The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

October 16, 2008

Improving by leaps and bounds

MSU dance program grows significantly over a short amount of time

MANKATO — The dance department at Minnesota State University looked a bit different when Julie Kerr-Berry first came on board 20 years ago.

It was a minor back then, housed in the Department of Physical Education, which later would become the Department of Human Performance. And in 1988, Kerr-Berry was taking over for the program’s founder, Florence Cobb, who pioneered the effort to get the program going in the 1970s.

The program would see more change during the next two decades, as most do. About 10 years ago, the dance program merged with MSU Theatre to become the Department of Theatre & Dance. The merger made the most sense, Kerr-Berry said, because dance is part of the arts, and the new home would afford them the opportunity to work collaboratively with theater faculty and have access to theaters and studio space designed for dance, among other things.

The biggest changes to the department since the merger have occurred much more recently. In the past several years, actually.

The dance program went from only a minor option to adding a major in 2005, which opened more doors to students. It also added prestige to the program because its the only dance major in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and is one of four colleges and universities in the state, overall, to offer the major.

“We have a unique thumb print,” said Kerr-Berry, director of the program.

With the addition of the dance major came one new full-time faculty, more classroom and studio space in the Performing Arts Center, Highland Center and Pennington Hall, and more students interested in the program.

“We’re seeing it reflected in recruitment,” Kerr-Berry said. “We had a surge this fall of incoming freshmen.”

Some of the students in the program were minors in dance and switched to a major when it became available. Stephanie Narlock picked up the major the first year it became available.

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