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Kindelan Promotes Artistic Literacy On Campus And Throughout North America

Professor Nancy Kindelan is a tireless advocate for how arts education can be a fundamental building block in promoting critical thinking, experiential engagement, and real empathy. In particular, Dr. Kindelan has argued the value of undergraduate theatre education, where students enter into deep relationships with plays, and wrestle with their thematic structures, formal implications, and theatrical production elements.

She has had a very busy year speaking at conferences, engaging with faculty, and developing her new book series, The Arts in Higher Education. In March, Dr. Kindelan presented a talk, “The Gem on Your Campus,” at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) national conference, Diversity, Learning, and Student Success: Assessing and Advancing Inclusive Excellence, in San Diego, CA. She reports, “My presentation focuses on how undergraduate theatre studies programs promote learning, stimulate critical and thoughtful exploration of cross-curricular relationships and encourage genuine shifts in understanding of one another and our world.”

This summer, she attended the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) conference in Montreal, where she presented a paper, and attended another panel that was dedicated to a discussion of implementing the ideas in her book, Artistic Literacy. Dr. Kindelan’s book was such an inspiration at the 2014 conference that another panel continued exploring its principles in 2015. Her own presentation, this year, was called, “Dramaturgy and Cross-Curricular Relationships.” In keeping with the spirit of Dr. Kindelan’s work, she enjoyed the discussion “with the audience after our presentations about how the pedagogy of dramaturgy serves not only theatre courses (theatre history, playwriting, and off-campus theatre-going activities) but courses and activities beyond the theatre department.”

She is also much in demand as a guest speaker. Dr. Kindelan gave invited Keynote addresses at Pennsylvania State University, The University of Windsor (Ontario), and The University of Findlay in Ohio addressing issues in Artistic Literacy, “especially the importance of theatre studies as a pedagogical tool for integrating the arts across the curriculum, as a model of experiential engagement on and off campus, and as a way to encourage transformative and lifelong learning.”

Meanwhile, on campus she puts her ideas directly into practice. She works consistently with Theatre students, but in recent years has developed several courses for the Honors program. This fall she taught a class related to her current research activities, called “Seeing Theatre with an Enlightened Eye.” In addition to preparing students for a deep engagement in the dramaturgy of several plays, students in this class meet and work with members of professional theatre companies around Boston. Not only do students get a deeper understanding of the workings of the professional theatre world, but also they get an opportunity to put themselves in the role of artistic director for a hypothetical theatre company and build a mission statement and a season of plays that reflects their mission. Not content to rest with theoretical work, the students also engage the community with experiential service learning, such as work with high school students in afterschool programs.

As much value as she creates by advocating for deeply engaging her Northeastern students through theatre, she finds great personal and professional fulfillment in sharing her work with faculty and administrators of other institutions. She notes, “I have enjoyed rethinking the ideas that I presented in my book, considering their institutional challenges and weaving these concerns throughout my presentation, as well as discovering new ways to encourage further discussion that promotes artistic literacy at institutions throughout North America.”