December 2016

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December 2016

News From Mark Shanda, USITT President

Board Announces Exciting Initiatives

Mark Shanda USITT President

“ ’Tis the season to be jolly and joyous!” says Kermit the Frog in “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”

’Tis also the season of gift giving, exchanging thanks, and reflecting back on this past year. One of the greatest gifts that I celebrate this season is bold decision making by the Institute’s Board of Directors. The Board recently authorized the largest financial commitment ever made by USITT to significantly advance the Institute’s impact in three critical areas.

The Stage Rigging Initiative (RSI), which offers free stage rigging inspections and safety training for secondary schools, has been an amazing success. With a commitment of $85,000 over the next three years, we will rapidly add to the more than 120 secondary schools that have benefited. Safety improvement and quality training are key to the Institute’s mission. RSI leverages the capacity of our partner rigging dealers, installers, and manufacturers to impact the facilities where students first discover the joy of working backstage.

We have long encouraged increased diversity in the industry, but the Gateway Program, a key component of USITT’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, puts our money where our mouth is. The Board’s gift of stable funding for Gateway for the next three years ($85,000) assures engagement with students from underrepresented populations at the Annual Conference & Stage Expo and partners each student with a mentor of similar interests. The first three classes of Gateway graduates are already being hired into significant roles, and one can only imagine what a difference the classes of the future will have. Accepting differences and effectively engaging with the rich diversity of humanity is a clarion call for our future!

The Institute has been offering for many years project grants and fellowships to advance the knowledge and skills of our members. However, our impact has been fairly limited by both the available funds and the lack of focus of our efforts. The Board has made an unprecedented financial commitment of $330,000 over the next six years to enable significant research and support change. A group of industry leaders is developing the procedures to access these funds. Details will be released at USITT 2017 in St. Louis.

The Board believes this commitment to innovative research, combined with our declared support of the RSI and the Gateway program, will improve the “return on investment” for both your dues and your donations for all of our members.

None of these bold actions would be possible without your support. We would not be able to make these truly life changing decisions without the contribution that each of you make to the success of the Institute. I thank you for your gifts of service and financial resources that have made all of this possible, and extend you well wishes for a restful holiday and a welcome launch into the New Year!

Mark Shanda

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