Updates on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

During the school year, the students regularly receive correspondences about continued efforts in equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as as progress updates for the School’s EDI Action Plan. Below are the announcements the School has sent to the students via its Weekly Update newsletter.

April 14 2021

SDA SOAR Event

This new health and wellness CommUNITY initiative offers a series of educational and experiential workshops that reflect the social, emotional, artistic, resiliency, and resources that artists need to thrive in creating and sharing art. SDA Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni are cordially invited to a Lunch and Learn event on Friday, April 16, 2021, from 12-1:00 pm PT with Kathie Greenwood from UPC Ombuds Office. The focus of the workshop is “Demystifying Interactions with Problematic People” that allows us to develop and strengthen our interpersonal relationship skills. If you would like to attend event, please
click on zoom link: https://usc.zoom.us/j/94141645201

Workshop on Microagressions: Intervention Strategies

SDA Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni are cordially invited to an experiential TO workshop facilitated by Brent Blair, Director of ITSC, and members from our SDA community. Using Forum Theater, SDA community members will dramatize/stage common scenarios of microaggressions towards BIPOC, APIDA, and LGBQT students. The audience plays a vital role of “Spect-actor” actively offering other solutions and possibilities of words and actions to resolve the conflict, address imbalance of power dynamics, and mitigate or re-direct microaggressions. Workshop will be held on April 23, 2021, from 3-5 pm PT. If you would like to attend event, please click on Zoom link: https://usc.zoom.us/j/98453743980

April 7, 2021

Resources Available

  • The BIPOC Mental Health resource site is available to all students and connects the student community with resources, including therapists who share the same cultural identities. Students may request a specific therapist, specify a shared identity, or see a therapist who is a regular presence as an embedded counselor in Student Equity and Inclusion Programs’ centers or the Office of International Services.
  • USC Student Health, Counseling and Mental Health Services has a number of drop-in Let’s Talk programs where students can speak one-on-one with a clinician from Counseling and Mental Health.

March 30, 2021

Town Hall: Anti-Asian Racism – Strategies of Support, Activism & Allyship

Dear Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Desi American, and Allied Students of the USC School of Dramatic Arts,

The USC School of Dramatic Arts invites you to an important event on April 9, 2021, 3-5 pm PDT.

This virtual town hall meeting will be a safe space for you to share your experiences regarding your journey as a School of Dramatic Arts and USC student, as well as your feelings regarding growing anti-Asian violence in the U.S. In addition, we would like the town hall to be a place in which allies can offer support. Associate Dean Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Associate Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting; Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; and Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting, will moderate. Joining in community and solidarity, Quade Yoo Song French (Senior Wellness Project Manager of USC Campus Wellbeing & Crisis Intervention) and Ashley Uyeshiro Simon (USC THRIVE Course Coordinator) will offer mental health strategies and resources of support and belonging.

This effort was spearheaded, in alphabetical order, by Asian American students, faculty, and staff: Tim Dang, Rena Heinrich, Velina Hasu Houston, Dylan Locke, Stacey Wang Rizzo, Nicole Royster, and Rodney To – the Taskforce for Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Desi American Students of the USC School of Dramatic Arts. Associate Dean Dashiell-Sparks organized the event for the School. We hope to see and hear you at the town hall. You deserve to be heard. Thank you!

USC School of Dramatic Arts and Taskforce for Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Desi American Students of the USC School of Dramatic Arts

SDA Anti-Racism & Advocacy Challenge Update – Incentive for Students!

Inspired by the Justice in June initiative, created by USC alumnae Autumn Gupta and Bryanna Wallace, SDA launched a 30-day Anti-Racism & Advocacy Challenge last September. These series of prompts to read, listen, act, watch and advocate were compiled with the purpose of providing a starting place for individuals trying to become better allies. Many of our faculty, staff and students participated in this meaningful work. We want to encourage those who haven’t had the opportunity to participate to engage as we are actively integrating anti-racist practices and values into curriculum, teaching, productions, systems, and processes within the school.

You can access the Anti-Racism Challenge from SDA website here.

As an incentive for students to complete the challenge, the Office of EDI is raffling three Visa or Amazon gift cards for individual students who complete the challenge, and three gift cards for SDA student groups/organizations who complete the challenge as a group. To be eligible for the raffle, please submit a Creative Reflection (as an individual or as a student organization) once you complete the challenge. The reflection should include three takeaways that you learned and will apply in the future, and can be submitted as a poem, video, collage, visual artwork, drawing, blog, or dance/movement piece.

Raffle open to SDA major and minor students only. All reflections must be received by May 4. Winner will be selected on May 12.

You can upload the Creative Reflections here.

March 24, 2021

From the SDA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Inclusion and Committee of the USC School of Dramatic Arts

We stand in unequivocal solidarity with Asian American, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) members of our community amid the horrific increase of anti-Asian and anti-Asian American racism and violence taking place across the country. Since March 2020, StopAAPIHate.org has documented over 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate. We denounce such violence against any member of humanity and those who perpetrate such violence must be held accountable.

These acts of discrimination and violence are part of deep systemic racism that has scapegoated minoritized communities for centuries. We commit to work together to continue our important anti-racist work and education, and to combat white supremacy in all its forms.

The crimes perpetrated this week fall at the intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia. We must ensure the authentic inclusion and belonging for people of all races, national origins, ethnicities and gender identities.

This Friday’s EDI Meeting is designated specifically as a processing space for our community of APIDA students, faculty, and staff. All are encouraged to attend: those who are hurting and those who want to help.

USC RESOURCES:

ADDITONAL RESCOURCES:

March 17, 2021

From the SDA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the School’s Inclusion and Equity Committee

We stand in unequivocal solidarity with Asian American, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) members of our community amid the horrific increase of anti-Asian and anti-Asian American racism and violence taking place across the country. Since March 2020, StopAAPIHate.org has documented over 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate. We denounce such violence against any member of humanity and those who perpetrate such violence must be held accountable.

These acts of discrimination and violence are part of deep systemic racism that has scapegoated minoritized communities for centuries. We commit to work together to continue our important anti-racist work and education, and to combat white supremacy in all its forms.

The crimes perpetrated this week fall at the intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia. We must ensure the authentic inclusion and belonging for all people.

This Friday’s EDI Meeting is designated specifically as a processing space for our community of APIDA students, faculty, and staff. All are encouraged to attend: those who are hurting and those who want to help. Resources Available.

March 10, 2021

Ella Fitzgerald Scholarship advances equity and diversity in musical theatre. Funded by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, this endowed award is a first for the USC School of Dramatic Arts’ BFA Musical Theatre program. Read more.

March 3, 2021

The University’s DEI Week begins Monday, March 8!

Diversity United: Race, Social Justice and the Future of American Equality

March 8-12

DEI Week is a week-long series of workshops, research presentations, and events that help build your “toolkit” for bringing equity and inclusivity into the classroom, the workplace, hallway conversations, and everywhere else in our lives. Events cover a wide array of diversity topics, including gender, race, disability status, first generation status, sexual orientation, immigration status, nationality, veteran status, and gender identity. Programming includes sponsored sessions and professional development exercises. Join colleagues and classmates in discussing challenging questions and working toward better solutions.

Full schedule of events here.

February 24, 2021

Did you know that applications to SDA for fall 2021 came from a little over 1,600 different high schools around the world? As we begin planning for the 2021-2022 recruitment cycle, we would love to hear feedback or ideas of how we can continue to expand our outreach and support to recruit a diverse student population. To share any ideas or suggestions, please email Sergio Ramirez at seramire@usc.edu.

February 17, 2021

The USC School of Dramatic Arts proudly announces the creation of a new Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Led by SDA’s Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Anita Dashiell-Sparks, the Office of EDI will offer programming ‚ events, workshops and trainings to the entire SDA community, and will serve as a space to empower collaborative and cultural innovation. Learn More.

The Office of EDI is kicking off it’s programing on Tuesday, February 23 with “Fade to Black: Representations of Black Family in Drama and Comedy.”

February 10, 2021

Our Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Anita Dashiell-Sparks, and the members of the SDA Inclusion and Equity Committee have been working to adjust, strengthen, and in some cases develop, systems of accountability within the School of Dramatic Arts. They are working in collaboration with university partners (including the USC Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX, the USC Office of the Ombuds, and USC RSVP, among others) to ensure that work within the school complements, collaborates with and utilizes university support offices and systems.

Some key areas of accountability the committee is focused on include:

  • developing and implementing an anonymous reporting and suggestion form for faculty, staff, and student use to address issues or concerns.
  • creating an accountability task force that would be trained in principles and practices of restorative justice as a pathway for conflict resolution and mediation.
  • creating a code of ethics for the School with stated vision and values, and a commitment to hold each other accountable to live out these standards in our artistic, educational, and professional practices.

We will continue to update you as their work continues. Please join the committee’s open forums to learn more. The next open forum is this Friday, February 12 at 1 p.m.

February 3, 2021

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend last week’s Spotlight@SDA event with TIME’S UP. During the event, Entertainment Industry Director Ngoc Nguyen and TIME’S UP Senior Program Manager Michelle Jones Simms shared some resources for attendees, including the TIME’S UP Guide to Working in Entertainment and so much more. We are sharing these important resources here to ensure they are available to all.

January 27, 2021

Thank you to everyone who participated in the casting and audition process for this semester’s 397/497 practicums. New and updated processes were utilized, including:

  • Expansion of undergraduate casting collective: The undergraduate casting collective now includes the co-heads of undergraduate acting, the artistic director, the head of production, the head of the School’s Career Center, as well as a faculty representative from the Inclusion and Equity Committee. They worked collectively with the practicum leaders (directors) to ensure that the process is equitable and mindful of access and opportunity of experiences for all students at SDA, and that the practicum leaders follow the School’s inclusive casting policy.
  • General casting audition: For non-cohort specific practicums, this cycle began with a general audition for the undergraduate casting collective and the practicum leaders for those productions.
  • Updated sign-up form: The sign-up form was expanded to include an area for students to identify roles they are interested in being considered for.

As mentioned before, these are initial steps to an evolution of the process that will continue over the next few years. Please be on the lookout for a survey in the next few weeks about these updates as we continue to reassess and reimagine these processes.

To view cast lists, please visit sdastudents.usc.edu.

January 20, 2021

One of our commitments in the SDA Office of Admissions & Student Services is to continue our outreach efforts to help draw a more diverse applicant pool. We are pleased to share our progress of undergraduate applications received to date:

  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 50% decline
  • Asian: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 59% increase
  • Black or African American: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 20% increase
  • Hispanic: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 18% increase
  • International: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 63% increase
  • Two or more races: From fall 2020 to fall 2021 applications, 11% increase

Once we close our admission cycle, we will be sure to report final data related to fall 2021.

Mark Your Calendars! The Inclusion and Equity Committee holds monthly open forums for all members of the SDA Community. Upcoming forums will be held on February 12 @ 1pm-2pm; Friday, March 19 @ 12pm-1pm; and Friday, April 23 @ 12pm-1pm. Zoom information will be shared closer to the dates. Please join!

January 13, 2021

For information about our ongoing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, please click here.

November 18, 2020

Meet Edwin Bodney, USC Student Health’s new LGBTQ+ campus advocate and educator. The established artist, educator and advocate wants his art and his own experiences as a Black, queer undergrad to help guide underrepresented members of the USC student community.

November 11, 2020

We are excited to announce the creation of EDI Student Liaisons. These engaged students will participate in diversity training workshops and will serve as liaisons between faculty, staff, and students. They can share information and gather input and feedback on the various EDI initiatives and programs that the school has identified as priorities in the action plan that was established and shared in July. These students will be invited to attend and participate in the Inclusion and Equity Committee meetings and Open Forums that are held monthly if their schedules allow.

The students who have agreed to serve include: Talha Barberousse (BFA MT Sophomore), Aaliyah Brathwaite (BFA SSNM Sophomore), C.J. Craig (BA Sophomore), Harley Graham (BA Sophomore), Brett Landin (BA Sophomore), Dylan Locke (BA Senior), Zoya Naqvi (BFA Design Junior), Eric Renna (BA Sophomore), Seeret Singh (BA Sophomore), Sarah Vakil (BA Sophomore), Jeniffer Velazquez (BA Sophomore).

November 4, 2020

An Update from Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Anita Dashiell-Sparks

I am delighted to announce that beginning immediately, Jennifer Franco will be providing staff support, on a part-time basis, to the rapidly growing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. Many of you already know Jen, but for those who don’t yet, she is an alum of the School of Dramatic Arts (BFA Stage Management ’16) and joined the staff in our events team in February 2018. I am so excited to be working with Jen in this capacity. I have no doubt that her support and contributions will help advance our EDI work forward. Please join us for our next Equity and Inclusion Meeting on November 13 at 1 p.m. (please note new date for meeting) to say hello to Jen and see how you can participate in this important work. All are welcome.

October 28, 2020

As this recruitment cycle is underway, the Office of Admissions and Student Services would like to share about its expanded outreach to underrepresented communities. Building on efforts from past years, and taking full advantage of the virtual platform, we have participated in class visits, fairs and forums in locations that we were often unable to attend. We hope to continue and build on these efforts once we are back to normal operations. At these visits, we are also sharing about the University’s Affordability Initiative, which has expanded access for individuals from diverse financial and cultural backgrounds to attend this top-tier research university. Backstage recently featured Co-Heads of Undergraduate Acting Anita Dashiell-Sparks and Kenneth Noel Mitchell, and Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services Sergio Ramirez discussing what they are looking for in the audition process.

October 21, 2020

USC Student Equity and Inclusion Programs (SEIP) is a cluster of student development centers and initiatives within the Division of Student Affairs that offer student support services and programs that focus on intersectionality, sense of belonging and well-being. During our CommUNITY Day on 9/13, Naddia Palacios (senior director of student equity inclusion programs) presented about the some of the centers and offices available to all students at USC, including:

  • Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS)
  • Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA)
  • First Generation Plus Success Center (FG+SC)
  • Latinx/Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Students Affairs (La CASA)
  • LGBTQ+ Student Center
  • Student Basic Needs
  • Veterans Resource Center

October 14, 2020

The Board of Councilors of the School of Dramatic Arts recently developed an EDI Task Force to help support and advance the School’s EDI action plan. Members of the SDA board provide counsel to the school’s administration and faculty, support essential programming with their connections and expertise, and provide philanthropic leadership crucial to achieving the School’s mission. This new Task Force has identified actions board members can take which would have the greatest impact for the School, these include building the School’s scholarship funds for BIPOC students, recruiting industry leaders who represent BIPOC or other diverse communities for the masterclasses or speakers series at the School, and help develop and participate in a mentorship program for students.

October 7, 2020

From the Co-Heads of Undergraduate Acting:

We have been meeting with faculty in our area and program directors to align and integrate EDI into curricula of BA/BFA programs moving forward. Our goal is to foster a challenging and creative learning environment that nurtures empathy, compassion, and the value of a growth mindset.

We are asking each performance faculty to offer a range of diverse material that students can engage with, learn from, and choose to work on and explore. The expectation is that at least 25% of curricular content (plays, readings, multi-media content, etc.) is by a BIPOC writer, artist, or scholar.

Time periods and playwrights for each BA progression class have been adjusted to include more BIPOC and female playwrights.

If you would like to explore an “Alternative Canon” (plays written before 1945 by global, multi-cultural and LGBTQ playwrights), please click here for an extensive list curated by various educators and artists.

September 30, 2020

Expanding access to our degree programs and our School is a priority in the USC School of Dramatic Arts Office of Admissions & Student Services recruitment plan. As part of this effort, our office launched one of three videos supporting prospective students financial literacy. This information is instrumental in educating students on financial resources to help fund an arts education.

September 23, 2020

Join us as we challenge ourselves and the entire SDA community to take action by reading, listening, watching, acting and advocating for the next 30 days as part of the SDA Anti-Racism & Advocacy Challenge. Every day, we will post an action/prompt on the School’s social media channels. Inspired by the Justice in June initiative, created by USC alumnae Autumn Gupta and Bryanna Wallace, the SDA Anti-Racism & Advocacy Challenge was compiled by Anita Dashiell-Sparks with the purpose of providing a starting place for individuals trying to become better allies. As Wallace said at the SDA CommUNITY Day, The journey of allyship should always be ongoing. … You should always be learning and unlearning.” Learn more or participate in the challenge.

September 9, 2020

The Undergraduate Literary Committee of SDA generates proposals for the School’s annual production season. With the understanding that some titles may not be available due to the unavailability of rights, the committee is tasked with being thoughtful and intentional in the curation of the SDA production season and to examine the process of selection through the lens of equity-mindedness. The faculty members selected for the 2020-21 academic year include Stephanie Shroyer (Chair), Luis Alfaro, Boni B. Alvarez, Paula Cizmar, Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Melinda C. Finberg, Elizabeth Harper, Duncan Mahoney, and Kenneth Noel Mitchell. Additionally, there are two student representatives that participate on this committee, which historically has represented TSA (Theatre Students Association) leadership. This year the president and vice president of TSA (Dani Jaramillo and Jacob Litvack, respectively) will serve on this committee.

September 2, 2020

CommUNITY Day
“Embodying Empathy”

Friday, September 11, 2020
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT
Zoom Event

August 26, 2020

The Inclusion and Equity Committee of SDA serves as a task force to continue to support and assess programs and initiatives surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion at the School. The committee consists of SDA faculty and staff representatives, two current students, two alumni and a representative from the SDA Board of Councilors. The faculty members of the Inclusion and Equity Committee have been selected for the 2020-21 Academic Year to include Anita Dashiell-Sparks (Chair), Alexandra Billings, Debra De Liso, John DeMita, Scott Faris, Rena M. Heinrich, Stevie Johnson, and Dan Shaner. If you would like to nominate yourself or one of your peers to the be one of the student representatives on this committee, please fill out this form. All members of the SDA community will be invited to attend these meetings.

August 19, 2020

Expanding access to our degree programs and our School is a priority in the USC School of Dramatic Arts Office of Admissions & Student Services recruitment plan for this upcoming cycle. In addition to extending an even wider outreach to high schools that enroll high percentages of BIPOC students, the office will be addressing potential pipeline issues related to applicant outreach and support. Along with enhancing our general information session offerings, we will be conducting several virtual tutorials for underrepresented and undeserved applicants.

Topics to be addressed will include:

  1. Financing an arts education,
  2. How to leverage an arts degree in a changing economy, and
  3. How to submit a competitive application by leveraging your life experience.

These topics address concerns expressed by many BIPOC applicants.