Acceptance speech, Distinguished Service Award, Michigan Art Education Association, 201

As teachers we are always learning, aren’t we? In order to teach a subject, we must learn it systematically and understand it profoundly. This was recently impressed upon me as I joined the faculty at MSU. My learning curve primarily involved online coursework, D2L, and my dedicated transformation to proficiency through their 24-7 hotline for tech support. Learning isn’t always easy, and persistence can be key.

I wasn’t that far removed from academia. After D2L tech support, I would like to thank University of Michigan – Flint, where I served as a nontraditional learner from 2014 -2017.  Dr. Sarah Lippert and Professor Nicole Broughton bravely supported my research and thesis about Arts Education as a Fundamental Right for Youth in the United States. They had no idea what they were in for when they accepted my application for graduate school.

My nontraditional internship, then nontraditional independent study, then nontraditional thesis research at U of M developed as part of an arts education research fellowship through Americans for the Arts called the Gap Analysis. I want to thank Kristen Engebretsen, who helped me be a better researcher and honestly, a better human. Together, we did discover gaps. We began to prove that although the arts improve students’ performance in school, work, and life, only some students are afforded these opportunities. I say this is unacceptable, and that together we can change that. If you agree, could you please give your table neighbors a high five?

To their credit, champions have helped me develop this argument along the way. Among many, Leslie Donaldson, Chad Badgero, Dawn Gorman, Sarah Triplett, John Bracey and Catherine Babcock helped me develop a vision for my work and pivot to positivity during a professional crisis in Lansing. I owe a debt of gratitude to our team at Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center for the opportunity to pursue arts education research and advocacy. Of course, I want to thank M-A-E-A, Kim Cairy, and my nominators Kerry Staple-bolt and Heidi Irvine, whose work I deeply admire. Could I please get a few snaps for them? My students recently taught me this. It’s similar to applauding but less interruptive, historically derivative of beatnik poetry, and super hip. Now you know.

Since graduating just over a year ago, I have worked closely with the MAEIA team and would like to thank both Kathys – Dewsbury White, Ana Luisa Cardona, Heather Vaughan-Southard for their inspiring leadership and team mentality to truly uplift our field. I would also like to thank my colleagues at MSU who have shared resources and served as mentors.

Finally, I would like to thank my family. My parents fostered a home where education was valued as a profession, a past time, and a primary focus for children. As an adult, I have been fortunate to enjoy a life filled with art and love with my husband Jon Whitney. As you can imagine, I am grateful that he believes in continued learning, too. Thank you, enjoy your camaraderi tonight, and be inspired!

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