University names new dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts

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Wendy Coleman, PhD., will serve as the new dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Coleman is an alumnus of Alabama State University and has served as the chairperson for the Department of Theater Arts and directed productions such as Medea, Flyin’ West, and Africa To America: The Story of a People.”

Christine Shelton, Editor-in-Chief

As the seasons change, some of Alabama State University’s respective colleges are also changing leadership. One of those colleges, the College of Visual and Performing Arts recently welcomed their new college dean, Wendy Coleman, Ph.D.   However, Coleman is not a stranger to the university as she had served as the chairperson for the Department of Theater Arts, an instructor of theater arts, and she received her undergraduate degree in theater from Alabama State University.

“ASU is really home for me,” Coleman said.  “I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in theatre in 1993. After that, I went to graduate school and came back for three years as an instructor in the Department of Theatre. For ten wonderful years, Albany State University in Albany, Georgia, was my first position as a Director of Theatre and assistant professor,” Coleman said, reminiscing on her first teaching position. “Then in 2010, I came back to ‘O’ Mother Dear’ to serve as chair for the department where I served for nine years until 2018. During that time, I also taught classes as an associate professor and directed productions such as Medea, Flyin’ West, and Africa To America: The Story of a People.”

While this position and responsibility are relatively new to Coleman, she is no stranger to the theatre department. She served under the previous dean to which she plans on continuing some of the ideas and goals that were previously set.

“I think the college is on a good path,” Coleman said.  “We were blessed to have a phenomenal dean in Tommie Tonea Stewart, Ph.D., and we’re going to build upon some of the initiatives that already existed.  We’re also planning to create more opportunities for our students to develop their gifts, skills, and talents, and for our faculty to grow. As the new dean, I understand how important it is to take time for evaluation before making a lot of sweeping changes. That’s a good tip for anyone in a new leadership position!”

Coleman does not want to undo any of her predecessor’s progress; she simply plans to nurture her students’ gifts and promote growth within the college. With social distancing being the norm, the college is limited to hosting any events.

“The college will be hosting very few performance events this semester due to the pandemic,” Coleman said.  “Our disciplines–dance, music, theatre, visual arts–are all pretty much hands-on. With the exception of visual arts, rehearsals, practices, etc. require close interaction.   Our band has developed a rotating rehearsal schedule to accommodate social distancing in order to be able to perform at home football games this semester.”

According to Coleman, the professors are trying their best to instruct students both virtually and in ways they understand. She notes that while this has been the true task, finding these new e-learning techniques has been a learning experience for both the student and the professor.

“In the other areas, dance, music and theatre, we are making sure our students remain engaged through coursework and other activities that can be easily facilitated virtually,” Coleman said.  “It’s been a challenge, and we all certainly look forward to an amazing post-pandemic period of increased and free creativity.”

With the addition of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, all of the respective colleges have had to incorporate e-learning in their structures. The College of Visual and Performing Arts is one of the colleges that require more hands-on, tactile learning, and Coleman recognizes that while it has been a difficult transition from in-person to virtual teaching methodologies, the professors still had to make a way for the students.

“The pandemic has absolutely impacted our college in many ways. We have had to come up with different methods of instruction for all of our disciplines including teaching dance via a new electronic platform that allows instructors to see, instruct, and correct students during the class session,” Coleman explained. “In some ways, the necessity of finding new ways of leading our classes has strengthened both the faculty and the students. But, we are all ready to get back into the classroom!”