Converse College announces the appointment of Richard Higgs of Waukesha, Wis., as dean of the Converse College School of the Arts. The college will launch the School of the Arts in August 2010, bringing together the Petrie School of Music, the Department of Art & Design and the Department of Theatre & Dance in order to maximize Converse’s ability to develop creative collaborations across the disciplines and to expand opportunities for students in the visual and performing arts.
Higgs will begin his duties August 2. He brings more than 30 years of academic service with private, public, proprietary, liberal arts and professional institutions of higher education, most recently as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the Milwaukee Institute for Art & Design.
“Richard Higgs brings to Converse a great depth and breadth of experience in building outstanding collaborative programs in the arts. His creativity has helped to develop strong academic structures that allow arts faculty and students to flourish, that expand enrollments and visibility, and that not only inspire artists but encourage more active integration of the arts throughout a collegiate community,” said Converse President Betsy Fleming. “Converse affirms and expands its commitment to creativity with the establishment of the School of the Arts, which promises to be a dynamic hub for advancing the dreams and skills of all those interested in the arts. Richard Higgs shares Converse’s vision for both building upon the unique strengths within each arts area and creating new synergies through combinations.”
Through the School of the Arts, Converse will offer eight major and minor programs in music, seven in art and design, and two in theatre and dance. Higgs will be responsible for providing leadership to the School of the Arts, fostering collaboration both within the school and between the school and the broader college and community.
“The opportunity to support the faculty, staff and students of this new School of the Arts, as its inaugural dean, is one that I am humbled to have been afforded,” said Higgs. “It is an honor to be entrusted with building a new partnership between established and respected programs in music, art, design, theatre and dance; and I look forward to supporting the goals and dreams of the incredibly talented teachers, professionals and students of this new school.”
Higgs added, “My academic career began at one of the nation’s leading women’s colleges and now, having gone full circle, will reach its pinnacle at another of the nation’s leading women’s colleges. This involvement in supporting women’s academic and creative achievement has been a guiding principle of my entire teaching, administrative and personal life.”
Prior to joining Converse, Higgs spent eight years at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in Milwaukee, Wis., fulfilling strategic roles such as: provost/vice president for academic affairs; dean of graduate students; assistant to the president for research, assessment and accreditation; and professor of art and foundations design.
During his time at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Higgs eliminated a $3 million annual operating deficit and balanced all subsequent operating budgets for the academic and academic support departments. He also wrote and received the nation’s first curricular-based $1.75 million Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant awarded to an independent art college.
Prior to the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Higgs served as the coordinator of foundations programs at the College of Art & Architecture of the University of Idaho. During his tenure, he elevated the College of Art & Architecture foundations program to a university-wide core general study option, increased annual enrollments from 500 to over 700 and established the department’s major revenue stream. Higgs also led and wrote a successful Art Department application for National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation.
An experienced artist, Higgs has participated in 24 solo exhibitions and screenings, as well as 26 group exhibitions over the last four decades. He completed his post-graduate research in film theory at the University of Wisconsin under a Vilas Research Fellowship and holds master of fine arts degrees in painting and drawing from both the School of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky and the College of Education at the University of Wisconsin. Additionally, Higgs earned a bachelor of science in studio art and art history from the University of Wisconsin.
Higgs serves as an institutional representative for the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC-NCA), as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). He is a member of the College Art Association (CAA), Foundations Art Theory and Education (FATE), American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
In anticipation of his move to the South, he commented, “My wife, Pearla, and I are thrilled that we will soon become members of this Converse/Spartanburg creative community and can’t wait to be on campus.”