March 2015

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March 2015

News & Notices

Gateway Program Expands for Cincy

Janet Gramza Communications Associate

Last year, USITT launched its Gateway mentorship program by bringing three theatre technology students from underrepresented populations to the Fort Worth 2014 Annual Conference & Stage Expo and pairing them with professional mentors in their fields.

This year, member support and organizational partnerships are allowing 12 Gateway Scholars to attend the Conference in Cincinnati with mentors from similar backgrounds and disciplines.

“Being able to expand Gateway this much in one year is a big deal,” said Kasey Allee-Foreman, chair of the Diversity Committee. “The point of this program is to pair students with a mentor to maximize their Conference experience.”

“When you first go to Conference, it’s overwhelming,” she explained. “You don’t know how to choose what you’re going to do. This program sets up the mentees with a peer group and connects them to their mentor’s network. It’s an inside connection.”

As in 2014, two of the 2015 Gateway Scholars are Tayneshia Jefferson Mentorship recipients, receiving their Conference & Stage Expo registration, one year of student membership in USITT, and travel and housing through the fund established in memory of the late USITT Board Member and Stage Management Mentor.

Four other Gateway Scholars will receive this support funded by donations to the Diversity Initiative, and six will receive partial support from their universities or organizations and partial support from the USITT Diversity Initiative.

The 2015 Gateway Scholars are:

  • Jomary Pena, State University of New York at Oneonta - Tayneshia Jefferson Scholar
  • Autumn Mitchell, Alabama State University - Tayneshia Jefferson Scholar
  • Lydia Pearce, Weber State University
  • Alohilani Valdez, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Keith Kennard, Jackson State University
  • Sarah Haber, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Ahmad Harris, Joe’s Movement Emporium (World Arts Focus, Inc.)
  • Marisa Melito, DePaul University
  • Raul Luna, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Martin Alcocer, University of Utah
  • Karina Mena, Allegheny College
  • Jessica Drayton, Wright State University

Ms. Allee-Foreman said the candidates had to be nominated by a USITT member, and were sent applications to fill out, including with which underrepresented group in theatre technology they identify with, their area of interest, and why they want to participate in the program.

“We want people who are interested in diversity issues and who want to have that dialogue,” she said. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for underrepresented populations to come to the Conference, but we also want to encourage a culture of advocacy in our mentees, allowing them to become active participants in diversity and inclusion efforts.”

She said the Diversity Committee will attempt to pair each Gateway scholar with “someone who looks like me, or who has experience like me, because our backstage industry is not the most diverse. Realizing that there are others like you, who are doing what you want to do, is so important to growing in your field.”

The mentors and mentees will get to spend time together, but the participants may also connect with other mentors or students by attending sessions or receptions together. USITT hopes to continue to attract more volunteer mentors and interested mentees for next year. For more on the program, visit