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Kelley Named Fine Arts Dean, Leads with Determination through COVID-19

Bruce Kelley headshot Bruce Kelley, Ph.D., has been named the USD College of Fine Arts dean.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Bruce Kelley, Ph.D., has been named the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts dean. Kelley has been serving as interim dean since Feb. 29, 2020 after the retirement of Dean Larry Schou.

The decision was made after a survey conducted by Academic Affairs indicated faculty, staff and affiliates in the College of Fine Arts strongly supported and preferred the appointment of Kelley to the permanent position. President Sheila K. Gestring and Provost Kurt Hackemer reinforced the decision, and Kelley accepted the deanship, beginning immediately.

Kelley came to USD in 2007 as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and as an associate professor of music. In 2013, he was promoted to full professor of music. In March of 2019, Kelley was appointed assistant provost, overseeing the Gallagher Center for Experiential Learning & Education Abroad and the USD Testing Center, in addition to the CTL.

“We are proud to announce Dr. Kelley as the permanent dean of the College of Fine Arts,” said President Gestring. “It is a unique experience to be appointed dean of a college during a global pandemic, but within the last months as interim dean, and now as dean, Dr. Kelley has exemplified persistence and ingenuity.”

Kelley said he first held listening sessions with students, faculty and staff from every department and affiliated unit to help him better understand their needs and vision for the fine arts at USD.

“There was no single solution—art, music and theatre each have unique challenges. I worked extensively with the department chairs to determine the safest way to offer courses in each of our fine arts departments,” said Kelley. “They took on everything from the creation of special ‘Zoom’ classrooms for remote musical instruction, to crafting plexiglass shields that fit our unique spaces, to reimagining entire productions and installations. This has been a team effort, requiring sacrifices by faculty, staff and students, and I’m so proud of what they have done.”

Some of those reimagined productions and installations include online art portfolios, a streamed production of “Julius Caesar” and several outdoor and streamed music events.

The alternative performance events have allowed the college to meet the needs of both the community and the students.

“How we go about our daily lives has changed. What has not changed is the importance of the arts. We need to understand and emotionally react to everything that is going on around us, and the arts allow us to do that,” said Kelley. “Our community hungers to experience the arts, and these alternative performance events allow us to deliver the arts in ways that are safer than our traditional performance venues.

“Our students want to perform and showcase their talents, and we love seeing what they do,” Kelley continued. “These new ways of thinking about performance have required all of us to be flexible, disciplined and even more creative—and those are the very skills that make our graduates so valuable in the 21st-century workforce.”


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News