May 10, 2013
GiveBig: Myre, Colleagues Lauded for Excellence
: Kate Myre; 2013.
: Image courtesy of Seattle Foundation; 2013..
Gifts to Cornish through GiveBig place faculty members at the front of the class; students show their appreciation by recognizing Kate Myre and colleagues.
Donors show their appreciation of faculty members through their giving; Cornish students show theirs by bestowing the Teaching Excellence Award. Professors Kate Myre, Tina Aufiero, Bonnie Biggs and Roberta Russell are this year’s recipients. Coming close on the heels of the award presentations, GiveBig shines a bright light on supporting faculty excellence.
Since the 1980s, Cornish has sought to recognize outstanding faculty members such as these with the Teaching Excellence Award. An invaluable aspect of the Cornish experience is the talent and depth of its faculty. These women and men are more than college professors, they are practicing artists, valued by Cornish for visionary teaching and their work to build lifelong mentoring relationships with its students. It is the students who nominate and vote for a recipient for their various departments. At its heart the award is a reflection of Cornish students’ appreciation and respect for these individuals who pour so much into their education.
Departments are in rotation for the award on an annual basis. This year, the award recipients are from art, performance production and theater. Each department has its own distinct process for making these selections. According to Adrienne Bolyard, dean of academic services, the recipients are always “people who have a real effect on the students.” The students selected Tina Aufiero and Bonnie Biggs from art (tied in the vote), Roberta Russell from performance production, and Kate Myre was the top vote getter from theater.
Kate Myre is representative of this outstanding group. Kate says she is “humbled and a little gobsmacked,” that she received the award this year and is “very, very pleased that it was a decision made by my students” because “they had felt that I had contributed to their education.”
Myre knows, however, that she is part of a team. “I have awesome colleagues that have taught me a lot about being a good teacher. I don’t think I would be nearly as successful without them, and they’ve been incredible, generous, and a great resource, an informative group of people. I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach somewhere that I didn’t have colleagues like I have here.”
Myre, an associate professor of theater, holds a master’s degree in acting from Brandeis and a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University. She has been working in Seattle theater for nearly 20 years in a wide variety of companies including Seattle Public Theater, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Theater Scheater, Seattle Children’s Theatre, ACT and The Village Theater. Around the country, she has worked with The Immediate Theatre, The Borealis Theater, The Boston Repertory Theatre, Boston’s Publick Theatre, Chiswick Park Theatre Company and StageWest in Massachusetts. Additionally, Kate appeared at New York’s Signature Theatre Company under the direction of Joseph Chaikin in Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee, having been hand-picked for her role by the playwright. At Cornish, Kate has directed The Cripple of Inishmaan, Fen, and Stop Kiss.
There is an individual investment and closeness between the faculty and their students at Cornish that lends even greater potency to its already intimate class sizes, and Kate Myre personifies this. When asked why she thought the students had selected her, she quipped back, “I have bought them a lot of doughnuts,” she says, laughing. “I don’t think that’s why – I think I am playful and purposeful, I think I am invested in them and they know that. I think I’m, in some cases, a little bit like the mom that they can talk to about stuff they can’t always talk to their moms about, I mean their artistic lives. I can help them in the ways that they need help as artists – from a mom perspective.”
Kate notes the high level of give-and-take between herself and the students and how remarkable that is. “I don’t think I gave that much when I was a student,” she quips, adding more seriously, “I learn a lot from them, and it’s really satisfying to be in the classroom with people who are igniting, who are really on the cusp of something remarkable.” This sort of reciprocity is crucial to the issues that Kate’s students wrestle with in her classes. Along with the intense periods of bonding and the emotional transience inherent in theater, through which they strive to practice mindfulness, Kate points to her Voiceover class as a place where students must challenge themselves by looking inwards and examining the ethics of acting. “This is the first time most of them have had any exposure to the commercial side of being an actor” she says, “and it can be really disquieting, honestly.”
The theater students’ experience climaxes their senior year, when Kate works hard to help transition students from life at Cornish. In Senior Seminar, a class Kate group teaches with other faculty, “students get a chance to work on material that they can use to get out of here, so audition material.” Kate tells her students to focus on the intentionality of how they promote their careers, especially as they move through the turbulent and disorienting first 18 months after college. She asks them “What do you want your life to look like five years from now? How can you take steps to make that happen?” Kate assists them in this transition, the students “meet with agents, they meet with casting directors, they have headshot photographers come in, they learn how to write cover letters. It’s really like a straddling of two worlds.”
The mentorship between faculty and students is the often unseen value that faculty like Kate bring to the Cornish experience, it might be through a connection made or some good advice you given, but our faculty are tireless in equipping our students with the right tools and lending them a hand up. As Kate expressed, “my web of people becomes their web of people” and, as a student, when you put your “best effort into being a developing artist, while you’ve been here, of course, I’ll help you.”
It’s this sort of faculty dedication that is supported by GiveBig. Your gift on May 15 equips Cornish’s faculty with the resources they need for their classrooms and continue with innovative academic programs like Integrated Studies. Your generosity also provides much needed financial aid support for Cornish’s students.
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