Nearly one year ago, unexpectedly, we began a journey marked by a complex and ever-changing set of challenges brought about by an event of epic proportions, the likes of which many of us have never witnessed or experienced. In what seemed like moments, assumptions, approaches, and understandings about many operational aspects of our work have been revisited, reconsidered, and in some cases, recalibrated. For nearly six decades, such basic functional approaches have been the bedrock upon which our field and individual institutions found workable structures as well as mutual support, confidence, security, and comity. In short order, the need to balance the known with the unknown and the certain with the uncertain has become necessary if not commonplace.
Throughout these months, the National Office staff has had the good fortune to remain in touch with many members. Two prevailing conditions are clearly evident. First, theatre administrators continue to guide their institutions through the mazes created by the effects of the pandemic and current social conditions, even when pushed to the point of fatigue and exhaustion. Second, there remains an unwavering understanding that educating and preparing students for the profession is an abiding first principle that must not change, and that all curricular and other efforts of the institution and its personnel must continue to support individual student achievement in terms of content mastery and technical skill.
It remains clear that during these extraordinary times, theatre administrators remain the bonding agents for these efforts: you are the tireless who find the energy when none is left; you are the strategic thinkers who navigate the mazes; and you are among the facilitating visionaries who continue to chart a path of theatre in higher education regardless of the barriers confronted. Thank you and the members of your faculty and staff for your unwavering commitment and undeterred efforts to advance theatre study. Thank you for the patience and fortitude you exhibit daily as you not only face each new challenge, but masterfully find a way through or around each one. Although tactically your focus remains on what lies ahead, in these present days it is also important to look back, and recall the many accomplishments of your students and the members of your faculties, staff, and institutional constituents, and at times of rebuilding, articulate to others the essential values and functions underlying those accomplishments.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, NAST has released three extensive memoranda (see A Challenging Time – COVID-19 and Related Issues; Pressing Forward – Continuing Our Work During Uncertain Times; and Informed Decision-Making: Collecting, Considering, and Synthesizing Information) and launched a web presence specifically devoted to the work of the theatre administrator (see Navigating Today’s Challenges). We hope you will return to these communiques often, particularly the web presence, as each contains helpful information.
Advancing efforts to ensure that accredited institutional members of NAST are kept abreast of membership responsibilities, issues of note, and new and ongoing initiatives, offered below is current and salient information arranged by topic. We ask please that you review this information and return to refer to its details as often as necessary. Please note that NAST staff members remain available to address questions, outline options and possibilities, and assist institutions to consider the current and unfolding landscape. We hope you will not hesitate to connect with the staff.
Standards and Procedures in Force. The NAST website offers current editions of the Association’s standards and procedures. Helpful links are provided below:
- NAST Handbook 2020-21
- NAST Procedures for Comprehensive Reviews
- NAST Procedures for Submitting Responses and Progress Reports
- NAST Procedures for Submitting the Optional Response
- NAST Policies and Procedures for Reviews of New Curricula
Please ensure you are using the most current copy and edition of each document. In addition to the documents noted above, a complete list of all materials available in the NAST library may be found within the Publications section of the NAST website.
Scheduling. NAST reviews member institutions for renewal of accredited institutional membership on a regular cycle. This cycle is established by the original date accreditation is earned. Every accredited institutional member is required to schedule its next comprehensive accreditation review and conduct its associated on-site evaluative visit in a timely fashion and in accordance with NAST Procedures. Publication of the date of the next scheduled year of institutional review may be found within the institution’s listing in the NAST Directory Lists, under the heading, Academic Year of Next Scheduled Comprehensive Review. Should questions arise, please contact Kathryn Omune (email@example.com) in the National Office.
Virtual Visits. At this time, virtual visits associated with comprehensive reviews are not being conducted by NAST. In-person observation of student work and competency development, on-site review of institutional resources and their ability to support theatre programs, and the intellectual dialogue and interaction that occurs among colleagues during a comprehensive review continue to be irreplaceable components of the NAST peer review process—a process that is designed to consider each aspect of an institution as well as the interrelationships that exist between and among them. Although virtual visits remain a future possibility should pandemic conditions extend indefinitely, at present it continues to be the intent of NAST to maintain the high level of rigor which prevails during on-site comprehensive reviews and which cannot be replaced in all respects through the use of electronic means given the nature of the artform.
Postponements. From time to time, an accredited institutional member of NAST may require additional time to prepare for its comprehensive review, and therefore find it necessary to seek from NAST a postponement of the scheduled date of a full reaccreditation review. Institutions interested in seeking postponements are asked to review the NAST Policy on Postponements. Requests for postponements for good cause should be sent to the National Office and should describe the specific conditions which support the reason(s) for the requests. One-year postponements are considered by staff. Postponement requests beyond one year are considered by the NAST Commission. Neither a request for nor the approval of a postponement will affect negatively the accreditation status of an accredited institutional member of NAST. The postponement policy is a procedural remedy, initiated decades ago, solely intended to assist institutions needing additional time to prepare for comprehensive reviews.
Due to the effects of the pandemic, many institutions slated for reviews during the spring of 2020 and the 2020-2021 academic year have postponed their visits to the 2021-2022 academic year. To address the high number of visits that are slated to take place in 2021-2022, institutions scheduled for comprehensive reviews in 2021-2022, 2022-2023, or 2023-2024 that have not requested postponements to date and are current with all accreditation responsibilities are asked to consider extending their comprehensive review timelines forward by at least one year at this time. NAST would appreciate such considerations. An institution well served by this opportunity is asked to submit a formal request for postponement to the National Office. Should questions arise, institutional representatives are asked to contact Kathryn Omune (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office.
Self-Study Materials. For institutions conducting comprehensive reviews, self-study materials are required to be submitted to the visiting evaluators and NAST National Office no less than four weeks prior to the on-site review. Self-Study documents must be submitted in hard copy; as is customary, Management Documents Portfolios should be submitted in electronic copy on a USB flash drive. During this interim period of time when Commission meetings are being held remotely, NAST requests that each institution provide, in addition to its hard copy, an electronic copy of its Self-Study. This too may be included on the USB flash drive. General submission instructions may be found in the Procedures for Institutions.
Should an institution which has scheduled its on-site review and completed its Self-Study and Management Documents Portfolio find it advisable or necessary to seek a postponement of its on-site review, it must ascertain whether the information in its original dossier will offer a clear and in-depth understanding of current events and realities and whether information in hand is accurate and current. If the information in hand no longer reflects the theatre unit’s/institution’s operations, intentions, and initiatives, the institution is asked to amend its Self-Study dossier and provide amended copies to all visiting team members and to the NAST National Office no later than four weeks prior to the rescheduled visit. Should minor changes have occurred during the ensuing time period, the comprehensive Self-Study dossier need not be amended, rather, any new information should be provided to the visiting evaluators and National Office prior to the visit, and to the Commission as part of the institution’s Optional Response submitted after receipt of its Visitors’ Report. Questions regarding submissions may be directed to Adèle-Marie Buis (email@example.com) in the National Office.
Meetings and Deadlines. The annual meeting of the NAST Commission on Accreditation typically conducted in March will be held as scheduled through remote means. The 2022 meeting of the Commission will be held as scheduled on-site at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.
Submission of Materials. Institutions with materials due, including but not limited to Responses and Progress Reports, are asked to review and adhere to published deadlines. As well, institutions are asked to follow existing protocols, providing three copies of comprehensive review materials, and two copies of Responses and Progress Reports and Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing applications. Materials should be submitted to the National Office in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive) by the prescribed submission deadline. Should questions arise regarding submission requirements, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office. An institution in need of additional time may request a six-month extension for good cause. Such requests should be sent to Adèle-Marie Buis (email@example.com).
Compliance with Standards. It remains important for NAST member institutions to meet the letter and spirit of the standards as appropriate—standards determined and approved by accredited institutional members that are expressed in functions which indicate to students, the public, and state/federal agencies the basic content and level of rigor expected in theatre education and training, and the skills, knowledge, and competencies that students enrolled in these programs of study are expected to acquire and master. Although NAST standards are set in a framework which offers flexibility and provides latitude, a framework which encourages experimentation, innovation, and the development of new approaches to curricula which enables institutions to address the functions expressed in the standards and their fulfillment in various ways, many institutions are left to wonder whether their planned initiatives (i.e., new curricular programs, substantive changes) and/or newly and swiftly implemented policies will enable them to continue to adhere to applicable NAST standards. Should such reasonable questions arise, administrators are asked to contact the National Office staff swiftly and without hesitation. Though the Commission on Accreditation holds singular authority and responsibility to ascertain compliance, the National Office staff can provide information, assistance, and advice. Please feel free to take advantage of the assistance staff may be able to provide as you consider issues of concern and work through scenarios that not only enable the institution to address current realities but attend to NAST responsibilities. A list of all staff members and their responsibilities may be found on the NAST website.
Accreditation Status in Light of Anticipated Changes. An institution making changes in direct response to circumstances brought about by the pandemic may wonder whether NAST will take an immediate action which could jeopardize the institution’s current accreditation status. It is important to remember that all NAST Commission reviews operate within an existing, established, and published system of due process—a system which opens conversations; welcomes dialogue; offers the opportunity to discuss comprehensively an institution’s initiatives and, based on these initiatives, its ongoing ability to comply with standards; and comes to conclusion only after thorough consideration of all salient information has been accomplished (see NAST Handbook 2020-21, Bylaws, Article I., Sections 3.–5.). It is highly recommended that potential changes be considered in light of current standards and their application. Institutions are reminded of the broad and creative flexibility inherent in the application of standards. Should an institution desire feedback regarding the potential impact of an anticipated change on the institution’s continuing ability to comply with standards, please contact Nora Hamme (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Paul Florek (email@example.com) in the National Office. Staff members can assist member institutions to consider options, possibilities, and potential outcomes.
The Work of Volunteers. NAST deeply appreciates the time, energy, and expertise offered by the volunteers that participate in the accreditation review process. As well, it respects the positions of its volunteers and the institutions they represent and serve. Evaluators and consultants scheduled for on-site visits are asked to continue to make their own determinations about their abilities to serve during requested time periods as guided by existing and current personal and institutional conditions. Individuals are asked to 1) respond to NAST invitations to serve at their earliest possible convenience, and 2) inform NAST of any changes in previously confirmed availabilities. Should questions arise regarding either initial or ongoing participation as an evaluator or consultant, please contact Kathryn Omune (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office.
As noted above, several institutions have postponed their comprehensive on-site reviews from the spring/fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 to the 2021-2022 academic year and beyond. This will result in an uptick in the number of visits to be scheduled and conducted over the next several years. Provided that concerns and prohibitions as they relate to the pandemic abate and the safety of all remain guiding considerations in the forefront of decision-making, NAST graciously asks that evaluators invited to serve as on-site team members consider the possibility of accepting more than one invitation in a single academic year. This high level of participation on the part of the representatives in NAST’s corps of volunteers will assist NAST as it continues its work to serve and support its members and applicant institutions.
Expenses. Evaluators and consultants who have incurred expenses as a result of on-site reviews are asked to submit their expense forms with receipts for reimbursement at the earliest possible time, in particular noting the address to which the reimbursement should be directed. Please note that expense submissions, including the expense form and associated receipts, may be submitted to NAST electronically for expedited service. Evaluators and consultants holding airline tickets for travel to conduct visits that are now postponed are asked to work directly with the airlines to rebook arrangements or receive reimbursements if/as possible. Should questions arise regarding expenses, please contact Tracy Maraney (email@example.com) in the National Office.
Implementing New Curricular Programs. Accredited institutional members of NAST “instituting new curricula…are required to submit documentation to the appropriate Commission in order to remain in compliance…” (see NAST Handbook 2020-21, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article VI.). “New” in this case refers to:
- degrees, programs, majors, and/or areas of emphasis which fall under the purview of NAST for the purpose of review and listing that are planned to be offered for the first-time a) on ground, or b) in hybrid fashion (i.e., on ground and distance learning combination) in which less than 40% of the curriculum is offered via distance learning means;
- degrees, programs, majors, and/or areas of emphasis which fall under the purview of NAST for the purpose of review and listing that are planned to be offered for the first time through which 40% or more of the required curricular content is delivered via distance learning means; and
- curricular programs described in item #1 just above which have received NAST approval and now are planned to be offered as well through distance learning means such that 40% or more of the curricular program is offered through such virtual means.
Curricular programs in which more than 40% of the requirements are fulfilled through distance learning means will be designated as “distance learning” programs in NAST publications. Institutions offering curricular programs of which any portion is offered via distance learning means are reminded to include in their applications discussion of their compliance with applicable distance learning standards (see NAST Handbook 2020-21, Standards for Accreditation III.H.3.b.).
Temporary short-term curricular programs implemented since March 2020 in response to the effects of the coronavirus (i.e., the temporary movement of course delivery from on ground to online) that will not be continued beyond the close of the 2020-2021 academic year need not be submitted for review through the Plan Approval application process. Guidelines and requirements applicable to Plan Approval (and Final Approval for Listing) may be found in the NAST Handbook 2020-21, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article VI., and the NAST Policies and Procedures for Reviews of New Curricula.
Should questions arise regarding the potential necessity to submit applications for Plan Approval (and Final Approval for Listing), please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office prior to submission.
Affirmation Statements. On June 1 of each year, NAST distributes to accredited institutional members the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. This three-page questionnaire requests information intended to provide assurance that all curricular programs under the purview of NAST and meeting NAST listing requirements have been or will be submitted for review and approval, and that substantive changes—past, current, and/or projected—have been or will be submitted for review and approval. Affirmation Statement Questionnaires are an important part of the Association’s system for remaining current with the work of accredited institutional members and documenting continuing compliance with NAST standards. Please note that temporary short-term changes implemented in response to the effects of the coronavirus (i.e., the temporary movement of course delivery from on ground to online) need not be reported on the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. Changes made that are substantive in nature and intended to become permanent (i.e., the creation of new curricular programs which fall under the purview of NAST) should be noted on the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. Should questions arise, please contact Ben Karnes in the National Office (email@example.com).
Discontinuing Curricular Programs. Institutions are asked to notify NAST of intentions to discontinue any currently approved and listed curricular program. Such curricular programs should be removed from institutional publications. Should institutions decide to reactivate such programs in the future, applications for Plan Approval will be required. Institutions discontinuing programs are also asked to develop and implement teach-out plans and agreements (as/if necessary) outlining how students currently enrolled in these programs will be ensured the opportunity to complete their courses of study.
Substantive Change. Institutions are required to gain prior approval by the NAST Commission of substantive changes occurring between regular accreditation visits. Examples of initiatives which rise to the level of “substantive change” are outlined in the NAST Handbook (see NAST Handbook 2020-21, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article V.). In cases where the changes are substantial in nature, applications for Substantive Change will be required. Changes of less substantive natures will be reviewed during an institution’s next comprehensive review. Institutional representatives unsure of whether a change is “substantial” and therefore whether an application for Substantive Change is required are asked to contact Ben Karnes (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office prior the creation or submission of an application.
As a general reminder, particularly during this time when institutions are considering options and changing plans with some regularity, the following should be kept in mind:
- Representatives anticipating changes to existing policies and procedures should review and as appropriate be guided by current institution-wide initiatives and approaches.
- All policy changes, whether temporary or permanent, should be documented by the institution and disseminated and made available to appropriate constituencies.
- Institutions may find it advisable to seek review by and input from legal counsel with regard to proposed changes to ascertain the potential for risk and/or liability.
CAAA and ACCPAS Proposed Revisions. Proposed revisions to the Council of Arts Accrediting Associations (CAAA) Constitution, Bylaws, Protocols and Procedures and Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools (ACCPAS) Handbook are under consideration. Further information regarding these Proposed Revisions may be found within the CAAA and ACCPAS websites. CAAA and ACCPAS welcome your feedback, which may be submitted following the submission guidelines offered on their respective sites.
2021 NAST Annual Meeting. After careful and thorough consideration of all issues before the Association, the NAST Board of Directors voted to cancel the on-site aspects of the 2021 Annual Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, including on-site Pre- and Annual Meeting sessions, and the Commission on Accreditation, Board of Directors, and Membership meetings scheduled to take place March 20–27 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch.
The depth of our collective disappointment cannot be measured. The NAST Annual Meeting is a critical aspect of the ongoing work of NAST. It provides an opportunity to stretch our intellectual curiosities, develop and cultivate relationships and conversations vital to our work, and advance our art form. The decision of the Board of Directors was reached after deep and careful deliberation, and with great attention to and respect for the health and well-being of each individual involved in the work of NAST.
Provisions found in the NAST Handbook enable the Association to conduct its business via electronic means. Therefore, in 2021, NAST will conduct the business of the Commission, Board, and Membership through these means, maintaining as closely as possible the calendar of events planned for the March 2021 Annual Meeting. Announcements from NAST will be forthcoming.
Professional Development Opportunities. Attending to the provisions of its aims and objectives, in addition to the service of accreditation provided by NAST and its Policy Studies and Institutional Research initiatives, NAST offers various professional development opportunities. During this time when the effects of the pandemic prohibit face-to-face interaction, NAST will continue to offer professional development sessions through virtual means. Planning is underway to present sessions focused on topics relevant to the membership as they pertain not only to the impact of COVID-19 on the academy, but the importance of the education and training of students interested and enrolled in theatre study. In addition, several sessions focused on the accreditation responsibilities of member and potential member institutions will be offered.
Information regarding past and upcoming sessions is listed within the NAST website in the section entitled, Leadership: Navigating Difficult Situations and Conditions, and within this section, on the page titled, Informed Decision-Making: The Importance of Distillation and Synthesis. Information pertaining to professional development sessions may be found by scrolling to the sub-section labeled, Professional Development Opportunities. Here, members will find specific information regarding both topic- and accreditation-focused sessions (past and planned). Please revisit these pages often as updates and changes will be made as available. NAST will provide to its members advance notice and reminders of all upcoming sessions.
Dues. The NAST Board of Directors voted once again to maintain dues at 2019-2020 levels. Information regarding 2021-2022 dues may be found on the NAST website. NAST continues to remain aware of the financial challenges faced by institutions at this time. Should the necessity to discuss payment options arise, please contact Tracy Maraney (email@example.com) in the National Office.
Enhancements of Current Systems
Annual Meeting App. In March of 2020, NAST entered into a contract with Cvent enabling NAST to provide to Annual Meeting attendees the option to receive, review, and manage Annual Meeting information using a mobile application specifically dedicated to NAST Annual Meeting activities and logistics. Those registering to attend the next on-site Annual Meeting of the Association will be provided access to Annual Meeting information and materials through the newly designed Annual Meeting app.
New HEADS Platform. A redesign of the Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS) platform is underway. The new platform will sport a more modern look and is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive in approach. Users will find the data entry process similar in form and function to that currently in place (the Data Survey). However, the traditional Data Summaries and Special Reports features, although remaining available, will be replaced as the predominant source of data presentation with a user-driven ability to compare data points; customize reporting options; and create, view, and save visual presentations of data and data comparison—features provided through the use of interactive dashboards. The new platform will be populated with five years of historical data, enabling users in the first year to review six-year trends. This perspective will increase each year as new data is added to the system. It is hoped that this tool will provide invaluable information to theatre executives and will serve to inform institutional decision-making considerations. Should questions arise, please contact Nora Hamme (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office.
Stimulus Bill. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) was signed into law by the President of the United States on March 11. The $1.9 trillion relief package directs approximately $130 billion to primary and secondary schools and $40 billion in aid to institutions operating at the postsecondary level and their students. The bill also addresses issues such as another round of stimulus checks; renewal of federal unemployment benefits; additional funding for vaccine distribution; the forgiveness of student loan debt; funding to support the reopening of schools; and financial support for state and local governments. This is the third stimulus package passed since the onset of the pandemic, all of which include aid directed to institutions of higher education. The CARES Act became law in March of 2020 ($30.8 billion); the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) became law in December of 2020 ($81.9 billion).
The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II). HEERF II, authorized by the CRRSAA, provides funds to institutions for emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus. The Office of Postsecondary Education within the U.S. Department of Education offers guidance with regard to criteria for these funds. Scrolling to the bottom of this page will bring users to several sets of Frequently Asked Questions, as well as information which provides a comparison between the provisions of HEERF I (CARES Act) and HEERF II.
Higher Education Law, Regulation, Guidance. Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act does not appear to be a federal priority as this time. However, noting the recent change in the balance of representation in Congress, it is highly likely that issues regulated since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 2008, such as nondiscrimination on the basis of sex (Title IX), borrower defense to repayment, and gainful employment, to name only a few, will be revisited and possibly re-regulated in the coming months. To this point, on Monday, March 8, an Executive Order was issued charging the newly installed Secretary of Education to review the current rules entitled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” in particular Title IX, with an eye to “suspending, revising, or rescinding” current language. Given the time required to conduct a review through the negotiated rulemaking process, it is anticipated that the Department of Education will move more swiftly to release new guidance pertaining to the law and related regulations. NAST will keep theatre administrators abreast of federal activities. Please feel free to share pertinent information with appropriate offices on your campus as you may find necessary and helpful.
Institutions are reminded of regulatory changes promulgated in the November 1, 2019 Federal Register, specifically the removal of the “geographic area of accrediting activities” from the definition of “scope of recognition” as it pertains to regional accrediting agencies. The Department of Education notes that it will no longer categorize agencies as “regional.” Further, regional accrediting bodies may now extend their services, and therefore accredit institutions which reside beyond traditional geographic boundaries. As noted in the regulations, “the Department expects that the landscape of institutional accrediting agencies may change over time…” Indeed, this may well be true, noting that subsequent to the release of these regulations, two of the regional accrediting bodies swiftly announced their willingness to entertain applications from institutions outside of their originally defined geographic boundaries. Of concern is not only the possible nationalization of what is now a well-balanced system of institutional accreditation as conducted by seven autonomous but complementary regional bodies, but as well, the possible position of oversight and control the federal recognition process, and therefore the federal government, may acquire over institutions holding accreditation with a single institutional accreditor. The outcome of this possibility is of concern and may be particularly problematic for single-purpose, free-standing independent institutions that have designated one of these regional bodies as their gatekeeper for the purpose of establishing eligibility to participate in federal financial aid programs, as such reviews are not based in intentions which seek to 1) ascertain the compliance of institutions with consensus-based theatre standards that have been created, embraced, and supported by hundreds of institutions for nearly six decades; 2) open a dialogue among peers who possess specific subject-matter knowledge in theatre and related sub-disciplines, 3) provide confirmations which affirm the importance of a) theatre as an art form and b) theatre study; 4) define expectations regarding the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and therefore the levels of rigor and accomplishment expected of each student enrolled in post-secondary theatre programs; and/or 5) the inestimable and necessary contributions these students make to society. Institutional representatives wishing to explore this issue further may wish to contact Paul Florek in the National Office (email@example.com).
Federal Reviews. NAST continues to follow federal issues as they pertain to alleged antitrust violations. Of note is the recent action on the part of the Department of Justice to drop its lawsuit filed against a postsecondary institution of higher learning as it pertains to that institution’s application procedures, as well as the upcoming March 31 review by the Supreme Court of an appeal filed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) with regard to its enforcement of rules pertaining to student-athlete inducements and support. A July 2021 decision is anticipated.
With regard to federal initiatives, NAST continues to remain concerned about efforts and initiatives which 1) jeopardize the autonomy and independence of institutions, 2) replace local decision-making with federal or judicial micromanagement or control, 3) remove from institutions the ability to set and carry out missions, 4) disregard the role and value local knowledge and expertise play in any decision-making process, and 5) create barriers and obstacles which disrupt institutional efforts that ensure students are acquiring the requisite knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to develop the expertise which will assist them to enter the workforce as contributing and engaged citizens—a hallmark of the American higher education system.
Advocacy. The importance of theatre study cannot be underestimated. It also cannot be left to defend itself. Therefore, it is incumbent upon theatre administrators to be prepared to discuss, describe, and defend the benefits of theatre study; and to provide enlightened insight to those in positions to affect the short- and/or long-term viability of theatre as a field of study. At times during these last months, as institutions have been forced to review the allocation of their resources, theatre administrators have been called upon to justify the necessity for collegiate study in theatre. Having at the ready sets of talking points, tailor-made for specific audiences, which elucidate the indispensable value of collegiate study in theatre, enables theatre administrators to be prepared to swiftly and proactively respond to such calls. To assist to develop talking points, theatre administrators may wish to review and consider the ideas discussed in several NAST documents, in particular: the Working Group on the Arts in Higher Education (WGAHE) Brochures; Distance Education and the Arts Disciplines; Work of the Arts Executives in Higher Education; Giftedness, Arts Study, and Work. In addition, please feel free to engage the staff in conversation should you wish to discuss approaches being considered and plans anticipated. Members of the NAST staff may be able to offer helpful ideas and perspectives.
Gratitude. The on-site Annual Meeting offers to us the opportunity to extend our gratitude to individuals who have graciously offered their time and expertise in support of the work of NAST. NAST extends once again its deepest appreciation to these individuals for their selfless and indispensable assistance. NAST appreciates the service of those who have completed terms and those who continue this important work. As a community, in 2020 we were unable to extend in person our heartfelt appreciation to then outgoing NAST President Holly Logue for her years of dedicated service to the Association. Professor Logue’s contributions are enduring and consequential. We extend our deepest gratitude to Professor Logue.
Questions. It is recommended that accredited institutional members continue to work with staff 1) as they consider possible ideas and options that will enable them to address existing and anticipated challenges; 2) to discuss the application of the national standards as they pertain to institutional initiatives and plans, particularly given modifications that are or will be necessary to address constraints resulting from the effects of the coronavirus; 3) as materials are being prepared for Commission review; and 4) in their ongoing efforts to attend to responsibilities related to accredited institutional membership. Please do not allow concerns to fester, or speculate about what NAST will or will not do. NAST’s comprehensive efforts to work with representatives from institutions directly and on a one-on-one basis continue—this to ensure that each institution has in hand information which pertains to its current and particular situation, information which can assist administrators as they consider local options, opportunities, and possibilities. A list of staff names and assigned responsibilities may be found on the NAST website. Please do not hesitate to contact members of the staff for assistance.
Assistance. Various types of assistance can be found within and beyond NAST.
- Colleagues: The comfort of colleagues can and should be sought. Those who share an understanding of the challenges faced on a daily basis and provide kind and reassuring words at just the right moment, can awaken our tired and worn spirits and rejuvenate our resolve.
- Peer Institutions: The practices of peers may be helpful to know, but implementation of the practices of others should be studied carefully and undertaken only if the practices align with the institution’s intentions and abilities.
- NAST Staff: NAST staff members are available to discuss NAST policies, protocols, procedures and standards, and those of external agencies/entities that may have a bearing on an institution’s ability to maintain compliance with applicable NAST standards. Please do not hesitate to contact the staff before a thought turns into a worry, before a curiosity grows into a saga of over-sized proportions. A list of staff names and assigned responsibilities may be found on the NAST website.
In response to the need for information and desire for connection, during this past year many large-scale gatherings addressing topics and issues relevant to those who administer theatre units and institutions have been made available—assemblies which provide not only vast amounts of information, but as well, opportunities for interaction among colleagues. An invaluable aspect inherent in the work of NAST includes such opportunities—opportunities to open dialogues; explore possibilities; and present and consider ideas, information, and feedback. For the members of NAST, such large-scale opportunities are an aspect of each Annual Meeting. Equally important, though, are the individual conversations that take place between NAST and a specific institution—conversations which enable members to discuss directly and confidentially issues and concerns driven by local conditions, and as well, to pose questions and provide feedback regarding the Association and its initiatives. It is highly recommended that member institutions avail themselves of the opportunity to work with NAST on a one-on-one basis. With regard to accreditation issues, questions should be posed to members of the staff. With regard to questions pertaining to the Association and/or suggestions, both welcomed by NAST, members may request a conversation with both the President and Executive Director of NAST. Should institutional representatives wish to open a conversation with the President and Executive Director of NAST, please feel free to contact Lisa Ostrich (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the National Office to set up a scheduled time to connect.
We hope you will not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities outlined above or those which exist to look to each other for comfort, to the activities of others for inspiration, to the work of those with appropriate expertise for information, to the work accomplished in the field as a source of pride. Have faith in your wisdom, your fortitude, and your ability to address what arrives on your desk tomorrow knowing that your leadership is ever more critical during these challenging and unprecedented times. At such times it is good to remember that regardless of the challenges before us, we have more power and ability than we may wish to admit—capabilities that enable us to reach successful conclusions and ensure effective results.
Positive Attitudes. Courage, patience, and perseverance are hallmarks of work in theatre and in all the arts disciplines. They are major elements in sustaining positive attitudes. Leaders exhibit and cultivate positive attitudes, even as they help others work realistically with extant conditions. Positive attitudes are important elements in building the strength and cohesion necessary for success in any time, and especially in difficult times. Positive attitudes are also powered by gratitude, by reminding ourselves of the substantial progress we and our predecessors have made in a relatively short period of time. Setbacks and frustrations, although time-consuming and challenging, should not daunt us, but rather teach us and inspire ever greater success.
Conclusion. Thank you for the work you and the members of your faculty and staff have accomplished and will accomplish during these difficult times. Cognizant of the collective accomplishments of the NAST membership as well as those achieved by individual member institutions, it is apparent that the greatest strength of the Association and its members lies in the deep and abiding respect each holds for the field of theatre and for those who labor tirelessly to advance its cause. During these times of great challenge, member institutions can rely on this great community for support, assistance, and comfort—a community that you and your predecessors have built and sustained for decades, a community that will not only survive, but prosper in the years ahead.
Please remain safe and well.