UMKC Helps Pave the Way for Future Ph.D.s

Amanda Dawson. Photo by Manon Halliburtin

Students from the Master of Arts in Theatre program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City are flourishing in Ph.D. programs across the country. With the opportunity to learn from internationally respected professors like Dr. Felicia Londré as well as opportunities to gain dramaturgy experience at professional theatres like the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, universities across the country receive prospective doctoral students from UMKC’s graduate theatre program as the highly qualified scholars they are. 

From the 2016 class Collin Vorbeck and David Ruis were both accepted into Ph.D. programs. David Ruis is attending the University of Kansas, where he is Co-Chair of KU’s Theatre Graduate Students Organization and is serving as dramaturg for several productions, including Sarah Ruhl’s Late, a Cowboy Song under the mentorship of Dr. Jane Barnette at KU, as well as for Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel at the KC MeltingPot Theatre under the direction of Dr. Nicole Hodges Persley. 

Collin Vorbeck started his first year at Texas Tech University to work towards his Ph.D., and is currently acting in a production of the musical Heathers: The Musical. He was drawn to Texas Tech because its program emphasizes the necessity of interdisciplinary work. “I’ve always had an end-goal of professorship on some level or another,” Collin says, “but Dr. Londré’s guidance, both in the classroom and during side coaching sessions, truly inspired me to take this next step.”

Three other graduates of the UMKC Masters in Theatre program have recently obtained their Ph.D.s: two at the University of Missouri-Columbia and one at the University of Kansas. This past May, Dr. Andy Pierce (2007) obtained his Ph.D. from MU. He is currently the Education Coordinator at Starlight Theatre, where he has been for the past ten years in different capacities. His position allows him to be part of twelve different education programs, working with five-year-old campers all the way up to college-aged interns. Dr. Pierce says, “attending UMKC was the best choice of my professional and academic career.” 

Dr. Amanda Dawson (Boyle) from the class of 2012 obtained her Ph.D. this past spring from the University of Kansas. Currently, she is an assistant professor of speech and theatre at Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky. Dr. Dawson says, “My time at UMKC was, without a doubt, a positive, life-changing experience. There are so many elements of the UMKC experience that have made me who I am. For starters, Dr. Londré quickly became my mentor and remains in that role to this day. She taught me a passion for theatre and dramaturgy that I could not have imagined. I met a group of theatre artists that today remain some of my closest friends.” Before attending KU, Dr. Dawson was the literary manager and resident dramaturg at the Unicorn Theatre. She says, “When I started at UMKC I had no intention of going on to the Ph.D., but because of Felicia Londré’s confidence and encouragement, I applied for Ph.D. programs. Dr. Londré helped me to apply and I was accepted into numerous programs.” 

Dr. Vanessa Campagna (2012) went directly from the M.A. program at UMKC into the Ph.D. program at UM-C. She graduated as the Doctoral Marshal in May 2015 and is in her second year as an assistant professor of theatre at Monmouth College (Monmouth IL). She teaches Classical Theatre History, Modern Theatre History, World Dramatic Literature, and Script Analysis. She also directs one mainstage production per year, such as the upcoming Meet Me in St. Louis, as well as supervising student directing projects. She says, “My time at UMKC is the time I became a historian. It was at UMKC that I learned to love the history of theatre, and that I began to understand and appreciate that history’s breadth and depth. Additionally, Dr. Londré’s sharp editorial eye helped me to become a strong writer. In short, I am absolutely indebted to the education I received in those two years!”