Next Story in this issue
News & Notices
In Memoriam:
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
USITT in the 21st Century: Preparing for a Future
That is Already Here

Sylvia Hillyard Pannell
USITT President

USITT is making great strides to accomplishing what was first examined and then refined during Board of Directors retreats in 2006 and 2007.  McCarthy Arts Consulting (MAC) is now fully engaged in the process of helping our organization prioritize needs, establish goals, and then attain them.  As part of this vital and important work, the members will be asked to assist through a survey process being conducted by MAC.

"When organizations approach major milestones, such as USITT's upcoming 50th anniversary, they often and appropriately review the past and assess the present to ensure that they can live the future they dream," said Kerry McCarthy. "USITT is thoughtfully reconsidering its course and its ultimate destination.  Our role as consultants is to facilitate a process rooted in research and input from your key constituencies that helps your leadership structure make the necessary course corrections.  This will ensure that USITT will attain both its service goals and assume its proper position within the field at large."

The process which led to involving MAC began at the Fall 2006 Board of Directors Retreat which examined USITT in terms of its vitality and viability as a 21st century organization. As Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick Fil A noted "If the rate of internal change doesn't keep pace with that of external change [your organization] will become obsolete." 

As noted in my December 2006 President's column (here), "the retreat was a spirited and interesting forum, and the retreat topics will prompt further appraisal and provide direction and forward momentum for the immediate and long-range prospects for USITT."

Summit on USITT in the 21st Century

In January 2007, Retreat panel leaders and others gathered for a Summit on USITT in the 21st Century to further consider the charges from the Board as presented in the White Papers. Storms gathered over the Summit and the Board's clear call for change became cloudy as we examined and debated how to proceed. Many of the ideas presented were not new. However embracing them, for a variety of reasons, has eluded USITT.

Thus, to move these valuable ideas forward and to help avoid that inevitable stumbling block, "That's the way we've always done it," the Summit participants recommended, and the Executive Committee concurred, that consulting a professional arts organization assessment firm would assist this effort and offer guidance as we reposition ourselves to assure a relevant and prosperous future.

A 21st Century Task Force -- Bill Byrnes, Director; Lea Asbell-Swanger, Carl Lefko, Tom Young, Carol Carrigan, Sylvia Hillyard Pannell, Travis DeCastro and Lawrence Hill -- was appointed to research the choice of a consulting firm and oversee the organizational assessment process.


In June 2007 USITT engaged McCarthy Arts Consultants to assist USITT prioritize needs suggested in the White Papers, establish goals and attain them. The process will take place from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. To better understand our organization and its potential, MAC representatives will meet and/or interview current members, lapsed members, corporate members, and non-members. They will interview leadership, staff, peer organizations, and the Board of Directors, with whom they will meet twice and to whom they will issue their final report.

Call for Input from Membership

Input from the membership is a critical part of this process and all members are urged to respond with candor to questions and surveys that come your way. Further, I invite members to send the Task Force any concerns, ideas, observations, and thoughts regarding USITT such as whether and how it is meaningful and/or useful to you. All comments and observations are welcome and important to this study as plans emerge to move USITT toward its rightful place among 21st century arts organizations.

What's Ahead

This Fall, when the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Publications Committee, Finance Committee and others gather in Syracuse, New York for the Fall Board of Directors meeting, representatives of MAC will be part of the schedule. We expected they will share preliminary findings, plus discuss and identify focus group participants. The Task Force will meet and is expected to revisit goals and objectives to reflect new findings.

At the Spring 2008 Board Meeting MAC plans to present action plans to the Board of Directors. MAC's final report to USITT's Task Force will be presented at a half-day meeting and forwarded to the Board of Directors on its electronic forum for discussion and action.

What are the Goals

The firm's goal, as outlined in its proposal, includes a comprehensive review and assessment culminating in the development of strategic initiatives.  Using information already developed by USITT plus a variety of research, assessment and communication tools, a clear picture of the industry landscape, constituent needs, organizational opportunities, and structural challenges will emerge.  MAC will distill the information gathered into manageable goals and action items.

We at USITT look forward to an exciting year during which we will closely examine our already excellent organization with the goal of assuring that USITT has another successful and prosperous 50 years ahead.

To Top

USITT President Sylvia Hillyard Pannell