Student Spotlight: Victoria LaFave

Victoria LaFave, as a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in Theatre Arts, Humanities Engage 2020 Curriculum Development Opportunity Awardee, and Humanities Engage 2021 Summer Immersive Fellow

Building her own pathway to success at the intersections of academic work and publicly engaged teaching, Victoria LaFave (Theatre Arts) turned a curriculum development opportunity into a collaboration that led her to speak at a national dance organization in summer 2021.

Victoria likes to work “in the vein of archival research and practical classroom research.” So, in summer 2020, she used the University of Pittsburgh archives to develop a collections-based module in which undergraduates apply their theoretical understanding of race, gender, and sexuality to performances, as part of the Humanities Engage Curricular Development Opportunity.

Building off that experience, Victoria “cold emailed” the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s (PBT) Education and Community Engagement Department and offered her skills to help with their diversity, equity, and inclusion work. When they accepted, she turned a for-credit spring internship into a summer 2021 Humanities Engage Pitch Your Own Summer Immersive and developed a dance cultural history curriculum that will be taught in the 2021-2022 school year.

Through this process, she discovered how well her doctoral training had prepared her to “synthesize and translate across different styles of language.” In order to successfully create the dance curriculum, she had to learn technique language from the dancers and had to be able to explain academic language in turn. She also got to develop her public-speaking skills through presentations to both Pittsburgh-based and national audiences, such as the Community Education and Engagement Affinity Group through Dance/USA.

These experiences through Humanities Engage have allowed Victoria to create a specialized Immersive Practice Credential (IPC) for her degree. The IPC is a unique requirement of the Theatre Arts PhD program that requires 12-15 credits of artistic practice or practical training. Her work with PBT has contributed to her Dramaturgy and Education and Community Outreach IPC which allowed her to make significant degree progress while exploring careers beyond academia.

Before coming to Pitt, Victoria earned an MA in English from Auburn University and a BA in English and Secondary Education from the University of Central Arkansas.

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