Peggy Mead-Finizio, assistant professor of theatre at Saginaw Valley State University, is this year's recipient of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Innovative Teacher award.
Mead-Finizio is one of only eight recipients in the nation to receive this remarkable honor for the 2020-21 academic year.
Each KCACTF region recognizes an individual or organization with this award to celebrate extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre. The recipient must demonstrate excellence in educational theatre and a significant dedication of their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the values and goals of the KCACTF.
Mead-Finizio has exemplified these qualities through her inspiring passion and dedication to her students. David Rzeszutek, department chair and professor of theatre at SVSU, noted Mead-Finizio serves as an integral part of the growth and success of SVSU's theatre program.
“Since Peggy started at SVSU, she has created an upward trajectory for our program. Each year, our technical program grows stronger and our student's successes are a credit to her guidance,” Rzeszutek said. "She has been an invaluable professor within the theatre department, always going above and beyond to support and empower her students.
“Peggy wears many hats: Teacher, Mentor, Technical Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Master Electrician, Choreographer, Sound Designer and more,” Rzeszutek said.
“Peggy is an invaluable colleague to the faculty and an outstanding teacher and mentor to her students. She is a voracious researcher and designer, adaptable to change, positive and honest.”
Her devotion to her students and enthusiasm for theatre education were amplified as she navigated teaching during a pandemic. Mead-Finizio's determination and ability to adapt meant that her students were still able to successfully present fall theatre productions.
“As we transitioned into our theatrical season in a pandemic, Peggy led our department and students by learning and implementing a three-camera set up on a soundstage built in our scene shop while creating and powering a lighting rig from scratch,” said Rzeszutek.
“At the same time, in our proscenium theatre, she led the technology of a single-camera green screen studio that was built on the other side of the scene shop wall for our other fall production.”
Her leadership and perseverance allowed her students to have a positive learning experience, despite tremendous obstacles.
“Even more remarkably, both shows rehearsed and filmed simultaneously to beat the holiday break when students would not be able to return to campus,” said Rzeszutek.
“She guided both productions through the editing process and coordinated the students in group efforts to also learn how to edit; a herculean feat indeed.”
Not only is Mead-Finizio being awarded for her outstanding achievements, but several of her students are being recognized by the KCACTF for their accomplishments as well. Two of her students recently reached the Region III final round for design at the KCACTF for their prowess in lighting and sound design, in part due to Mead-Finizio's mentorship.
Mead-Finizio will receive her award Saturday, Jan. 9 via a virtual ceremony during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region III conference.