The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) has announced that their commencement speaker for the school's 2016 graduation ceremony will be Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
This marks the first time in the school's 136-year history that an NEA chairman has addressed the graduating class. The SMTD ceremony takes place on April 29, 2016 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor.
Jane Chu is the eleventh chairman of the NEA. With a background in arts administration and philanthropy, Chairman Chu is also an accomplished artist and musician. She leads a dedicated and passionate group of people to support and fund the arts and creative activities in communities across the nation.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have Jane Chu address our 2016 graduating class in April," said Aaron Dworkin, dean of SMTD. "She has such a deep understanding of how critically important the arts are to creating thriving communities. I know that her message will inspire our students, as they embark on their careers, to share their incredible talents in a way that will make a positive difference to our world."
Chu was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, but was raised in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied music growing up, eventually receiving bachelor's degrees in piano performance and music education from Ouachita Baptist University, and master's degrees in music and piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University. Additionally, Chu holds a master's degree in business administration from Rockhurst University and a PhD in philanthropic studies from Indiana University.
In addition to awarding nearly $220 million in grants during her tenure to-date, Chu has issued new research reports on arts participation and the impact of the arts and cultural industries on the nation's gross domestic product; has made hundreds of trips to communities across the nation to see first-hand how the arts are impacting people and places; and launched the Tell Us Your Story project that demonstrates the importance of the arts in our lives.
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.