleased to introduce new members of our tremendously talented leadership team, and am confident that they will help us take UNCSA to the next level. Endalyn Taylor had her first day as the new dean of the School of Dance on Aug. 1. She is a former principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), director of the DTH School, and Broadway performer. Independent filmmaker and educator Deborah LaVine joined the School of Filmmaking as dean on July 1, coming from California Institute of the Arts, where she headed the graduate-level directing program. Saxton Rose, interim dean of the School of Music for 2020-21, became dean on June 10. One of America’s most recognized bassoonists, he has an international career as a soloist and orchestral and chamber musician. Kevin Bitterman, who has worked for the New York-based Theatre Communications Group since 2008, most recently as director of institutional advancement and partnerships, became the new executive director of our Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts on Aug. 16. Theater educator, dramaturge and author Martine Kei Green-Rogers, who most recently served as associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts at the State University of New York-New Paltz, had her first day as interim dean of the Division of Liberal Arts on July 1. 

The coming year poses a unique opportunity for UNCSA to pave the way for a new era in arts education as the global arts and entertainment industry reinvents itself to succeed in a post-COVID-19 world. I am excited that we are already working on our new strategic plan for the next five years as we envision a future without the pandemic. But it’s important that we don’t forget lessons that we continue to learn during COVID-19; that we continue to be creative and innovative and do things in new and different ways. 

I’m optimistic that our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging initiative will continue to infuse everything we do at UNCSA. We’ve made a great start by partnering with The Posse Foundation, but there is much more work to be done. Ultimately, we are looking forward to a cultural shift that will occur here on campus as well as nationally.

We have much to celebrate this year. First, we’ll announce the final tally for Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA, our comprehensive fundraising campaign that has raised more than $75 million to date, at a celebratory event for our donors, alumni and friends on Sept. 30. Next, everyone is invited to my installation on Oct. 1, an official “swearing in” that all UNC chancellors must have, which will be capped off with a campuswide picnic. The exuberant, periodic alumni reunion dubbed “Picklestock” will take place the next day, on Oct. 2.

We’ll also witness the long-awaited reopening of Alex Ewing Performance Place this fall, which will give our students the best possible training in a facility that reflects current industry standards — plus an enhanced audience experience. In December, we will celebrate the opening of the university’s first new residence hall in decades. Recently named “Artist Village,” the new living space will feature two wings connected with a glass bridge, a stunning view of downtown and modern amenities.

All in all, 2021-22 has the promise of being a landmark year in the history of UNCSA. Regardless of your position — faculty, staff, student or friend — I hope you will give it your very best efforts, participate in campus life, and make safe choices as we come back together as a community of artists and their supporters. Let’s have a great year, Fighting Pickles!


Brian Cole 

August 23, 2021