With a theater tradition as strong as Wagner’s, it seems appropriate that the College’s new dean of civic engagement is an actor and theater educator as well as a social justice advocate and non-profit administrator.
Kevin Bott was named to this newly created position at Wagner College this summer after a national search. His role, he says, is “to help shine a spotlight on what’s happening here at Wagner nationally, and to raise funds for these programs that deserve to be supported.” He’s also teaching Wagner undergraduates and contributing his experience in using the arts to help the community.
A native of southern New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers and New York University, Bott credits an undergraduate study abroad experience with triggering his social consciousness. In Florence, Italy, he met some students who challenged him with their political and philosophical questions.
“It undermined my foundation that theater and going to Broadway was what it was all about,” he says.
He pursued an acting career in New York City until those persistent questions could no longer be ignored. He enrolled in NYU’s graduate program in theater education and wrote a doctoral dissertation about using theater in prisons, investigating how the arts could intervene in criminal justice.
Bott wants “to help shine a spotlight on what’s happening here at Wagner nationally.”
As a former associate director of Imagining America, an organization that supports artists and scholars in public life, Bott became knowledgeable about Wagner’s community work. In cooperation with Wagner College and the Port Richmond Partnership, he started a summer community theater initiative in 2013. In July 2015, they created and performed “Every Time You See Me,” a theatrical meditation about race, class, and privilege inspired by the words and story of Eric Garner.
His national work with Imagining America showed him that Wagner has a uniquely deep relationship with its local community. “We want to continue to think about connecting community work to curricula around campus and create more connections between the intellectual heart of campus and our community work,” he says.