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Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Colby to Helm Performing Arts Department

Professor Robert Colby, a 41-year Performing Arts veteran, will take over as chair of his department this summer.

The longtime graduate program and Theatre Education director said he initially was “a little nervous” about stepping in the role, because he didn’t want to lose his connection to the Theatre Education program.

“But I thought it’s not so much leaving behind the Theatre Education program as it’s using what I’ve learned at Emerson to help the department,” Colby said.

Colby takes over for Professor Melia Bensussen, who has served as chair for the past 11 years. Bensussen will take a sabbatical to direct in Fall 2018, and then return to Emerson in her previous role, as producing director of Emerson Stage.

Colby, who has served as head of the Faculty Assembly and president of the Faculty Union (he’ll have to step down from that role as chair), said that he’s more of a collaborative leader, as opposed to someone who thinks everyone should just fall behind his vision.

That said, he does have a few areas he’d like to work on as chair. He said he’d like to focus on calls from students and others to improve diversity and inclusion in productions, curriculum, and classrooms.

“That’s one I’d like to put my shoulder behind,” Colby said.

He also said he, along with Bensussen, Emerson Stage General Manager David Colfer, and an advisory committee, would be looking at how Emerson Stage serves the department, including whether they’re striking the right balance, in terms of numbers and types of plays.

As with all department chairs, he’ll also be tasked with articulating Performing Arts’s vision and goals to the dean and provost, and advocate for resources for a “vigorous program with a national reputation.”

Colby said Bensussen has “taking [him] by the hand” in order to guide him and the department through the transition.

For her part, Bensussen said she’ll miss hearing so many people’s stories as chair, as well as having the “big picture” of the department. But she’s excited to teach more and return to a job that she truly loves, and she’s excited for Colby.

“Bob has been so committed to this department for so long, and so committed to the institution, and prioritizes students in a way that is so important to me,” Bensussen said. “The sense of community we have with our students, I think Bob will carry on, and I also think he’ll take the department in new directions.”