UNCSA Forward: Maintaining and Expanding Industry Relevance

Dear Campus Community,

A critical part of our institution’s future is staying connected to and involved with the arts and entertainment industry of today. I consider our campus to extend far beyond its physical borders, to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta and other arts industry hubs. Our current and future students must receive training that is deeply connected to our industry and have the opportunity to interact with today’s working artists and leaders. These experiences and connections are vital to helping them launch and sustain successful careers in the arts. 

UNCSA must be intentional to ensure we remain as connected to the industry in the next 50 years as we have been for the past 50. That is why we have made Maintaining and Expanding Industry Relevance a core strategy of UNCSA Forward, our strategic plan, with a goal of developing more profound and meaningful alumni and industry partnerships for each conservatory. 

Under this core strategy, we will be adding tracks to our curriculum that respond to new and emerging career opportunities. We will also provide options for alumni to connect and leverage new resources to help them complete studies and move forward in their careers. Additionally, we will begin the work to ensure that we provide critical skill sets relevant to today’s industry, such as building a digital presence and leveraging the power of intellectual property. 

Following are a few examples of how this work has already begun and will continue to grow.

Connecting artists through industry partnerships
We will proactively look for mutually beneficial partnerships with arts organizations that will provide real-world experience and high-level industry exposure to our students while elevating UNCSA to a national stage. One example of this occurred in February, when the Division of Liberal Arts (DLA) and the School of Drama engaged with the nonprofit organization Play On Shakespeare to produce and perform a contemporary English translation of Shakespeare’s war play “Coriolanus,” by playwright Sean San José. DLA faculty member Hans Gabriel deepened the experience by moderating a panel discussion around translation issues, including the playwright along with hosts of the On Translation podcast, Mohammed Albakry, professor of English and linguistics at Middle Tennessee State University, and Joseph McAlhany, assistant professor in the University of Connecticut Department of History. The partnership shows how we can broaden and deepen our engagement with the traditional arts curriculum while connecting to current innovations in the arts world, ultimately providing timely and relevant training for our students.

Empowering artists with a focus on career placement 
We will continue building on and expanding career placement initiatives in all conservatories. An example of such an initiative is the evolution of the annual Design & Production Job Fair. This year’s fair was the largest ever, including 66 companies from all segments of the global arts and entertainment industry and 75 undergraduate and graduate students. Representatives from theme parks (Walt Disney Live Entertainment); global entertainment (Walt Disney Imagineering); Broadway; national and international touring productions; cruise lines (Norwegian, Disney and Carnival); immersive entertainment (Meow Wolf); large-scale live entertainment (TAIT and Atomic); and regional and summer theater companies interviewed our students during the two-day virtual event. A significant number of North Carolina companies participated, including Majestic Scenic, Lost Colony, Unbox the Dress and Charlotte Children's Theatre. Moving this event online is one of the reasons it expanded so quickly. Initiatives like Job Fair help Design & Production maintain its 95% job placement rate.

These are just a couple of examples of initiatives we will be building upon as we embark on the five-year strategic plan, and there will be many more to come through the important work going on in each of our conservatories. I believe by focusing on these kinds of initiatives, we will remain in the vanguard of the arts and entertainment industry and provide a new level of opportunities for our students. 


Brian Cole 

April 7, 2022