Regent Award shows UW-Parkside academic excellence
To Dr. Dean Yohnk, the 2009 Regents Teaching Excellence Award isn't just an honor for the Theatre Arts Department he chairs, it's indicative of a campus-wide academic commitment.
"It's not only an award to the Theatre Arts Department, it's a reminder that there's academic excellence at UW-Parkside," Yohnk stated.
Theatre Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside recently was notified that it was the campus' first department to receive the Regents Teaching Excellence Award. Previous UW-Parkside faculty recipients were English Professor Carole Vopat in 2003 and English Senior Lecturer Patrick McGuire in 1999.
Yohnk cited rising ACT scores among students applying for admission to the program, a student retention rate of 92 percent in 2008-2009 and 89 percent this year, improved community outreach, and new diversity courses added to the curriculum as reasons for the honor. The department also enjoys a high graduation rate and its alumni find success at post graduate programs and in their careers.
"Obviously, we feel we have a very strong program here and this is a way to demonstrate that to a larger audience in the state and region," Yohnk said of the Regents Award. He then added "There are really strong academic programs at Parkside, programs that are challenging, that are very developed, that are very successful in terms of student graduation rates and placements in careers."
Regents praised the department's "outstanding reputation for its quality theatrical productions, research, development, and presentation. It has also collected awards and regional and national recognitions that far belie the relatively small size of the program [5 tenured faculty, 60-plus theatre majors, and 10 theatre arts minors]."
The Regents went on to say graduates of the program consistently credit the excellent teaching, mentorship, and background at UW-Parkside for the exciting career opportunities they've been offered in theater performance and theater education.
Yohnk said the decision to require each potential student to audition and to attend an interview before they are accepted raised the program's stature among applicants.
"You have to have auditions and interviews," said Yohnk. "Initially, there was a fear that 'what if you require auditions and nobody comes.' And the reality of it is, the minute we required auditions for entry, the number of applicants quadrupled because in the world of theatre, the best programs require auditions. If you can just come here to be a theatre major, that has absolutely no weight at all."
Yohnk went on to say that careful records have shown students who don't have an ACT of 21, who don't graduate in the upper 50 percent of their high school class, and who don't have a grade point average of at least 2.75, do not survive in UW-Parkside's program.
"It is too demanding," he stated.
Students who meet the demands of the UW-Parkside Theatre Arts program have found success following graduation. Yohnk points to Brandon Anderson who attended New York University's prestigious graduate program in musical theatre, Finnigan Murphy's acceptance at Cal Arts, the highest rated school in the country for sound design; and Mike Kaukl who is attending Southern Methodist University's highly regarded graduate program in stage craft as examples. They are among the 22 percent of UW-Parkside Theatre Arts students who go on to graduate school with another 50 percent of graduates working in theatre jobs and receiving theatre internships or apprenticeships.
"Ninety-two percent of our graduates are working in theatre or theatre-related fields," Yohnk emphasized.
The UW-Parkside Theatre Arts Department will be honored during the Dec. 11 Regents meeting in Madison. In addition to a plaque, the department will receive a $5,000 prize which will be used to bring in guest artists to work with students and for professional development activities by faculty members.More information on the award-winning UW-Parkside Theatre Arts Department is available by visiting www.uwp.edu keyword Theatre Arts or by calling 262-595-2457.