Arts Partners

Virginia Repertory Theatre

Bruce Miller: Bruce Miller is the Founding Producer of Virginia Repertory Theatre, and leads their Community Health and Wellness / Education programs. With Phil Whiteway, he co-founded Theatre IV in 1975, Virginia’s first professional theatre for young audiences. He served as Artistic Director of Theatre IV until 2001, at which point he also became Artistic Director of Barksdale Theatre. In 2012, he led the merger of Barksdale and Theatre IV into Virginia Rep. Bruce is the author of 32 plays for young audiences, including Hugs and Kisses (Virginia’s principal child sexual abuse prevention and early intervention program since 1983) and Buffalo Soldier (the first play in history to be performed in the Pentagon, as a morale booster after 9/11). A graduate of the University of Richmond (BA, Theatre Arts), Bruce has received numerous honors, including: the Excellence in Inclusion Award from Handicaps Unlimited, the Excellence in Arts Instruction Award from the Virginia Board of Education, the Commissioner’s Award from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the Governor’s Award for the Arts from Governor Tim Kaine.

Hannah Miller: Hannah is the Associate Director of Community Health and Wellness at Virginia Repertory Theatre.  She is currently on leave to pursue an Ed.M. in the Human Development and Psychology Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She received her Bachelors in Theatre from William & Mary in 2013.  She worked two summers at Barrington Stage Company in development before returning to her hometown of Richmond as Annual Fund Manager at Virginia Rep.  She has served as the coordinating manager of Richmond’s Acts of Faith Festival for the last four years.

Mason Community Arts Academy

Elizabeth Curtis: Elizabeth (Libby) Curtis has served as Executive Director of George Mason University’s Mason Community Arts Academy since 2008. During this time Libby has been instrumental in building the Academy’s enrollment from approximately 350 to over 4200 annual participants and increasing the annual budget from $300,000 to $1.7 million. Under her leadership, programs have expanded to include over 50 summer programs for community enrichment and teacher training, private music instruction, year round classes and workshops, and vital outreach programs in area public schools and community centers. These programs – in the areas of music, theater, visual arts, and film and video studies – have strengthened important links between Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and the surrounding community through arts enrichment and advocacy. Libby is an active member of the Arts Advisory Committee for ARTSFAIRFAX and the Collegiate Divisional Taskforce for the National Guild of Committee Arts Education.

Mary Lechter: Mary is the Associate Director of Mason Community Arts Academy, and Founder/Artistic Director of Acting for Young People (AFYP). AFYP was founded in 1997, and provides professional-level acting training for students of all ages. The award-winning program has grown to include summer acting camps, year-round showcases, after school classes and touring productions, and became the Academy’s Theater program in 2012. A graduate of University of Maryland with a degree in Theater and Speech Communications, Mary has worked professionally as an actor on stage, screen and radio in the Metropolitan Washington area, Los Angeles, and New York. Mary is a proud member of George Mason University’s faculty in the School of Theater, and was named a 2013 “Teacher of Distinction.” She was also a 2014 TEDxGeorgeMasonU speaker.

Mason Affiliates

Dr. Charles Ciorba: Dr. Charles R. Ciorba, Associate Professor and Director of Music Education, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education.  Prior to joining the faculty at George Mason University, Dr. Ciorba was Associate Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Music Education at the University of Oklahoma, where he gained extensive experience supervising graduate research and taught courses in the areas of research, psychology, philosophy, sociology, assessment, and quantitative analysis. Dr. Ciorba is an active researcher, specializing in jazz improvisation achievement, self-perception, and performance assessment.  His most recent research includes the development of an educational theory pertaining to the teaching and learning of jazz improvisation.

Dr. Holly Matto: Dr. Matto is an Associate Professor in the College of Health and Human Services Department of Social Work at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Her research experience and practice interests lie at the intersection between neuroscience and social work, and she has over 15 years of work in the field of addiction science.  Over the past several years, she has been working with colleagues to develop a mobile recovery support system to manage stimulus cues and reduce drug relapse by detecting neurophysiological reactivity and delivering device-activated personalized real-time interventions. She is interested in how leveraging personalized “recovery cues”, or sensory reminders paired with the recovery experience, can be used as real-time mobile self-regulation tools.

Dr. Justin Sutters: Dr. Sutters was a K-12 art educator in an urban school district for seven years and also taught for two years in São Paulo, Brazil. He attained his doctorate degree from the Ohio State University receiving national recognition for his dissertation. Since, he has been an Assistant Professor and currently is the Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in Art Education at George Mason University. He has presented his research at the state, national and international level including recent presentations and workshops in Brazil, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Dr. Sutters’ research is published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. He currently is the Chair of the Professional Learning through Research (PLR) working group of the National Art Education Association’s Research Commission, the NAEA Higher Education Representative for the Southeastern Division, on the review board of Art Education and Visual Arts Research (VAR) and has been a contributing member of the Data Visualization Working Group (DVWG). His research focuses on pre-service practices, teacher licensure, data visualization and demography, comparative studies/Brazilian studies, and theories pertaining to space and place. He also intertwines his artistic practice and pedagogy through various printmaking studio processes.

External Technical Working Group

Dr. Eleanor Brown: Dr. Brown is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at West Chester University, where she directs the Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab (ECCEL). Dr. Brown is internationally recognized for her scholarship on children in poverty, as well as her research on arts programming. Her scholarship on children in poverty has highlighted the insufficiency of family income for predicting developmental outcomes and the importance of accounting for multiple aspects of the poverty ecology in our efforts to promote positive outcomes for young children facing economic hardship. Her scholarship on arts programming has demonstrated the potential for using the arts not only as an object of learning but also as a mechanism for teaching school readiness skills and promoting positive emotional development. Dr. Brown served as the Early Childhood Research Expert for the NEA/HHS Joint Convening on the Arts and Human Development and her work was highlighted as model research in the associated white paper that framed a federal research agenda for the arts. Her 2017 study, funded by the NEA and published in the journal Child Development, demonstrated the potential for music, dance, and visual arts to “get under the skin” and alleviate the impact of poverty on the stress hormone cortisol for young children attending Head Start preschool.

Dr. Kenneth Elpus: Kenneth Elpus is Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Maryland, where he prepares preservice music educators to teach choral music in the secondary schools, teaches graduate research methods, and conducts the University Treble Choir. He holds the Bachelor of Music in Choral Music Education from The College of New Jersey and earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Northwestern University. Dr. Elpus’s research interests include music and arts education policy, issues of demography and representation among arts students and arts teachers, and the social and academic consequents of music and art education for K-12 students. This work is published in the Journal of Research in Music EducationArts Education Policy ReviewPsychology of Music, and Music Education Research, among other venues. He is coauthor, with Peter Miksza, of the Oxford University Press book Design and Analysis for Quantitative Research in Music Education. Dr. Elpus’s research is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Baccalaureate Organization, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Dr. Peter Gouzouasis: Dr, Gouzouasis is a Professor of Music Education in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at The University of British Columbia. Over the past 29 years, his work at UBC has evolved through three, connective strands: (1) teaching and learning in music (including digital media and technologies), (2) developing an understanding of learning in and through the Arts and general curriculum using traditional and Arts Based Educational Research methods and digital technologies, and (3) a relational, developmental perspective of lifelong music learning. These strands, or themes, have shaped his scholarship as distinctive, innovative, and expanding the methodological and pedagogical boundaries of the field of music education. Since 1990, he has published over 70 refereed papers and book chapters, and two edited books. His most recent longitudinal, population level study examines the impact of music making on academic achievement and the level of engagement with different forms of music making on academic achievement. In additional to ongoing research activities, Dr. Gouzouasis is a lifelong learner of music and media, and considers himself a serious student of guitar and other fretted instruments in the performance of jazz, North American folk-rock, Celtic, and Greek music.

Dr. Brian KisidaDr. Kisida is an Assistant Professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri who focuses on education policy, experimental design, and causal inference. The dominant theme of his research focuses on identifying effective educational options and experiences for at-risk students that can close achievement gaps, experience gaps, and attainment gaps. His research has examined the broad educational benefits of school partnerships with cultural institutions and community arts organizations, teacher diversity, school integration, and urban school choice. His academic publications include articles in theJournal of Policy Analysis and ManagementSociology of EducationEducational ResearcherEducational Evaluation and Policy AnalysisJournal of Research on Educational EffectivenessEconomics of Education Review, and Policy Studies Journal. He has also co-authored three congressionally mandated experimental evaluation reports for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. His work has been cited in congressional testimony before the U.S. House and Senate, and it has appeared in numerous media outlets, including The New York TimesUSA TodayThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

Dr. Erica Rosenfeld Halverson: Erica is a Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Madison. In that role, she gets to teach a range of courses to undergraduates, graduate students, and teaching artists who want to improve their practice. Erica is an expert in qualitative research methods and teaches a suite of courses including Introduction to Qualitative Methods, as well as field methods courses that focus on Qualitative Data Collection and Data Analysis. She also works with students producing a range of art forms and reflecting on how those art forms are connected to big ideas in teaching and learning.

Dr. Muna Shami: Dr. Muna Shami is the director of research and evaluation at The Kennedy Center. She also served as a Research Assistant in the Early Childhood Self-Regulation, Motivation, and Language Research Lab and the Social and Emotional Child Development Research Lab at George Mason University. She holds masters degrees in Counseling and Developmental Psychology and earned her doctorate in Education Studies from American University in spring 2010.

Dr. Amy Sussman-Stillman: Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D. is Director of Applied Research and Training at the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), part of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. CEED has a tripartite mission of conducting research and evaluation, creating effective professional development, and addressing policy education and outreach on issues relevant for young children and their families. Throughout her career, Dr. Susman-Stillman has pursued her ongoing interest in the cycle of generating research and linking research with best practices and policies in the arena of early care and education and furthering her commitment to erasing disparities in early educational opportunities.

NEA Research Labs

Arizona State University*

Drexel University

George Mason University

Indiana University–Purdue University

Rice University

Texas Tech University

University of Arkansas

University of California, Los Angeles*

University of California, San Diego

University of California, San Francisco

University of Colorado– Denver

University of Florida*

University of Iowa

University of Pennsylvania*

University of Texas at San Antonio*

Vanderbilt University/VU Medical Center

*five newest NEA research labs as of 2/12/20 (find out more info about them here)