In early November of last year, Hopkins rolled out the Hopkins 360 Plan, announcing to the community a set of ambitious objectives spanning nearly all departments on campus. The plan focuses on programmatic growth, while maintaining equity between departments. A significant focus will be the construction of a new theater and home for the performing arts here at Hopkins.
Though conversations about the Hopkins 360 Plan started in 2015, strategic planning began in earnest when Head of School Dr. Kai Bynum started at Hopkins in 2016. In order to get the full scope of perspectives within the Hopkins community, discussions for the plan involved everyone from members of the Committee of Trustees to alumni to then-current Hopkins students. “We started a number of conversations in faculty meetings, focus groups, and subcommittees of the Board of Trustees with trustees, faculty, and staff involved,” said Bynum, “We also had an alumni survey and about twelve parent gatherings.” The foundations of this plan went beyond such meetings, however, also looking at economic and population trends within Connecticut.
In subcommittees for arts-centric aspects of the program, Arts Department faculty member Derek Byron and department chair Robert Smith were major advocates for the needs of their department. Byron defined the 360 Plan as “at its core very much about bridging the arts and sciences: bringing interdisciplinary opportunities, un-siloing a lot of department and student relationships, and bringing together a larger collaboration. According to details on the Plan’s website (hopkins360plan.com), a large part of this push for departmental collaboration will be realized in “a maker space and flexible classrooms” that will “support [Hopkins’] STEM initiatives and project-based learning experiences.”
Although additions of a maker space and a new fitness space are also in the works, a new theater and performing arts space is at the forefront of plans for new facilities on campus. Though Lovell Hall has undergone several minor renovations in its sixty-year history, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) and The Razor’s major on campus hub has yet to see any major refurbishments. “Lovell is not a great place, let’s just say that,” commented Bynum. “It amazes me to see the beauty of the performances that our kids put on with the direction of Hope, Mike, and the rest of the team. It’s astonishing, and we want to do what we can to make sure that the excellence of that experience is sustained in the long term.” The concept of sustainability came up multiple times in conversation with Bynum about the 360 Plan. He placed particular em- phasis on the importance of sustainability to see HDA and the drama department last for as long as possible, remarking, “At Hopkins, academics are prominent, and rightly so. We’re proud of that. But, we also care about programmatic balance. It’s vital that we continue to celebrate and support the Arts department. We have an excellent program, and it’s an integral part of the community.”
Sustainability came up in a different light in discussion with Elizabeth Roy ’20, an avid member of the HDA community. Roy asserted, “I want a new theater as much as the next member of HDA, but I think we need to lay a groundwork of the intangible things first. Before we build a new space, we need to have enough funding for a tech director, as well as higher lighting, costuming, and general production budgets. The amazing work Hope and Mike do to put on these great shows needs to be supported by proper administrative support. A new theater is the ultimate goal, but, without the funding and support, we won’t be ready for it.”
As with any strategic planning effort, the 360 Plan’s success is very much dependent on funding. Bynum commented, “This is not the first time we’ve had a conversation about trying to build a new theater; previous discussions have fizzled out because we haven’t been able to raise the funds for it. The benefit of those early conversations is that we have a pretty good sense of what the needs are.”
So what can the average Hopkins student do to get involved? “Keep delivering amazing performances!” said Bynum. “As we embark on raising money for this, it’s going to be a community effort, and what gets people excited is seeing the kids do excellent work every performance. For me, that’s the most golden thing, when we see this energy that’s coming from you.”