Shenandoah Conservatory revamps undergraduate curricula
The redesigned programs, the result of a two-year internal review, combine top-level industry preparation with increased focus on collaboration, entrepreneurship and student well-being.
“Shenandoah Conservatory faculty members have revised programs to offer our students enhanced rigorous training in their field,” said Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs Jeffrey Marlatt, Ph.D. “With an eye to innovation and 21st-century career preparation, our graduates will gain a competitive advantage in the changing career marketplace.”
In 2018, the Shenandoah Conservatory Futures Group, consisting of conservatory leadership along with a group of faculty representatives, began an intensive process of reflection, critical review and information-gathering. Building on the work done by this committee, and in conjunction with feedback from students and alumni, the full faculty then embarked on a sweeping 18-month-long initiative to boldly reimagine the undergraduate curriculum.
That process included guidance from industry leaders in the arts and arts education, as well as in-depth discussions during faculty retreats and an analysis of data collected via surveys and focus groups.
As a result, bold enhancements have been enacted in all undergraduate degrees. Those enhancements have not only strengthened Shenandoah’s long-standing commitment to excellence in industry preparation and to providing students a uniquely nurturing and supportive community, but have also further positioned the conservatory as one of the country’s leading centers for collaboration, even while increasing the financial sustainability of offerings.
“Over the past decade, employers worldwide — both within and beyond the performing arts — have demanded new levels of skillfulness in collaboration, which is professional shorthand for ‘must, above all, be able to work well with others,’” said Dean of Shenandoah Conservatory Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “Shenandoah Conservatory is responding to this new workplace orientation, one that requires our graduates to be simultaneously empathetic, entrepreneurial and resilient.”
As part of the sweeping new curriculum redesign, some programs have strengthened their commitment to collaboration, entrepreneurship and student well-being by making small, but impactful, changes to courses, performance opportunities and capstone projects.
Other undergraduate degrees have undergone major overhauls, resulting in curriculum at the cutting edge of arts education.
New across all undergraduate programs is an unprecedented initiative: All entering undergraduate conservatory students will begin their studies as a multidisciplinary cohort with a four-semester course sequence called ShenCoSKILLS. With semesters focusing on the topics of engagement, resilience, identity and collaboration, the ShenCoSKILLS program means that, within the first two years, all undergraduate students will build the foundation needed to craft a distinct personal and professional digital and social media footprint; create a personal wellness plan; develop an artist statement; and design a multidisciplinary project that incorporates students from the music, theatre, dance and academic divisions.
The course also integrates practice-based components, such as mindfulness and guided meditation. Ultimately, the goal of this initiative is to help students situate themselves within the conservatory; build their mental, emotional and physical well-being; create their individual artistic paths; and support collaboration across disciplines.
These skills — so critical to 21st-century career success — are further developed by the conservatory’s annual ShenCoLAB, a first-in-the-USA initiative launched two years ago devoted to student-driven collaboration and creative work.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s new undergraduate curriculum will launch in the fall when it welcomes hundreds of new students to its community.
“Shenandoah Conservatory has always provided students and faculty with a special community,” Stepniak said. “But this takes things to a new level. Through these curricula changes, Shenandoah Conservatory provides students with the rigorous training expected of a world-class conservatory, while also offering them best-in-the-nation opportunities to build skill sets in managing well-being, and developing as artists, teachers and clinicians who are skilled collaborators.”
Visit www.su.edu/conservatory for more information on individual degree programs, revisions and additions.