Q&A with Interim Dean, Sue Stinson
In addition to taking on the responsibility of interim dean Sue has also been recognized for her lifetime achievement as an educator and researcher.
The NDEO award is the “most prestigious award conferred,… given for exemplary leadership, scholarship and/or artistry, and philanthropy or service to dance education.” The CORD award “honors an exceptional scholar or leader for sustained contributions to dance research.”
Of these awards, Sue says, ”It’s such an honor to receive awards from both of these national professional organizations in dance this year. No one does their professional work with the expectation of external rewards. But like most faculty, I have always hoped for my work to be both useful and meaningful to others in the field. These awards are an incredible affirmation that my work has made a difference, and for this I am deeply grateful.”
Q: Prior to being appointed as interim dean, you were a professor in the dance department. Tell us a little about your background in dance and dance education.
A: Let me go back even further. I played flute in band and orchestra in junior and senior high school, then danced and did some acting later in high school and in college (where I majored in sociology). In the last semester of my senior year, I decided I wanted to become a teacher instead of a social worker. I knew that teachers had made the most difference in my life when they shared with me something they loved-I knew I loved dance, but I saw over and over again how involvement in arts education changed people’s lives, and I wanted to devote my career to this. After teaching in schools and private settings for some years, I came to UNCG full-time in 1979, just after dance licensure had begun in the state, and I have been here ever since. During that time I was Department Head in Dance for nine years, and then Undergraduate Coordinator and Coordinator of the MA in Dance Education before becoming Interim Dean in July.
Q: The photo of you was taken on a path that you often walked between the dance and music buildings (about a mile across campus) to meet with then-dean, John Deal. How did you mentally prepare to take on the role of dean?
A: When I was on that path, I actually tried to clear my mind, experience the natural setting and myself walking in it. It was a way of trying to relieve some of my anxiety about the job I was about to begin. In the meetings I had with Dean Deal during that time, I brought lots of questions and wrote down all the answers. Of course, once I started the job, I had about ten times as many questions!
Q: What is the hardest part about being “the dean”?
A: Most people who become deans aspire to it and prepare for it over some period of time, and they have a number of years on the job to accomplish what needs to be done. I never imagined myself in this role and came into it quite suddenly; that has been a particular challenge. I also especially miss the ongoing relationships with students and advisees. But I have received terrific support from people I am working with on a daily basis.
Q: Having taught for 39 years (33 of which have been at UNCG), what is the most important skill that you have learned?
A: It’s actually been more like 45 years, but that includes some volunteer teaching at the beginning. I started teaching at UNCG part-time in 1978 and full-time in 1979. One very important skill for teaching I have learned is to pay attention-in every sense of the word. What makes it so challenging is that there is so very much to pay attention to all at once. And to me, being a skillful teacher is not a place at which one arrives. Rather, good teachers continue to ask questions about what they are doing and why, questioning their own assumptions and stretching beyond what they already know or think they know.
Q: You will be retiring at the end of your tenure as dean. What are you plans?
A: My only professional goal at this point is to edit a collection of some of my publications, which have appeared as journal articles and book chapters in so many locations that they can be hard to find. On a personal level, I want to devote more time to being a good friend, neighbor, community member/citizen, and gramma. (I have a wonderful seven and a half year old grandson who lives nearby!)
Q: As the School begins the process of selecting a permanent dean, what is your greatest hope or wish for the SMTD?
A: I hope that the School will not only cherish its history of excellence within each of the performing arts disciplines, but also go beyond it to create a new future that meets the challenges and opportunities facing the arts and higher education.