<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Susan Kattwinkel
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Theatre Professor Takes Lead in First Year Experience
By Tonesha Curtis

To say that Dr. Susan Kattwinkel has a zest for life would be an understatement.

Although her resume depicts a veteran in the field of theater, exchanging stories with her shows she is that much more. Her enthusiasm for life and her career shines almost as brightly as her ground-level office window. She's not the type of person that one would find making a bucket list or New Year's resolutions, but she has skydived, studied in Italy and New York and directed a few "Vagina Monologues" productions.

"I don't want to be confined by a list. I feel like when I want to try something new, I just do it," she says with a simple smile.

Google her name and one would find that Dr. Kattwinkel's list of past projects, research and titles exceed three pages. Her secret to taking on so many things at once does not include some sort of magical balancing trick. In fact, she says that she tends to focus on only one thing at a time.

In her first Focus on the Faculty article in 2004, written by Ashley Cole, Dr. Kattwinkel discussed the development of a major project called "Virtual Vaudeville." The project gave modern day theater lovers a chance to experience online what vaudeville was like to a variety of spectators: from inexpensive seats for the poor to the front-row area reserved for those more financially successful.

"People in that era didn't think it was important to save artifacts, so they had little-to-nothing to build the experience from," she says. "It's important for students to remember that seeing theatre in the past was not like it is today. Although we come from different backgrounds, we're allowed to have the same experience.".

She says a lack of funding closed the curtain on virtual vaudeville for now. “We would like to do more performances," she says. "It has potential to be a good educational and we can use it as a way to do our research."

Kattwinkel's career recently entered a different stage. She is currently the director of the College of Charleston's First Year Experience and commits herself to the role.

The First Year Experience is designed to assist new students with their transition to college and provide them with the skills that will help them succeed. The program also helps new students meet other new students at gives them the opportunity to meet, study under and work with top faculty.

Kattwinkel says that the FYE program has three goals: support, connect and acknowledge. The most obvious goal is to support the students as they prepare for advanced academic work. Second, the goal is to connect them to the college so that they are not intimidated by it or the faculty. Last, FYE has to acknowledge social transitions.

"We (instructors) sometimes forget what life was like at 18," Kattwinkel says. "We have different types of students so the faculty has to attend training on diversity programs in an effort to get students connected to the school. The diversity isn't great at the school but the support is strong. It is our goal to not only connect students with other students of similar backgrounds but to also connect them with students with differences in a comfortable setting." She says that many of the instructors in the First Year Experience program have visited students' dormitories to see what their lives are like.

So what keeps a person with so much on her plate motivated? "I like to change things up a lot. I love teaching, traveling and theater. I get to experience them all as my career," Kattwinkel says. She occupies her spare time with publishing and speaking at conferences. She has recently appeared in the play "Dead Man's Cell Phone" at Mount Pleasant's Village Playhouse.

As she prepares for her Focus on the Faculty photograph, she recalls her frantic search of her closet this morning: "I wanted to dress down but then I remembered this interview. I know I can't wear plain white because the light will reflect it in the camera, so I decided to through on something with some color," referring to her purple cardigan sweater.

Spoken like someone used to being on stage-- different stages she has moved effortlessly through during her distinguished career.