Get to Know Dean Laurence Kaptain
During his time as Dean, Kaptain has established study abroad semesters in Asia and continuously emphasized the need to prepare students for the evolving job market.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Jun 23, 2022
By the time Dean Laurence Kaptain moves on from the College of Arts & Media (CAM) at the end of June 2022, he will have held the position of Dean of the college for eight years. Originally from Elgin, Illinois, Kaptain began his career in higher education as a professor of percussion instruments. When he wasn’t teaching, he served as a recording artist with orchestras in North America and Europe, including a Grammy-winning recording with the Orpheus Ensemble in New York City. Kaptain transitioned into the administrative side of academia by accepting the role of Assistant Provost at University of Missouri Kansas City. Before coming to Denver, Kaptain served as dean at Shenandoah University in Virginia and Louisiana State University, as well as the Director of the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Georgia. Kaptain was attracted to CAM’s “completely unique” program. “Rather than replicating western European art forms, CAM does exciting things at the intersection of arts, technology, and commerce—from many different cultural perspectives,” he says. Kaptain appreciates the expertise of the talented faculty that call CAM home and the “grit, energy, spirit, and talent” of the students.
Outside of CAM, Kaptain is proud to be a season ticket holder of the Colorado Rapids and maintains an ongoing connection to Mexico, where he has conducted academic research. His new role will take Kaptain to CU Denver’s Office of International Affairs as Special Assistant to the Provost, where he will be advancing CAM’s Arts Hub Asia semester abroad program as well as taking on other special projects under Provost Constancio Nakuma’s direction. During this transitional period, Kaptain reflects on the support his family gave him during his time in CAM. He appreciates his wife, Dolores Arce-Kaptain, who attended many events to advance CAM and CU Denver. He’s also proud of and grateful to his two sons, Diego Kaptain (a graduate of LSU and an actuary who lives in Denver) and Captain Emiliano Kaptain (a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and a KC-10 aircraft commander in the US Air Force).
1. One of the big initiatives you have undertaken as Dean of CAM has been to establish a study abroad semester for CU Denver students to study in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Why do you feel it’s so important for CAM students to have learning experiences in Asia?
Data is the simple answer to that question. The creative industries will have huge growth as the Asian economies grow and prosper. Our students may not necessarily flock to work in Asia, but as globalization advances, a semester abroad will give our students a leg up in career development and being a global citizen, generally.
2. You pursued degrees in music performance during your own time as a student in higher education. How has our society’s views around “going to school for music” changed since the time you were a student? What still needs to change?
In today’s work economy, students are expected to have transferable skills and a range of abilities beyond specializations. The specialized majors traditional arts schools use are not aligned with the developing economic, cultural, and creative direction the world is going in. Even to this day, much curriculum locks students into silos, but we need to help them broaden their art. The reason I know this is because we administer an extensive survey to our students and we have been a little slow to respond to their feedback.
3. Which project are you most proud of being a part of during your time as Dean of CAM?
My most recent transformative initiative is worthy of mention. CAM was selected as one of just seven schools nationally to host positions for “Mexican studies chairs” through the COMEXUS: Becas Fulbright-García Robles program. This fall, three top film scholars and media artists will be teaching on our campus. It’s a great opportunity for our students, our faculty, and the visiting scholars. My connections in Mexico helped bring this opportunity about.
My wife, Dolores’s background as a decorated employee of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and an appointee of former Mexican President Vicente Fox provided her with the skills to effectively interact with CAM constituencies as a volunteer. She also played a behind-the-scenes role in CAM gaining a 5-year agreement with COMEXUS, which will facilitate CAM having Mexican Studies chairs in Film & Television through 2027.
Finally, I take pride in the fact that women, minorities, and others have been hired and promoted during my time as Dean.
4. One of the things you often say is that CAM does not subscribe to the “starving artists” mindset. Are you involved in any initiatives outside of CAM that also work to fight this stereotype?
I’m on the national advisory board of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP). SNAAP gathers, analyzes, and reports on survey data from over 200,000 graduates of arts and design schools and colleges to understand the professional success, educational satisfaction, and personal fulfillment of arts alumni. I’m also one of two deans on the Arts Schools Network Board, which is a trade group for principals and educators our nation’s K-12 arts schools.
5. What do you hope to see the faculty, staff, and students of CAM accomplish in the next 10 years?
Right now there is a striving to do better with verticals—excelling in a specialized area. Toward this end, a new Video Game Art and Design program is in its formative stages in CAM. This new program will meet a need for CAM students to work across the disciplines of cinema, music, technology, and animation. While some are concerned that it’s outside of specialized areas, that’s the way the industry works, and CAM is committed to preparing our students to excel in this new landscape of careers.