Elizabeth “Betsy” Cooper, director of the Hunter College Dance Program, has been named dean of the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School. University Provost Sharon Vasquez announced that Cooper, who has extensive academic leadership and professional experience, will assume her duties as dean of the University’s performing arts conservatory on August 15.
Cooper became Director of the Dance Program at Hunter College in 2015. Prior to that appointment, she was the Divisional Dean of Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington (UW) from 2012-2015. At UW, she oversaw the Schools of Music, Dance, Drama, Art +Art History + Design, and the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media, a cross-departmental program in musical theater, which she co-founded, the Meany Center for the Performing Arts, and the Henry Art Gallery.
“Betsy Cooper is widely praised by her contemporaries for promoting interdisciplinary connections between the arts and between the arts and the wider university community,” said Provost Sharon Vasquez. “Equally, she is known for her effective problem-solving, her commitment to listening before acting, and generating trust and support among faculty, staff, and students. She brings a knowledge of complex university systems that is balanced with a tireless commitment to student success.”
“I am thrilled to be joining the community of artists, scholars and educators at the University of Hartford, and am honored to serve as The Hartt School’s next dean,” said Cooper. “Hartt is a place of great vitality and promise. I look forward to working alongside the school’s inspired educators and dedicated staff to strengthen the school’s national reputation, expand its impact on campus, and forge new partnerships and opportunities that help prepare Hartt’s students for the rapidly changing face of contemporary performance.”
The UW Arts Division that Cooper oversaw is large and complex, with more than 70 ladder tenure/tenure track faculty and scores of visiting artists and lecturers, a diverse group of highly skilled staff, and an array of discipline specific instructional methodologies and complex facilities. The Arts Division serves over 1000 visual and performing arts undergraduate and graduate students. Cooper provided strategic leadership and advocacy for the division including new program development, recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, promotion and tenure, budget oversight and resource allocation, marketing communication, identifying fundraising priorities and campaign strategy, and stewarding donors.
From 2001-13, Cooper directed the Dance Program at UW and she received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004. She is credited with transforming the reputation of the program, promoting greater collegiality, and transparency and shared governance while building important connections to artistic and educational institutions in the region. She led curricular and performance collaboration with the School of Music as well as with Digital Arts and Experimental Media.
Before her career in higher education, Cooper performed with classical and contemporary companies nationally and abroad, including Nationaltheater Mannheim, Matthew Nash Music and Dance, Makarova & Company, and Connecticut Ballet. She was a member of the Seattle Dance Project for seven seasons, premiering in works by Edward Liang, Molissa Fenley, Hilde Koch, Heidi Vierthaler and other renowned choreographers. Her choreography has been commissioned by Seattle Dance Project, Connecticut Ballet, Bucknell University, Western Washington University, and Arc Dance Company, where she was the resident choreographer from 2007-2011.
Cooper’s scholarly research probes at the intersections of dance, politics, and censorship of the body in mid-20th century concert dance and the Hollywood film industry. She has published articles on the Federal Dance Project in Theatre Research International, Dance Research Journal and The International Dictionary of Modern Dance. Her recent work, "The Body Censored: Dance, Morality and the Production Code during the Golden Age of the Film Musical," appears in Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies, published by Oxford University Press She is on the editorial review board of the Journal of Dance Education and co-edited a special topics issue on writing and performing in the performing and visual arts for the journal, Across the Disciplines.
Cooper earned her MFA in Dance from the University of Washington and her BA, with honors, in Archaeological Studies from Yale University.
The Hartt School provides pre-professional training in the performing arts (music, dance, and theatre) characterized by artistic and academic rigor, individualized attention including mentorship and peer support, and a synthesis of tradition and innovation leading to life-long service to and advocacy for the arts.