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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

Heidi Hoeffer provided the illustration for John Staunton’s narrative on the importance of getting involved with a commission. Ms. Hoeffer is Vice-Commissioner for the Scene Design Commission

For Best Conference Experience -- Get Involved!

John Stanton
VC - Student Affairs, Scene Design Commission

My first experience with the annual USITT Conference & Stage Expo was in Houston. I had been to other conferences in high school such as the Thespian Festival in Corpus Christi, Texas, but this was something completely different. The people at USITT were just like me; they were all part of the technical side of theatre. I also felt that my voice was really heard!

Prior to the conference, I was asked by my professor if I would like to be the Vice-Commissioner of Student Affairs for the Scene Design Commission. Not sure whether or not I wanted this kind of responsibility, I had to think about it for a while. She explained to me that this position would allow me to be involved in making decisions for future national conferences, and that it would be a great opportunity to meet people and let my voice be heard. So I decided to take on the job.

To my surprise, it wasn’t as hard as I had thought it would be. Before the conference started, I was told of my responsibilities. They were very easy to understand: be the voice of the students, listen to what the students tell me, and report back to the other Commissioners what they said. 

When I first met with the students who attended the Scene Design Commission meeting, I had no idea what would come out of the question, “What would you like to see at USITT?” When I asked that question, the group of about 12 students exploded. Everyone gave their opinion and ideas for future conferences, and I discovered that we all had a lot of the same ideas and concerns.   

So at the end of our first meeting, we had three new session proposals for the next year’s conference. The sessions each had chairs, who were students, and they were charged with the recruitment of colleagues who could serve as panelists for each session.

When the student chairs came back to our final meeting, we discussed what they had found -- that a lot of people were interested in the same things as we were, but did not know how to let their voice be heard and had no idea that anyone would actually listen! I told them, “Just let them know that all they need to do is come to the Scene Design meetings and tell me about it."

So after our final meeting together, we had three great new student sessions that I presented to the other Vice-Commissioners. They all loved what we had come up with and were happy that the students had a voice in choosing the programming for the 2009 conference in Cincinnati. What it basically came down to was, if you want to learn about something new or to just let your voice be heard at the USITT conference, all you need to do is come to the Commission meetings...

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