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MFA Arts Leadership

Arts Leadership (MFA)
Student speaking in front of a collection of creative planning boards



The Theatre School’s Arts Leadership program is a two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree that combines full-time employment at Chicago Shakespeare Theater with full-time coursework at DePaul University. Management, leadership, and cultural decision-making coursework through both The Theatre School and Kellstadt Graduate School of Business is applied and synthesized through the fellowship at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This rigorous and nationally distinct program is designed to prepare highly skilled leaders in the complex and sophisticated world of the arts. Two students are selected to enter the program each year.

Download the MFA Arts Leadership Viewbook


Students learn from a distinguished faculty of working professionals who possess a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise in the arts and entertainment industry. The program is jointly supervised by veteran theatre producer and full-time faculty member, Alan Salzenstein, and Executive Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Criss Henderson.

“This program is designed for those who seek a challenge—one that could lead to significant personal and professional rewards. If you have the commitment, motivation, and calling to become one of the next generation of arts leaders, I look forward to having you as a part of the MFA Arts Leadership program.”

Alan Salzenstein

Head of Arts Leadership

The Fellowship

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) brings a broad spectrum of theater to Chicago each year, engaging and entertaining visitors from all walks of life. Through the World’s Stage Series, CST brings international productions to Chicago audiences, presenting new cultural and artistic experiences. For family audiences, CST presents abridged Shakespeare productions and classic musicals. The education outreach program, Team Shakespeare, has reached more than one million students and helps Shakespeare come alive for students and teachers throughout the Midwest. Chicago Shakespeare Theater sets a high standard for entertainment and storytelling that ensures everyone will find something to enjoy—whether it be traditional classical theater or new classics.

Arts Leadership students are introduced to all phases of work at CST and assume management positions for specific projects. Students undertake staff management, line production, and strategic development duties in various departments and in doing so, interact with several of the CST’s constituencies, from patrons to artists to donors. Students administer the routine tasks that keep a theater running smoothly, and helm company-wide programs that require the highest standard of execution and accountability. Front-line involvement in day-to-day operations coupled with access to the CST’s “big picture” planning afford students a unique opportunity to develop the skills and vision necessary to lead an arts organization into the future.

The Arts Leadership Fellowship includes a compensation package of a full-time salary and benefits. The total package is generally equal to a tuition remission, prior to taxes. In addition to the compensation package, The Theatre School also awards scholarships to Arts Leadership students for both years of the program.

“The landscape​ of theater is rapidly changing, but one tenet will remain as true as it is today: the effective leaders of tomorrow must learn through actual practice. Here, you will lead.”

Criss Henderson

Executive Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

After DePaul: Examples of Alumni Work

Arts Leadership alumni go on to work in a range of high-level management and administrative positions, both in the arts and entertainment industry as well as related fields. Some recent graduates include:

  • Dottie Bris-Bois (’15), Director of Campaign and Major Gifts at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
  • Katy Coy (’08), Executive Director of the Association of Arts Administration Educators
  • Dan Cox (’12), Creative Director at Live Marketing
  • Kendall Karg (’13), Managing Director of The Neo-Futurists
  • Christopher Mannelli (’09), Executive Director of the Geva Theatre Center
  • Carly McGill (’12), Director of Institutional Advancement at Writers Theatre
  • Martin Miller (’09), Executive Director of TheatreSquared
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