Kellee Van Aken, Ph.D. Named Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Seton Hill University

Kellee Van Aken, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department at Seton Hill, has been appointed Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts, Seton Hill President Mary C. Finger, Ed.D. has announced. Dr. Van Aken served as Interim Dean of the School since July 2019 following the departure of Dr. Curt Scheib. Dr. Van Aken’s tenure as Dean began on January 21, 2020. 

“Kellee Van Aken has served Seton Hill and its School of Visual and Performing Arts well as Interim Dean over the last six months,” President Finger said. “Her leadership and commitment to our students made her the perfect choice for the permanent deanship. All of us at Seton Hill anticipate the continued growth of Seton Hill’s Visual and Performing Arts programs under Kellee’s direction."

“I look forward to serving as Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Seton Hill. As a theatre artist, one of my great joys is collaborating with colleagues and students, and I am excited to be working with our excellent faculty and inspiring students,” Dr. Van Aken said. “I am eager to continue to build Seton Hill’s town-gown relationship with Greensburg by advancing opportunities to connect the university with the greater community through the arts. We have two beautiful facilities in the City and committed partners working with us to help us grow.” 

As Interim Dean, Dr. Van Aken was instrumental in the success of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s performance of “Classical Romance” at Seton Hill in November and the PBT dance residency and master class programs that benefited both Seton Hill dance students and youth dancers from throughout Westmoreland County.

As a faculty member since 2011, she directed several productions for Seton Hill, including “Letters to Sala,” “Good Person of Setzuan,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “A Little Night Music,” “Urinetown”, “Salvation Road,” “Running in Traffic,” “Cabaret,” “Macbeth,” “Kindertransport” and “Life is a Dream.”

She has worked to engage students in activities that serve to enrich their understanding of the stories they are telling and the world around them. As students rehearsed “Letters to Sala,” a true story about a young woman’s experiences during the Holocaust, Kellee connected the cast and crew with Ann Kirschner, Sala’s daughter and the author of the book Sala’s Gift, as well as playwright Arlene Hutton, to provide them with a broader perspective about the real-life events they were portraying on stage.

As Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, Dr. Van Aken helped to coordinate the 2019 American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic North Conference, which brought more than 200 dance students and faculty from 18 colleges and universities to the Seton Hill campus.

A member of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education, Dr. Van Aken has presented at the organization’s national conference on topics ranging from preparing students for the profession to running a combined theatre and dance program. She is currently the pre-conference planner for the Theatre as a Liberal Arts Committee for the 2020 conference in Detroit.

She has worked for more than 20 years with visual artist Cheryl Capezzuti writing and performing puppet plays in short and long form. They performed most recently at the Puppeteers of America Festival in 2019 in Minneapolis. She also works as an audio describer for the blind and visually impaired, describing productions at City Theatre, Pittsburgh CLO and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. 

Dr. Van Aken earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s from the University of California-Davis, and her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.


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