Betsy Quinn’s personal and professional career path
slightly tweaks the old saying about having “theater in her blood.” Quinn has a
passion for youth theater in her blood, and especially for using drama as a
tool for serving diverse youth and communities.
“Seeing the benefits of the performing arts for my
students, especially those most in need, motivates me to do everything possible
to bring these experiences to all young people,” says Quinn.
She has worked for more than 20 years in the
nonprofit sector as both a professional and volunteer in the field of theater
for youth. Currently the drama teacher and Arts Department Chair at Haven
Middle School in the Skokie School District in Evanston, Ill., her experience
runs the gamut from teaching at the urban public middle school, to teaching at
a private university, to serving as a board member for the Children’s Theatre
Foundation of America.
In 2011, the American Alliance for Theatre and
Education (AATE), where she served as past president, honored her with the
creation of the Betsy Quinn Scholarship Initiative. Its first scholarship went
to a project called “Crawling With Monsters,” and it’s here in reading over a
description of the production that you begin to better understand Quinn’s life
What started as a children’s bilingual theater
troupe from the Mexico-Texas border became instead a group of 17 actors telling
a tragic story about children living in Reynosa, Mexico, a region torn by
extreme drug-related violence. Much of the dialogue in the part-documentary,
part-multimedia performance piece was taken from first-hand interviews with
residents, who go nameless out of fear of reprisal.
“The ‘Crawling with Monsters’ group was chosen to
bring their important work to the national stage because these young
undergraduates would not be able to travel without support,” says Quinn. “Giving
voice to underserved youth both empowers them and enlightens the field of theater
for and with young people. The skills of
theater are the skills of business and life – collaboration, empathy,
flexibility, communication and imagination.
The benefits of these rich experiences must be available to all.”
Quinn earned an M.F.A. in Child Drama from Arizona
State University, a M.A. in Educational Administration from Northeastern
Illinois University. But she decided to return to graduate school, though—specifically,
the Master of Nonprofit Administration program at the Mendoza College of
Business—for a different reason.
“All of my professional and volunteer experiences share a
common thread,” says Quinn. “They are filled with passionate, talented artists
and educators committed to the organizations’ missions and yet most struggle
with various aspects of business.
“Their servant hearts are in the right places.
Unfortunately, many, myself included, lacked the business knowledge and
experience to inform decision making.”
Quinn says she’s been frustrated witnessing the collapse of
valuable arts and education organizations due to a lack of business expertise. “Countless
times I've heard, ‘This is such a wonderful organization … why don’t more
people know about it?’ or ‘How can we improve internal communication?’ and ‘How
do we hold a volunteer board accountable?’ My MNA education is helping me bring
the knowledge and skills from the business world into the fields of arts and
education to help answer these questions.”
In 2013, Quinn
also joined the Mendoza Graduate Alumni Board.
“Being a third generation Domer, the notion of the Notre Dame
family was familiar. Often used to describe the bond developed by ND undergraduates,
the MNA program embodied this idea of family at the graduate level. In addition
to the outstanding faculty and staff, I was part of a cohort of lifelong
colleagues and friends.”
“My goal as a Mendoza Graduate Alumni Board member is to
increase alumni engagement,” says Quinn.
“Mendoza should be a home to all its alumni … a place where they can
reminisce, find new resources and connections, stay involved and support the