Filling the shoes of an old friend

When Michael Hatton sat in the late Joe Conger’s office in the Fine Arts building as a student, he had no idea that 16 years later he would be sitting on the other side of NKU’s new School of the Arts.


At the time, Conger served as the chair of the theatre and dance department, a role Hatton now fills.


Though Hatton admits he was hoping to step back into teaching and scholarly projects after serving as assistant chair for two years in the theatre and dance department, he is excited about his new position.


“I didn’t hesitate for a moment,” Hatton said. “I knew that this was a great opportunity. I can now do more than I ever could for the students. Getting them into the classes they need and alleviating any fears or stress they have.”


Ken Jones, director of the School of the Arts, believes the new-age NKU student is increasingly demanding studies in multiple disciplines. They are eager for artistic experimentation with cross-discipline studies, technique and theory.


Hatton believes this restructure will help break down barriers between departments and programs.


“We’ve already started planning events to collaborate with different departments,” Hatton said. “It allows the students to do what they do best, and that’s to explore and to create. To be able to give them a safe haven to do that is awesome and so rewarding.”


Hatton, who also teaches history and literature at NKU, looks back fondly at his undergrad years, hoping to carry what Conger taught him into his new role.


“I’ll never forget the kindness or excitement Joe Conger had for what he did, or the love he had for the students,” Hatton said. “After he gave me a tour of the program he said welcome home, this place is going to be great for you, and he was absolutely right.”


Hatton’s hope to be like his old friend is already being experienced by students.


“Michael does a great job inspiring students,” James Jones, senior BFA musical theatre major, said. “I think he’ll be able to reach even more students now in this new role.”


According to Hatton, NKU is leading the state in the number of main stage productions it puts on every year.


“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do here in the department in terms of programming, seasons and number of productions,” Hatton said. “Our first semester program gets first year students and transfers on stage in [their] first semester. “


Like many professors, Hatton has had the opportunity to see NKU grow immensely since his undergraduate studies 16 years ago. He believes that the changes students are seeing every day is part of the renaissance of NKU.


“One constant that’s been here is the personal feeling,” Hatton said. “I truly don’t feel that students at other universities get that kind of experience. We will never give up on putting the student first.”