The College of Arts and Humanities is excited to announce that JSU alumna Emily Duncan has joined the College as Project Director for the new Randy Owen Center (ROC). Duncan, a Jacksonville native, graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in English and a double minor in History and Communications. She earned her IOM Certification from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organization Management in 2016 and her M.A. in Arts Administration (2021) from Southern Utah University, where she received the arts administration program’s Outstanding Master of Arts Graduate award.
This staff position consists of planning, booking, establishing systems, and managing spaces in preparation for the launch of the ROC, which will consist of a new-build concert hall and the renovated First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, which JSU is acquiring. Obtaining the church allows the ROC to provide even more space for educational opportunities, so the JSU team continues to review original brainstorming ideas and plans for the ROC to “breathe new life into those programs and possibilities,” described Duncan. Much renovation and work are needed, so, in order to maintain progress, the team will prioritize the endeavors of the project into phases. Duncan will spearhead this work.
“My previous experiences include grant writing and research, and we are already searching for funding to make all of these renovations and new builds what they need to be,” said Duncan.
Duncan has worked at JSU in various capacities since 2020, and this position allows her to return to her roots in theatre and other arts. “I have always loved the arts,” stated Duncan. “My internship was in arts administration at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I also co-founded the Shakespeare Project. I’ve served on the CAST (Community Actors Studio Theatre) Board and Knox, I finally get to put my degree and experience to official use and utilize it in support of my community and alma mater’s growth and development. I am so excited for the possibilities that lie ahead and to be surrounded by creative minds that constantly push the envelope.”
When asked about her favorite class or professor from JSU, Duncan named Dr. Steven J. Whitton, who retired in 2017. In his American Drama and 20th Century Drama classes, she remembers getting to “’nerd out’” over plays with him. She also remembers Whitton introducing her to recordings of some of her favorite works and bragging about seeing the most celebrated performances during his New York trips. Duncan often joked with Whitton, calling him her “Morrie,” who is a character from one of her favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie. Duncan’s favorite memory is when the Theatre Department at JSU produced a play version of the book, and Whitton told her he was cast as Morrie.
“I think I cried through the whole play,” said Duncan.
During her spare time, Duncan enjoys attending concerts and theatre. “Those who know me know that I am a fan, and if I cannot see it live, I will watch it through Digital Theatre Plus or just read plays for fun!” said Duncan. “I am often caught helping paint sets or gathering props for local theatre groups, and I really enjoy directing, which I’ve done with CAST and Jacksonville Opera Theatre.”.
Duncan advises current students to not just dream, but do, saying, “you have to speak it into existence and tell the world what you aspire to do, and then, do it! You cannot let anyone or anything stop you, but you have to start with step one.”