Laura Scales, Academic Specialist in MSU’s Department of Theatre, was awarded the Excellence in Diversity Award (EIDA) presented by the Michigan State University Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives in recognition of her outstanding commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion and engagement in activities that demonstrate a sustained commitment to fostering an inclusive community. Scales was nominated by the department’s Student Advisory Board for Diversity & Inclusion and her colleagues.
Scales has earned a reputation among students, faculty, and staff as a mentor, leader, ally, mediator, and tireless advocate for solution-focused problem solving.
“Laura has always put my needs as a student first for as long as I’ve known her,” said Jay Gooden, BFA Acting. “She’s an amazing teacher, mentor, and friend.”
Since 2018, Scales has served as Faculty Advisor for the department’s Student Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion, where she is the point of contact for any advocacy issues that need resolution. An example of this came in fall 2020, when non-white theatre students were left out of a photo collage of current theatre students that was posted to social media. As the matter escalated online, Scales stepped in as mediator and facilitator of discussion of implicit bias and raising awareness of the “Dear White American Theatre” movement.
Laura has always put my needs as a student first for as long as I’ve known her. She’s an amazing teacher, mentor, and friend.Jay Gooden, BFA Acting
“She presents herself as a haven for students and colleagues alike, crafting new policies to solve immediate inequity and creating structures that are more equal,” said Eloy G. Gómez Orfila, MFA in Acting Candidate. “Laura is a true advocate for her ideals and for her community, and one whose guidance I am thankful for.”
Scales came to Michigan State University in 2018 from Chicago with more than a decade of production management experience from award-winning theatres including The University of Chicago, Emerald City Theatre, and Steppenwolf.
Her area of expertise is production management, and her current responsibilities include teaching in Theatre and in Arts, Cultural Management, & Museum Studies, as well as serving as the Production Manager for the department’s entire production season, including Summer Circle Theatre. She also serves as a member of the department’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Recruitment; Season Selection; and Advisory committees.
She presents herself as a haven for students and colleagues alike, crafting new policies to solve immediate inequity and creating structures that are more equal.Eloy G. Gómez Orfila, MFA in Acting Candidate
Within all of these positions, Scales promotes inclusive practices and is a pioneer for policy revision.
“Her voice has shaped department policy and her impact on the department has been significant,” said Alison Dobbins, Associate Professor of Theatre.
Scales commitment to cultivating a diverse learning environment was exemplified when the Theatre Department began the search for a new chairperson. As Affirmative Action Advocate during this search, Scales used her professional connections to ensure that the department had a diverse pool of candidates.
Her voice has shaped department policy and her impact on the department has been significant.Alison Dobbins, Associate Professor of Theatre
“In a department and a university where BIPOC students and faculty are a minority,” said Deric McNish, Assistant Professor of Acting. “Laura has been instrumental in fostering an environment in which we actively question and revise our practices, and in whichever voice is valued.”
MFA Acting candidate Claire Wilcher agrees, saying “Laura has, as a woman of color in a leadership position, exhibited both passion and patience in holding us each accountable to our own goals related to inclusion and visibility.”
Laura has been instrumental in fostering an environment in which we actively question and revise our practices, and in whichever voice is valued.Deric McNish, Assistant Professor of Acting
Beyond her work within the Department of Theatre, Scales also has served as Chair of the College of Arts & Letters’ Inclusive Practices Committee, where she developed inclusive practices for teaching, scholarship, service, and administration across the college. Scales’ efforts reach beyond MSU’s campus as well, where she serves as the Chair and Commissioner of the East Lansing Arts Commission, an initiative that funds artistic endeavors pertaining to diversity, inclusion, and cultural awareness, like the “Black History 101 Mobile Museum” at the East Lansing Public Library.
Michigan State University honored the 2020-21 Excellence in Diversity Award winners on February 24 through a virtual ceremony.