CFPCA’s Theatre and Dance department shares techniques at National Learning Communities Conference

The College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts’ Theatre and Dance department shared its high-impact practices with a student presentation at the National Learning Communities Conference in Indianapolis Nov. 15. 

James Fortune, academic advisor and Learning Community coordinator for the department, said the presentation was an opportunity to share the CFPCA’s innovative learning practices. 

Fortune was joined by Tori Leigh, an acting major in her senior year at Wayne State University, to speak about the Theatre and Dance department’s annual Ten Minute Play & Dance Festival for first-year students.

“It’s an opportunity for first-year students to go in, act, direct, choreograph, dance and design,” said Leigh, who has been a peer mentor in the theatre department for three years. “It’s this massively collaborative project, and it’s just a great way for students to get the skills they’ll need to learn to be a more effective performer down the line. It really highlights the start of their career at Wayne State.”

Leigh noted that most first-year students don’t normally get to take advantage of such opportunities right away. 

As Fortune pointed out, the spring festival incorporates a lot of high-impact Learning Community practices. Those practices can apply to other kinds of Learning Communities that aren’t commonly associated with art, Leigh mentioned, and allow a community to work together on a large-scale project. 

“As an example, they can come up with some kind of showcase for their own Learning Community that acts as a culmination of everything they’ve been trying to accomplish through the entire year,” Fortune said. “I thought the perspective we brought was really unique.” 

Leigh understands the program both as a student and a peer mentor, Fortune explained, which shows both sides of the experience.

To prepare for the presentation, Leigh directed the creation of a video of theatre and dance students talking about their experiences in the Ten Minute Play & Dance Festival.

“It was really a very special thing that Tori was able to present,” said Fortune. “There were very few other students or peer mentors at the conference. As a student, Tori is able to say, ‘This does really work.’ It adds a lot of credibility for the audience to see there’s an impact of the practice. It was particularly special because it was a national conference. For Tori to be participating at 21 years old is a big deal.”

Fortune continued, “I’m really proud to have represented WSU. It was so much fun to share the wonderful culture of family that we have in the theatre and dance department. Knowing what you’re doing has the opportunity to reach other Learning Communities and other universities makes you feel like you have an even deeper impact because you have the possibility of benefiting students not just in your own Learning Community but others.” 

Written by: Sarah Kominek (Department of Communication, Journalism major)

(left to right) Learning Community Program Manager, Amy Cooper; Senior Theatre Major, Tori Leigh Miller and Theatre and Dance Academic Advisor, James Fortune