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Colleagues:

I hope you recall that last semester, we announced our intention to initiate a new cross-college research initiative in Black and Afro-diasporic Arts. Our first effort in this direction was to invite applications for a Dean's Fellow to lead that work. I write now to formally announce the results of that search process. First, I'd like to share about why this work is now more important than ever.

We are starting a Black Arts Initiative for two reasons. First, we are doing so because our college is rich in faculty leaders in this area who deserve our support and care. Where structural racism results in faculty of color bearing an unequal burden of our collective work, we need to commit all the more strongly to their health and success. Second, we are investing in this effort because to do so is to lean into the most excellent and life-giving college we can be. The strength of our college depends on how well we listen to, and are led by, our colleagues who draw from traditions of resilience, collectivism, and deep intelligence about the best and worst of our shared social structures. To grow a Black Arts initiative at this time of all times is to both acknowledge how crisis lands differently on members of our community, and from whence we will need to draw our inspiration and strategy for a sound future.

At the college-wide town hall meeting last week, I had the pleasure of announcing Professor Endalyn Taylor of the Department of Dance as the next Dean's Fellow. Her first priority will be to work with our faculty and staff in this area to see what we can do to bring them more life and room to breathe and flourish, particularly in this challenging time that disproportionately affects communities of color. From there, as Dean’s Fellow Professor Taylor will help our leaders in this area develop a strategy going forward for making this college a destination for both those looking to benefit from our strength in this area, and those looking to support it.

Prior to joining the University of Illinois, Endalyn served as the director of Dance Theatre of Harlem school where she collaborated on creative works and assisted with development and production as well as with outreach and promotion. She led the Cambridge Summer Arts Institute as director, providing oversight to performance venues and project conception and development. During her extensive career, she has performed for such dignitaries as Coretta Scott King, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, the late Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, and many others. In 1992, Taylor made her Broadway debut in Carousel and went on to perform in two other Tony Award-winning musicals, The Lion King and Aida. Endalyn’s most recent work includes efforts in the Champaign-Urbana community to develop a performing arts program, which, in its first summer provided a myriad of dance courses to 92 students, including Hip-Hop and African Dance. She also won a Mid-America Emmy in 2019 for the featured segment of the Big Ten Network’s, Illinois Artists: Endalyn Taylor.

Please join me in welcoming Endalyn to her new role as a Dean's Fellow.

Kevin Hamilton
Professor and Dean