BOULDER, Colo. – “Building Bridges in the Dark: Actions that Held Together a Theater Department in a Pandemic” from Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) in Colorado is a winning submission in this year’s Academic Leaders Toolkit. RRCC was recognized for its inventive and creative plan by a Spring 2020 theater history class and how they would respond during a pandemic as artistic directors/producers.
The toolkit, a joint project of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) membership networks, the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (Alliance) and the Western Academic Leadership Forum (Forum), is a peer-reviewed repository of programs and practices that have been successfully deployed in postsecondary institutions around the West.
Dorothy Welty, dean of instruction, accepted the award on behalf of Red Rocks Community College at the final session of the Forum and Alliance 2020-21 virtual meeting series held April 9.
As part of “Ghost Light Theater,” RRCC students and alumni across the country contributed to the writing, performance, and production of three original online plays in 2020, utilizing social media channels like YouTube and Facebook to perform in front of audiences near and far. “This is huge for us,” Welty said, “because our actual theater only has 86 seats. We were able to reach many more audience members through social media.”
Later this month, RRCC theater students will produce their main stage production, a shortened English translation of the famous Lope de Vega play Fuente Ovejuna, as a drive-thru experience in the school parking lot. Audience members will stay safely in their cars, while student actors perform around them while following mask and social distancing measures.
“Colleges across the West have all taken steps to sustain operations and continue serving their students and communities throughout the pandemic,” said Landon Pirius, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at Colorado Community College System and vice chair of the Alliance. “Red Rocks Community College’s theater department has always been a place for innovation. RRCC not only ensured a way to provide programming during the pandemic, their innovation can continue to provide and expand access to high quality theatre productions post-pandemic.”
Organized along dozens of topic categories—from quality assurance to workforce training, from student advising to community engagement— the Academic Leaders Toolkit is a resource that helps college and university academic leaders make prudent decisions, develop new initiatives, build upon efficiencies and peer expertise, and better support their students and institutions.
Alliance members are academic leaders at community colleges, technical schools, systems, and associated state governing and coordinating boards within the 16-state region encompassed by WICHE, the Colorado-based regional higher education agency at which the Forum is based. A selection committee from the Alliance annually selects a winning tool to be recognized for their contribution to the higher education community. Learn more at alt.wiche.edu.
The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) is a membership network that offers academic leaders at community colleges, technical schools, systems, and associated state governing and coordinating boards the opportunity to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. This dynamic network allows these academic leaders—representing nearly one-quarter of the nation’s two-year institutions—to build stronger higher education institutions in the West. To learn more at www.wiche.edu/alliance.