Two faculty members appointed to new positions in conservatory

Garfield Lemonius and Colleen Hooper share their visions as the new Dean of COPA and the new Dance Department chair


Photo by Rachel Nash

A dancer at studios on Point Park’s campus poses. (Photo Credit: Rachel Nash)

Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

As the school year gets into full swing, two faculty members have taken on new positions in the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA).

Garfield Lemonius and Colleen Hooper both worked within the Department of Dance for a number of years. This past academic year, Lemonius was the chair of the department and Hooper worked as an assistant professor. However, after the conservatory experienced several controversies under Steven Breese’s tenure as COPA’s dean, the university announced to the campus community it had appointed Lemonius to the position on May 6. Over the summer, Hooper has taken over as Chair of the Department of Dance.

Even though Lemonius was expecting to return as chair this year, he’s thankful and excited for the opportunity to connect with more students and bring new opportunities to the cinema arts, dance, and theatre departments of COPA.

“The transition has been busy, but I’m very humbled, honored, and grateful to have the opportunity to work with such talented and diverse students from all walks of life,” Lemonius said. “It’s really important to me to make sure that these students’ voices are heard and that they’re a part of the decision making about their education.”

Both faculty are looking forward to using their new positions to continue to improve the learning experience for students. As chair, Hooper communicates with the faculty and students while working to uphold the educational values of the program in new and innovative ways. She especially wants to focus on working with dance students to help them be as successful as possible.

“We have a big program, so what that means as faculty members and as leaders [is] we need to understand how to work with our students so they can learn how to find a place for themselves within the big world of dance,” Hooper said.

For Hooper, this success is reached by helping students think of dance in ways more than just as a performative art:

“The outside world is important, but there’s an academic side to dance as well. I want to help them to think about dance broadly, to question, what is dance? What is the role of dance in society? How does it reflect culture? How does it reflect our place in the world?”

Lemonius is taking his knowledge from working as chair and applying it throughout COPA. One of his main focuses is to incorporate the community and Pittsburgh Playhouse into every department of COPA.

“I’ve been working with Drew Martorella, the managing artistic director for the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and we are envisioning new pathways for it to continue to be dedicated to the accurate, academic vision of the university, but also to make sure the students have a home in the playhouse,” Lemonius said. “We’ll also establish partnerships with individuals and organizations outside of the university. By welcoming them into our space, our students can interact and engage with these artists and we also invite a new audience to the playhouse.”

He notes that the playhouse can be used not only to bring together all the departments of COPA and the outside community, but can also introduce and talk about issues that are seen around the world.

“We’re really focusing on how we can uphold and manage the core values of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, which are around equity, diversity, and inclusivity. But also involve showcasing and working with students in the conservatory and across the university to deliver that experiential educational mission,” Lemonius said. “We can show contemporary works that speak to our times and speak to what’s happening in society right now, so that our audience can resonate with what they saw on the stage in the Pittsburgh Playhouse.”

This focus on the playhouse is not just for dance and theatre either, it is just as much for cinema arts.

“I want to welcome the Cinema Arts Department to the Pittsburgh Playhouse and maybe we can work together on presenting films that students are working on in the playhouse,” Lemonius said. “The other aspect is to create opportunities for collaboration. We have some incredibly talented students in the Cinema Arts Department that have tremendous skills that they could potentially share with their colleagues in dance and theatre.”

Dance students who know Lemonius and Hooper are excited about the new transition. For senior dance major and Dance Club president, Julianna Glaser, she expects Lemonius to be a perfect fit for Dean of COPA after all he did for the Department of Dance as chair.

“Garfield worked hard as chair of the dance program to bring in new dance styles and choreographers for the students,” Glaser said. “He was open to holding meetings to hear from the students what they were looking for in the dance program. He would then continue those discussions with staff to discuss possibilities for change in the future. I know he is able to bring this same dynamic as Dean of COPA to help all majors in the performing arts succeed, similar to the dance program under his guidance throughout the years.”

She also had Hooper as a professor and was excited to hear that she was appointed as the new chair due to her concern for students but also her interest in cultures and diversity.

“I trust Colleen will bring the skills she has shown throughout her previous years being a professor,” Glaser said. “Colleen is open to new ideas, conversations and topics when it comes to teaching. I think this will be a great trait as chair, bringing new ideas for the dance program as it continues to grow.”

Though, if there is one thing Glaser hopes to see change within COPA, it’s collaboration between all departments. And, with Lemonius’ ideas, she said there’s hope ahead for a better education experience.

“I know Colleen and Garfield will both succeed in their new positions. But, through the new appointees I hope to see more opportunities for different majors to collaborate with one another; for students to grow and expand their knowledge in the other fields of art at school,” Glaser said.