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Grace Davis

Bolz Collegium 2018: 50 Years of Artful Leadership

by Grace Davis Thursday, October 4, 2018

Talk about starting off with a bang! With less than two weeks of classes under my belt, Collegium struck. This biennial event serves as a wonderful opportunity for alumni, guests, and current students to engage in meaningful conversations and continued learning. While this event is always special, this year was particularly significant as it marked the program’s 50th anniversary. It was a true celebration, and a way to reflect on the past and look to the future of an incredibly impactful program.

This year’s theme was fifty years of artful leadership, and I can’t imagine a better way to kick it off than hearing from keynote speaker, Victoria Hutter. Ms. Hutter shared her experiences working as the Assistant Director of Public Affairs at the National Endowment for the Arts. It was inspiring to learn about the organization’s outreach to smaller communities nationwide, as well as the organization’s efforts to remain relevant in a challenging environment.

Ms. Hutter’s professional career path, like many of her fellow Bolz Center graduates, reaches across multiple disciplines. Hearing each of their stories was extremely valuable. The panel presentations, along with my personal conversations, made me aware of the myriad ways in which alumni have used their educational foundation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to positively impact their careers, regardless of the diverse and numerous fields in which they are employed. With respect to my own background, I have had a fairly focused career trajectory thus far concentrated primarily in the television and film industry. Learning about the unique paths of the graduates of the Arts Administration program reminded me to always be open to the diverse array of opportunities - I even discovered career options that I didn’t know existed! For me, Collegium was a wonderful way to kickstart my two years at Madison.

The Board Leadership Workshop explored the ways in which boards can be more strategic, more welcoming of new partners, and more inclusive, not only in the representation of the communities they serve, but within the boards themselves. Although a daunting and nebulous task, the workshop aided individuals to better understand certain mechanisms and tools to positively change the culture of his or her board. As of yet, I have no experience working on or with a board, so I was very excited to learn from other professionals and their firsthand knowledge. I was struck by the fact that the composition of boards is no more diverse than they were two years ago, and that this trend is unlikely to shift unless fundamental changes are implemented into the board recruiting process. Actions speak louder than words, and I think the group discussion gave participants the space to actively attempt to pinpoint issues that they see in their own board culture and determine some concrete ways to solve problems. Each board has a unique structure and dynamic, and I thought the time to self-evaluate was extremely beneficial, especially when this is not typically a priority in an action focused agenda. In order for board culture to change, inclusivity needs to take precedent. The board workshop prompted many important conversations, as well as equipped attendees with helpful tools to better prepare them for improved board culture and leadership. I noticed that this subject was met with a high level of engagement and enthusiasm, and it was great for me to see that passion.

The day concluded with a panel discussion entitled 50 years of Artful Leadership: How the Training of Leadership Has Evolved Over Time. I learned a great deal about the rich history of the program, and I heard firsthand accounts of how the Arts Administration specialization has evolved into what it is today. The creators and supporters of this program have done an incredible job of ensuring the continuous growth of its course of study in an evolving field, and I am grateful to benefit from the work done by the individuals before me. The pride with which alumni discussed their educational foundation was inspiring, and I am so thankful to join such a generous and dynamic group of people who call themselves Bolzies. Collegium was quite the plunge into the UW-Madison Arts Administration experience, but I can’t think of a better way to start.