LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Perspective of a WKU musical theatre alumni

Jordan Campbell

In the spirit of cutting things that aren’t working for our students, in the next election I think Kentuckians should cut Matt Bevin.

For the record, Governor, I’ve never heard of an “Interpretive Dance major.” I mean it sounds pretty cool, but nice try. As the executive leader of the Commonwealth, a state with quite a rich artistic heritage, your unmistakable disdain for arts and culture in Kentucky is glaringly repugnant.

One can only hope that the governor means well with his draconian cuts, but he unequivocally fails on policies regarding education. I’d venture to say Mr. Bevin believes my degree is useless. I would really like to sit down with the governor and tell him how my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Western Kentucky University prepared me for life far more than many of the “money-making” programs ever would’ve–because it’s what I am passionate about. As a Musical Theatre student on the Hill, I learned to: manage time properly, speak in front of a crowd and bounce between lectures and rehearsals and performances. And since the creative industry largely relies on an audience for revenue, I learned several business and technical skills in my degree program. I can negotiate contracts, run my own business (entrepreneurship), sell tickets and market a show to donors. Want textile skills for those survival jobs in-between shows? I can sew costumes, paint, build sets, hang lights and much more.

I even gained a sense of compassion that is quite handy in these divisive times: my degree taught me to think critically about social issues and—most important of all—how to think and speak empathetically with people who look, talk and believe differently than I do. I’d love to know which “workforce development” program to which the governor is referring teaches such a widespread array of skills as mentioned above.

Since graduating in 2013, these exceptional skills have led me to amazing professional experiences. In addition to several roles at large theatres in New York, Washington, D.C. and Nashville, I worked at the White House during the Obama administration. I have worked with youth in Ghana and India, using theatre as a tool for empowerment. I sit on several civic boards and often volunteer my time to bring arts education workshops to youth in impoverished eastern Kentucky schools. In early 2018, I will be traveling to Kentucky and several other states on a Broadway national tour musical. Despite what the governor says on the record, I feel fairly confident that my Musical Theatre degree prepared me for a successful life and career. The same goes for the thousands of other Kentucky students in courses of study our leader might deem “useless.” In fact, maybe universities should disregard his erroneous comments and consider bolstering their arts and social science departments.

Also, it’s important to remember that a college degree isn’t only about making a large income and doing mundane things-American ingenuity is a direct result of the sharing of ideas, cultures and points of view that happen in classrooms on college campuses across all of the arts, humanities and social sciences. We need more innovation and that requires using both sides of the brain. We aren’t workhorses, we are individuals with unique interests and values. Course offerings and degree options should reflect that breadth of knowledge.

Maybe you should’ve majored in interpretive dance, Governor, because your words are failing.