Laura Cornish can usually be found behind the lightboard, but today we're shining the spotlight on her.
As supervisor of dance production, Laura splits her time between designing lighting for dance concerts and presentations, teaching and mentoring aspiring lighting designers, and managing various marketing duties for the Department of Dance. Learn more about Laura - including what her farm upbringing taught her and where she finds the best prime rib in Kalamazoo - in her responses below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Laura!
I grew up locally in Lawton, MI, and I graduated from WMU's Department of Theatre. I went to graduate school to pursue lighting design at Rutgers and developed a career as a freelance designer and production manager in the greater New York area for 12 years.
Talk a little bit about your role with the Department of Dance.
The main part of my job is coordinating production needs and schedules for the 7-10 concerts we do a year, as well as serving as the lighting designer for most productions. I also teach the Lighting and Staging for Dance course in the spring and summer semesters. I mentor student designers and production personnel during the Graduating Presentations, Winter Galas, and Orchesis Concerts. I also manage the publicity, marketing, website, and social media needs for the Department of Dance.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Most days I spend the mornings scheduling facilities for our students and faculty, meeting with colleagues to coordinate production or marketing needs, and preparing for upcoming concerts. My afternoons are generally spent preparing and grading for the classes I teach, actually teaching, or meeting with students in mentoring projects such as the Graduating Presentations or a student stage manager. When not in rehearsals or performances, I spend my evenings with my family, preferably with a steak on the grill, lakeside.
Talk about your work over the summer. Does your summer work differ from what you do the rest of the year? How so? Do you tackle any projects or complete any tasks during these months to keep your unit running year round?
My summer work focuses on teaching of the lighting and staging course, doing equipment and facilities maintenance, creating new marketing materials, updating the website, and preparing schedules, coordinating with guest artists, and reviewing contract information for the upcoming academic year.
What's your favorite thing about your job?
Mentoring students in designing and stage managing is really my passion. It's a true joy to watch a student succeed and grow, particularly in a discipline they were unfamiliar with before. Our students in the College of Fine Arts work very hard at advancing their art in all aspects and it's wonderful to contribute their artistic development.
Share something interesting about yourself?
I grew up farming with my father. We use the same tractor today that has been used on our farm for the last 70 years, tilling the same soil my family has worked on since 1853. I learned a lot about nature, fixing things, family, tradition, and my own soul in those fields. These experiences taught me lessons of hard work, generosity, and patience that I carry into my professional life every day, but what it has given me most is an appreciation for time spent with those I love and what beauty nature has within it if you take the time look.
Now for some random questions...
What was your favorite vacation or travel destination?
Favorite is a bit difficult. We did a lot of touring National Parks out west when I was young. I would love to go them all again, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be Yosemite.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Greece, for two reasons. One, my husband's family is from there and it would make his year to go. Two, I would love to walk amongst the ruins that started the ideas of philosophy and democracy and take in all of that history.
What was your first job?
A cashier at an arts and crafts/antique store.
What's your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Kalamazoo? What's your favorite thing on the menu?
Great Lakes Shipping Co. - Prime Rib
If you could grab coffee with one person - living or dead - who would it be and why?
Either one of my grandfathers. As you might be able to tell, family means the world to me, but I never got to meet either one of them.
What fictional character do you wish you could meet? Why?
Scarlett O'Hara. Strong, passionate woman who knew how to get what she wanted.
What's your favorite day of the week? Why?
Saturdays in the summer. I usually get to spend them with my family and my dog, having fun at the lake.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
If you work isn't fun anymore, do something else.
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Matt Knewtson in the Department of Theatre. He always took the time for any student, whether school related or personal, no matter how busy he was. He would always listen and has a unique way of asking questions to lead you to the answers.