Department of Theatre and Dance undergraduate Lucy Kerr earned the top prize in the distinguished University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence. Kerr’s senior thesis about changing perceptions of disabled people through applied modern dance garnered her the first place spot and a $10,000 grand prize.
“In my twenty years of teaching undergraduates, I have never encountered a student so gifted as a dancer, choreographer, activist, educator, and emerging scholar,” says Dr. Rebecca Rossen, Assistant Professor in Performance as Public Practice and Kerr’s thesis adviser. Kerr will graduate this month with a B.A. in Theatre and Dance and a B.A. in Philosophy. “Lucy is phenomenally talented; her artistic and academic accomplishments over the past two years, both at UT and in the Austin community, are simply extraordinary.”
Kerr’s thesis, Recognizing Possibility: Intersections of Disability, Contemporary Dance, and Social Philosophy, looks at the historical attitudes toward disabled people in society, and how applied dance can work to disrupt those negative connotations. She demonstrates how to use dance to empower the disabled community and enlighten the public. The thesis was conducted jointly with the Departments of Theatre and Dance and Philosophy, and combines both of Kerr’s majors into an illuminating and sophisticated academic piece.
Kerr’s thesis is a culmination of her work at UT, which included the dance performance The Way You Move Your Body, featuring abled and disabled dancers guiding the audience from the world of outcasts to one where difference is celebrated. "The Way You Move Your Body featured a terrific mixed-ability cast,” says Rossen, “and was notable not only because it was beautifully choreographed, staged, and performed, but also because it expanded standard ideas about what ‘dance’ is, who can do it, and what dance can do.” The Way You Move Your Body was a part of the Department of Theatre and Dance’s 2013 Cohen New Works Festival.
The University Co-op / George H. Mitchell Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence honor students who “have demonstrated superior scholarly or creative achievement through a notable paper or thesis, research project, creative or artistic endeavor, or other product of the student’s academic work.” The Mitchell Awards are distributed annually and consist of three third place recipients, three second place recipients, and one grand prize.