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Liberal Arts Graduates

Pam Atchison, MS

What I do now:
Since 1986, it has been my privilege to serve as the Executive Director of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.

My work/job consists of:
The specific role of Executive Director is to ensure that the resources are in place to achieve the mission of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, which is to maximize access to the Arts in Shreveport and Northwest Louisiana by nurturing, developing, promoting, presenting, and providing education about all of the Arts for all of the people of this region. Resources include an outstanding community-engaged board of directors, professional staff, professional artists equipped to work in the community environment, community partners who generously share their expertise, a vigorous menu of programming and activities, and funding that fuels the implementation of the Vision.

Path to my current career position (how I got from the past to the present):
The road to this "world" began very early for me when in middle school I saw an audience of more than 2,000 people react passionately to a robust dance performance - applauding wildly, shouting "Bravo" at the top of their lungs, begging for an encore, and flinging dozens upon dozens of roses on the stage. This "connection" between dancers and audience was astonishing and I vowed to make my life's work the "repetition" of this connection. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Tx with a teaching certificate in theatre and speech and taught in Duncanville TX and Birmingham AL for five years. Upon arriving in Shreveport in 1982, I learned that there were no Theatre/Speech teachers; I would need to become certified in another subject to teach theatre/language arts or some other combination of new subjects. The Shreveport Regional Arts Council had an opening for a "Theatre Artist" in Residence to work in the schools interweaving Theatre with language arts, math, history, and science. This path led me to become the Arts in Education Director and create the ArtBreak Festival. Shortly thereafter, SRAC's Executive Director departed and I moved from "interim director" to Executive Director in 1986.

How I got to LSUS (or why I chose LSUS):
When l learned that Dr. Norman Dolch had developed a Master's Program in Human Services Administration, at LSUS (2nd year of his program), I applied for placement. My two sons had received their Master's Degrees and I wanted to pursue the long-term dream of a Masters. Thankfully, my good friend and colleague, Shelly Ragle, was also interested in pursuing the Master's Degree and we enrolled together - supporting one another for the two years required to accomplish the curriculum.

Fond memories of LSUS:
Fond memories of LSUS, as a student, center on the stimulating conversations - almost taking a debate-like approach about nonprofit management with professors such as Mike Woods and Shonda Stone - who later became a Shreveport Regional Arts Council Board Member! As a community member, I have always appreciated that LSUS makes the campus "home" to many important events and the "faculty" serve as key advisors to many strong organizations and/or issues. The graduate program is now known as the Masters in Nonprofit Administration and is an online program; but at the time, we met together for class.

LSUS faculty who helped me:
LSUS Faculty who have helped me by influencing my thinking include Dr. Norm Dolch, Michael Woods and Shonda Stone. I am also profoundly grateful for the partnerships with Dr. Gary Joiner and Dr. Harvey Ruben.

How LSUS helped me succeed:
During the Master's program, every scenario/case study that we researched seemed somewhat "exaggerated" to me - but in the past 10 years each and every one has become a reality in my professional life...including the arson that burned our building to the ground. There is nothing like "seat of your pants" learning, but I believe that the research I engaged in at LSUS paved the way for my ability to survive the "slings and arrows" of outrageous nonprofit fortune.

Advice to college-bound students:
Treat College as your career; succeeding in College is your job. Show up on time and prepared to do your job every day. If you attend class every day and do your assignments, you will succeed.

Advice to someone who wants to enter my field:
Think about the fact that people access the Arts and other Recreational Programming after work and on the takes ALL DAY-WEEK - MONTH- and sometimes all YEAR to prepare the event/program/activity that you must supervise in the evenings and on the weekends. If this is not going to be your LIFE, it cannot be your job!

Tips on choosing a major or career:
Research all of the "practical ways" that you can earn a living doing what you love and get the educational skills to succeed in doing what you love. I have always loved theatre, which requires EVERY Art form to take shape. However, I knew that I would not earn a living in my "home town" in Theatre...therefore, Arts Administration - empowering other theatre artists and organizations - ALL ARTISTS and ALL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS - was a natural fit to my passion.

My toughest professional challenge:
My toughest professional challenge remains finding the right person for the right job in our organization. When this is accomplished and we make the correct "match"- our organization and community are much better off; when I fail to make the correct "match" I spend far too much time, worry, and stress trying to manage personnel issues - ultimately helping the individual to find something "else" to make them professionally happy/successful.

My toughest personal challenge:
My toughest personal challenge is convincing my family and friends that they are loved and valued - even when I must choose the "after hour" events in the Arts rather than spending time with them.

Successes (honors, awards, etc.) in my life:
What a joy to be working in a field that provides immediate gratification! Watching the audience leap to its feet to applaud an actor, singer, dancer, musician, visual and/or literary artist (at any age) is the greatest reward; knowing that the Shreveport Regional Arts Council had a role in achieving that "connection" between audience and artist is my definition of success. It has been extremely humbling to recently be recognized with an honorary Doctor of Arts from Centenary College while seeing the work that the Shreveport Regional Arts Council has invested in the development of Shreveport Common - a 9-block "uncommon" cultural community on the western edge of Downtown Shreveport - be named the outstanding Community Development Project in the Nation by the National Development Council.

I've learned this from life:
Generally, the Axim is true: You get out of life what you put into it - Sleeping is highly over-rated; get out there and live your life! In order to do this well, you need to Plan Ahead, Communicate, Cooperate, Follow Through, and Evaluate...these are the "Five Keys" to success.

What I'd be doing if I had all the time in the world:
If I had more time, I would like to teach an in-depth course on the "Five Keys" to success as part of a College/University Curriculum in Arts Administration.

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