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4 May 2006
Drama Department Gains Reaffirmation of Accreditation

The National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) has reaffirmed the accreditation of Jacksonville State University's Department of Drama for a period of ten years and commended JSU for its quick action in strengthening two areas of concern mentioned in the NAST evaluation report.

Jacksonville State University President William A. Meehan said, "The Department of Drama is a significant contributor to the academic success of Jacksonville State University. It is one of the shining stars in our academic universe."

Carlton Ward, head of the department, said, "It was very exciting to get a ten-year reaffirmation. NAST is the only theatre-accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education."

In preparing for accreditation, the department hired an additional two faculty members -- one in performance and one in design -- and provided a fumes extractor for a welding area and a safety net for the orchestra pit.

JSU's drama program was organized in 1947 under the auspices of the English department. The first director was Larry Miles, who directed about 20 plays until he became the dean of admissions and records in 1952. The program was later led by Janet LeFevre of the English department. Ward joined the program in 1973 as the first full-time director trained in drama. The program staged one or two productions a year in Leone Cole Auditorium, with bleachers provided for the audience. The program moved to its present facilities in Stone Center in February 1980, and the first production was "Cyrano De Bergerac," a comedy. The program now produces a minimum of six main stage productions and about 13 studio theatre productions each year.

NAST is the national accrediting agency for theatre and theatre-related disciplines. NAST is an association of approximately 135 schools of theatre, primarily at the collegiate level, but also including precollegiate and community schools of theatre.

According to NAST's website, "Accreditation is a non-governmental system of academic review. It is a process which periodically evaluates and produces an independent judgment by peers about the extent to which an institution or program achieves its own educational objectives and meets the standards established by an association. . . . Accreditation, in practical terms, is a stamp of approval, a sign that an institution ascribes to, believes in, and has met an external set of basic criteria for the programs it offers. . . . In all cases, it indicates that threshold standards are adhered to in a fashion that provides a base of academic strength and operational integrity."

The major responsibility of the National Association of Schools of Theatre is the accreditation of education programs in theatre, including the establishment of curricular standards and guidelines for specific degrees and credentials.

NAST maintains a Directory of accredited institutional members. This document is reprinted annually in the spring. Any members new to NAST are added to the list of accredited institutions in May. The on-line director is found at NAST.

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