School of Dramatic Arts announces new dean

Dr. Emily Roxworthy will join USC effective July 1.

After the resignation of former School of Dramatic Arts Dean David Bridel in June 2020, the Provost announced in an email on April 26 that Dr. Emily Roxworthy will take over on July 1. Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts Elizabeth Daley currently serves as interim dean.

Roxworthy is currently the associate dean of the University of California San Diego’s Graduate Division. Prior to becoming associate dean at UCSD, she led the joint doctoral program with UC Irvine in Theatre and Drama, was Vice Chair of the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance and Provost of UCSD’s Earl Warren College for four years.

She was described in the email as, “a scholar and an artist who works at the intersection of performance studies and theatre history, including intercultural theatre and Asian performance, digital media and roleplay training.”

Roxworthy holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theatre and Drama and a B.S. in Performance Studies and English from Northwestern University as well as an M.A. in Theatre Arts from Cornell. She directed a 3-D roleplaying video game prototype called Drama in the Delta, which “reconstructed interracial and intercultural performances staged during World War II at internment camps in the Arkansas Delta,” according to the Provost’s email. The email also mentioned that she has won awards for research, teaching and leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This opportunity is unparalleled,” Roxworthy said in a USC News release. “Both the theater and Hollywood are in the midst of a social justice movement, and the USC School of Dramatic Arts is perfectly situated to empower its students through creativity and the performing arts.”

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Roxworthy into our creative, thriving, and collaborative SDA community,” said Vice Dean of the School of Dramatic Arts Lori Ray Fisher in an email to Annenberg Media. “As we celebrate the School’s 75th anniversary in the fall, we look forward to Dr. Roxworthy’s leadership in this next exciting chapter of SDA’s history, and working with her as we continue our commitment to training dramatic arts leaders and changemakers.”

In an email to SDA students from the Provost on Feb. 10, Charles F. Zukoski wrote that, “our search consultants at ILM Partners sent announcements to over 400 academic and theatre leaders, placed postings on prominent online sites, and reached out to over 100 prospective candidates and sources.” The School of Dramatic Arts also hosted student, faculty and staff forums during February and March for four different candidates including Roxworthy. The other candidates included Kyle Haden from Carnegie Mellon, Michele Shay from New York University and Chantal Rodriguez from Yale.

Zukoski encouraged students in the email on Feb. 10 to “submit comments in confidence directly to me regarding the strengths and potential challenges of each candidate.” Students compiled notes from each session for their peers who could not attend and to provide feedback to the university.

Ben Wendel, a graduating theater student who passed along feedback to the Provost, is pleased with the decision. He feels this is an opportunity to strengthen the school’s academics.

Dani Fish, another graduating theater student, is not as pleased, particularly with the scheduling of the student forums. Fish was unable to attend the meetings because they were scheduled during common class times.

“I feel like they never listen to us [B.A. students], even though we are the majority,” she said. “Almost every student, at least that I have heard, requested not to hire this person and they still hired her.”

Despite graduating, she still cares about the future of the school. She feels that there is a strong emphasis on the M.F.A. and B.F.A. populations in SDA and worries that this will be exacerbated by Roxworthy’s present role in graduate studies.

Former dean Bridel resigned in June 2020 after a student made public that he had a relationship with a BFA student in 2009. Bridel released a statement following the town hall announcing his resignation and addressing the incident. He is still a professor at USC, teaching courses on movement and acting in the fall.